Asian Bird Fair 2010

August 11, 2010 by  
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Bird watching groups from various countries, such as China, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia, was working together to host the first Asian Bird Fair on the 24th and 25th of September 2010. The fair will offer lectures and talks by well known delegates, and also take visitors on fascinating bird watching expeditions. It is a unique opportunity for bird watchers to get together and explore the world of birds locally and internationally.

Visit the Birdwatch website at http://www.birdwatch.ph/index.html for more information in regard to lectures, bird watching and the fair schedule.

Date: 24 – 25 September 2010
Venue: Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao
City: Davao
Country: Philippines

Merlin (Falco colombarius)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Merlin or as it is scientifically know as, Falco colombarius, is a falcon that breeds in many different continents like North America, Asia and Europe. In North America it is known as a pigeon hawk, and the Latin part of its scientific name, “columba”, means dove also indicating the falcon’s popular food choice. But the name is incorrect in that it is not a hawk but a falcon and so the name is not often used.

The Merlin is a small bird of prey that breeds in open areas like moor lands, birch scrub and taiga or willow scrub, coasts and desert areas. When temperatures become too cold the Merlin, like its larger counterpart the Peregrine Falcon, will migrate to more temperate regions. These northern European birds will go over to North Africa or to southern Europe, whereas the North American birds will head to southern USA and to northern South America. If the bird is found in Great Britain, one of its milder breeding ranges, it will leave high grounds and move to lowlands and the coast.

In Europe the Merlin is a social bird and will roost communally in winter, many times with Hen Harriers. However, in North America, communal roosting is rare because the Merlin is known for its aggression and it will go so far as to attack any bird of prey, even eagles. Throughout the Merlin’s territory range they will nest on the ground, for instance in the United Kingdom they will usually look for a shallow scrape on the heather moor land. They also enjoy long heather but because of the regular burning in that area they tend to be over managed.

The male Merlin’s coloring is specifically blue-gray with orange-tinted under parts. The female and the juvenile differ and have a dark brown back and a white belly with brown spots below. The American subspecies go from pale in the Great Plains to dark brown, black in the Pacific Northwest. This particular species is small in size and has dark under parts, and is distinguished from the Peregrine Falcon by its facial features, which are not as strongly marked.

These falcons prey on small birds like pipits, larks and large insects and because of this they rely heavily on their speed and agility to hunt prey. Merlin Falcons hunt by flying low, about one meter off the ground, and very fast catching their prey by surprise.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The beautiful Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is the bird that people most commonly picture when discussing a swan. This striking, white bird with its slender neck, black eyes and dark orange bill has become a bird of legend, with many European and Asian fairytales and bedtime stories featuring this magnificent creature. The Mute Swan is found naturally in the more temperate parts of Europe and western Asia and, while it is not migratory as such, certain inland populations are forced to move to the coast in winter when their waterways and lakes may freeze over. Because these birds are considered to be so beautiful, some have been taken to other countries where attempts have been made to keep them at parks and ponds. However, the birds inevitably escape and as a result there are currently a number of feral bird populations in the US which have become naturalised over time. In some places, however, they compete with local bird species for food and space resulting in them being labelled as ‘pests’. Nevertheless, they fall under the AEWA conservation agreement.

The Mute Swan is an impressively large bird with an average body length of between 145-160 cm. Their wingspan may measure 208-238 cm in length and the males are normally quite a bit larger than the females. These proportions and the resulting weight make the Mute Swan one of the heaviest flying birds in the world and the heaviest water bird ever recorded. Both the cobs (males) and pens (females) are similar in appearance with pure white bodies, necks and heads. There is a small black area around their eye which joins up with the knob on their bills. The males have a larger knob than the females. Their bills are orange-red in color and their necks have an unmistakable S-like curve which adds greatly to their allure. Young Mute Swans are called ‘cygnets’ and they are normally a dull white or grey with a dull-colored bill.

