Birdorable Ruby-throated Hummingbird flying

Hummingbirds are known for their extraordinary flight capabilities, including their unique ability to fly backwards. Unlike many bird-related myths, this particular belief is entirely true. Hummingbirds are indeed capable of backward flight, a remarkable skill that sets them apart from almost all other bird species. To better understand, let's look at the mechanics behind this ability and see why hummingbirds are such exceptional fliers.

The key to a hummingbird's aerial prowess lies in its wings and the way it flaps them. Unlike most birds, which primarily use up-and-down wing strokes to generate lift and thrust, hummingbirds employ a figure-eight motion with their wings. This motion allows them to produce lift on both the upstroke and downstroke, enabling them to hover in place with pinpoint accuracy. 

When a hummingbird wants to fly backwards, it simply adjusts the angle of its wings and the direction of its wingbeats. By reversing the direction of the figure-eight motion, hummingbirds can generate thrust in the opposite direction, propelling themselves backward. This adaptation is particularly useful when navigating tight spaces, such as when they are feeding on nectar from flowers or avoiding obstacles in dense foliage.

The ability to fly backwards is not the only impressive aspect of hummingbird flight. These tiny birds can also hover, fly sideways, and perform rapid, acrobatic maneuvers. Their flight muscles are incredibly powerful, making up 25-30% of their body weight, which is significantly more than the flight muscle mass of most other birds. This muscle power, combined with their rapid wingbeats—ranging up to 80 beats per second—allows hummingbirds to execute their complex flight patterns with ease.

Backward flight is crucial for hummingbirds' feeding habits. These birds primarily feed on nectar, which they extract from flowers using their long, specialized bills and extendable tongues. When feeding, hummingbirds often need to hover in front of flowers and occasionally move backward to position themselves correctly or retreat from a flower they have finished feeding from.

If you've ever watched a hummingbird feeding, you have probably seen this behavior and not even realized it, because it happens fast and naturally. The hummingbird simply zips from flower to flower (or nectar port to nectar port on a feeder), and in the process ends up moving backwards as it goes between the blossoms. This ability to maneuver with such precision is essential for ease of feeding, and thus their survival, as it enables them to efficiently exploit a wide range of floral resources.

Myth: Confirmed!

The myth that hummingbirds can fly backwards is not a myth at all but a fascinating fact. Their unique wing structure and powerful flight muscles enable them to perform a range of impressive aerial maneuvers, including backward flight. This remarkable skill is just one of the many adaptations that make hummingbirds such captivating and extraordinary creatures.

Thanks for following along for our celebration of hummingbirds here at Birdorable during Hummingbird Week, in conjunction with Pollinator Week! We hope you enjoyed the new additions to Birdorable's hummingbird family and that you learned something about these tiny feathered jewels!

Cute Birdorable Hummingbird Gifts

Birdorable Calliope Hummingbird

As our Hummingbird Week 2024 starts to wind down, we are proud to introduce the smallest breeding bird of North America to our Birdorable family-- it's the Calliope Hummingbird!

The Calliope Hummingbird is a marvel in the bird world despite its small size. Named after Calliope, the muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology, this tiny bird packs a punch with its vibrant plumage and dynamic behavior. During the breeding season, these little ones are found primarily in the western United States and parts of Canada. They winter in Mexico. The Calliope Hummingbird is the world's smallest long-distance migratory bird.

First and foremost, the Calliope Hummingbird holds the title of the smallest breeding bird in North America. Measuring up to just 3.9 inches (10cm) in length and typically weighing less than 0.1 oz (2 to 3 grams), it’s hard to believe how much energy and beauty can be contained in such a tiny package. Despite its small stature, the Calliope Hummingbird exhibits incredible flying abilities, capable of hovering in place and performing swift aerial maneuvers with ease.

One of the most striking features of the Calliope Hummingbird is its vibrant plumage, especially in males. Adult males are adorned with a striking magenta streaked gorget, or throat patch, which can appear almost iridescent in the sunlight. The rest of their body is mostly green with white underparts, creating a beautiful contrast. Females and juveniles, while less colorful, still display a delicate beauty with their green backs and subtle buffy flanks.

