The Spectacular Himalayan Monal

March 18, 2014 by  
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As one of the more colorful members of the pheasant family, the Himalayan monal features iridescent plumage in shades of blue, green and red. Its back is purple-black, with a dark brown breast, light brown tail feathers and white throat. Its white rump patch is only visible in flight. The male of the species boasts a metallic green head crest with spoon-shaped feathers, while the female has a shorter, brown colored crest. The Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus) is the national bird of Nepal and is referred to as the Danphe, and it is the official bird of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where it is referred to as the Monal.

The Himalayan monal uses a number of different call types to communicate with other birds in its flock, and to warn off intruding birds. In addition to using courting calls, males bob their head crests and fan their tail feathers to attract the attention of a mate. Also, during breeding season, males become far more vocal, calling throughout the day instead of only in the early mornings. After mating, the female scrapes a hollow in the ground to lay her three to five eggs in. Only the female incubates the eggs, but the male will remain close by to protect the female and their offspring until they fledge. By the age of six months, young Himalayan monals are independent of their parents and will search for food and find mates to continue the cycle.

Himalayan monals have powerful legs and strong curved beaks to allow them to dig into hard mountain soil in their search for tubers, shoots, seeds, insects and berries. Birders can be on the lookout for these stunning birds when they come across areas of turned over soil on hillsides, as this the telltale evidence of their foraging activities.

As a high-altitude species, Himalayan monals remain between 2,100 and 4,500 meters above sea level, and during the summer months generally move above the tree-line of their mountainous terrain, but in winter will find shelter in the rhododendron, coniferous and mixed forests of Nepal and the other countries in which it is found, which includes Bhutan, northeast India and southern Tibet.

Wild Birds

February 9, 2009 by  
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Wild birds are found throughout the world. They vary in shapes and sizes from tiny finches to the majestic condors of America.

Each species of wild bird is adapted to thrive in its own evironment. For example, hummingbirds are adapted to feed on nectar from tubular flowers, while eagles are adapted to prey on animals using their strong talons. Ducks are adapted to swimming and vultures are adapted for flight by using thermals.

Wild birds also differ in how they nest. Weaver birds will create intricately woven nests that hang from the branches of trees. Certain birds, such as plovers, will build nests on the ground. Doves will often build very messy nests. Wild birds need to protect their nests and themselves from predators. They will do this by swooping down upon predators whilst issuing alarm calls to other birds in the area. Wild birds will sometimes form mob attacks on predators.

When it comes to breeding season it is important for male birds to establish and maintain their territory. This is done by means of song. Males will also attack intruders into their territory. Wild birds have many strange and wonderful mating displays. Male birds of paradise will perform an intricate dance to attract females. They will sway and bend or stand upright, and certain species will even hang upside down.

It is likely that the wild birds you will see will be those in your garden. To attract more wild birds to your backyard, you may want to provide a variety of feeders and types of food, some shelter and a bird bath.

In increasing number of people are joining the ranks of enthusiastic birders and taking pleasure in viewing wild birds. Perhaps you too would enjoy this popular activity.

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is amongst the well-known “stiff-tailed ducks”. A highly aquatic bird, the Ruddy duck spends extensive hours on the water and is adept at diving and sinking below the water surface. They are nocturnal, sleeping the day away. Ruddy ducks have even been seen being pushed along the surface of the water by wind, tucked up in little balls whilst sleeping.

Ruddy Ducks are stout little ducks with short wings and distinctive stiff tails. The face is marked by white cheek patches and a dark cap. Its bill is a blue color. Males differ from the females, having chestnut body plumage. The female is a darker brown and has a line running through her cheek patch. They measure about 35 to 43 cm with a wingspan of 56 to 62 cm. The Ruddy Duck’s tail sticks straight up whilst swimming and these remarkable birds have the ability to sink into the water without diving. These ducks are typically quiet, only making calls during courtship. During this time the male will create little popping noises.

As a New World bird, the Ruddy Duck’s range extends across North America into Mexico. They have however been introduced into the UK. Ruddy Ducks prefer open freshwater and wetlands, also making use of reservoirs. These interesting ducks will gather in flocks. They dine on tubers and seeds of aquatic vegetation as well as small fish, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic insect larvae. Whilst foraging, the Ruddy duck will dive under the water and filter mud through its bill.

Male Ruddy Ducks perform elaborate mating displays. He will swim with his tail in a fan past the female several times. He creates a drumming sound by slapping his bill on his chest, also causing bubbles to form under his chest. The nest is built in dense vegetation out of grass and cattails which is lined with down. The female Ruddy Duck then lays between 5 and 10 eggs, incubating them for 22 to 26 days. Soon after hatching the offspring are able to swim and feed, though the female keeps a close eye on them. The young Ruddy Ducks are able to fly between 42 and 49 days of age. Migration begins in September. They will travel during the night in massive flocks. They will migrate back again between February and May.