Ask the Expert

There used to be a website called Ask the Experts on which you could submit a question, for free, on a large variety of subjects and get an answer from experts, or at least knowledgeable people, in the field. I answered  about 2400 inquiries to date before the site disappeared. The vast majority of questions were straightforward and fall into a few categories:

  1. Identification – a bird in the backyard, one they saw while on vacation, on TV, in the zoo, etc. Sometimes they simply describe the bird but often they include a photo. If the description or photos are good, it’s pretty easy although birds from other continents are a bit more of a challenge. I can only recall being stumped twice. Occasionally a description is just plain wrong or misleading and I have to work with the questioner to refine it.
  2. Behavior – why are blackbirds chasing a hawk, why do starlings flock in the winter, why do woodpeckers peck on my house?
  3. Injuries and illnesses– bird with broken wing, Northern Cardinal with bald head (feather mites), House Finches with eye problems (conjunctivitis), etc. I always recommend going to a wildlife rehab center or a vet.
  4. Baby birds – usually this is a fledgling that jumped out of the nest; I usually recommend they leave it alone but if necessary, take it to a bird rehab center.
  5. Pest birds – how to prevent grackles from pooping on the pool deck, swallows from building nests on the house, and mockingbirds from singing all night.
  6. Why are there fewer birds in my backyard/neighborhood/local park this year? And,
  7. General questions – how birds fly, breathe, hatch, incubate, the longest wingspan, etc.

I have also received a number of questions on caged birds – parakeets, parrots, doves, and so on. Although not my real expertise, I know enough about keeping birds (I did it myself briefly many years ago, although today I am not fond of keeping birds in captivity) to answer questions, like “why are my lovebirds molting?” how big should a nest box be for doves?” and “how to sex parakeets.” I try to give the inquirer some other site to go to to get an answer.

It seems that many people who ask questions about their caged birds know less about birds in general than those who ask about wild birds. I guess that bird keepers simply go to a pet shop and bring home a bird and a cage and assume it will need minimal care and just act like a hamster.  A recent questioner asked why her birds were fighting. (In a small cage you just can’t randomly mix a bunch of birds of different species as she did.) It’s truly amazing to find that some people who buy a bird at a pet shop have no idea what species it is. A person wanted to know how to sex and breed his lovebirds. When I asked what species, he sent me a photo of his parakeets! And then there is the guy who wanted to use his flock of chickens to hatch parrot eggs. (I didn’t ask for details.)

Watching birds in the wild is much more ornithologically educational, it appears.

 

174 thoughts on “Ask the Expert

  1. Hi there!

    Today at work I found a chickadee that had flown into our glass greenhouse. S/he was laying on the pavement panting and seemed on the verge of death. We thought she’d broken her neck but then she was able to pick her head up and look around. I’m thinking she’s suffered a concussion as she’s sleeping a lot and is a little twitchy at times. I’ve brought her home and have been letting her sleep protected. I’ve had her for close to 2 hours now and she’s still sleeping but I have higher hopes now that she’s going to survive.
    I live a 15 minute highway car ride from work and was wondering, when she gets better enough to be released, will it be ok for her to be released here on my farm or will that be detrimental? Does she have a flock she has to rely on back at my work? I work on a collage campus with many tall glass buildings as well as the greenhouse and birds are constantly dying on our campus 🙁
    It kind of makes me concerned to bring her back there but I want to do what’s best for her

    Thank you so much for your time and I hope to hear back soon

  2. Hello. I have found on my computer, a note I made some time ago to myself. Undoubtedly, I was reading something on-line that about this. The note says that the eared dove of S. America is a relative of the passenger pigeon, that it nests and travels in massive flocks as they did and even darkens the skies. It also says this bird like the passenger pigeon is under intense pressure from land clearing and hunting.
    Since discovery of this note, I haven’t found anything else on-line that describes the massive groupings or the possible genetic relations. A hopeful thought occurs to me, that some N. Am passengers may have mixed in and mated. I suppose that’s a dream because, from what I know of our bird, it seems it would not have straggled away.
    Do you know where I can find more information on dan links between n am passenger pigeon and s am eared dove. I keep finding information about mourning doves, in this search – which, unfortunately, in Florida is seems have been replaced by collard doves. I’d also like to know if protection measures are being coordinated for the S. Am birds if people are at all able – AT ALL able to learn from history.

    1. The Passenger Pigeon and S.A. Eared Dove have similar habits, but they are only distant relatives. Since they are not only different species but different genera, it is highly unlikely that they interbred at any point. Their ranges also did not overlap. To find more information, search under their scientific names, Ectopistes migratorius and Zenaida auriculata. Protection for birds in SOuth America is generally terrible.

  3. Hi I have two pet cockatiels that are brother and sister and they have just laid two eggs at the bottom of the cage. The parents of them were also cockatiels and they are now two years old. We are not sure what to do with the eggs.

  4. I live in central Massachusetts and have set up a thistle tube feeder and it is frequented by juncos, chickadees, tufted titmice and golden finches.

    At least two of the finches have markings that have me wondering. With the number of them that frequent the feeder, there may be others. One has a skull cap (yarmulke) marking (on top of its head) that appears to be yellow and the other has a yellow Mohawk on the top of its head.

    Genetic mutation or something else? Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Paul Piergallini

    1. I presume you mean goldfinches. This time of year all the birds are in their winter plumage which varies considerably. Plus there are matures and immatures. Variation in color and pattern is pretty common among these birds. Not a genetic mutation.