Mute Swans usually build their nests on large mounds which they create in shallow water. These mounds may be either in the middle or near the edge of a lake. The birds typically use the same nest each year and they may have to restore or rebuild it at the beginning of breeding season. The Mute Swan is monogamous and both sexes share in building and caring for the nest and for incubating and raising their young. Mute Swans normally feed on water plants, insects and snails and an adult may eat as much as 4 kg of vegetation in one day. These birds are generally found in large colonies and can become quite tame though they will always act defensively if you approach their nest and it is not recommendable for anyone to do so.

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Also known as the Common Pheasant, the Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) originated in Asia but was introduced to North America and is now well established over much of the continent. It was also taken to Britain in the 10th century but had to be reintroduced in the 1830s as the original birds died out in the 17th century. Today it is also well established in that country. It is generally regarded as being a game-bird and is often bred for hunting purposes. However, there are several breeding facilities which not only supply hunters but restaurants with these birds. Since the meat can be tought and dry, farm-raised birds are prefereable for consumption.

Generally speaking the Ring-necked Pheasant is a distinctive and colorful species. Its body usually measures between 50-90 cm with the tail often accounting for half the total length. The bird has a chunky shape, round wings and a long tail. The head is small and set on a thin neck. The adult male has a green head with a pale bill and red facial skin around the eye. There is a bold white ring around its neck from which its name is derived. The rest of its plumage is somewhat golden in color with blue and green iridescence as well as black spotting randomly dispersed all over its body. The tail has long, pointed golden feathers with black barring while the legs are spurred. The adult female’s head and underparts are a buffy brown. Her back is dark brown and she has black spots and bars scattered around her head, neck and flanks. Her tail has no barring and she also does not have any spurs. Juveniles resemble females until about two months of age.

Generally speaking this ground-bird prefers cultivated agricultral lands that are interspersed with marshes, hedges and brushy groves. They prefer to run rather than fly and have a short wingspan of only 56-86 cm. Ring-necked Pheasants feed on seeds, grasses, leaves, roots, nuts, wild fruit and insects. They usually nest on the ground in amongst tall grass or weeds in a scrape which is sparsely lined with vegetation. The female may lay between 7-15 eggs in her nest and her chicks are able to leave the nest and feed themselves shortly after hatching. Males are polygynous and usually defend their harem of females from other males quite fiercely. When they are not nesting, Ring-necked Phesants usually roost in trees.

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Also known as the Rock Dove or Domestic Pigeon, the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) is a fairly common sight in urban areas around the world. Some places – such as Trafalgar Square in London or Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester – are famous for their large pigeon populations. The Rock Pigeon has a restricted natural range in western and southern Europe, southwest Asia and North Africa. However, it has been successfully introduced in virtually every other country in the world and it is quite common to see Rock Pigeons resting on window ledges in cities across the globe.

The Rock Pigeon is a fairly large pigeon measuring 29-36 cm in length with a wingspan of 50-67 cm. Their coloration is quite varied but most wild birds are grey with a white rump and rounded tail. The tail usually has a dark tip and the wings are pale grey with two black bars. The Rock Pigeon has fairly broad wings and is a competent flier. They may have green and lilac patches on the sides of their necks. The male and female are similar in appearance but the males are larger and have more iridescent necks. The eyes and eyelids are usually orange though some have white-grey eyes. The eyes are usually surrounded by a dull white eye ring and the feet can be red or pink in color. Immature Rock Pigeons are duller in color and have less lustre.

Rock Pigeons tend to nest on ledges or in a cave – depending on their immediate environment. The nest is made of grass, heather or seaweed and is a fairly flimsy structure. A female will use the same nest repeatedly, building on top of old nests each time she wants to roost. She generally lays two white eggs in it. Both parents incubate the eggs for 18 days afterwhich they hatch to reveal pale yellow chicks with flesh-coloured bills that have a dark band. The parents feed the hatchlings on ‘crop milk’ for about a month until the fledging period has ended. Rock Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been used both as a source of food and as racing and homing pigeons. Despite their ability to find their way home over long distances, they are generally quite sedate and do not leave their local areas. Because of their association with humans, feral Rock Pigeons often display a wide variety of plumages.

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