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Saturday, August 18, 2012

This week in birds - #33

This week's news of birds and the environment:

Two Black-necked Stilts forage for food in shallow water at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.


Proof that stress is not all bad: A study shows that young birds that have some stress in their lives have a higher rate of survival than birds that are relatively stress-free.


Anting, i.e., sitting in or rolling in an anthill and allowing the ants to crawl through their feathers, is one of the more weird actions that birds are known to do. It's an action that is not fully understood but is believed to be a way of using the ant's formic acid to combat parasites such as lice. Here are some pictures of a Common Crow enjoying anting. 


Butterflies with severe abnormalities have been turning up in Japan this summer in the Fukushima area where the tsunami and resultant damage to the nuclear facility occurred last year.


The American Ornithologists' Union has been at it again, messing with the names and taxonomy of our birds and now eBird, the online birding record that many birders including myself use, is in the process of updating their records to conform to the new taxonomy. One change affecting the birds in our area has been the rechristening of the Common Moorhen. It is now the Common Gallinule.

Meet the Common Gallinule.


The lice that feed among birds' feathers have evolved along with the birds that they parasitize. (And at some point the birds learned to use ants to help get rid of them.)


The U.S. Forest Service has issued a new report that details how the heating up of the climate might affect forests in the northeastern United States and Canada. In other global warming related news, Greenland has suffered record melt this summer and a major part of the Northwest Passage is open and free of ice.


As a part of the Audubon Society's SAVE program (Save Agricultural Viability and the Environment), New Jersey farmers are paid to grow black-oil sunflower seeds that are then sold to the Audubon Society as birdseed to be sold in their retail facilities. It's a win-win for the birds and the farmers.


Birding the Galapagos Islands is a dream of many birders and one birder/blogger recently fulfilled that dream and wrote about it and posted some pictures online.


There is some hopeful news regarding birds and wind farms: It seems that Pink-footed Geese are able to avoid the wind turbines in their migratory flight. If they can do it, perhaps other birds can as well. 


Cleaning up polluted waterways presents many difficult questions, one of which is, is more harm than good produced by stirring up the pollutants in order to try to remove them from the water?


Around the backyard:

It's molting time for the backyard birds and most of them are looking pretty scruffy these days.

This male Red-bellied Woodpecker would normally be sleek, with every feather in place, but this week, he has a bit of a disheveled appearance. 

Likewise, the Carolina Wren looks a little frumpy and out of sorts.

This Northern Cardinal is missing many feathers already but will lose many more before his molt is complete

Only the White-winged Doves still seem to have every feather intact and in place.

Earlier this summer, I detailed my efforts to photograph the Mississippi Kites that fly over my yard every day - efforts that have mostly been a failure. Well, the birds are still here and I'm still trying to get recognizable pictures of them.


...and still mostly failing. Sigh.


  1. Hey - I've noticed that one of the many white wing doves that comes to my feeders has only a few tail feathers - it's very odd. Normally you cannot see the white tips of the tail feathers unless they're dipping their tails or flying, and this one, poor bird has only a few feathers so you can easily see him(or her) walking around with a white tip. It's goofy, and i'm surprised it can still fly as well as it can (which is to say about as well as all the other doves fly).

    1. What a coincidence. I just noticed a White-wing at my feeders yesterday that was totally absent a tail! It did look very strange. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this was a result of the annual molt or if the bird had had a close escape from a predator. It seemed to be perfectly healthy and flying well in spite of its handicap.