  5. Dear Dr Lederer,

    I was sitting on the porch here in East Tennessee this morning listening to the Carolina Wrens chirruping away when I thought of the following question.

    It has been rumoured (the veracity of this rumour being irrelevant for present purposes) that in Medicine, when a Doctor or researcher is unable to account for a given condition they will resort to their default explanation of its being “genetic”. It occurred to me that the same might be said (whether accurately or not) of zoologists – that they might designate any unexplained behaviour among animals as being the result of “instinct”.

    My question, therefore, is: If a bird is raised away from others of its own species and never has occasion to hear an example of the typical vocalization of its own species, will it still produce those same songs and calls, and if so, how? Or is their signature sound the result of learned behaviour?

    Yours Faithfully,

    Elliot Brown

    1. It has been known for a long time that the song of a bird has two origins. There is a genetic, intrinsic part that they are born with and a learned part. Young birds have the genetic part and as they mature the next spring they hear the songs of the adults of their species and learn to refine their song by listening to them. Some species of songbirds have been experimentally raised in isolation and in that case they will develop a song that is partly based on the birds of other species that they hear.

  6. http://www.twincitiesnaturalist.com/2009/02/partial-leucistic-american-goldfinch.html

    Is this a more accurate answer? If you go to this site the very first picture is what I am seeing.

    I live in central Massachusetts and have set up a thistle tube feeder and it is frequented by juncos, chickadees, tufted titmice and goldfinches.

    At least two of the finches have markings that have me wondering. With the number of them that frequent the feeder, there may be others. One has a skull cap (yarmulke) marking (on top of its head) that appears to be yellow and the other has a yellow Mohawk on the top of its head.

    Genetic mutation or something else? Thank you for your time and consideration.

  7. Hi,
    I have a unique question I was hoping you could help me with…
    I’ve started a forum organization that’s branded after birds that fly in V-Formation and we host an annual conference that provides subject matter experts and leaders speaking to the forum’s members. I’m trying to come up with a name for the network of leaders (or the tip of the V formation) and was wondering if there’s a technical or slang name for the lead/head position of the V formation?
    Do you have any great ideas for names as it relates to the leading bird(s) of a group?
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
    Jeff
    303-889-9600

  8. Good Afternoon (or Morning in California),
    I was curious about the toxicity of spur-winged geese. I am curious if we know how long [after they eat poisonous beetles] the toxicity stays within them. I think their flesh loses the toxicity after a few months, but I’m curious if anyone has anything written on this precise point. Could you direct me in the right direction?
    Thank you so much for your time and knowledge!
    All the best!
    Z

  9. We have a eastern screech owl that comes to perch in our white pines every so often
    It is a rufous phased bird or brown
    We live in Northwest Indiana.
    I have read that the two color phases are southern in nature
    Gray should be in our region
    Is this unusual?
    I have been birding for many years and teach Environmental Science and a short course in Birding

    1. Both color phases are found across the range of the Eastern Screech Owl, but in different proportions. In Indiana, the populations tend to be 60% red and 40% gray, but there is some variability.

  10. Our classroom has a baby duck and he is doing great. We wonder, is it harmful to him if he stays in the class overnight 12-15 hours alone? It has food, heat, water and company of a stuffed animal. We also leave quiet music to make him feel he is not alone.

  11. I was sitting in my yard one afternoon, in New Mexico, and watched a small brown bird fly out of a tree and catch insects and take them back to the nest. I could hear the babies chipping loudly every time they were fed. What I noticed was that the bird didn’t fly out and chase down the insects, he/she flew in an arc and intercepted the insect, being able to fly right back to the nest. I observed this 4 or 5 times. The bird hunting in a perfect circle and going back home without wasted energy. Is this common? I know food source can make a difference. Hawks and eagles dive. Hummingbirds feed on flowers, so they hover. Was what I observed common among small, (hand size), birds?

  12. Oh my how do you tell if a egg you found is dead or alive! I found this small egg in my yard and ive been trying to figure out what kind of egg it is and if its even still alive…it doesnt have any cracks on it bit i think it might have died when it fell out its nest

  13. Hello,

    Around midnight last night, about 10 miles from the coast in southeast Florida (Palm Beach County), I heard a VERY loud “aawwrk!” followed by pecking, which kept repeating that sequence. It sounded like a cross between some type of parrot and a very loud chicken. It was in a tree or on a fence post. I spooked it, it flew a short distance, and had the silhouette of an owl, with large long wings compared to a small body.
    I am very familiar with birds in south Florida, and I’ve never heard anything like this. It’s not a night heron, I see those a lot. I thought it was an owl, but no owls at least in North America make that sound. What could this be??

    Thanks

  14. Hi There,

    Had a query ,if I touched a baby sparrow,do other sparrows or his own mother kill the baby as it got a human touch?
    I have seen a baby sparrow falling down from height and was unable to fly or walk.I lift him gently and put on the table so that his mother can see him.after some time o found some sparrows gathered and take the baby along with them.Do they kill the baby?

  15. How do I stop birds from ruining the screens on my window? I assume they’re using the strands for nesting material. I’m in Silver Spring, Maryland and it’s the most common type of small bird in a residential area.

