Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) is a small wader and looks similar to the elegant Greenshank, which has very long yellow legs and a long fine bill. The coloring of the two birds is also similar, both have a greyish brown plumage that is pale in winter and has a white line running up its back, which can easily be seen in flight. The Sandpiper breeds between the months April through to August and only in temperate zones. They will go from South-eastern Europe all the way through Russia to Western Siberia and Ussuriland. The courtship song of the sandpiper is a repeated tu-ee-u, tu-ee-u, but when they are on the breeding grounds and something alarms them, then they will make a sharp chip sound.

The Marsh Sandpipers will nest in grassy areas and by muddy shores of freshwater pools, thick grassy vegetation and boreal wetlands and if worse comes to worse they may tolerate brackish water. Their nests are never in large groups, mostly solitary or in loose colonies where the nests are far a part from each other. Both the male and female will take turns in incubating eggs and raising the juveniles.

Sandpipers will either spend their winter in sub-Saharan Africa and in India or they will head to Europe and a few will go to Southeast Asia and Australia. These birds are not scared by distance and will fly for long times with no stops at passage sites on their migration route. The birds that are not breeding may prefer to stay at their winter grounds throughout the year or spend summer at different sites.

The Marsh Sandpipers are threatened specifically by the overuse of herbicides and insecticides because of their tendency to forage in cultivated wetlands like rice fields. The Sandpiper is closely related to the Wood sandpiper and the Common Redshank. These birds find their food by probing in wet mud or shallow water and eat a large amount of insects and other similar type prey. The Marsh Sandpiper is one of the many species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Water Birds applies.

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica) is a truly beautiful wader bird. Their brightly colored feathers makes it hard to take your eyes off them. They are 10.5 inches in length with a wingspan of 21 inches, and do not fly very well. This water bird is quite big with a very short tail and a short bill. The Purple Gallinule has purple-blue plumage over its neck, breast, head and its belly. They have red eyes, yellow legs and their bills are red with a yellow tip. The frontal shield, that is located just above the bill, is pale blue and the back and upper wings are covered in green and blue plumage. Both the males and females are similar in appearance.

They are generally located in the areas of the southeastern and northern United States, Argentina, Northern Mexico and the Gulf Coast. However, they have been sighted across Europe and in South Africa. During the breeding season they will migrate to the southeastern parts of the United States.

The Purple Gallinule is a marsh bird that feeds on spiders, water plants, frogs, grasshoppers, dragonflies, fruits, seeds and other insects. It therefore prefers to live in freshwater marshes that have lily pads and pickerelweed as vegetation. Being a wader, the Gallinule is able to distribute its weight evenly to enable them walk on lily pads.

Nests are constructed from leaves and tree stems, and are built in a thicket, sawgrass or on a tussock that floats on the water. The purple Gallinules female will lay approximately 6 to 9 eggs that are cream in color with brownish spots. Both parents will assist in the 18 days incubation period, and have a strange ritual regarding this. When it is time to change over the incubating duties, the one Gallinule will bring the bird presently incubating the eggs a leaf. The leaf will then be placed within the nest, before the shift is changed over. Both the male and female will assist in feeding the chicks once they have hatched. The young are able to walk on the lily pads almost immediately and can enjoy a lifespan of approximately 22 years.

Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The male and female Roseate spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja, is 28 inches long and has a wingspan of 53 inches. They are relatively large, long-legged waders and have a long neck and a long spatula-looking bill. When the Roseate spoonbill is in flight it holds its neck extended.

The adult bird has red eyes that are in contrast to its greenish, featherless head. The bill is gray in color with dark mottling and it has a black nape band. The wings and back of the spoonbill are a beautiful pink color, the legs are red and the feet dark. The juvenile spoonbill has yellow eyes and bill with a white or at times a pale pink plumage and a white-feathered head.

The Roseate spoonbill enjoys marshes, mangrove swamps and tidal ponds found along the Gulf Coast. They feed in water that is shallow, brackish or salty and at times they will feed in fresh water by swinging their spoon-shaped bill from side to side in long arcs. The spoonbill will feed either in small groups or by themselves and are often seen in company of other varieties of wading birds.

The Roseate spoonbill is a monogamous bird and will breed in swampy, marsh areas producing one brood. Their nest is made up of dense vegetation above the water or on ground. The nests are made well and are a cup shape stick platform, lined with dry fine materials. The male spoonbill will look for the building materials while the female builds the nest. The female will produce three off-white eggs, marked with brown. The incubation period takes just over three weeks and once they hatch it takes a further 35 to 42 days before they are able to fly. The spoonbill’s diet is made up of fish, insects, crustaceans and a few water plants. They pick up the food by sweeping their bill through the water and when they feel their food they snap it up. The nesting area or colony is made up of different birds, like herons and egrets.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Little Stint (Calidris minuta) is located throughout Europe and Africa, and is generally found in areas that have water sources. It prefers mudflats, beaches, estuaries, island tundra and coastal tundra. This 13 to 18 centimeter little wader bird is part of the Sandpiper family and is a rusty brown color over its breast, face and neck, with spots of black. Its back and wings are scale-brown and it has a white belly. The back also has an extremely distinctive white “V” when the bird is in flight. Both sexes look similar and in winter the adult Stint changes in color to gray-brown streaks and dull brown wings and upper body parts. The Stint has black eyes and a dagger-like bill. This little bird only weighs a mere 23 grams and has a wingspan of about 28 to 30 centimeters. Flight is very swift, with extremely rapid wing beats.

There is sometimes a little confusion when identifying the Little Stints amongst the other wader birds. It is therefore important to take extra care in noticing the plumage pattern on the wings, coloring and being aware of the little hind toe that is visible on the Little Stints’ feet. Birds such as Sanderlings are generally paler in color and larger in size, while Timmincks’ Stints have yellow-green coloring on their legs. This wader bird feeds mostly on insects but will also feed on mollusks and crustaceans. Being a migratory bird, the Little Stint will migrate to Asia and Africa during the cold, winter months.

During the bird breeding season, nests will be constructed from a ground scraping, and is lined with dwarf birch leaves and willow. The female Stint will lay between three to five eggs, which are either olive green or yellow in color and have red-brown spots on the shell. Both the male and female will be active in the 21 to 23 day incubation period. It is not unusual for the Little Stint to incubate two nests at the same time. After the chicks have hatched, it takes approximately fifteen to eighteen days for the young chicks to learn to fly, and fledge the nest.