For beginning birders, it is often a wild bird’s brilliant color that attracts them to birding. Field guides are filled with detailed and beautiful illustrations and photos of wild birds, but the images can be misleading because field marks change throughout the season. Recognizing and identifying wild birds is made easier by using the four keys to bird identification – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior and Habitat.
Bird Identification – Color Pattern
When using color to identify a wild bird, it’s best to take an overall color inventory of the bird. Notice how the color arranged on the bird’s body, rather than trying to specifically match the colors to those found in the field guide. Ignore the subtleties of the color and placement (plumage changes throughout the season), and check patterns in places like the wing bar, eye ring or spectacles.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created an excellent video series to help the beginning birder develop their wild bird identification skills. Below, is the second in the series – Recognizing Birds – Color Patterns.View full post
The American Goldfinch is a favorite backyard songbird, adored for their bright yellow color, graceful flight and enchanting song.
Many people call this bird the “Wild Canary”- Much of the public doesn’t realize that the Goldfinches are not bright gold “all” year.
Goldfinches with winter plumage
Goldfinches with winter plumage
As the nesting season winds down and fall colors begin to appear, Goldfinches molt. That is, they replace their worn, tattered feathers with a set of fresh, new feathers. The appearance of males changes drastically at this time.
The brilliant yellow body feathers are replaced by dull brownish plumes, and the striking black cap disappears. Females also molt, but their appearance doesn’t change. Goldfinches wearing drab winter plumage flock to bird feeders.View full post
When researchers presented crows with a challenge modeled after Aesop’s fable The Crow and the Pitcher, the birds were able to figure out how to raise the water level by dropping stones into the glass – just like in the fable. Amazingly, the crows also selectively chose large pebbles over small ones, and quickly realized that dropping rocks into a container of sawdust didn’t have the same effect.
In a study published Thursday in Current Biology, the researchers noted that the results provided evidence that rooks are capable of the remarkable problem-solving ability described more than two thousand years ago in Aesop’s fable.
The researchers took four adult rooks, a type of intelligent crow, and tempted them with a worm floating just out of reach, on top of the water. Then they placed a pile of small rocks next to the glass. After assessing the height of the water in the glass, the crows raised the water level by dropping stones into the glass.
After capturing the worm, the birds stopped putting stones into the water, and they didn’t try to grab the worm until they’d dropped in a certain number of stones. Researchers concluded that the rooks assessed the starting level of the water, and estimated the number of stones necessary to raise the level before starting the work.View full post
On a small rocky island off the Maine coast two adversarial species of gulls coexist in relative peace, despite each being a potential predator of the other.
Thousands of Greater Black-backed and Herring gulls have evolved a complex system of social signals that keep violence on the island to a minimum. The gulls use these signals to carve out and hold small territories spread just 4.5 meters apart across the 95 acre island.
In their 3 short months on Appledore island, the gulls court, mate, nest, fledge young all within the same patch of rocks that they have held for years.
Territoriality begins when males arrive in spring followed closely by their mates. These experienced pairs of gulls strut about inspecting their site for appropriate nest locations and reinforcing territorial boundaries. Boundaries must be constantly defended from rivals. An interloper or loafer approaching a neighbors territory, is met with a series of displays or signals intended to drive him away.View full post
The National Wildlife Federation assists schools in developing outdoor classrooms called Schoolyard Habitats, where teachers and students learn how to attract and support wildlife on school grounds. Students learn about wildlife in the outdoor classrooms, and expand their academic skills in a creative, unique and nurturing environment. For more information about creating a Schoolyard Habitat in your area, please visit NWF’s Schoolyard Habitat website. To learn about a Schoolyard Habitat that was created in Chelmsford, MA please visit the blog posting – Ribbon Cutting at the Byam Learning Garden.View full post
An odd songbird with a bald head living in a rugged region in Laos has been discovered by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Melbourne, as part of a project funded and managed by the mining company MMG (Minerals and Metals Group) that operates the Sepon copper and gold project in the region..
Dubbed the “Bare-faced Bulbul” because of the lack of feathers on its face and part of its head, it is the only example of a bald songbird in mainland Asia according to scientists. It is the first new species of bulbul – a family of about 130 species – described in Asia in over 100 years.
A description of the new species is published in the July issue of the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail. Authors include Iain Woxvold of the University of Melbourne, along with Wildlife Conservation Society researchers Will Duckworth and Rob Timmins.View full post
The foothills of northern Wyoming’s Big Horn mountains are home to the Sharp-Tailed Grouse and their mating arena known as a “lek”. Thirty male and female Sharp-Tailed Grouse gather on this small baseball diamond sized grassy hilltop. The grouse live in communities with up to two dozen males “displaying” in one Lek. A community’s Lek is used for years… even decades.
Each morning, just before dawn, males stake out territories of less than 10 square meters, on which they dance to attract a mate. When rivals approach a territorial boundary, they quickly move from dancing to a tense face to face stand-off. Male Sharp Taled Grouse battle, their wings fan to make themselves appear larger. Their tails quiver with tension. Males in the lek fight for up to 6 hours each day, repeatedly defending from attacks from all sides.
Battles move fast, with attack and counter-attack going by in a blur of feathers. High speed video, slowing time, reveals these battles to be tactical coordinated combat. Beaks, wings and claws become weapons, used with precision. Fights begin with a stab at the head, with the eye comb a frequent target. This fleshy colorful patch above the eye may be engorged or deflated. Combatants partially expand their eye combs during battle, perhaps signaling their readiness to fight. Injury to the eye comb, may reduce a males attractiveness to the opposite sex.View full post
On September 24, Americans across the country will participate in National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. The event calls people of all ages to connect to America’s great outdoors and care for the country’s public lands.View full post
For an amatuer backyard birder like myself, bird song identification can be overwhelming. But I found a hand-held resource that has made it fun …View full post
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