  16. I have a 4 month old Alexandrine parrot ..she is very playful ..but for the last 5-6 days she was having loose droppings with a huge amount of clear watery liquid.. I was giving Ofloxacine Ornidazole suspension but it was not helpful ..2 days ago she stopped eating anything and the water came out with droppings in great amount and frequency ..My vet told me to switch the antibiotic to Cotrimoxazole paediatric suspension.. but today I noticed that she might having cold .. she is very inactive and lethergic ..please tell me what can I do for her wellness..please tell me

  17. I have a stand of about 50 purple coneflowers that are about 4 feet tall. Every flower stem has been broken about one inch below the bloom. The dead bloom just hangs from the broken stem. I can find no evidence of any animal, and to me it looks only that a bird could have done this. The plants are otherwise healthy. Have you heard of bird exhibiting this behavior? I was wondering if it may be some competitive territorial behavior. I live in Dublin, Ohio and have many finches, blue jays, cardinals, robins and other less abundant birds.

  18. Hey there, today while I was out a little guy smacked into a window so I brought him home with me, I think it’s a juvenile Northern Parula, I think they are currently migrating down south, I live in Ontario Canada. I was just wondering if I should let him go in a day or so if he seems strong enough or if I should get a cage for him to house him for the winter?

  19. Hi, I got my bird yesterday and I was told it is better to keep the cage door open for my bird so it knows it’s safe. It suddenly starting screaming and flew out of the cage, into a window twice, and fell, I tried to grab it, and I put it back in its cage. Then it started panting and moving side to side onto one foot. I’m not sure what to do, I have not signed up for a vet yet.

  20. Dear Dr Lederer,

    I am an artist interested to design and fabricate tall sculptures designed support stork nests. The sculptures themselves are simple spiraling posts of various spiraling frequencies and painted various colors that correspond with the frequencies. What’s more important is determining where to install these sculptures. Can you tell me where storks and other large birds build nests in high places where they would likely also utilize a tall sculpture for this purpose. I’d be happy to share my designs for your input as well and would be grateful for your advice about the distribution of large birds that would likely build a nest on a very tall artwork.

    Thank you, Peter

    1. Well, there is no simple answer here. Storks are one species but other large birds, hawks and eagles, for example, prefer somewhat different nesting places. Ospreys are pretty flexible and would most likely use one of these
      sculptures, but it would have to be near water. Where you put these sculptures depends on where you are (country, city, suburbs, or wherever) and the nearby habitat – marsh, grassland, forest, etc. And of course, whether there are storks or ospreys or whatever in the area. More details about what the sculpture looks like, how tall it is, what it looks like at the top, and the possible places they could be put would be helpful.

      1. Dear Dr. Lederer,
        Thank you for your reply,
        I’d like the final design to suit the storks who I hope will build nests on the highest point of the posts. I’ve designed a metal basket that may encourage the nest building. May I send you the working designs of the posts and baskets? If yes could you let me know what email address to direct it too. I’d be grateful for your feedback.
        Thank you,
        Peter

  21. Hi Dr. Lederer,

    I’ve been doing research on birds that are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, and have found conflicting evidence on owls, specifically, and their ability to do so. Are there any species of owls that are able to distinguish UV light?
    Thank you,

    Gerard

  22. Hi Dr. Lederer,

    While taking a video of birds in the park, I observed a great blue heron catch a fish and then, instead of swallowing it right away, repeatedly leave it to flop around on the ground for a few seconds, then dip it in the water, then leave it on the ground again. In the end, it dropped the fish back into the water while dipping it. The whole thing seemed ridiculous to me.

    Here’s the video of it:
    https://youtu.be/sEz5j8-kpbI?t=348

    Is there a known explanation for this behavior? I couldn’t find anything from a quick online search. My best guess is that it was just having a hard time swallowing the fish (though it didn’t seem that big), that it was wetting it in order to make it easier to swallow, and that it was leaving the fish on the ground in order to rest between attempts at swallowing it.

    Thanks for your attention,
    Jeremy

  23. Hello. I have many types of feeders and seed in my yard for the birds. Usually I can identify the birds that visit but we had a newcomer that I just can’t put my finger on. I was unable to get a photo as a car drove by as I was grabbing my camera. It was Mockingbird/Thrush in shape though a tad larger with a more rounded head. Beak a bit shorter than the head, pointed and straight. Mostly brown with a lighter underside and a darker thick band across its chest (kind of like the colouration of a killdeer without the white). I live in the Ozarks region of Arkansas, very near to a large lake, in a wooded area. The bird was pecking at the ground but not near a feeder. It has been raining for days and we’ve had a couple hard freezes the past month, if that helps any. Any clue as to what it could be?

      1. I thought so as well at first, but it lacked any spots and it’s stance was more Roadrunner-like (if that makes sense). Are there any similar birds that visit the Ozarks during the winter?

  24. Hi there,

    I discovered a duck nest hiding in my bushes around a week ago and would check on the mom and her eggs ever so often. This morning I woke up to the mama duck quaking constantly and found cracked egg shells and most of the eggs sadly eaten. There is one egg left… Do you know if the mom will continue to take care of this egg or would it be better if I took care of the egg at this point? Thank you.

  25. do squirrels eat baby birds? Do i have to worry about squirrels eating the nesting birds in the bird houses I put up? do i have to worry about them eating the birds in my trees?

  26. My wife and I were wondering why goose droppings seem “different” All other birds, including large ones seem to make white liquid like “splats”, while geese make little “turds”, similar to non avians.

    Is there something inherently different about a goose’s digestive system that causes this? Are there other birds like this?

    1. Yes. Geese eat a lot of grass and grain that is hard to digest, so a lot of it goes through the digestive system and comes out as mostly dry feces. Same for other geese and swans and a number of other birds. Birds that eat insects, worms, nectar, some seeds, digest most of it and have watery feces.

  27. I brought an abandoned Chimney Swift fledgling to my home because I don’t feel it is safe being around there.I studied about it’s diet as it only eats insects but is it safe for a Chimney Swift to eat an Egg-White of boiled egg?