Calliope Hummingbird by Alan Schmierer (Public Domain)

The Calliope Hummingbird’s diet consists mainly of nectar from a variety of flowering plants. They have a particular affinity for tubular flowers, which complement their long, slender bills. In addition to nectar, they also feed on small insects and spiders, which provide essential proteins. This varied diet helps maintain their high metabolism and energy levels required for their active lifestyle.

During the breeding season, the Calliope Hummingbird showcases some fascinating behaviors. Males perform a unique courtship display to attract females, involving extremely rapid wingbeats (significantly faster than normal hovering or flying wingbeats) which create a buzzing sound. This is accompanied by the display of throat feathers. After this display, the male ascends and then performs a high-speed dive, which produces different sounds as the feathers slice through the air. The male vocalizes during this performance as well -- all to attract the attention of a potential mate.

The Calliope Hummingbird is also known for its impressive migratory behavior. Despite their small size, these birds undertake long migrations, traveling from their breeding grounds in the western United States and Canada to their wintering grounds in Mexico. This journey can span over 5,000 miles round trip!

The Calliope Hummingbird is a tiny bird with an impressive presence. Its vibrant colors, dynamic behaviors, and impressive migratory feats make it a fascinating subject for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. The Calliope Hummingbird joins Birdorable as our 799th bird!

Birdorable's Calliope Hummingbird Swag

Birdorable Violet Sabrewing

Our Birdorable Hummingbird Week 2024 continues today with a new species added to our flock: it's the Violet Sabrewing!

The Violet Sabrewing is one of the largest and most stunning hummingbirds in the Americas. This vibrant bird is a spectacle with its iridescent plumage and dynamic behavior. Found primarily in the tropical regions of Central America, the Violet Sabrewing captures the fascination of bird enthusiasts with its striking appearance and unique characteristics. 

One of the most distinctive feature of the Violet Sabrewing is its vivid plumage. Adult males are particularly striking with their deep violet-blue feathers covering most of their bodies. They have a distinctive white spot behind their eyes and a curved bill that is adapted to feed on nectar. Females are slightly less colorful, with green upperparts and a mix of violet and white on their underparts. This sexual dimorphism is typical in many hummingbird species and plays a significant role in their mating rituals.

Violet Sabrewing by ryanacandee (CC BY 2.0)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Violet Sabrewing is its size. This bird is big -- for a hummingbird! It is one of the largest species of hummingbirds, measuring up to 5.9 inches (nearly 15cm) in length. Even at this size, they're still hummers, and these hummingbirds are incredibly agile and can perform impressive aerial maneuvers. Their powerful wings allow them to hover in place while feeding and even fly backward, showcasing their remarkable flight capabilities.

The diet of the Violet Sabrewing is primarily composed of nectar from a variety of flowering plants. They have a preference for flowers with long corollas, which match their long, curved bills. In addition to nectar, they also consume small insects and spiders, which provide essential proteins, especially during the breeding season. This diet helps sustain their high energy levels and supports that active hummingbird lifestyle!

Violet Sabrewings are typically found in humid tropical forests, often at elevations ranging from 1,600 - 6,600 feet (500 to 2,000 meters). They prefer habitats with abundant flowering plants, naturally, which provide a consistent food source for these nectar-lovers. These hummingbirds are also known to visit gardens and feeders, where they can be observed up close, much to the delight of bird watchers.

The conservation status of the Violet Sabrewing is currently classified as "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), though the population is thought to be decreasing. Habitat loss due to deforestation and human encroachment poses a significant threat to their population, which is currently large and widely distributed. 

The Violet Sabrewing hummingbird joins our avian family and becomes our 798th Birdorable bird! Tune in tomorrow as we wrap up Hummingbird Week (and reveal one more new hummer!).

Violet Sabrewing Gifts from Birdorable

Hummingbird Week 2024

Allen's Hummingbird: A Jewel of the California Coast

Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird

Today for our Hummingbird Week new bird reveal, we're sharing the Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird

The Allen's Hummingbird is a small, captivating bird, known for its dazzling colors and remarkable agility. This hummingbird breeds along coastal regions of California and parts of southern Oregon. Despite its petite size, the Allen's Hummingbird boasts a vibrant personality and an array of interesting characteristics that make it a bird-lover's favorite. 

