Birds and Bugs

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 thought. Birds eat an estimated 500 million…

The Evolution of Migration

The following is excerpted from my book, Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs. Migration is dangerous but it must be advantageous for long term survival. Determining how the physical and physiological characteristics of organisms developed over geological time is difficult as the fossil record is incomplete and the fossils themselves often…

Fat and Feathers

[caption id="attachment_10671" align="alignleft" width="369"] Northern Cardinal[/caption] Winter is approaching in the northern hemisphere. How do our seemingly fragile birds cope? We say that birds and mammals are warm-blooded, but that’s a misleading term. A desert iguana sitting on a rock in the sun can tolerate a body temperature of 1150…

The Seedeaters

Excerpted from Beaks, Bones and Bird Songs: [caption id="attachment_10660" align="alignleft" width="356"] California Scrub Jay[/caption] From the Old French fourrage, to forage, pillage, or plunder, foraging refers to the ways birds find food. Virtually every bird has its own style of seeking out and acquiring its sustenance with each beak shape…

Chickens

[caption id="attachment_10651" align="alignleft" width="465"] Red Junglefowl by George Edward Lodge[/caption] Each American consumes the equivalent of 27 chickens per year, not counting eggs. The U.K. raises 870 million chickens and imports another 400 million each year. And no wonder, chickens are tasty. The domestic chicken came from the Red Junglefowl…

Suet For Birds

[caption id="attachment_10642" align="alignleft" width="506"] Rose-breasted Grosbeak and American Goldfinch at suet feeder[/caption] The word “suet” comes from the Latin sebum, the oily substance that lubricates our skin, and less appealingly, clogs our pores and produces pimples and blackheads. Suet is actually the fat found around the loins and kidneys of…

Birds and Hurricanes

[caption id="attachment_10638" align="alignleft" width="553"] Whimbrel[/caption] I recently returned from a trip to Florida, during Hurricane Michael. Luckily I was in another part of the state when the storm blew through. These days of high technology and high-speed communication, humans get warned of an oncoming weather disaster so they can take…
1 2 3 18