  28. Do flocks of birds poop in unison? My driveway has no overhanging lines or trees of any kind, but there are mornings when I’ll come out to the pavement or my car literally covered in splats of bird poop.

  29. I live in an area with at least one red shoulder hawk. The other afternoon I observed one of these birds on the ground, laying breast on the ground, head down, wings semi spread and tail spread. The area was covered in pine straw and the hawk almost disappeared in this posture. It remained that way for about 10 minutes, arose walked briefly in a circle then resumed that posture again. After several more minutes it just stood and flew away. Can you provide some explanation for this behavior? Thank you.

  30. We have a beautiful red=winged blackbird who visits our yard regularly. We’ve always noticed his asymmetrical coloring, but it’s become even more pronounced in the late spring. While he has the yellow “trim” on both wings, he only has one single red epaulette on his right wing. There’s isn’t a hint of red on the left side, even in flight. Is this just an isolated genetic anomaly? Or is he in fact some kind of bird I’ve never heard of with only one red wing typically? Thank you so much for this resource.

  31. Can you settle an argument? Are hawks or owls able to pick up and carry full grown cats or small dogs or is this a myth? There are lots of doctored photos and videos out there.

    1. You are right – there are lots of doctored videos that make it appear that small dogs or cats are in danger from hawks and owls. Well, yes, big hawks and owls could carry off a small dog or cat. But does it happen? Very very rarely. Have yet to see any real evidence that it happens although I’m sure it has. The fact that small dogs and cats are usually near dwellings where you don’t find may hawks or owls and that cats and dogs have teeth and cats claws, makes it unlikely that they are common prey. I suspect that a feral puppy or kitten born out in the woods may fall prey but the idea that small pets are taken by hawks or owls is vastly exaggerated.
      Roger Lederer

      1. Thank you. There are people who continue to maintain that a 4-pound hawk can carry off a 12-pound cat. I just don’t see the physics of that being possible.

  32. I hope I’m not replying to a question because I’m trying to ask one. A bird made a nest in my laundry vent leading from the laundry room to the back porch. Unfortunately it’s where my dog’s lead is located. When she stands on her hind legs it’s the same height as her muzzle, which happens to fit almost perfectly.
    I think it’s far enough away from the opening that it’s out of her reach, but she won’t leave it alone.
    I don’t imagine this being a livable situation for a nest full of baby birds or their mother, but don’t know what to do.
    I can’t move the dog bc she rips stakes holding her lead out of the ground, and every tree in my yard is far too wide to put a lead around.
    I can’t see the babies, but I can hear them and see the nest. I haven’t seen the mother yet which I feel may be odd, but know she’s around bc it’s been at least a week since they hatched. Shouldn’t the mother bird have attacked the dog?
    I don’t know if I can even reach the nest, but am under the impression that if I were to touch or move the nest or babies, the mother will reject them and they’ll end up dying.
    What if anything can I do? The dog has started to pace, wine, jump on and off the bed, bark, basically do anything to get me to put her outside 24 hours a day..

  33. Does anyone know if it’s possible to attract hummingbirds with a feeder on the balcony of a 15th floor apartment? It seems like hummingbirds can and do fly that high, but I’m not sure if it’s worth buying a feeder. Help me out?

    1. It’s possible but unlikely. If you want to try, hang a feeder and decorate your balcony with lots of flowers, even artificial ones you have to get their attention. You might occasionally get a visitor, especially at migration time. But there won’t be many.

  34. Hello!

    I was trimming trees along a fence the other day in my backyard, and I unfortunately exposed the right side of a birds’ nest full of nestlings, when i did so! I stopped cutting right away, but now the nest is fully visible, and out in the wind & elements, from that angle. I am worried the nestlings may die, or that I may have caused the parents to abandon the nest? Is there anything I can do?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  35. A bird that looks like a young owl has gone into my friend’s shop 4 or 5 times. It will sit near a human and let the human touch it. The bird looks bedraggled. Its feathers are messy and dirty-looking. I’m worried that there is something wrong with the owl. Should they try to take it to a vet? I have photos.

    1. That sounds either like the owl has been domesticated or it has been attacked by a predator. But if it goes into your friend’s shop on a regular basis, there is something unusual about it and I suspect it has been domesticated and kept in a cage. Take it to a vet or a wildlife rehab place. Or call your local wildlife official.

  36. I was at Lake Houston this afternoon and watched a pair of large brown birds diving for fish. They would dive and the sit on the water to eat it. It was a brown bird with about a 4 foot wing span that was dark brown except the top of it’s wings were a light tan. It reminded us of a pelican at first because it had a long beak. A very distinguishing feature was a large white spot on it’s head. The head was brown with the spot. Do you happen to know what this could be. I didn’t see the feet but it did sit in the water and take off from the water.

    1. Most likely it is either the Neotropic Cormorant or the Double-crested Cormorant.They are related to pelicans. The large white spot tells me it is probably the Neotropic Cormorant.

  37. For the past few weeks we have had juvenile Cooper’s hawks in our neighborhood, but recently I have noticed a juvenile red shouldered flying with them. I was wondering if they could possibly be hunting together or maybe I’m just misidentifying the birds?

  38. This is a bit of a grim one, but I’m having trouble finding answers anywhere else. There was a male ruby-throated hummingbird struggling on our property yesterday (not flying, having trouble breathing, not interested in any sugar water or flowers), and despite our best efforts, he passed away. As it happened, the red feathers on his chest turned black. I thought I imagined it, but as I turned him around, only one or two of the feathers still looked red. Why did this happen?