One of the most striking features of the Allen's Hummingbird is its brilliant plumage. Adult males are particularly eye-catching with their bright orange-red throat, known as a gorget, and a green back. Their underparts are mostly orange, adding to their fiery appearance. Females and immature males are less vividly colored, sporting greenish-brown backs and white underparts with a sprinkling of rusty hues. This sexual dimorphism is quite common among hummingbirds and plays a role in courtship and mating.

Speaking of courtship, the Allen's Hummingbird has a unique and elaborate display routines to attract mates. During the breeding season, males perform two different types of dramatic displays to attract mates. Shuttle displays involve intimate fly-bys with gorgets flared for maximum visual impact, along with a loud accompanying sound produced by fluttering wings. Dive displays include high-speed fly-bys. These displays are not just about showing off their flying skills, but also about demonstrating their fitness and health to potential mates. The displays may even be directed at other birds -- not just potential mates. The combination of visual and auditory signals makes for an interesting method of attracting attention!

The diet of the Allen's Hummingbird primarily consists of nectar from various flowering plants, which provides them with the energy needed for their high metabolism and active lifestyle.  Additionally, they consume small insects and spiders, which supply essential proteins. This diet not only sustains their energetic behavior but also helps them during breeding season, when nutritional needs are higher.

The Allen's Hummingbird is also known for its migratory behavior. While some populations are year-round residents in southern California, especially on off-shore islands, others migrate to Mexico during the winter months. This migration is relatively short compared to other bird species. The coastal habitats they favor provide abundant food resources and suitable nesting sites, making these areas critical for their life cycle.

Allen's Hummingbird by Alan Schmierer (Public Domain)

Although their conservation status is considered to be "Least Concern", Allen's Hummingbirds face several environmental threats. Habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture is a significant concern, as it reduces the availability of their preferred nesting and feeding sites. Climate change also poses a threat, potentially altering the timing of flower blooming and insect availability, which can affect their food sources. Human activity has been beneficial to the non-migratory population, where year-round blooming trees have been planted.

The Allen's Hummingbird is a remarkable bird that enchants with its vivid colors, agile flight, and fascinating behaviors. This species joins our hummingbird family and becomes the 797th Birdorable!

Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird Swag

Birdorable hummingbirds at feeder

A common myth surrounding hummingbirds is that feeding them in the fall will prevent them from migrating. This myth suggests that providing a food source during migration season will encourage hummingbirds to stay in one place rather than making their long journey south for the winter. However, this belief is not supported by scientific evidence. Let's explore why this myth persists and the reality of how hummingbird migration works.

Why Do Hummingbirds Migrate?

Hummingbird migration is primarily driven by instinct and environmental cues, not by the availability of food. As the amount of daylight decreases in the fall, migratory hummingbirds experience hormonal changes that trigger their behavior and movements. These changes prompt them to start their journey to their wintering grounds, regardless of the local food supply. This instinct is deeply ingrained and ensures that they migrate to warmer climates where they can find abundant food during the colder months.

Should We Feed Hummingbirds in the Fall?

Providing food for hummingbirds in the fall can actually be beneficial for these tiny travelers. During migration, hummingbirds need to consume large amounts of energy to fuel their long flights. A reliable food source, such as a well-maintained feeder filled with a simple solution of sugar water, can help them build up the fat reserves they need for their journey. Far from discouraging migration, feeding hummingbirds can support their natural behavior by ensuring they have the necessary energy to make the trip.

Another reason the myth persists is the observation of lingering hummingbirds at feeders in the fall. Some people mistakenly believe that the presence of these birds means they are delaying or foregoing migration due to the easy food source. In reality, these birds are usually just stopping by feeders to refuel before continuing their journey. Additionally, some hummingbirds naturally migrate later than others, so it's not uncommon to see them visiting feeders well into the fall season.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at a feeder by dfaulder (CC BY 2.0)

It's also important to note that there are different species of hummingbirds with varying migration patterns. For example, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, commonly found in eastern North America, typically migrates to Central America for the winter. In contrast, some species on the West Coast, like the Anna's Hummingbird, may stay in milder climates year-round or only migrate short distances. Understanding the specific migration habits of the hummingbirds in your area can help dispel the myth further.

