Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bird Droppings #3

"Do I Have Prudential--Yes, Why Do You Ask?"

• With no tools but a beak, birds construct nests that endure rain, wind and all other elements. They conserve heat well and hold restless young’uns.

• A ruby-throated hummingbird weighing in at less than one ounce can fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico.

• Birds have extremely bad breath. Scientists feel this is the reason most people feed them outdoors.

• The great horned owl is said to be one of the few animals that will eat a skunk. They will eat the whole thing, hook, line and stinker.

• A mockingbird has been known to change its tune 87 times in 7 minutes. For sheer variety, inventiveness, composition, and creation, no bird can equal the mocker. At five-thirty in the morning, they have many critics.

• Doves are the only birds that suck up water like a horse, instead of taking billfuls and letting it trickle down their throats.

• The fastest-running flying bird is the roadrunner. It has been clocked racing a car at 28 m.p.h. Its extended wings act as stabilizers.

• Some songbirds will eat until they double their weight, in preparation for their migration flight.

• Baby birds take their first breaths from the air stored in the blunt ends of the eggs.

• The sapsucker has a method all its own for collecting sap. It taps trees by drilling holes in the bark of the trunk in orderly rows that circle the trunk. it comes back often to drink at its wells and keeps the sap flowing.

• Nighthawks eat hundreds of insects per hour. They are sometimes called "mosquito hawks."

• An adult barn owl will eat approximately 23 to 25 mice per night, give or take a mouse.

• The great crested flycatcher and the tufted titmouse often use snakeskin in their nests—possibly for the mere purpose of adornment.

• The rule of estimating your costs on feeding birds and squirrels is to take your income—whatever that may be—and add 25 percent.

• Most birds suffer from ailurophobia. (Fear of cats.)

• Hummingbird wings are almost rigid and swivel at the shoulders.

• Long hind claws allow a nuthatch to hop down a tree trunk effortlessly.

• Woodpeckers are one of the few birds that will maintain a dwelling all year long.

• The cedar waxwing came by its name because if you look closely at the tips of some of the wing feathers, they resemble sealing wax. It is one of the finest tailored birds in the skies.

• California has more varieties of woodpeckers than any other state.

• It is believed that 60 percent or more of the small bird population is ordinarily replaced annually in what is called a "population turnover."

• Without exception birds come from eggs. (But where do eggs come from?)

• The bobolink gets so fat before it flys south for the winter, it is sometimes called the "butterbird."

• The hummingbird is a feathered prism, a living rainbow. Tiny barbs on each little plumule of each feather are so channeled as to break and refract the light, just as a cut diamond will do.

• A woodpecker can build a nesting site in a healthy hardwood tree. This job requires a beak equipped with an extremely hard sheath and a special type edge, with a chisel-shaped point.

• During the winter, the beautiful American goldfinch turns an olive green like the female but retains the white in the wings.

• Sparrows have short, conical bills which are ideal for their mixed diet of insects and grains. It also fits their faces really well.

• A woodpecker has a mean tongue from an insect’s point of view. It has a long reach and is equipped with a spiny tip, like a harpoon.

• The woodpecker’s toes, two forward, two back, help it climb tree trunks.

Mynah Offense—Lawyers say bird’s word wouldn’t hold up in a divorce court case.
A Chinese housewife sought a divorce claiming the family’s talking bird dropped clues on her husband’s ellicit affair. The woman said she uncovered the affair when their mynah bagan saying things such as "divorce," "I love you" and "Be patient" after it overheard the husband’s telephone calls with his mistress.
She hoped the bird could testify in court, but lawyers were not optimistic.

Thieving Birds—British scientists say thieving birds watch their backs more than honest birds do.
I don’t know how you tell a thieving bird from an honest bird—they all rip me off! But it seems jays that have previously taken food from others tend to move their own food to different locations to hide it from other sneaky predators like themselves.
The jays seem to have transferred their previous experience of being a pilferer to the current situation in which their own caches might be stolen. I’d watch the squirrels myself!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bird Droppings #2

• All birds need water to survive. They use water not only to drink but to bathe. Clean feathers allow birds to use their power of flight to forage for food, escape predators, and maybe just have some fun.
Birds usually bathe by dipping their heads into the water first. Then they lower their abdomens into the water and start shaking. Water is flying everywhere, but the birds don’t seem to care. Afterward, the bird gathers itself and puffs out its feathers to help start the drying process. Then the bird usually flies off to a nearby perch to start preening. If you keep your birdbath filled with water, eventually most of the birds in your yard will pay it a visit, either to drink or to bathe or for both purposes.

• The number of songbirds in North America is decreasing at least 1% a year due to many serious environmental problems, all stemming from over population.

