Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is not purple and does not cry “Beep Beep” when ready to speed away. It does, however, run at great speeds and is extremely agile. At fifteen to seventeen miles per hour, it can give most animals a run for their money. The Greater Roadrunner is 22 inches in length, and is part of the cuckoo family. The Roadrunner is predominantly dark brown, with white spots and white belly. Their eyes are yellow and there is bare skin around the eye, with post-ocular streaks. A dark crest of plumage on the head can be raised and lowered. The Roadrunner has blue legs and beak, and the feet are zygodactylous. Zygodactylous means that the feet have two toes pointing forward and two backward. The males and females are similar in coloring and appearance.

Greater Roadrunners are generally found in New Mexico, California, Utah and most regions in the southern United States. The Roadrunners prefer desert areas that have both scattered brush areas and open land. Open grasslands allow the Roadrunner to reach top speed that enables them to catch fast moving lizards, rodents, insects and snakes. They do also feed on specific seeds and fruits at times. This bird might look comical and harmless, but they are fierce predators. Running toward their prey and catching flying insects and small birds out the air, are both hunting techniques that are used by the Greater Roadrunner. It uses its tail as a rudder to maneuver and change direction when running.

Not every year is a fierce fight for a mate during breeding season, as Greater Roadrunners mate for life. Males that have not found a suitable partner will either chase the female, entice them with food or bow in front of the female to catch her attention. Nesting is determined by the rainfall a region receives, meaning that in a region where only one rainfall period is experienced, there will be only one nesting period, and nesting will take place in both August and September in a region that has two rainfall periods. Rainfall ensures that there will be enough resources for both the parents and the chicks. The male Greater Roadrunners will collect building material for the nests and the female is responsible for the construction. Nests are built off the ground, as Roadrunners are capable of flight, although rarely used. The female can lay between two to eight eggs, and both parents assist in the 20 day incubation period. The chicks are able to fledge the nest after only 18 to 21 days, but are still fed by their parents for up to 40 days.

Greater Roadrunners are also very territorial and do not migrate. They can live between 7 to 8 years of age, and sexual maturity is only reached between the ages of two to three years. They are very inquisitive birds, and have very unusual skills to cope with the extremely warm conditions in which they live. They are able to enter into hypothermia in the evenings, which assists them to conserve energy. During the midday heat, they will reduce their activity, and they are also able to conserve water.

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is undoubtedly the largest bird on the planet. Ostriches can grow to a height of 2.7 meters and can easily weigh in the region of 156 kilograms. They have no plumage over their heads, and extremely long necks. The male Ostrich is covered in thick, soft black feathers over his body and wings, with white plumage at the tips of his wings and tail. The female is similar in appearance, with gray and brown coloring. Ostriches also have the biggest eyes of any bird species, and the eyeball measures 5 centimeters. These beautiful flightless birds used to naturally roam Asia and Africa, but as the human knows no limits where there is profit to be made, these birds were hunted to near extinction for their feathers. Today they are still found in the wild, but are limited to southern Africa and central Africa. Many countries have started farming with these flightless birds, causing them to be introduced to various areas. The decrease in the demand for ostrich feathers has insured the survival of the population. Ostriches are now farmed not only for their feathers but also for meat and eggs.

Ostriches live off fruit, nuts, seeds, lizards, succulents and shrubs. To adapt to the dry, desert regions, they are able to get water through the plants. Stones are often eaten to assist with food digestion. As the Ostrich is not capable of flying, they are capable of running speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour, and their powerful legs can fatally injure predators. Even though Ostriches are not dependant on water, they enjoy taking a bath or refreshing splash when they are able to. In the wild, the Ostriches tend to move together with the antelope and other grazing animals. They themselves are usually in flocks of up to 50 birds, but will tend to break into smaller groups during the breeding season, which is approximately five months.

Once the smaller breeding groups have been established, a hole is dug into the ground that serves as a communal nest. Between 15 to 60 eggs are laid in the nest that are approximately 18 centimeters in length, 11 centimeters in width and can weigh about 1400 grams. These shiny, creamy white eggs can stand the weight of a human. The incubation period is close to 40 days, and the females take turns during the day, and the males at night, to incubate the eggs. If an Ostrich feels threatened while on the nest, they will stretch their necks out along the ground to avoid detection, and do not stick their heads into the ground as many believe. The town of Oudtshoorn, in South Africa, is the largest Ostrich farming community in the world. At present there are approximately 900,000 domesticated Ostriches in this region. Here, you are able to visit the farms, be educated on these amazing birds, see the various product ranges and even ride one, if you are brave enough!

The San Diego Bird Festival

January 30, 2008 by  
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The 12th San Diego Bird Festival, sponsored by the San Diego Audubon Society, is set to take place from 6 February through to 11 February 2008. The venue for this popular birding festival is the superb Marina Village Conference Center in Mission Bay, San Diego, California.

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Remarkable Bird Watching in Egypt

July 23, 2007 by  
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Egypt is at the junction of three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa. Egypt’s unique location means that the country is fortunate to have a large selection of habitats. Ecosystems vary from deserts and oases, to wetlands and cultivated areas. Each of these varying habitats has a number of diverse bird species. Egypt is, indeed, a birder’s paradise.

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Desert Birds: How Do Birds Drink Water? Part 1

October 2, 2006 by  
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Like all animals, birds need water in order to survive. They need even more water than mammals do, to help fuel their energetic flight. So how do birds, especially ones that live in deserts, stay hydrated?

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