Midwest Birding Symposium

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The Midwest Birding Symposium will see scores of bird watchers gathering at Lakeside in Ohio. The event is hosted by the Lakeside Association, Ohio Ornithological Society and Bird Watcher’s Digest. This fantastic birding event will feature a vendor area with nature related producst and services, field trips to top birding spots, programs by leading North American bird watchers and plenty of time to get to know fellow bird watchers. Other highlights will be the Sunset Cruise, Birders’ Exhchange Program, Back To the Wild Exhibit, Songbird Bandin Deomonstration, MBS Big Sit!, Travel Talks and much more. Register now to avoid disappointment!

Date: 15 to 18 September 2011
City: Lakeside
State: Ohio
Country: United States of America

African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)

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The African Fish Eagle or as it is scientifically known, Haliaeetus vocifer, can be seen throughout Southern Africa and is known by many varieties of names, in many languages. This includes the River eagle, Aigle pecheur, Pygargue vocifer, Afrikaanse visarend and so on. This fairly large bird is related to the North American Bald Eagle and can be easily identified by the distinct black, brown body and white head and tail. The length of the African Fish Eagle varies between 63 and 75 cm.

The Fish Eagles habitat is limited to mainly lakes, large rivers, pans and dams with surrounding trees for it to perch on. They can also be found near estuaries and coastal lagoons but are rarely spotted in the southwestern parts of Africa and areas on the eastern part of Somalia because the land is so arid. The African Fish Eagle makes its nest out of large piles of sticks, 30 to 60 cm deep and 120 to 180 cm in diameter. The nest is built usually near water at the fork of a tree, sometimes on a cliff ledge or on a steep slope on a low slope.

The beautiful and distinct call of the African Fish Eagle is synonymous with the sound of Africa and is very similar to the American Bald Eagle. There are two specific calls, the one is in flight and the other is when it is perched. When the male fish eagle nears the nest it makes a kind of mellow ‘quock’ sound where as the female has a more of a shriller sound.

The African Fish Eagle pairs up whether it is in or out of mating season, which goes from March to September. The pairs even go as far as sharing any kills that they make between the two of them. The African Fish Eagle is known as a kleptoparasite, which means that it will steal prey from another bird, like the Goliath Heron who loses a lot of its catch to Fish Eagles. They will also take advantage of nesting water birds for their eggs and young.

The main diet of the Fish Eagle is fish that they catch and occasionally when it is dead. They can catch a fish that weighs up to 1 kg in weight and now and again up to 3 kg’s. If the fish weighs more then two and a half kilograms the eagle will not carry it in flight but will plane it along the waters surface to shore. Fish eagles mainly catch lungfish and catfish and in some places will feed off flamingos and other water birds if the occasion presents itself. It has been known to eat dead animals and on very rare occasions they will even feed off monkeys, insects, frogs, dassies and so on. The hunt begins when the eagle leaves its perch to stoop and catch its prey with its feet about 15 cm from the waters surface. It’s not often that the African Fish Eagle will catch prey in the sky or submerge itself in the water.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

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The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is found almost worldwide and it is very adaptable to its environment, living in desert, tropical rainforest and polar regions. Also known as the Common Gallinule in North America, this bird tends to favour well-vegetated lakes as breeding environments. The birds are usually reclusive, but have been known be become quite tame in certain areas. Those that live in areas where lakes and other bodies of water tend to freeze over in winter generally migrate to more temperate parts of the globe during the colder months.

This bird has quite distinctive markings. The adult’s head, neck, breast and belly are slate grey while its bill is red with a yellow tip. There is a red frontal shield above the bill and the upperwings are a brownish color. The upper flank has a clearly visible white stripe, while the feet are a greenish yellow. Interestingly, while a juvenile has many of the same characteristics, it has somewhat less color on its body and wings. The head and underparts are a pale gray-brown while the upperparts are a dark-grey brown. The bill is not yet bright red, though the stripe on the flanks and other colouring is more or less present. The average Common Moorhen has a body length of 10.5 inches and a wingspan of 21 inches. The wings and tail are fairly short in comparison to other duck-like waterbirds and the bill is thick and short. They are comfortable in the air, on the water and on land and the sexes are similar in appearance.

The Common Moorhen makes its nest on the ground in amongst dense vegetation. Their nests take the form of a roofed basket and they may lay between 8-12 eggs in it. Both parents work hard to incubate the eggs over a period of 3 weeks and then they take it in turns to feed the young. They are capable of producing more than one brood in a year and so, despite certain environmental changes and other negative conditions, the bird has been able to remain fairly common and widespread.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

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The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is the largest of the heron family. They are approximately 38 inches in length, with a 70 inch wingspan. The male and females are similar, with white faces and crowns, and blue-gray and black plumage covering the rest of their bodies. These birds also have long legs and necks that enable them to walk into the water to fish for food. The Blue Heron can be found across North America, the Caribbean, Central America and most of Canada. They are not generally migratory birds, but some do migrate to South and Central America during the winter months. Great Blue Herons are located near watery areas such as lakes, swamps, marshes, rivers or any area that has a water source. Although some can be seen along the coastal areas, the Blue Heron prefers living inland.

March to May are the general months to spot the population of the Great Blue Herons that are located in the northern areas, and they breed in the southern hemisphere from November to April. Nests are made high up in trees that are on the edge of the body of water. The female Great Blue Heron can lay between two to seven eggs, that are light blue in color. The females that are in the northern regions are known to lay more eggs. Male and female Blue Herons both assist in the incubation of the eggs that varies between 26 to 30 days. The chicks fledge the nest after two months, as they are completely independent and will become sexually mature at approximately twenty-two months. Even though the chicks are ready to live and survive on their own, they are most vulnerable during the first year, with more than half not surviving the first year. Great Blue Herons have a life span of about fifteen years, although it has been recorded that the oldest wild heron lived to the age of twenty-three.

The best times to spot the Great Blue Heron is in the early mornings and just before sunset. These are the best fishing times. Even though the herons will sleep and live in great flocks, they prefer to hunt alone and are very aggressive in regard to their nests. They feed on aquatic insects and fish and their spear-like bills assist them in catching fish, and other food sources such as lizards, snakes, frogs, crabs, dragonflies and grasshoppers. Food is swallowed whole and it has happened that herons have choked to death because of their catch being too big to swallow. The Great Blue Heron assists in controlling the insect and fish populations and fish farmers used to see them as a threat. However, it has been shown through research, that the herons eat the sickly and near-dead fish that are located close to the surface.

Birds: Flamingos

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Flamingos are easily-recognized, long-legged water bird species with a characteristic pink color on their feathers. They live in shallow, salty lagoons and lakes, in tropical regions of the world and they have a very unique feeding method. Flamingos filter their food out of water and mud and their odd, down-turned bill is one of the most specialized bills of all birds. It is lined with complicated horny plates, much like the baleen plates in a baleen whale’s mouth.

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