    1. It’s all about feather structure. The iridesence on the male’s chest is due to a combination of pigment and the structure of the feathers. When the light hits it in a particular direction, you see iridescent red. Other lighting conditions produce black or at least a dark color. Put the bird in various bright lights and you’ll see the red.

      1. That’s just the thing, though, the bird was lying in one position when the colour changed, it did not move, nor did the lighting change. It just stopped breathing, and the feathers went from red to black. That’s why it has confused me so much. I moved it around a bit to bury it, but they stayed black.

  39. I recently saw a cormorant at our local park. It dove pretty quickly, soon after it came up struggling with a large green eel. The thick 2′ eel seemed quite determined to escape by thrashing and even wrapping around the birds neck! Still, after about 2 minutes the bird somehow opened it’s throat real wide and swallowed it down entirely… BUT the battle for life and dinner wasn’t over yet! The desperate eel still was resisting and seemed to rise partly (I could see it come back out!) escaping the bird’s neck/stomach many times, only to be gulped back in. Watching the Cormorant contend with this monster was some sight! Eventually the uncomfortable cormorant swam away with what appeared to be the unfortunate prey frantically wriggling in its stomach!

    Sorry to digress, my questions are as follows… So can the bird really manage to digest that huge thing bones and all and how?? Does the poor eel (it was quite a bright/pretty green color) stand any slim chance of escaping (that thrashing, biting, etc.) the hungry birds stomach or is it destined to become food at that point?!

    I would think the eel’s slime acts as a protective coating and help it turn around in such stretchy/elastic surroundings too?

    Thanks for all the feedback/info, have a good day!

  40. On my feeding ground several month ago I observe female sparrow was feeding daily some baby bird from
    different species, in appearance and behaviour it look like baby blackbird, by now it is dark brown with light brown
    feather along wings and keeps together with other young sparrows, it is much larger then sparrow but smaller then
    blackbird..I have sparrow and starling bird houses, red wing and brewer’s blackbirds fed here up up a month ago..
    Interesting what species this bird belong to and will it survive winter while thinking belong to sparrows….

  41. Two years ago I saw sparrows behind building near busy intersection in Mississauga Ontario, one of them was pure
    white albino, it last only 10 second before they fly on top of building but this encounter with white sparrow puzzle me .
    ever since…

  42. Hi there,

    Does King Fishers exhibit tool use behavior ?
    I saw on Youtube a King Fisher that used a piece of wood/paper or something to lure fish to the surface and
    then catch it as it comes near. Did not know that! – and cannot find any other reference to it on Google?
    (Maybe it is fake? bit it looked real enough…)

    1. I have not observed that but I’m sure it occurs. I’ve watched herons and hawks do so and I would not doubt that kingfishers do as well. A quick search didn’t turn up any evidence but here’s a paper on bird tool using that might shed some light on the issue. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Yvonne_Roelofs/publication/270685626_Tool_use_in_birds_-_An_overview_of_reported_cases_ontogeny_and_underlying_cognitive_abilities/links/54b2a74f0cf2318f0f95383f.pdf

      1. Ahh, Thank you for the correction and Info, Very interesting. Yes it appears to be a Heron, not a Kingfisher,
        Not sure why I had Kingfisher in my head !. 🙂
        Explains why I could not get anything. As soon as one searches with Heron – there are plenty of video footage.
        Anyway, I didn’t know birds can fish like that. Seems so amazing.

        By the way here is the link if you wanted a look.

        Link: (Time stamp 15:07)
        https://youtu.be/M_CRjpxc6Ow?t=907

  43. Please respond to this phenom!!! I live in Agoura Hills, Ca, on a hill with a 300 degree view. I have a large windo in which I look out all day for years, as I was bed bound with an illness. I know all the birds, their flights, habits etc.
    Since LOCKDOWN there are almost NO BIRDs to be seen anywhere…in the air, or on treees or power lines. The occasional one or two birds dart here and there, but other than that, no birds anywhere.
    This is completely un precedented. I know not everyone pays attention to the birds like it do, but not seeing any…..do you have any idea why????

    1. This is the time of year when bird populations are changing because migration is going on. Birds fly in groups, then settle down to rest , then fly again. Finally the groups break apart and the birds seek places to nest. They are less obvious when they are building a nest, as well. It is not unusual at all for birds to be common and then disappear for a period of time. It almost certainly has nothing to do with lockdown or the coronavirus, although I suppose it’s possible that people disappearing from a certain area might attract birds that normally would not be there, attracting birds from your area.

  44. In urban areas birds mostly can be found near bird feeders and bird houses, if birds find nicer place with more tasty food
    they will stay there but some will come visit their old feeding ground few time daily, Black birds and Mallard duck like
    to come back every season to same feeding ground, Starlings and Sparrows will breed in same bird houses, bird houses
    need to be clean inside every season…

  45. For the first time in ten years we have crows visiting in our trees in our urban yard. I watch them pick at all the little branches in the maple and drop them all over. Occasionally he or she carries one off to the large pine across the street. I’m guessing they are building a nest, but am dying to know if you can explain why they are doing this. I watched a pair of Cooper’Hawks doing a similar thing. Is there another motivation for this behavior?

  46. I had a woodpecker boring a hole in my birch tree so I put up a house for it. He and a female were going to move in until a falcon chased them away. Now I have a falcon, but no woodpecker or songbirds… Should I take the birdhouse down?

