House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is known the world over for its gregarious, lively behavior. A master of adaptation and great opportunist, this remarkable little bird has gone on to colonize countries the world over. Despite its longstanding relationship with urban man, House Sparrows have sadly been declining in numbers even being added to the Red List in the UK.

A renowned silhouette, the House Sparrow measures in at 4.25 inches in length. Its thick conical bill is ideally suited to the sparrow’s seed diet. Males differ greatly from females and can be identified by their gray crown, black mask, breast and throat, rusty upperparts and nape, with black streaks on the back, gray rump and white on the wing. During the summer the male House Sparrow’s bill is black, but changes to a yellowish color in winter. Female and immature House Sparrows have a gray-brown crown, gray-white underparts, tawny and black streaks along the back, black wings with a white patch and a yellow bill. House Sparrows are typically seen in large flocks oftentimes with other bird species. The bird calls of these lovely little sparrows can be heard year round and are made up of chirrups and cheep sounds.

House Sparrows are actually native to Britain, through northern Scandinavia and Siberia, across northern Africa, India, Burma and into Arabia. This species was introduced into the Americas, southern Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where they have gone on to breed and live successfully. Wherever people are, there you will find House Sparrows. Whether it is in agricultural lands or mankind’s urban sprawl, House Sparrows can be seen taking advantage of any opportunity for a tasty meal.

House Sparrows breed well, raising 2 to 3 broods annually. Each clutch consists of 3 to 7 eggs laid in nests safely built in trees, under eaves or in creepers. Incubation of the eggs lasts 10 to 13 days and the young House Sparrows fledge in 14 to 17 days. During winter, House Sparrows are known to roost in groups.

So what is causing the decline in House Sparrow numbers? Some believe it could be the frequent use of garden pesticides, killing insects which serve as food for newly hatched sparrows. Others say it could be caused by less chickens in back yards and on farms, thereby reducing food availability. On the other hand it could just be a lack of consideration and care on the part of mankind. Why not do your bit in caring for these marvelous little creatures by keeping your bird feeder and water dish full.

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is a medium-sized bird that averages between 32 to 37 centimeters in length. The males have solid gray coloring over their heads, neck and wings. Their bellies are white with gray to black stripes, dark gray tail feathers and black eyes. Bills are pointed and black of color. The female Cuckoo resembles the males, but with morphed brown coloring. The Common Cuckoo is a migratory bird and is seen across Europe, including Britain, as well as Japan and China, and migrates to Africa during the winter months. It adapts easily to live in cultivated areas, on the edges of dense forests, open country, marshes and coastal areas.

The Cuckoo has a wingspan of approximately 71 to 76 centimeters and has an extremely distinctive low flight. They fly with rapid ing beats and are very swift in flight. Their flight pattern bears a resemblance to that of raptors, with the exception that the Cuckoo has much weaker strokes and does not glide after a series of beats.

The preferred food of the Common Cuckoo includes a diet of hairy caterpillars, larvae and insects. Not being too fussy, they will also eat beetles, crickets and dragonflies, and have in some instances also been seen eating eggs and songbird nestlings. The female Cuckoo is not the best parent, to say the least. They are not interested in parenthood at all. She can lay in the region of eight to twenty five eggs, and the eggs can vary in color. Sometimes the eggs are brown with markings of lilac, gray, black and red-brown. At times eggs can be green, blue or red, with markings. This enables the Cuckoo to secretly lay an egg in another nest. Not all of the Cuckoo species find host parents for their eggs. The Common Cuckoo will find a species with similar eggs to her own and when the host parents are not in sight, she will lay her eggs amongst the eggs already in the nest. The host parents, not realizing anything is amiss, will complete the 11 to 13 day incubation period and rear the chicks until they are ready to fledge the nest. The female Cuckoo will never return or revisit her chick. Most of the time, the Common Cuckoo chick will be bigger in size than host parents, putting strain on the parents to feed the intruder.

Although the Common Cuckoo is a very wide-spread species and difficult to monitor, it is believed to be plentiful and is not threatened by extinction.

Common Bird Numbers Declining

September 23, 2008 by  
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Previously birds such as the cuckoo, turtle dove and nightingale were thought to be amongst the world’s most common bird species. However it seems that even these birds are now at risk, with each of these species suffering massive slumps in their overall population numbers during the past half century.

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Britain’s Bitterns Respond Positively to Conservation Efforts

September 1, 2008 by  
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Considered to be on the brink of extinction in Britain just over a decade ago, the bittern has made a remarkable come-back, with the species enjoying its best recorded nesting season in the past 130 years. The loud “booming” mating call of the bittern assisted conservationists in tracking the birds, resulting in a count of 75 males, an astonishing 47 percent increase on last year’s numbers and nearly seven times as many as the 11 which were counted in 1997.

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Crossbills Acting Cross-Eyed

August 12, 2008 by  
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It seems that a group of rare two-barred crossbills ‘looked’ at their internal compasses a little cross-eyed since they took a wrong turn and ended up in a remote, windswept outcrop of Scottish islands. No doubt the birds came in search of food but it is unlikely that they’re going to find their favorite snack – larch and spruce cones – this far north.

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