To support migrating hummingbirds, it's recommended to keep feeders up until at least two weeks after you see the last hummingbird in the fall. This practice ensures that any late migrants passing through will have access to a valuable food source. Just remember to keep the feeders clean and filled with fresh nectar to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.

Hummingbird Myth: Busted!

The myth that feeding hummingbirds in the fall will stop them from migrating is unfounded. Hummingbirds are guided by instinct and environmental cues to migrate, and providing them with food can actually aid in their long journey. By maintaining feeders during migration season, we can help these remarkable birds get the energy they need to travel to their wintering grounds safely.

How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

It's easy to make the ideal hummingbird food for your feeding station. Just mix sugar and water together without any additives, artificial sweeteners, or dyes. The recipe is simply 1 part sugar with 4 parts water. Clean your feeders often to prevent mold and the spread of disease. The National Zoo has more information here: Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Birdorable Hummingbird Gifts

Birdorable Red-billed Streamertail

For this Hummingbird Week, we're introducing a fabulous new species of hummingbird to the Birdorable family: the Red-billed Streamertail!

The Red-billed Streamertail is one of the most dazzling and delightful birds you can find in Jamaica. This bird is not only a sight to behold but also holds a special place in Jamaican culture and folklore. It's importance to the country is seen in the fact that it's the official national bird of Jamaica.

The Red-billed Streamertail is a member of the hummingbird family, known for its spectacularly long tail feathers and vibrant colors. The males of the species are especially eye-catching with their brilliant emerald-green plumage and long, ribbon-like tail feathers that can be up to 10 inches long. These streamers flutter gracefully behind them as they fly.

Female Red-billed Streamertails are less flamboyant but equally adorable. They lack the long tail feathers and have more subdued green plumage with white underparts. Despite their differences, both males and females share the characteristic red bill that gives the species its name.

This beautiful bird is endemic to Jamaica, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Its preferred habitats are tropical rainforests, gardens, and plantations where it can find ample food sources. The Red-billed Streamertail feeds primarily on nectar, using its long bill to reach deep into flowers. In addition to nectar, it also consumes small insects and spiders, providing a well-rounded diet that supports its high-energy lifestyle.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Red-billed Streamertail is its courtship display. Males perform an aerial dance to attract females, flying in broad arcs and loops, and even hovering, all while showing off their long tail streamers. This display is not only a visual spectacle but also produces a distinctive whirring sound, adding an auditory element to the performance.

In Jamaican culture, the Red-billed Streamertail is more than just a beautiful bird; it is a national symbol and a subject of many legends and stories. Locally known as the Doctor Bird, this hummingbird is celebrated in folklore as a mystical creature with healing powers. Some tales even suggest that seeing a Doctor Bird brings good luck.

The conservation status of the Red-billed Streamertail is currently stable, thanks in part to its adaptability and the relatively intact habitats in Jamaica. However, habitat destruction and climate change pose potential threats to its population. Conservation efforts and awareness are essential to ensure that this stunning bird continues to thrive in its natural environment.

Birdwatchers visiting Jamaica are often eager to catch a glimpse of the Red-billed Streamertail, and it's no wonder why. Watching a male in full display is like witnessing a living jewel in motion. Their rapid wing beats and dazzling colors make them a highlight for any birding expedition.

The Red-billed Streamertail is a remarkable bird with its radiant plumage, extraordinary tail feathers, and captivating courtship displays. Its importance in Jamaican culture and folklore further enhances its charm. Ensuring the conservation of this endemic species allows future generations to continue to marvel at one of nature's most exquisite avian wonders. We welcome this amazing little flying jewel to our Birdorable family!

Birdorable Red-billed Streamertail Gifts

Hummingbird Week 2024

Busting a Bird Myth: Can Hummingbirds Walk?

Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures known for their incredible flight abilities and iridescent plumage. One intriguing aspect of their biology is their feet, which have given rise to a common myth: hummingbirds' feet are only strong enough for perching, and therefore hummingbirds cannot walk. While this statement contains a kernel of truth, it is a bit of an oversimplification. For Hummingbird Week, let's explore the reality behind this myth and uncover the unique adaptations of hummingbird feet.

Hummingbirds have very small, delicate feet, which are indeed primarily adapted for perching rather than walking. These tiny birds have evolved feet that allow them to cling to branches, leaves, or feeders securely. Their toes are equipped with strong, curved claws that can grip tightly onto perches. This adaptation is essential for their survival, as it enables them to rest between their frequent and energetically costly flights.

Close-up of small, delicate hummingbird feet, dangling as the bird hovers and feeds

Like most birds, hummingbirds have three forward-facing toes and one backward-facing toe. The inner surface of the claws are ridged for better gripping when perched. 

Although hummingbirds can grip and perch effectively, their feet are not well-suited for walking or hopping on the ground. Their legs are relatively short and weak, and they lack knees, which limits their ability to move around on flat surfaces. When on the ground, hummingbirds may appear clumsy, and their movements are more like shuffling than walking. This lack of walking ability is because their legs and feet are highly specialized for minimizing weight and maximizing efficiency in the air.

Hummingbirds' exceptional flight capabilities further explain why their feet are not designed for walking. These birds are among the most agile fliers in the avian world, capable of hovering, flying backwards, and making rapid, intricate maneuvers. Their wings beat incredibly fast, sometimes up to 80 times per second, requiring a lightweight body structure to support this intense activity. Streamlined little legs and feet contribute to their overall aerodynamic efficiency.

Myth not busted, but explained: while the myth that hummingbirds cannot walk is not entirely accurate, it highlights the fascinating adaptations these birds have evolved to thrive in their ecological niche. Their feet are perfectly suited for perching, allowing them to rest and conserve energy between feeding on nectar, catching insects, and performing their remarkable aerial displays.

Understanding the unique adaptations of hummingbird feet gives us a deeper appreciation for these extraordinary birds. It also underscores the incredible diversity of the avian world, where each species has evolved specialized traits to survive and flourish in its environment.

Sword-billed Hummingbird pollinating a trumpet flower in South America.

It's 🌺 Pollinator Week 🌺 June 17-23, and we're here to celebrate an important family of birds that acts as pollinators across the New World: Hummingbirds! It's Hummingbird Week here at Birdorable! We'll be celebrating with posts featuring hummingbird facts, busting hummingbird myths, and more. Of course, we'll be adding some new hummingbirds to our Birdorable family as well! Join us this week as we celebrate hummingbirds, and pollinators!

Why Pollinators Are Important

Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, bats, and birds, play a crucial role in both ecosystems and agriculture. Pollinators facilitate the reproduction of flowering plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another, enabling the plants to produce fruits, seeds, and more plants. This process is essential for the growth of many crops and wild plants, contributing to biodiversity and food security. Pollinators are responsible for pollinating 75-95% of the world's flowering plants and up to 75% of global food crops, like fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Their activity supports healthy ecosystems, which in turn provide clean air, water, and habitats for other wildlife.

Hummingbirds As Pollinators

Hummingbirds are among nature's most fascinating pollinators, playing a crucial role in the ecosystem by helping to fertilize flowers and promote plant diversity. Here are some interesting facts and insights into their role as pollinators. 

Specialized Feeding Adaptations

Hummingbirds have long, slender bills and extendable tongues that allow them to reach deep into flowers to access nectar. This specialized feeding adaptation makes them effective pollinators for a variety of tubular flowers that other pollinators cannot reach.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovering by Ross Fanning (CC BY 2.0)

Hovering Ability

Unlike many other birds, hummingbirds can hover in mid-air thanks to their rapid wing beats, which can reach up to 80 beats per second. This ability allows them to feed from flowers without landing, minimizing damage to the blooms and increasing pollination efficiency.