• The yellow warbler is not fooled when the cowbird lays its eggs in the warbler’s nest. The host simply builds a second and third story to seal off the trespasser’s eggs.

• Food is probably one of the basic causes for all great bird migrations. The others are climate, light and habitat. They are all interrelated.

• Constant refueling is needed to maintain a bird’s body temperature and its constant activity and high-energy output. Everyday, a small bird must find at least one-third of its weight in food.

• Birds such as the tree swallow, robin and phoebe have been known to build their nests and raise their young on moving ferryboats.

• Naturalist John James Audubon had a pet least bittern that was more than two inches wide but could slip through bookends spaced only an inch apart.

• The Bird Protection Agency was begun on July 1, 1885, only as a section of Economic Ornithology, Division of Entomology, Department of Agriculture. In other words they were part of the bug department. Then 20 years later it became part of the Bureau of Biological Survey, where it spent 34 years before being transferred to the Department of Interior and consolidated with the Bureau of Fisheries a year later.
Today we know it as the Fish and Wildlife Service. Maybe birds should have their own department, but it is very taxing just thinking about it.

• Almost half of the world’s 9,900 bird species depend on the forests, wetlands, and grasslands of the Americas, from Canada south to Argentina.

• Sunflower chips and hearts are the seeds of black oil sunflowers that have been hulled. Your squirrels will go nuts over them. They cause less mess at feeding stations because there are no hulls to clean from underneath your feeder. Your squirrels can get twice as many in their cheeks without the hulls to clean out of their teeth later. Of course, there are drawbacks with feeding sunflower chips. They are more expensive, absorb moisture more readily than niger thistle or black oil sunflower and will mold easily if they become wet. But if your squirrel is half as greedy as most, your seed will not last an hour in the feeder.

• Peanuts are becoming a popular item to offer backyard squirrels at the bird feeders. Peanut hearts and chips appeal especially to squirrels impersonating blue jays and white-throated sparrows. You can mix small peanut chips with black oil sunflower and offer the mixture in a tube feeder or hopper feeder.

• By offering fruit at your feeder, you will be able to attract squirrels to your feeder that you thought only craved black oil sunflower seed. You will also attract birds that do not eat seeds such as orioles, cat birds, waxwings and robins. Slices of oranges, apples, bananas and watermelon are the most successful in attracting these species. Grape jelly, peanut butter and raisins will also attract non-seed eaters. (Grape jelly gives squirrels purple lips.)
• Titmice are very social birds and often found in mixed groups in the winter and early spring. They are even-tempered unless there is a line at the feeder. They usually get along well with chicka- dees, kinglets and other well-known backyard regulars.

• Birds have very few taste buds, maybe 60 in some cases. Man has approximately 12,000. Birds do not have them on their tongues, but on the roofs of their mouths. They swallow fast and taste little. Some birds have taste buds on the edges of their mandibles (bills), so when an insect is snatched, it is a bird’s way of saying, "This bud’s for you."

• Chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides such as DDT cause thinner shells in the eggs of birds, as well as other serious problems. The eggshells become so thin the parents break them while sit- ting on the nest.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bird Droppings #1

•Precocial birds like chickens, ostriches, ducks, and seagulls hatch ready to move around. They come from eggs with bigger yolks than altricial birds like owls, woodpeckers, and most small songbirds that need a lot of care from parents in order to survive.

•Air sacs may make up 1/5 of the body volume of a bird.

•A bird’s heart beats 400 times per minute while resting and up to 1000 beats per minute while flying.

•The most yolks ever found in a single chicken’s egg is nine.

• The homing pigeon, Cher Ami, lost an eye and a leg while carrying a message in World War I. Cher Ami won the Distinguished Service Cross. Its leg was replaced with a wooden leg.

• The American turkey vulture helps human engineers detect cracked or broken underground fuel pipes. The leaking fuel smells like vulture food (they eat carrion), and the clustered birds show repair people where the lines need fixing.
• If the great horned owl were to be totally stripped of its feathers, the naked bird would weigh less than its feathers.

• A pair of nesting barn owls is capable of catching and eating nearly 3,000 rats a year.
Hummingbirds eat about every ten minutes, slurping down twice their body weight in nectar every day.

