The other day at Gemini Springs I watched a pair of Pied-billed Grebes swimming around the fishing pier. During a period in which they were swimming on the surface for a long period, I took a video of the little water birds, setting my camera on the pier railing. After I started recording, an Osprey flew close over where I was standing, and I lifted up my binoculars to watch it hunting.
It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the camera captured two interesting moments with the grebes. First, right at the start of the video, one of the grebes cast a pellet!
Birds cast pellets which consist of undigested materials. I bet a lot of birders are familiar with owls regurgitating pellets; dissecting pellets is a popular educational activity for school kids and anyone can actually purchase owl pellets online for this purpose. But owls are not the only birds that cast pellets after meals. Kingfishers, corvids, herons, swallows, shorebirds and others all cast pellets of varying sizes. The pellet cast by the grebe seems quite large in proportion to the bird when I think about the size of pellets cast by Barn, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, American Kestrels, and Red-tailed Hawks (the species pellets with which I am somewhat familiar).
The other behavior I caught on video was the second grebe doing a submarine move – appearing to submerge in place, rather than a more typical flamboyant diving movement. I’ve never seen this behavior before, but it’s apparently quite normal, judging from the Google results when searching grebe submarine.
Since I was watching the Osprey while my camera shot the grebes, I didn’t get to see either of these interesting moments with my own eyes. Thank you, camera! I will pay extra attention to the grebes who seem to be settling in at Gemini Springs for the winter, and hopefully I’ll see some interesting behavior like this. Who knows?!
This past week three extraordinary video clips made the social media rounds among birders. Here they are, in case you missed them.
William Rhein narrates Imperial Woodpecker film comes to us from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This clip shows the only photographic evidence of this bird known to exist.
Paraglider vs vulture is a helmet-cam video taken by a Russian paraglider as a Griffon Vulture gets tangled in his main parachute. The footage is pretty amazing; beware the foul language in the English subtitles on this version of the clip.
Murmuration is a remarkable video of an extremely common bird. Trust me, just watch it.
Back in February, during a light snow, I noticed a few Mourning Doves loafing on the shelter frame on our back patio. Two of them must have been in the mood for love because they started allopreening – pecking and grooming each other about the head and neck. Allopreening is one of my favorite bird behaviors to observe. The last time I got to watch birds do this was back in September 2010 when I watched a pair of Eurasian Spoonbills going to town.
Allopreening, a form of appeasement behavior, occurs between mates during pair formation and consists of gentle nibbling of feathers in head and neck regions with beak; seen during nest-site selection activities, nest-building, prior to copulation, and occasionally during nest exchanges. Displacement, or ritual preening, may be exhibited when close to a mate.
I think some displacement may be going on here as well, but I didn’t see any copulation (bummer, haha!). In the second half of the clip, the bird on the left flutters its wing, a behavior I would normally associate with food-begging in either courting females or hungry juveniles. Although the birds were not feeding, I wonder if this is another common courtship behavior? From the wing-fluttering and the grooming behavior of both I am guessing the male is on the right and the female on the left.
Looking further at the Mourning Dove account on BNA, I learned two interesting terms associated with their courtship behavior. First is the charge, in which the male approaches the female with head held horizontally forward, tail pointed horizontally back, and whole body raised. And then there’s the totally cute term bow coo (which I keep reading as “boo cow”), in which the male bows head and body until head nearly touches ground [≤ 10 times], rises to very erect position, holds head forward, and utters loud coo. Have you seen these behaviors in Mourning Doves before? How about allopreening?
Here are some of the more interesting search terms that brought visitors to this site during April 2011. This is part of an ongoing monthly series on blog search terms.
Falling under the oddly specific category were the following searches:gray jay with wet disheveled feathers; owl at the beleef de lente site is in her box – wait now may be leaving; and bald eagles stealing groceries in alaska.
Typos of the month were pictures of flying cardnil, magnifocent frigatebird.com, and eagles live webcam illisnio.
Filed under let’s not go there: cats as bomb guidance; birds have a penis (yes, some do!); twitching tits; and are birders weird (of course — there are weirdos all over, amiright?).
The fortune teller prize goes to the person that came to this site via this search: birding blogs florida. Stay tuned!
Finally, I hope the person who searched for falcon snatching prey early in the month had a chance to see this amazing clip from Massachusetts which was posted to YouTube on April 27th. It shows a Peregrine Falcon taking a white-faced ibis (a rare bird for the state) as prey.
There are two main enclosures inside. One housed penguins: Chinstrap, King and Rockhopper. They were being fed by a zoo employee, who also looked to be recording data.
Next we stopped to look at the seabirds: Common Murre, Razorbill and Tufted Puffin. Their enclosure was being cleaned, so most birds were in the water. It was a lot of fun to watch them swimming – especially when they completely submerged, appearing to fly underwater.
Stay tuned for more birds of Lincoln Park Zoo, coming soon!
A few weeks ago the first Baltimore Oriole sightings were reported locally on IBET. When I read the first report, I put a few orange halves out in the back yard. Orioles (and others) nommed our oranges a few days last spring, and I have been hoping we will be lucky again. So far, no joy. Meanwhile, the oranges are not going to waste.
I noticed a male bird feeding orange to what I first presumed to be a female finch.
This is actually a juvenile begging.
See the White-crowned Sparrow in the video, to the left side? He was really interested in the orange, and when the finches moved on he quickly went to check it out.
I think the verdict was “this is not food.”
The oranges even managed to attract a Red-bellied Woodpecker, who shunned the available suet for some citrus delight — although he may be snacking on ants attracted by the fruit.
Do you put oranges out for your yard birds? Do other birds enjoy them too?
Richard Crossley, one of the authors of The Shorebird Guide, has put together a new bird guide for the eastern United States. The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds is slated to be available in early 2011. The guide takes a different approach to bird identification, using photos rather than illustrations and placing them with lifelike backgrounds, showing many different photographs of each bird. Context is key. Recently the author spoke about his ideas for this new kind of bird guide:
Early versions of pages from this book were shared almost a year ago at 10000Birds.com, and that post garnered 32 comments. To say this book is highly anticipated would be an understatement! The book is now available for pre-order. Meanwhile you can view more sample or working pages here.
Before heading home after the Illinois Audubon Spring Gathering in Nauvoo, we headed down to Hamilton to check out a Bank Swallow colony we learned about during lunch. The birds were congregated at a sand and gravel company lot, nesting in a large mound of sand. The activity was amazing and they were a lot of fun to watch. Thanks to Sonny for the tip – these were life birds for us!