Mutualistic Relationships

Many plants have evolved to attract hummingbirds specifically. These plants often have bright red or orange tubular flowers, which are particularly appealing to hummingbirds. In return for providing nectar, the plants benefit from the pollination services that hummingbirds provide as they transfer pollen from flower to flower. Sword-billed Hummingbirds, the only species of bird that has a bill longer than its body, typically feed on flowers with exceedingly long tubes that can only be reached by them.

Long-distance Pollinators

Some hummingbirds are known for their long migrations, with some species traveling thousands of miles between breeding and wintering grounds. During these migrations, they pollinate plants across vast distances, contributing to genetic diversity and plant reproduction over a wide area.

Ecological Impact

Hummingbirds play a significant role in maintaining the health and diversity of ecosystems. By pollinating a wide range of plant species, they help ensure the survival of many plants, which in turn provide food and habitat for other wildlife.

Color Vision

Hummingbirds have excellent color vision and are particularly attracted to bright colors. This trait helps them locate flowers quickly and efficiently. Plants that rely on hummingbirds for pollination often have brightly colored flowers to attract these avian visitors.

Costa's Hummingbird feeding on flower by Renee Grayson (CC BY 2.0)

Pollination Efficiency

Hummingbirds are highly efficient pollinators due to their ability to visit numerous flowers in a single foraging trip. As they move from flower to flower, pollen sticks to their bills and feathers, facilitating cross-pollination and increasing the genetic diversity of the plants they visit.

Adaptation to High Metabolism

Hummingbirds have an extremely high metabolism, requiring them to consume up to half their body weight in nectar each day. This constant need for food drives them to visit hundreds of flowers daily, making them prolific pollinators.

Keystone Species

In some ecosystems, hummingbirds act as keystone species. Their pollination activities are crucial for the survival of certain plants, which in turn support other species. The presence of hummingbirds can thus have a profound impact on the entire ecosystem.

Hummingbird Week!

Hummingbirds are essential pollinators with specialized adaptations that make them uniquely suited to their role. Their interactions with plants drive ecological processes and contribute to the health and diversity of ecosystems. By understanding and supporting hummingbird conservation, we can help maintain the balance and beauty of the natural world. You can see why hummingbirds and their role as pollinators is important. Join us this week as we celebrate hummingbirds here on the blog! 

Cute Hummingbird Gifts

Birdorable Common Grackle taking a bath

Birdorable Common Grackle taking a bath

Grackles are fascinating birds with intriguing behaviors and striking appearances. There are 10 living species of grackle in the world, along with one known extinct species. There are three Birdorable grackle species (read on to learn which ones we feature!). These New World birds live in various habitats across North and South America. Here are some interesting facts about these lively and adaptable birds!

Social Structure

Grackles are highly social birds, often forming large flocks that can number in the thousands. These flocks can create quite a spectacle, especially during roosting or migration periods.

Unique Vocalizations

Grackles have a wide range of vocalizations, including whistles, croaks, and clicks. They are known for their loud, harsh calls, which can often be heard in urban areas.  Calls of the Common Grackle have been compared to the noise made by rusty gate hinges. These varied vocalizations help them communicate within their social groups, attract mates, and signal danger. Additionally, grackles can mimic other birds and environmental noises.

Dietary Flexibility

Grackles are omnivorous and highly opportunistic feeders. Their diet includes insects, small mammals, eggs, seeds, fruits, and even human food scraps. They are known to forage in fields, lawns, and dumpsters alike.

The iridescent feathers of a Common Grackle by Michele Dorsey Walfred (CC BY 2.0)

Iridescent Feathers

Grackles are known for their glossy, iridescent feathers that can shimmer in shades of blue, purple, green, and bronze, especially in sunlight. This iridescence is visible due to the microscopic structure of their feathers that affect the way light appears when the bird moves.

Bold and Aggressive Behavior

Known for their boldness, grackles often exhibit aggressive behavior towards other birds and even larger animals. They can be seen chasing away other birds from feeders or scavenging spots. When attacking other birds, they will peck, bite, and scratch.

Interesting Courtship Displays

During courtship, male grackles perform elaborate displays to attract females. These displays often include fluffing their feathers, spreading their wings and tail, and making a variety of calls. Male Great-tailed Grackles will fluff out their feathers, fan out their tails, and quiver their wings in order to attract females.

