Chinquapin Takes on Irene

September 6, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Whimbrel birds stand a height of 1.5 feet and are known to be migrating birds, referred to as long haul fliers, as they are able to travel distances of up to three thousand five hundred miles without resting in between and can maintain speeds of fifty miles per hour. Before they migrate they ready themselves by packing on weight, and will weigh approximately double their usual weight before migrating. What is truly amazing is a bird named Chinquapin that took on Hurricane Irene.

Chinquapin is a Whimbrel that was tagged with satellite tracking, enabling researchers and biologists, such as Fletcher Smith (College of William and Mary’s Centre for Conservation Biology), to track Chinquapin’s movements. Whimbrels are shorebirds but move to the high Arctic regions for breeding, with most birds remaining in Brazil during the winter months. To learn more about the migratory patterns of the whimbrels, tracking devices were fitted to a few birds.

Panic erupted as Chinquapin’s device transmitted that he was on a one way collision course with Hurricane Irene. As he entered the hurricane, his tracking device lost signal, leaving researchers expecting the worst and nervously watching their monitors to try and find him. Eventually his transmitter confirmed that he had made it through and was safely resting in the Bahamas. Smith said that it was incredible that some birds are able to increase their energy levels to fly through such horrific conditions. Even though Chinquapin survived, researchers are still no closer to finding out how he managed to survive.

Many birds are either thrown off course, or worst case scenario, killed, while trying to fly through these weather conditions, but it is not the first time for Chinquapin, who made the decision to fly around the 2010 Tropical Storm Colin. Another bird tried flying though the storm and was killed, while Chinquapin’s decision saved his life. Chinquapin is most definitely a very brave and special bird, and researchers will continue their efforts to track Whimbrels to learn more about them and their habits.

Gray Hawk (Asturina nitida)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

The Gray Hawk (Asturina nitida) is a small raptor that is 15 inches in length and has a wingspan of 35 inches. It is predominantly gray in color, with its throat and belly being white with barred gray coloring. Its upper tail coverts are white and it has very pale colored plumage under its wings. The Gray Hawk is resident to the southwestern United States regions, Mexico, Arizona, Central Argentina and Brazil.

Gray Hawks prefer to live in forests and woodland areas. It is not unusual to see them in agricultural fields, savanna trees and in open patches between forests. They prey on small animals, birds and snakes, and stalk their prey from perches in the trees. Once a prey animal has been sighted, the Grey Hawk will swoop down from the tree and catch its meal. Hawks are also known to hunt for prey, while gliding low to the ground, and are very agile hunters. They can maneuver themselves through the trees very swiftly. Nests are built high up in the trees from sticks, and are lined with leaves. Both the male and female will participate in the construction of the nest; of which the male will build the foundation of the nest, and the female will construct the bowl. The female hawk will lay between one to three white eggs that can sometimes be marked with red and pale blue. Only the female Grey Hawk takes part in the incubation of the eggs; however, the male provides her with food for the first two weeks. The incubation period is approximately 33 days. After the two weeks, the female is able to participate in hunting. It has not been established exactly how long it takes the chicks to be able to hunt. The  chicks fledge the nest at approximately six weeks.

In Texas and Arizona, the Gray Hawk is considered a threatened species, even though is does not have an official conservation status. It is the low population numbers that have led these areas to implement conservation programs around the Gray Hawk, and to monitor breeding pairs. These projects can be very beneficial to the over sensitive Gray Hawks. They are known to be very skittish, and will sometimes abandon their nests as a result of an innocent domestic disturbance, such as a picnic that is held too close for comfort.

Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

A common sight in Central America, South America and Mexico, the Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) is popular both as a captive and wild animal. It is said that Muscovies originated in Brazil but today small populations can be found as far away as California. Muscovy Ducks are non-migratory creatures that prefer to live in forested swamps, lakes and trees due to the abundance of food present at such sites. They generally eat plant material and some small vertebrates and insects. Muscovy Ducks get most of their food by grazing and dabbling in shallow water. When they are not nesting, these ducks often choose to roost in trees at night. Domesticated Muscovy Ducks are the only such ducks not to originate from mallard stock.

The average bird is 64-86 cm long with the male being quite a bit bigger than the female. Traditional wild Muscovies are strictly black and white in colour though domestication has resulted in several color variations. Hence, you may find blue, blue and white, brown, brown and white, white, black, lavender and calical coloured ducks amongst the traditional black and white colored birds on farms and at zoos. It is interesting to note that domesticated Muscovy Ducks are commonly known as ‘Barbary Ducks’. The male Muscovy Duck has a bare red face and a low crest of feathers which he can raise and lower at will. There is a pronounced caruncle at the base of the bill and his bill is yellow in color. The feet of the Muscovy have strong, sharp claws which can be used for roosting in trees and which are webbed for swimming. However, the Muscovy Duck does not swim as much as other ducks do because their oil glands are not as well developed as other those of other duck species.

Muscovy Ducks are not particularly monogamous and males and females do not form stables pairs. Hence, sexual intercourse between the two sexes may on occasion be forced. The hen will usually make use of a tree hole or hollow for a nest and in certain countries, such as Mexico, nest boxes have been frequently used. The average clutch size varies from 8-21 eggs which are incubated for a period of 35 days. The hens are capable of having three broods a year. Many consider these birds to be of value as they consume pesky insects in their natural environment. However, they are even more popular as a food source and this has resulted in them becoming quite scarce in some parts of their natural territory.

Guyana: A Bird Watcher’s Dream Come True

December 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Not many people know much about Guyana. This sleepy little country shares its borders with Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil. Despite the fact that its neighbors are well-known, Guyana tends to stay rather isolated from commercial endeavors. And perhaps that is a good thing – for it may well be the reason why this small part of South America is a birder’s paradise!

Read more