Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia) was first recorded by Alexander Wilson in the 1800s. He had noticed a specimen in the magnolia trees while in Mississippi. The name ‘Magnolia’ has persisted through the years, although this bird is native to the northeastern regions of the United States. Wilson had at first used the English name of “Black and Yellow Warbler” with “magnolia” as the Latin name. The Magnolia Warbler is part of the warbler family and is the most common of the warbler species in this area. These warblers prefer to forage close to the ground and in low growing bushes. Preferred habitat would be overgrown pastures, on the edges of a swamp or lake, or clearings that have small trees.

The Magnolia Warbler is a tiny bird that is approximately 13 centimeters in length and weighs about nine grams. It has bright yellow plumage over its throat, breast and belly, and is striped with black on its breast. The warbler also has a black mask on his face, a pale gray colored crown, and a white broken eye ring. The black coloring continues down its back, and runs into gray wings that have broad white edges. The female is relatively similar, with duller coloring. Its wingspan is about 20 centimeters, and the birds have extremely weak flight abilities, which results in the rapid beating of wings, and the alternating of wings to rest.

Male Magnolia Warblers are known to have two different bird songs. The one is used during the mating season, and the other is to protect its territory. The warbler feeds on insects as its primary source of food, but will also eat berries, and if humans have been kind enough to leave any bread product out they will gladly eat that too.

Shallow grass and root nests are built for the female to lay her eggs in. The warbler female will lay between three to five eggs, usually four, which are white in color and have brown spots on the shell. Only the female Magnolia Warbler will take part in the 11 to 13 day incubation period. The males will assist in the feeding of the chicks after they have hatched. Chicks will fledge the nest after 8 to 10 days.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Rose-breasted grosbeak or as it is scientifically called, Pheucticus ludovicianus, is about 7.25 inches long and has a large, cone shaped, pale colored bill. The female grosbeak looks similar to the female-plumaged Black-headed grosbeak but has an orange-brown breast with streaks only on the side of its body. The Grosbeak lives near open woodlands that are near to water. It also likes thick brush or small trees, large trees, marsh borders, gardens, parks and overgrown pastures.

The adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak has a rose red, triangular shape patch on its white breast. The upper parts of its body and head are all black and the under parts are white. The wings have white patches and are lined with rose red. His black tail feathers are speckled with white spots. In winter and autumn the male becomes browner and dull in colour. The juvenile bird has a similar coloring to the male’s winter and autumn colour.

The adult female Grosbeak has black and white stripes on its crown above its eyes. The under parts of the bird are white with extensive streaking, whereas the upper parts are a dark grey. Where the male has a rose red lining the female has a more yellow to yellowish-orange wing lining. The juvenile has an orangey-brown breast and the juvenile female has similar coloring to the adult female.

The Grosbeak mating system is monogamous and so the male and female will pair off and have between three to five pale green, blue eggs. During the courtship the male will fly after the female while singing to her; he will then crouch down and spread and droop his wings; spread his tail, withdraw his head with his nape against his back; once in position he will start singing and waving his head and body in an erratic dance.

The cup-shaped nest is made up of loose twigs, rough plant material and then lined with thin twigs, hair and rootlets. The nest is normally 5-15 feet above the ground and is built by the female with help from the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The incubation of the eggs takes up to two weeks and will be looked after by both the male and female bird. The development of the chicks is altricial, which means that they are immobile and eyes closed. Once the young hatch it takes just less than two weeks before they will leave the nest.

Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Ross’s goose or as it is scientifically named, Chen rossii, is 16 inches long with a total wingspan of 51 inches. It is a small goose, weighing between 860 to 2040 g, which sometimes hybridizes with the Snow Goose and has many different colored morphs. The white Ross’s Goose is very similar to the white morph Snow Goose, the differences are that the Ross’s Goose is smaller, its bill is stubby, it does not have a black patch on its mandibles and its head looks rounder with a short neck.

The white morph-adult has completely white plumage with black primaries and has pink legs, feet and bill. The white morph-immature has a majority white plumage with grey upper parts. It also has black primaries, dark feet and legs and dark bill. The immature white morph Snow Goose has a darker back than the Ross’s Goose. The blue morph-adult has a dark lower neck and body and a white head and upper neck. It has a pink bill, legs and feet with dark primaries and secondaries.