  47. A baby babbler bird came to our yard yesterday along with parent birds. Yesterday baby was active and eating but since today morning it is sluggish , neither eating nor responding well . Parents birds tried to gain its attention but it is sitting in one corner with eyes closed . It is still alive , it has little feathers all over the body. now after some hours parents flew away . Baby is still alive how can I help it ? Due to lockdown the vet hospital near our home is closed . Please reply me how can I feed it ?

  48. Recently, A Carolina Wren laid her eggs in our barn. It has been a week since she’s been back to her nest. I know this because I set up a trail cam and it never showed any sign of her. I’m wondering if I should take her eggs inside and care for them so that they have a chance to hatch?

    1. If you are sure she has abandoned the nest, you can try to hatch the eggs yourself. But, the eggs may be no good, for several reasons. If they are good, it takes some knowledge to go about hatching the eggs and especially raising the young . Unless you have experience, it is VERY difficult to raise young birds. I suggest you contact your local bird rehab center or wildlife official.

  49. Today, I heard a very strange bird call. I asked around on the internet what it was and I was told it was either a Carolina Chickadee or a White-Throated Sparrow, but I want to know the definitive answer. Here’s a link to a video I took of the bird call. I live in Northern Indiana and it was about 7:00 P.M. when I recorded the video. Keep in mind when you watch the video that I’m referring to the call that is three long notes in the background rather than the louder, chittery woodpecker call.

    https://youtu.be/SMpewldEH8Q

    1. Well, there was no sound on the link on my end, but from your description of the call, I’d say it was the White-throated Sparrow. Chickadees don’t make three long notes but WC Sparrows do. Of course, it could be something else, but without hearing the call, I can’t guess.

  50. Some Chickadees built a nest in the banister on our porch. We don’t mind, but we’re worried that it could get flooded because it’s completely vertical with the nest at the bottom & no way to stop the rain from falling directly on the eggs. We have ideas for how we could block the rain without it interfering in their accessing the nest, but I don’t want to do anything if it isn’t necessary. There is one new egg as of today.

  51. In our house in southern Colorado there has been great horned owls coming to the outside rafters for the house for even before us buying the house 9 years ago. There is normally 2 different owls that seem to be one female and one male but a couple years ago a third owl would appear if the other two were gone. We have never seen a nest or babies but they also would go into big trees near the house. They will leave sometimes for a couple weeks but always come back. They were here at Christmas time but we haven’t seen them since. I was wondering what could have caused that. Do they migrate? I also was wondering about how we haven’t seen any baby owls? Do they go somewhere else in the spring to have babies then come back? Thanks.

    1. I can’t tell you what is going on without seeing the owls and the environment. They don’t migrate but they will wander locally during non breeding season. How do you know the third owl is different than the pair? Might be one of the same pair or one of their young/ They might use the house for roosting and go somewhere else for nesting.

  52. We live in Ottawa, Canada and have noticed a significant increase in the number of robins in our neighbourhood this spring. We are wondering whether the changes in our area due to Covid-19 (fewer cars on the street, fewer people walking around,etc.) might have anything to do with it…. or the fact we are having an unusually cool spring.

    1. No question that birds and other wildlife are more visible this season because there is less human activity. Fewer people, fewer cars, more birds. I love it. Except for the virus part of it, of course.

  53. For about six years pair of Mallard Duck arrive in April, this is probably second or third generation, they eat food with other birds and squirrels and spend lot of time in my neighbor pond but later they nesting not far away on small lake…, often another
    Mallard Duck male accompany this pair., in late summer this ducks disappearing for eight month and returning next
    year in April… my question is where this pair of Ducks is surviving for eight month… if they would be with other Mallard Ducks
    in nearby park they probably would come during winter to look for food but they never come..

  54. I don’t know where you live or what the local conditions are so I can’t give you a specific answer. Surely they found some other place that suits them, or perhaps they wander among vari;ous places.

  55. Every spring for the last several years, robins have taken up nesting in the light fixture on our front porch. This year was no exception, however, after several days we noticed something odd – there was a new bird squatting next to Miss Robin. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you – that’s a mourning dove.

    Now we can’t wait to see what transpires once the babies are born. Will the mothers get along? How will the babies interact once they are older? So many questions.

  56. Epaulets of Red-winged blackbirds – Is this a unique feature, or are there other birds that have such variable displays on their wings – able to be covered or exposed?

      1. Actually, I was specifically focusing in on the epaulets, asking if this display location was unique to the red-wing blackbird. Or are there other species with such “voluntary” epaulet displays that might indicate an evolutionary trail to ancestors?

        1. Oh, OK. Yes, there are. In fact one is called the Epaulet Oriole. Others are the Variable Oriole and the Moriche Oriole. There are probably several more if one took the time to search.

          1. Thanks… Not sure I’d know how to begin such a search… “bird’s with expressive epaulets”? 😉
            I checked a few epaulet oriole sites, but couldn’t find any that described its epaulet’s functions… Used for display, like the red-wing’s, or just decorative?

  57. Well, I haven’t done much on this subject except to tell you of a few birds with epaulets. My suggestion is to go to Google Scholar or JSTOR and search the scientific literature. JSTOR limits your choices unless you are a member. Same with Science DIrect. But if there is anything known, it’ll be in the ornithological or ecological journals from around the world..

  58. I live on the western slope of the Mission Mountains in Montana. In 2003 or 4, I witnessed the following phenomenon: In the early summer mornings, hundreds if not thousands of Ravens would fly out of the mountain forests down to the valley floor. In the evening, the reverse was true. This went on for three or four weeks. I have lived here for 16 years since and it has never happened again. Can you tell me why?

