Blog Archives

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Spring Birds

Ron King 1965

Ron King 1965

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Feathers

Adolphe Philippe Millot (Paris, 1 May 1857 – 18 December 1921)

Adolphe Philippe Millot (Paris, 1 May 1857 – 18 December 1921)

Baby Birds 101 – To Rescue or Not to Rescue?

Working as a naturalist, I’ve received tons of calls about injured animals and thought I’d share some of my knowledge with you about handling situations with baby birds, since it’s the most common one.

Baby finch. Author photo.

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[Activity] Make a Nesting Materials Hub for Birds

I never forget to feed the birds. Every time I go outside, my muscle memory moves my eyeballs to the feeders to see if they need to be refilled.

But what I do forget is that, judging by how vocal they’re becoming, they’re getting into the mood for finding a mate and building a nest. The daylight clings a little longer, and all the trees – I just know it – are starting to stir. So this year I wanted to add another element to the backyard: a little depot for nesting supplies. Now most birds are going to use natural goodies, like twigs, moss, and (if you’re a hummingbird) even spider web silk, but birds are opportunists and if they decide yarn or dog hair would benefit the nest, they’ll certainly use it.

Cross the jump to see what I did this year!

nesting materials

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[Activity] Count Birds for Science in February

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this month and you can participate! Sponsored by Audubon and Cornell, this is the GBBC’s 17th year. The event lasts four days, from Feb 14 to Feb 17, so mark your calendar now and sign up here, at birdsource.org. Counting birds is not only fun, but helps bird scientists know where the birds are and how many there may be.

From the site:

Everyone is welcome–from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period. They enter these numbers on the GBBC website.

So go on, count you some birds. Click here or on the image to register!

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Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Eggs

Die Eier der Vögel Deutschlands b, 1818

Die Eier der Vögel Deutschlands b. 1818

Hummingbird Cam in Action

Happy new year everyone!

Hope yours was wonderful – and here’s something to make it even better. The hummingbird that returns each year to its California rosebush to nest is back, and the camera is a-rollin’! She’s already hatched two eggs, and the babies are just days old. Go to PhoebeAllens.com, where you can also follow Phoebe on FB and Twitter. Look at these little squeeebies!

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(Hang in there through the ads – watching momma and getting a chance to see her babies is totally worth it.)

Word of the Week: Passerine

Today’s word is:

passerine

PronouncedPASS-er-in

Sciency Definition: A member of the order Passeriformes, the largest group of the class Aves.

Or I could have saidPerching bird.

What’s it do?  Members of the order Passeriformes are the perching birds, which include more than half of the living species of birds. They each possess feet adapted for perching or clinging. “Song birds” are all passerines but not all passerines are song birds; song birds just have the best use of the muscles used for creating vocalizations (the syrinx). Some song birds, instead of singing, create an incredible range of sounds including clicks, croaks, and mimics of sounds they hear in their environments.

Example sentence: Despite being categorized as passerines, crows and ravens do not use their syrinx muscles to produce songs.

Baby scrub jays might be passerines, but they have a song only a mother could love!

To see a video of one of the greatest passerine mimics on the planet, click here to watch a video of the Australian Lyrebird in action.

It’s NEST CAM season!

Wahh hoo! I love this time of year – since I’m stuck inside all day, I can vicariously get my nature fix by watching nest cameras. This year there are some particularly yummy ones. Check them out! If you know of any other cameras up and running, please leave them in the comments section.

Of course, my favorite, a hummingbird nest in a California rosebush. If you get a chance to see her eggs before they hatch, they’re approximately the size of small jellybeans. Here’s another cam, but I can’t locate info as to where the cam is or what species this is. Maybe Florida? The baby looks like a tiny echidna! …okayonemore.

Eagles in Decorah, Iowa. Here’s a clip of mom gently adjusting the eggs, then wiggling herself down over them so they’re nuzzled against her brood patch.

Big Red is a Red Tailed Hawk that happens to be nesting on the campus of Cornell University in Pennsylvania, famous for its ornithological research.

Here’s a gorgeous view of a Peregrine Falcon in Minnesota, and Barn Owls in California!

The Hummingbirds Are Coming…

Maybe you all aren’t TOTALLY aware of how much I love hummingbirds. “A lot” doesn’t begin to cover it. On a recent camping trip to the Oregon Coast (oh yes, it was cold and wet), the moment I stepped out of the car and approached my carefully chosen campsite, I heard the telltale buzzing of two tiny birds. I didn’t get to lay my eyes on them, and the pair flitted about for a mere second before flying off to explore other campsite options. Like me, I’m sure they chose site H27 for its looming trees, moss-covered stones, and an appropriate distance away from everyone else at the campground.

For most of my friends, hearing hummingbirds is a no-big-deal moment. For me, particularly the first time I hear them for the year, my heart fills up so big I sometimes get a little embarrassed if I’m with company. I was ecstatic. I almost offered to purchase the campground but realized I’m not yet wealthy enough to horde such a beautiful place. But one day. One day.

All that being said, I at least have digital maps to show me where the hummingbirds are hanging out. If you haven’t seen these yet, here are migration maps for my two favorite species: the Ruby-Throated and the Rufous. By clicking on the image below, you’ll be taken to the Learner.org migration maps – the two species are hyperlinked beneath the main title above the map.

My top favorite site for bird information – allaboutbirds.org, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – has this to say about the Rufous’ annual migration:

“The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern’s one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths. (AAB)”

Nearly 4,000 miles one way! And besides that, the Rufous is well-known for being the feistiest of all the hummingbirds, bold enough to chase even small mammals away from its territory. All that energy from the nectar of flowers and some insect protein? Outstanding.

Bookmark these maps and check back periodically – it’s fun to see where the birds end up every couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Screen shot taken from Rufous Hummingbird Migration Map, learner.org - click the image to check out their awesome maps!