The Ross’s Goose will breed on tundra near the Southampton Islands in Hudson Bay and the northeastern Mackenzie. During the winter period the Ross’s Goose will stay mainly in California, east coast and the lower Mississippi Valley in salty or freshwater marshes. In the summer the Goose will stay in the central Canadian Arctic. The call of the Ross’s Goose is a high-pitched “keek keek keek”. It is a completely vegetarian bird eating different grasses, legumes and domestic grains. It scrapes out the ground and makes a nest in the hole, lining it with plant material and down feathers.

The female Ross’s Goose will lay 2-6, white eggs that become stained during incubation. The female Ross’s Goose does all the incubation of the eggs while the male stands on guard the whole time. When the female eventually has to leave the nest she will cover it in down to keep the eggs warm and to hide them from any predators lurking around. When the chicks hatch they come out covered in either a yellow or grey down and their eyes wide open. It takes the juveniles only 24 hours after hatching to have the ability to feed and swim.

Laysan Albatross (Diomedea immutabilis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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It has always been said that whilst on the ocean you could predict that land is near after sighting a bird. Which is true in most cases, however, sighting an Albatross is no sign of land. These birds are known to be the “nomads of the ocean” and will usually only go on land to breed. They can spend years out on the ocean. The Laysan Albatross is found in the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean, the islands surrounding Hawaii and at times it has been seen in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Laysan Albatross (Diomedea immutabilis) is predominantly white of color, with black upper wings and black mantle. There is dark plumage surrounding the eye, with a yellowish beak that has a dark tip. The Laysan Albatross is 79 to 81 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of 195 to 203 centimeters. These large ocean birds can weigh up to 11 kilograms.

Being surface feeders, the Laysan Albatross will feed on crustaceans, squid, flying fish eggs and fish. They are nocturnal feeders, and will generally hunt for food during the night. Although they are extremely awkward on land, due to them only going on land once a year, they are graceful and elegant in flight. The albatross is so in tune with the ocean winds, that it is able glide over the ocean without flapping its wings for hours or even days sometimes. It is also known that the albatross can sleep while in this graceful state of flight.

The Laysan Albatross mates for life. Each year the pair will meet at their nesting ground, and will only take a new partner if its mate happens to die. The albatross will construct the nest from shrubbery, grasses and dirt that is piled together to form a cup. The Laysan Albatross females will begin laying their eggs in mid-November. The female will only lay one egg and might incubate the egg for the first few days, but the incubation period of 65 days is generally taken care of by the male. If for some reason the eggs should break or be infertile, the female will not lay another egg for that year.

The albatross chicks will hatch in January or mid February. Both the male and female albatross will feed their chick. The chick is capable of surviving the absence of its parents, as the squid it eats and the chick’s stomach oil contains nutrients and fatty acids that prevents the chick from starving. The chick will fledge the nest at about 5 to 6 months, but most parents return to the sea long before their chick has grown its juvenile plumage. The first mating and nesting period takes place between the ages of 6 to 8 years, and the sub-adults will spend their first three to five years out on the ocean. The Laysan Albatross can live to the rich old age of about 40 to 60 years.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) is commonly known as the snakebird, black darter or American darter, and it is closely related to the darter species. The Anhinga has a wingspan of about 4 feet, and is between 32 to 36 inches in length. They are black in color, with smallish heads (almost snakelike), long bills and have patches of almost a silver color on their wings. The most common areas to find the Anhinga, would be South America, between the southeastern United States up to Argentina, and in specific warmer areas of North America.

The Anhinga does have a preferred diet of fish, but will also eat water snakes, tadpoles, frog eggs and young alligators. Therefore, they will live near streams, water canals, fresh water swamps, bays, lagoons or any watery area that can provide them with food. Anhingas have an extraordinary way of hunting for their food. The feathers of an Anhinga are fully wettable; this enables them to dive underwater for their catch, staying under water for quite lengthy periods at a time. They will either swim with only their heads sticking out and dive into the water, or dive down from the air. This significant feature also has its negative side, chiefly a loss of body heat. It is not uncommon to find a snakebird sitting in the sun with its wings open for hours, as they dry their feathers and warm up again.

