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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common species of wren resident in the eastern half of the USA, the extreme south of Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and the extreme northeast of Mexico. A very distinct population in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Belize is treated either as a subspecies Thryothorus ludovicianus albinucha, or as a separate species, White-browed Wren Thryothorus albinucha. Following the review by Mann et al. (2006), these are the only forms remaining in the genus Thryothorus. This is the state bird for South Carolina.

It is a fairly large wren, of the US species, second largest after the Cactus Wren, typically 14 cm long and about 20 g weight. The upperparts are rufous brown, and the underparts a strong orange-buff, usually unmarked but faintly barred on the flanks in the southwest of the range. The head has a striking pure white supercilium (eyebrow) and a whitish throat. The race albinucha is duller brown above and has additional white streaking on the head.

It is easiest to confuse with the Bewick's Wren, a fairly close relative (Martínez Gómez et al. 2005), which differs in being smaller but with a longer tail, grayer-brown above and whiter below.

Cattle Egret, Florida

The Cattle Egret is native to Africa and Asia, and only reached the Americas in the late 19th century. It was first found in northeastern South America in 1877, having probably arrived there from Africa. It reached the United States in 1941, and started nesting by 1953. In the next 50 years it became one of the most abundant of the North American herons. It has occurred all the way to Alaska and Newfoundland, and has bred in nearly all states.

The Cattle Egret is an opportunistic feeder, and will follow large animals or machines to catch insects they stir up. It also is attracted by smoke from a large fire. Egrets come from long distances to catch insects trying to escape the fire.

The Cattle Egret occasionally adds birds to its diet. At Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida, migrating Cattle Egrets land on the large green lawn inside the fort, probably hoping for some nice grasshoppers. Because no insects are there to be had, the egrets try to catch the migrating warblers that also have stopped on the tiny island.

* Size: 46-56 cm (18-22 in)
* Wingspan: 88-96 cm (35-38 in)
* Weight: 270-512 g (9.53-18.07 ounces)

* Medium-sized all-white heron.
* Sturdy yellow bill.
* Dark legs and feet.
* Swollen throat.
* Rather short, thick neck for a heron.

* Sits in hunched posture.
* Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: White overall, with long, buffy reddish feathers on crown, chest, and back. Legs yellow-green, eyes dark yellow. In brief high breeding condition, bill, legs, and eyes bright red; lores purple-pink.
* Nonbreeding (Definitive) Plumage: Feathers all white; shorter orangish plumes on head, chest, and back. Legs dark green, appearing black. Bill, lores, and eyes yellow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Black-Crowned Night Heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron (in Eurasia, often just Night Heron; in North America, Black-crowned Night-Heron with a second hyphen), (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a medium-sized heron.

Adults are 64 cm long and weigh 800 g. They have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey, red eyes, and short yellow legs. Young birds are brown, flecked with white and grey. These are short-necked and stout herons.

These birds stand still at the water's edge and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, and small mammals. During the day they rest in trees or bushes. The New World race is more gregarious outside the breeding season than the nominate race.

They are often found nesting or roosting within cities in avenue trees on busy roads.

Rainbow Lorikeets

The Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Australia, it is common along the eastern seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia and northwest Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas.

Rainbow Lorikeets have been introduced to Perth, Western Australia, Auckland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Rainbow Lorikeets grow to 25-30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, with a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in) and vary significantly in colouration between the numerous subspecies. Their eponymous markings of the best known subspecies moluccanus are particularly striking: a dark blue or violet-blue head and stomach, a bright green back, tail and vent, and an orange breast and beak. Several have darker scalloped markings across the orange breast and the Weber's lorikeet is predominantly green.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pair of Mourning Doves

Pigeons and doves constitute the family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerine birds. In general parlance the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, there is a tendency for "dove" to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the term "dove" and "pigeon." This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. The young doves and pigeons are called "squabs."

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. The species commonly referred to just as the "pigeon" is the feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities.

Their usually flimsy nests are made of sticks, and the two white eggs are incubated by both sexes. Doves feed on seeds, fruit and plants. Unlike most other birds (but see flamingo), the doves and pigeons produce "crop milk," which is secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Both sexes produce this highly nutritious substance to feed to the young.

Mute Swans

The Mute Swan (Cygnus olor is a common Eurasian member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae.
This species of bird is found naturally mainly in temperate areas of Europe across western Asia, as far east as the Russian maritimes, near Sidemi (Dement'ev,G.P.(1967), Gmelin(1789) and John Latham(1824) reported Mute Swans present in Kamchatka in the 1700s and still nesting there in 2007.[Sladen and King,1976 and Heilprin,J.[Assoc.Press].(2006)] recorded Mute Swans arriving in Alaska across the Bering Strait.

It is migratory throughout northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, as far south as north Africa. [Dement'ev,Sibley,C.] and in the Mediterranean. It is known and recorded to have nested in Iceland [Sutton,G.M.(1962)]and is a vagrant to that area, as well as to Bermuda according to the U.N.Environmental Program chart of international status chart of bird species.

In America, it migrates in the Saskatchewan area,[Greenleaf 2004] across the Hudson's Bay over the Great Lakes into the States, dispersing there through mid continent [Cirianca, HillvNorton (2001)] [USFish&Wildlife,(2006)]. A specimen of Mute Swan dated 1650-1700,was designated as that species by Rufus Churcher,professor of archeology,emeritus, at University of Toronto;Howard Savage,MD,professor and curator of Archaeozoological Comparative Collection at Trent University;Donald Baldwin of Royal Ontario Museum and it appears in Birds from the Ground,a 2003 publication from Trent University,Ontario. Interior swans must often migrate to mid Atlantic coastal locations when lakes freeze over, returning to their nesting area when the lakes open. [S.Dillon Ripley,] (1965), who headed the Smithsonian for many years, wrote that "mute swans have been gracing our rivers and streams since Colonial Days," (1976). They have also been introduced into the US, sometimes as gifts from the Royal Family of Great Britain, to Lakeland, Florida, for example.

A recent revaluation of a watercolor done by John White in 1585,while on a scientific exploration for Sir Walter Raleigh to America, reveals much earlier occupation by Cygnus olor (MuteSwan) on the Atlantic coast. Titled by the artist as simply, "The Swann," it was mislabeled in the 1960s as a "Trumpeter Swan," probably because its bill is black. However,scientists at the British Museum, holder of the collection, say that lead in the paint used by White has degraded over the four hundred years, turning some colors grey or black. The s-curved neck,the knob,the lifted rear feathers, the entire countanence could not be a trumpeter's. Further research is being done.(See: A New World, by Kim Sloan, curator of the John White collection at British Museum)