Hummingbirds in Combat

Hummingbirds fight; that's obvious to anyone who has watched them at a hummingbird feeder. And their bills are made for fighting as well as feeding. The bills are long and sharp and can be use to thrust, parry, and pluck the feathers of an opponent. They are also made for…

The Probers

[caption id="attachment_10753" align="alignleft" width="370"] Shorebird Beaks[/caption] We've all watched birds pecking at trees working their way around the trunk and sticking their bills under the bark. These  are the insectivore probers, looking to extract an invertebrate [caption id="attachment_10750" align="alignright" width="183"] Brown Creeper[/caption] morsel. The penduline-tits of Eurasia, so named because…

Books, and More Books

I read one time that there is almost one bird book a day published in the United States. That’s a lot. Some of these are very minor local books, some are just junk, some are terrific and a lot are inbetween. One review of the best books of 2018 can…

Swallows and Tattoos

[caption id="attachment_10733" align="alignleft" width="548"] Barn Swallow[/caption] Swallows seemed to have captured people’s imaginations over the years. They are attractive, acrobatic, long distance migrants and one of the most aerial birds. Aristotle noticed them around 363 BC and stipulated (Aristotle didn’t always collect data or do proper or sufficient observations) that…

Bird Egg Coloration

[caption id="attachment_10724" align="alignleft" width="568"] Dinosaur Eggs[/caption] Birds are the only vertebrates that lay colored eggs. But in a new paper, Dinosaur egg colour had a single evolutionary origin, lead author Jasmina Wiemann of Yale University said that nonavian dinosaur ancestors had colored eggs as well. About a decade ago, Richard…

Plumage

“Plumage” comes from the Old French meaning feathers or appearance. Today the word is almost exclusively used for a bird’s set of feathers. Depending on the species, birds have various plumages throughout the year. Feathers wear out, are broken, or lost and they need to be replaced on a regular…

Do Birds Matter?

[caption id="attachment_10705" align="alignleft" width="235"] California Condor[/caption] I have had this website, Ornithology.com for 20 years now. I started it just before my retirement from a university where I taught ornithology and ecology. Now, in my leisure years, I write this blog, give lectures, lead field trips, write articles and books,…

Avian Color Morphs

[caption id="attachment_10692" align="alignleft" width="300"] Swainson's Hawk Light Morph[/caption] We are familiar with soaring hawks overhead in search of prey. Red-tailed Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks and others we distinguish by their markings, mainly their underside because that’s what we mostly see. But occasionally it gets a little confusing because one…

Birds and Bugs

[caption id="attachment_10686" align="alignleft" width="300"] Female House Sparrow[/caption] Flycatchers, bee-eaters, swallows and swifts conjure up images of birds flitting through the air in quest of some sort of arthropod. We mostly don’t think about the tiny prey item that gets engulfed by the snapping avian jaws. So let’s give them some…