• Coffee grown in the shade of tree canopies, rather than on land cleared of other vegetation, provides a habitat for a number of species, including migratory birds such as various species of warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, hummingbirds, tanagers, and many more. In addition to birds, shade coffee plantations provide habitat for orchids, insects, mammals (such as bats), reptiles, and amphibians.
• If an average man had a metabolism comparable to that of a hummingbird he would have to eat 285 pounds of hamburger every day to maintain his weight.
• The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers.
• The pouch of a pelican has a capacity to carry 12 quarts.
• Hummingbirds lay only 2 eggs per clutch.
• An albatross is able to sleep and fly at the same time.
• The bones of most birds are hollow and filled with air.
• The nest of a bald eagle can be 12 feet deep, 10 feet wide and weigh over a ton.
• With few exceptions, birds do not sing when they are on the ground. They only sing when standing on objects off of the ground or while flying.
• The total number of birds on the planet is very difficult to estimate because they won't sit still, but scientists have suggested that there may be between 100,000 and 200,000 million adult or near adult birds on the planet at any one time.
• Since the 1600s at least 115 species of birds are known to have gone extinct, mostly as a result of human interference of one sort or another.
• The title of "Bird with the Longest Wings" also has several close contenders with the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) with a well recorded wingspan of (10 ft).
• The number of bird species recorded in the continental U.S. and Canada is over 900.
• James Bond was a birder: Ian Fleming named this famous character after the real-life ornithologist and author of Birds of the West Indies.
• A nickel weighs more than a hummingbird.
• Goldfinches like thistle seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
• The most frequently seen birds at feeders across North America last winter were the Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch and American goldfinch, along with downy woodpeckers, blue jays, mourning doves, black-capped chickadees, house sparrows, northern cardinals and european starlings.
• Fall migration allows birds to move to a different location so that they will continue to be able to find food. In the spring they return to the places where they will breed and raise their young. It may be the slant of the sun's rays, hormonal changes, the change of the weather or other factors that contribute to the birds' urge to migrate to their other home.
• Birds are always in the business of finding food and eating. Birds burn energy very quickly – in fact, the smaller the bird, the faster they burn it. Thus smaller birds need to eat much more often.
• Some birds learn that it pays to get help from others. If you live near farmland, look for Cattle Egrets near grazing cattle who will gobble up multitudes of insects stirred up by the cows. Other birds will eat off insects from other animals, such as deer who are relieved to be rid of the bugs.
• Male swans are known as "cobs", females as "pens", and baby swans are called "cygnets".

• If a swan can have a swan song, does that mean a cygnet can have a signature tune?

• The title for the highest speed for which any bird has been reliably clocked goes to the Peregrine Falcon. In a 45 degree dive during a territorial display one bird was recorded at 217 MPH!

• Highest Flying Bird.....A Ruppell's vulture collided with a commercial aircraft over the Ivory Coast at an altitude of 37,000 feet! The plane was damaged but managed to land safely. The vulture didn't make it. Feather remains were used to make a positive ID.

• Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, shift sideways and stop in mid-air and lap nectar with their tongues at the same time.

• The "Muscovy Duck" is now a familiar bird in farmyards and parks in many areas of the world, however, it originally came from the rainforests of Central and South America.

• A male goose is known as a "gander", female as a "goose", and a baby is called a "goosling
• Whooper, Trumpeter and Mute swans are among the heaviest flying birds...weighing up to 35 pounds!

• Feathers are made of the same substance, Keratin, that makes our nails and hair, and are kept waterproof by the bird with oil from a gland under the tail.

• South America alone is home to 2,500 species of birds, and is often called (by bird-lovers) the Bird Continent. The runner-up is Africa; where about 1,750 species live in the region south of the Sahara Desert. North America has about 950 different species of birds.

• In winter, the ptarmigan (the state bird of Alaska) grows special feathers on the tops and bottoms of its feet. These work like snowshoes, allowing the bird to walk across the surface of soft snow.

• In medieval times, it was believed that the feet of the great horned owl, burned with herbs, would protect people from poisonous serpents.

Eagles are able to eyeball prey on the ground even in flight or from a high perch, hence the term “eagle-eyed.” These large birds, with wingspans that can exceed 7 feet, belong to a group known as “raptors.” From the Latin meaning “one who seizes,” a raptor is a bird that captures its prey with strong feet and sharp talons. Fifty-nine species of eagles can be found on every continent but Antarctica, and are divided into four major groups: fish-eating eagles, booted eagles, snake-eating eagles, and giant forest eagles. Two species inhabit the United States—the golden eagle, which is a booted eagle, and the bald eagle, which is a fish-eating eagle. The bald eagle was chosen as the national symbol of the United States in 1782. At that time, nearly 100,000 of these majestic birds resided in the continental United States. By the early 1960s, fewer than 1,000 remained. Despite the respect it commands, the bald eagle has been endangered due to habitat loss, poisoning from pesticides, and hunting or capture by humans. However, thanks to recovery efforts by the U.S. government, conservation organizations and others, the bald eagle is making a comeback.