    1. I’ve seen this behavior in Crows in Oklahoma. The Ravens leave the mountains where they overnight in roosts and then move to the valley floor to find food and go back up to the mountains to roost again. Why have you not seen this again? I don’t know, but I suspect whatever food source attracted them is no longer there. They could have been feeding on corn or peanuts or whatever and the farmer decided to change his crop to something less palatable. Or the feeding area got turned into a shopping mall. Something like that.

  59. Hello.

    I fed local sparrows and pigeons bread a couple of weeks ago. I put some of bread right on the edge of my balcony. Some breadcrumbs were also on my balcony. The strange thing is that since then, a sparrow, or sparrows, have brought bread to my balcony twice. In the first case, either the sparrow who had brought the bread or another sparrow took it. In the second case, the piece of bread put by a sparrow onto the edge of my balcony fell inside and is still here.

    I understand this might be a coincidence. However, I would still like to pose a couple of questions. Do sparrows remember where they got a lot of free food? Is this a kind of thanks or a hint to give them more?

    1. Sometimes the birds just take more than they can eat and just return it to a place they feel comfortable at. Bread is not very nutritious and the birds just eat it casually because they are bored. Unless they are starving, they certainly don’t want more bread. Feed them seeds.

  60. So we know that birds have evolved a number of mechanical features to optimize flight, but what at the biological or neurological attributes that have been evolved to optimize location identification and navigation? Some reference have been made to their sense of timing being influenced by both proximate and ultimate factors. Could you please explain or direct me to some references that explore or explain these?

    Thank you for your assistance.

    1. That’s a very heavy set of questions, so I would direct you to Frank Gills basic ornithology text to begin. Read what he has to say about these areas of interested and follow up by looking at the references he lists in the text. Or go directly to Google Scholar and look at the scientific literature. I couldn’t even begin to give you a satisfactory answer if I wrote for several hours. Best if you do the reading. I’d be happy to answer specific questions but to explain the biological attributes for navigation is just too much to tackle here.

    1. Your neighbors were going to toss the birds away? That’s immoral and illegal. These are some kind of flycatcher. You need to bring them to a wildlife official or bird rehab center. It is VERY difficult to raise them if you have no experience. Meanwhile you can try to feed them moist dog food and mashed hard boiled egg. NO water.

      1. Thank you for the quick response. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either. I’ve contacted bird rescue and they’ll get these chicks on Monday. Thank you again!

  61. hello there, i need help identifying a bird by its call only here in Cyprus. i live in a rural/farmland area 2000 ft above sea level near the village of Tsada. as i post this plea for help it is nearing the end of June 2020. every morning for 3 weeks i have heard a call best described as ‘frog like’ or even similar to a calling Fallow Buck in the ‘rut’. mostly pre 8 am for an hour or two before the heat builds. could it be a migratory ground nesting bird perhaps ? it’s call is as strong and carries as far as a hoopoe. needless to say i have never had a visual on this mystery bird. thank you for any help gentlemen. rc.

  62. Hello,
    today I walked by a nest box in a meadow. The front part with the entry hole for the birds was hinged wide open. In it was a nest with a baby bird and the mother was nearby. I wonder if I should go back and try to close the box or just leave it open. I do not want to disturb the nest and I do not know if the mother would reenter once the box is closed., I feel that the chick is not very protected. The meadow is in a park surrounded by woods. It has a big trail system and a lot of people visit it for running and biking. I cannot tell what kind of bird is nesting in there. What would you recommend?

    1. Leave it be. Since I don’t know what kind of bird it is, it might be something that doesn’t normally nest in a nest box but did so because it was open. Even if it is, the parents are likely around somewhere. Best not to disturb it.

    2. Usually such bird houses (typically for bluebirds or tree swallows here in Michigan) on trail systems are regularly looked after by someone. Is there a park office there?

  63. Would an American robin bully a sick mate away from the nest?
    There is a nest outside my window, with what appears to be a mated pair and 3 chicks. However, whenever what I assume is the female (it’s smaller) tries to get near enough to take care of the chicks, the other tweets at it and chases it away. I will note though, that the one that is being chased away has feathers missing and as a result seems to struggle to fly perfectly, so I thought it may have an underlying medical problem. Does this seem like normal behavior? I know from watching other robins outside my house that usually both mates seem involved in the care of their offspring.

    1. I’m not clear on the situation you describe. Only the male is taking care of the chicks. you think? If the bird that is being chased away is smaller and has feathers missing, I think it is a young bird, maybe from another nest and not the female. It’s not a medical issue, the bird is just not full grown. At least that’s my interpretation from your description.

  64. We live at 1450 feet elevation 30 miles south of Yosemite NP. There is a large California Quail population all around our area. One particular pair laid a nest of 9 eggs in a large litter plant on our patio. Several other quail laid clutches nearby and they hatched at about 3 weeks. This odd pair has been sitting in the eggs for about TWO MOBTHS! The eggs can’t be viable at this time? Can they?
    We leave them alone, but today while both parents were gone, I picked just one up to feel it. It was firm and heavy with no visible defects. Anything you could add would be greatly appreciated. TY

    1. If they have been regularly incubating the eggs fro two months then the eggs are most likely bad. Birds can sit on the eggs without incubating them, but that’s unusual with a full clutch of eggs. If they are no bother, leave things be and see what happens.