Boat-tailed Grackles (male on left; female on right) by Gary Leavens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sexual Dimorphism

There is noticeable sexual dimorphism in grackles. Males are generally larger and more iridescent than females. This difference is particularly evident in species like the Boat-tailed Grackle, where females differ in both size and plumage (they are mostly brown).

Pest Control Benefits

By feeding on insects, grackles help control pest populations. They consume a significant number of agricultural pests, which can be beneficial for farmers. Unfortunately, several grackle species are also seen as agricultural pests, with large flocks happily consuming crops like corn.

Adaptability to Urban Environments

Grackles have successfully adapted to urban environments, thriving in cities and towns where they find ample food and nesting sites. Their ability to live in close proximity to humans has contributed to their widespread presence.

Red-bellied Grackle by Gary Leavens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Species Diversity

There are several species of grackles, including the Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, and Boat-tailed Grackle, each with unique characteristics and habitats. The seven other living species of grackle are: Nicaraguan Grackle; Greater Antillean Grackle; Carib Grackle; Red-bellied Grackle; Velvet-fronted Grackle; Golden-tufted Grackle; and Colombian Mountain Grackle. The Slender-billed Grackle became extinct around 1910.

Grackles are Great

From their stunning iridescent feathers to their interesting courtship techniques, grackles belong to an interesting family of New World birds. From familiar backyard birds to elusive tropical species, grackles remind us of the intricate balance within ecosystems and the importance of each species in maintaining ecological harmony. 

Birdorable Grackle Gifts

Did you catch the three grackle species we have here at Birdorable? They are they Common Grackle, the Boat-tailed Grackle, and the Great-tailed Grackle! Here are some apparel and gift options featuring our Birdorable grackles. 

Birdorable Brown Tanager and Brown-flanked Tanager

Birdorable Brown Tanager (left) and Brown-flanked Tanager (right)

Two of our newest birds here at Birdorable are the Brown Tanager and Brown-flanked Tanager. The two different species may seem similar at first glance due to their names, but they have distinct characteristics, ranges, habits, and habitats. Let's dive into the details of these two fascinating birds.

The Brown Tanager

The Brown Tanager (Orchesticus abeillei) is a small bird endemic to Brazil where it is found in the highlands of the southeast.  It prefers the dense, humid forests of the Atlantic Forest biome, often at elevations between 900 and 2,000 meters. This bird's plumage is predominantly brown, as its name suggests, but it can have subtle variations in shade. The Brown Tanager is relatively elusive, making it a treat for birdwatchers who manage to spot it.

The diet of the Brown Tanager consists mainly of insects; fruits are an occasional treat. Brown Tanagers are often seen foraging alone or in pairs, though they may join mixed-species feeding flocks during certain times of the year.

The Brown Tanager is the only species in its genus, Orchesticus

The Brown-flanked Tanager

The Brown-flanked Tanager (Thlypopsis pectoralis) is also an endemic species, this one found only in Peru.  This bird favors montane forests, typically between 2,500 and 3,200 meters in elevation. The Brown-flanked Tanager is easily recognizable by its distinctive rufous-orange head and breast on an otherwise drab grey-brown body.

The Brown-flanked Tanager's diet is comprised mostly of prey items including insects, moths, and caterpillars. One interesting aspect of the Brown-flanked Tanager's behavior is its participation in mixed-species flocks. These flocks, common in Andean forests, consist of various bird species that move together while foraging. This behavior helps reduce the risk of predation and increases foraging efficiency.

The Brown-flanked Tanager is a member of the genus Thlypopsis, a group of 8 tanager species with a widespread range across parts of South America.

A Tale of Two Tanagers

For bird enthusiasts, observing these two species offers a chance to appreciate the diversity of tanagers and the unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in their respective environments. Whether it's the quiet beauty of the Brown Tanager in Brazil's highland forests or the active presence of the Brown-flanked Tanager in the Andean montane forests of Peru, each bird brings its own charm to the avian world. We proudly welcome these tropical avian friends to our big Birdorable family!

New Birdorable Tanagers Apparel & Gifts