Prey is often speared with their bills and either tossed into the air so that fish can be swallowed head first, or at times, the catch can get stuck on their bills, forcing the Anhinga to return to shore and hit the fish off against the rocks. When Anhingas’ are heading toward their breeding time, a blue ring forms around their eyes. They build their nests in trees above the water, and construction materials are usually sticks, after which nests are lined with leaves or moss. The female snake-bird will lay about three to five eggs, and the eggs are light blue in color. The incubation period for the eggs is approximately a month.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Golden eagle’s scientific name is Aquila chrysaetos and it is part of the Booted or True Eagle family. These beautiful birds can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, living in prairie coulees, mountainous areas and in rugged terrains that create a profuse amount of updrafts.

The golden eagle is about 3 feet or just under a metre, weighing about 15 pounds or 7 kg’s and has a wingspan of about 7 feet or 2 metres. The colour of the eagle is a dark yellowish brown and the bird can live between fifteen and twenty years.

The golden eagle’s territory is in remote areas where it lives a solitary life even through winter. This great hunter, hunts in a large territory that can be up to 162 square miles or 260 square km in size. Due to its expertise in hunting it’s not very often that you will see it eating carrion. The golden eagle eats a wide variety of small animals like the marmots, groundhogs, snakes, pheasants, rabbits, cats, foxes, skunks, grouse, ground squirrel, meadowlarks, crows and tortoises.

The golden eagle will start mating at the age of four years and will stay paired with the same mate for as long as it lives. Occasionally they build their nest in a tree but prefer to nest on cliff faces or in rocky crags, returning every year to the same nest. The female golden eagle will lay between one to three eggs once every year and will do the majority of the 41 to 45 day incubation of the eggs. The male golden eagle’s job is to regularly supply the female with food and together they share the responsibility of looking after and raising the young. When the eaglets are first born they weigh about three ounces and will stay in the nest between nine to eleven weeks before they fledge.

Depending on the territory of the golden eagle, they will either live in their nesting territory throughout the year, or if there is a lack of food in winter, they will migrate a short distance away because of their excellent hunting abilities.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber) can be found in North and South America, Asia, across Europe and in Africa. Standing at approximately five feet, the Flamingo, ranks amongs the tallest birds on the planet. Their distinctive pink plumage, large bodies and long pale pink legs make them unique. The beak of the Greater Flamingo is shaped at 45 degrees, is light of color with a black tip and assists them in filtration and pumping while they feed. Interestingly enough, the Greater Flamingo’s coloring is a result of the crustaceans that they eat. Flamingos that are housed in zoos are given dyes such as flamen oil or a beta-keratin coloring additive to ensure that they do not lose their coloring. Male and female Flamingo’s are similar, with the males being taller.

The Flamingo has webbed feet and an extremely long neck. Having webbed feet allows them to swim, but most importantly it helps them stir up organisms such as algae, diatoms, protozoa and insect larvae on which they feed. Flamingos also eat worms, crustaceans  and mollusks. The feeding process of the Greater Flamingo is very specialized. Flamingos will spend most of their day with their heads bent down, filtering water through their beaks. Their beaks contain a lamellae, which is a sieve-like structure, that is thin and can be described as a comb. Their fleshy tongues are used to suck water in the beak and then force it back out again. The bolus of food that is nearly dry after the water is forced from their beaks, goes to the back of their mouths and is swallowed simultaneously with the next water intake. The Greater Flamingos feed in large groups as this ensures safety by numbers when they have their heads down. Big flocks can also create a lot of noise, and when they are not feeding they flap their wings, preen themselves or stand in beautiful postures. Flight and migration takes place at night, and during flight Flamingos have both their legs and necks outstretched.

Flamingos are filter feeders, and are therefore found by lakes and lagoons, or watery areas that have the right water depth and mud to sustain the flamingos’ feeding process. They will only breed when they are in large numbers, and even though some build new nests, it is known that many use the same nest each year. Breeding takes place during March and July and the birds generally form a pair bond that is long term. Flamingos will built their nests on the waters edge from mud, and it is approximately 35 to 40 centimeters in diameter and 25 centimeters high. The female will lay only one egg that is white in color with a red yolk. Both parents take care of the egg that has a 28 to 32 day incubation period. Chicks are gray in color with a pink bill. The chicks are able to leave the nest after a few days, and parents will only feed their own chick. For 4 to 6 weeks, the chicks will be fed by their parents, and fledge the nest at three months. Fledglings will group together and only reach full size between the ages of 1 to 2 years. Adult plumage is only acquired during the ages of 2 to 4 years, and the long maturing process is suggested to relate to the long life span of the Flamingo. The Greater Flamingo can live to between 25 to 60 years of age.

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.