  65. Hi There!
    I answer an animal support line, and we advise, provide resources and sometimes respond to animal emergencies. This time of year, naturally I get lots of “this bird can’t fly” calls for which we know are simply fledglings doing their thing. It’s wonderful to live in an age when I can have a caller easily send pictures to identify this. I have noticed that many of the fledgling’s toes curl under, or point in odd directions, and they have difficulty standing up. My question is twofold… does this malformation happen as a consequence of how it developed in the nest? And, will the toes grow out and correct the condition with time? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Jules. THere are at least two possibilities here. THe most likely is that the muscles that control the toes/tendons are not developed well enough or just haven’t been given sufficient exercise.The other possibility, less likely, is that the bird has a Vitamin D deficiency. In both cases the bird should develop normally with care from the parents. And yes, it could be a genetic or developmental malformation that will never correct itself, but I suspect that’s less common. Kudos to you and your animal support group.

  66. Hello!

    I’m part of a school community in Southeastern PA, and we are thinking of building bird nesting boxes in our little marsh on campus. We’d like to pick species that need support, and we are also interested in dramatic species that will draw students to the marsh. We are thinking of tree-swallows, barn owls, and osprey. What would you recommend as we think about this project?

    1. I suggest you contact your local AUdubon Society for input. I don’t know anything about this marsh so I can’t tell you the suitability of any nest boxes for a particular species. Barn Owls are not marsh nesters and osprey do not use nest boxes, by the way. THere may be other suitable species you haven’t considered. Besides contacting Audubon, there may be some other conservation organizations nearby that might give you good input. Good luck. Could be a great project.

  67. Hi,

    There were 2 small songbirds that laid 2 blue specked eggs in my garden. I saw them there 2 weeks ago. But when I checked tofay the nest was completely empty. No egg shells, no sign of another animal breaking in. I would have saw if the eggs hatched and they flew away but they didn’t hatch. I also didn’t see nay other birds besides the parents come in.

    What happened?

    1. I have no idea what happened but it is perfectly feasible that the birds hatched and left the nest without you having seen them. How do you know they did not hatch? Sounds like they did; at least that makes the most sense.

      1. Hello,

        I know they didn’t hatch because I go out into the garden every day to water the plants. If I wear stand on my porch I can see into the nest, if they hatched you would be able to see the tops of their heads. There was also no chirping and the parents never brought food back.

  68. I have two budgies one adult male and younger female now i want to introduce another pair. How should i pick that pair like younger male and female or younger male and adult female ?

  69. Hello Dr. Lederer, sorry if this may seem like a strange question but I am a senior studying at the University of Minnesota and am currently taking a wildlife care and handling course. One project I have been tasked with is to create a facility profile and I got placed into birds and commercial. So in layman’s terms I have to create an imaginary business surrounding birds. However, the teacher wants it to be with a non-domesticated “wild” bird. Me not knowing much about birds took to the internet to do research, however, I was unable to find a concise answer on what a wild animal is in comparison to a domesticated bird (or even some examples of non-domesticated birds). If you could point me in the right direction I would be very grateful.

    1. MacKenzie, a wild bird is any bird that has not been caged and bred by humans on a regular basis. We use ducks, geese, and chickens for food, ducks and geese for feathers and down stuffing. We use pigeons, house sparrows, quail, and others as experimental animals. But there are many wild ducks, geese, pigeons, quail, and sparrows. There are no wild chickens as that is an animal we created, like the white rat. So, I’d say a wild animal is any species of animal that is not typically use in the service of humans. Like Blue Jays, the Common Loon, Blue Grouse, and thousands of others.

  70. Hi! I live in Saskatchewan, Canada. We have many migratory birds that travel through our area in Spring to go up north, and in the Fall to go south. One of them is the White Throated Sparrow. However, today as I’m sitting outside, I can hear the Ruby Crowned Kinglet is passing through, and some other familiar voices. I’m almost 100% sure I heard a White Throated Sparrow, however, it had a very quiet voice, had “voice-cracks” and ended the song well before it should’ve, sometimes starting the song mid-way through.

    Does this indicate that the bird has fallen ill?

    1. Sounds like you have a good ear for bird songs, but there are all kinds of possible reasons for a bird not to sing its full song, especially in the fall. It could be young, it could have have a genetic defect, it could have learned the wrong song, it could have a physical defect of the syrinx, or whatever. I suppose it could have fallen ill, but an incomplete song has several possible causes.

  71. Hi,
    I was hoping you’d be able to settle a debate amongst me and my friends able the species of bird depicted in a computer game.
    The main character of the “Untitled Goose Game” is supposedly, as the name would suggest, a goose however some members of the group claim the bird icon is actually closer to an American Pekin Duck or similar.
    Since the image is a rather simplistic depiction of the bird, what would be the clearest differences between the two that we’d be able to use to determine the species?
    If you’d be willing to take a look at the bird, you can see it here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xZjDow96o9VsnOnsWc6ZxK2R7HwRK3T5/view?usp=drivesdk
    While we realise this is a ridiculous debate to be having, it has gone on for some time so an expert opinion is the only resolution.
    Thank you for your time

    1. I’ve settled other silly debates over bird stuff, so let me settle this one. The icon is of course, a bit unrealistic, but all it all, it’s a goose. Geese are bigger , have longer necks and feet, and have shorter but thicker bills than ducks. The goose people win.

      1. Hi!

        Being the one who started the goose/duck war regarding our dear Bert (I did indeed name the goose), I would like to thank you for clearing this out and taking our stand. It will be used against the duck people.

        Kind regards,
        Ellis,

  72. My lovebird and cockatiel have been caged together for quite a while and i have seen them trying or have been mating. I recently found 3 eggs and am unsure if they will be fertile. Please help?

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