Birdorable Blog

Birdorable Elf Owl

International Owl Awareness Day

August 4th, 2019 in Owls No comments
Birdorable owls

Celebrate owls with us on this #InternationalOwlAwarenessDay! This commemorative holiday is meant to raise awareness and spread knowledge of all of the birds in the owl family.

Did you know that there are over 220 recognized species of owl in the world? The smallest owl is the Elf Owl of North America; the largest owls are the Eurasian Eagle-owl and the closely related Blakiston's Fish Owl. You can find two of these species among our Birdorable collection of 13 owls.

Happy International Owl Awareness Day! What is your favorite species of owl?

Birdorable Ridgway's Hawk

Ridgway's Hawk Conservation Outreach in the Dominican Republic

August 2nd, 2019 in Birds of Prey, Conservation No comments

The Ridgway's Hawk is a Critically Endangered bird of prey endemic to the island of Hispaniola. Since 2002, the Ridgway's Hawk Project has been fighting to save this species in the Dominican Republic. The program involves several components, including research, assisted dispersal, and education.

The town of Los Limones is located outside of Los Haitises National Park, where the Project has been working with the community for almost 20 years on Ridgway Hawk conservation. As a part of the Project's outreach, a local youth baseball team was named Los Gavilanes, to honor the species, Gavilan in Spanish. Friends of the Ridgway's Hawk Project donated uniforms to the kids, which feature a Birdorable profile image of the namesake species!

From our friends at the Proyecto Conservación del Gavilán de La Española, we would like to share these photos of Los Gavilanes baseball team.

Birdorable Chimney Swift

Bird Terms: Nocturnal, Diurnal, and Other Active-Time Classifications

July 26th, 2019 in Bird Terms No comments
Birdorable Eurasian Eagle-Owl

When most people think of owls, one of the facts that often comes up is that they are nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are most active during the night, sleeping by day. While most owl species are nocturnal, not all are. Adaptations found in nocturnal animals include enhanced eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. Besides owls, other bird species known for being nocturnal include the Southern Brown Kiwi, the Kakapo, and the Common Nighthawk. Familiar nocturnal animals include bats, raccoons, and fireflies.

Diurnal animals are most active during the day, and sleep at night. For the most part, all animals first evolved to be diurnal. Nocturnal animals later evolved adaptations for being active at night in order to avoid predators and reduce competition with other species. Advanced color vision is an adaptation seen in diurnal animals. While most birds are diurnal, many species migrate at night, mostly to avoid predation. Animals known for being diurnal include most reptiles, pollinator insect species, and primates (including humans).

There are other terms to describe when animals are active:

  • Crepuscular animals are most active during twilight hours, around dawn and around dusk. Examples of crepuscular birds include the Barred Owl and Chimney Swift.
      
  • Cathemeral animals are active during spurts of time during the day and night. The activity is sporadic and occurs at irregular intervals. Cathermal animals are usually active during parts of both daytime and nighttime. Lions and some species of lemur are known for being cathermal.
Birdorable Great Auk

The End of the Great Auk

July 3rd, 2019 in Auks No comments
Birdorable Great Auk

On this date* in 1844, off the coast of Ireland, a pair of Great Auks were killed. These proved to be the last specimens of Great Auk ever collected.

The Great Auk was a flightless species. It stood up to 33 inches tall and weighed about 11 pounds. The Great Auk's scientific name, Pinguinus impennis, roughly translates to plump and flightless. The auk's black and white plumage was similar to that of penguins; penguins are so named after the auk's scientific name due to this similarity. Despite the physical similarities, the species (auks and penguins) are not closely related genetically.

Great Auks lived in the North Atlantic Ocean coasts, coming to land only for breeding. They nested colonially in areas close to favorable feeding grounds and away from predators like polar bears and White-tailed Eagles.

Although somewhat clumsy on land, Great Auks were agile in the water, able to propel itself underwater using its wings. It was also able to dive deeper and hold its breath longer than other alcid bird species.

Great Auks were once abundant. They were hunted as food by the Neanderthals more than 100,000 years ago. There are records of Great Auks being hunted more than 20,000 years ago in Spain, Italy, and France. While the Little Ice Age between the 16th and 19th centuries may have contributed somewhat to population losses for the Great Auk, it was massive human exploitation that ultimately doomed this species. Great Auks were hunted for their down and collected for their eggs, feathers, and skins.

Great Auk
Great Auks by John James Audubon

Today there are 78 specimen Great Auks (skins) in museums and other collections. A Great Auk specimen sold to the Icelandic Museum of Natural History for £9000 in 1971; this was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive bird specimen ever bought and sold.

 

* Published sources are conflicted on the date; June 3 is also sometimes cited.

Birdorable Emperor Penguin

Fun Avian Dad Facts for Father's Day

June 16th, 2019 in Fun Facts, Holidays No comments
Parent Sandhill Crane with chick

In most bird families, males and females both participate in the raising of their young. In 8% of cases, the female does everything related to care of eggs and raising offspring. And in just 1% of bird species does the male do all of the work -- after the eggs are laid, of course.

Some species are polyadrous, meaning individual birds will have different mates during the same breeding season. In the case of the Spotted Sandpiper, females will often have two clutches, the first of which she leaves after the eggs are laid. It's up to her mate to incubate the eggs and rear the chicks. She will then find a new mate and help to raise her second clutch with the new male.

Spotted Sandpiper Chick
Spotted Sandpiper Chick by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (public domain)

Emus exhibit similar behavior, though male Emus go through a more extreme experience during incubation. During the approximate 8-week period, he does not leave the nest for any reason. He may lose up to a third of his bodyweight while he forgoes eating, drinking, and even defecating, standing up only to turn the eggs. Once the chicks are hatched, father Emu will protect his young for up to seven months, which is about how long it takes for them to fully grow. The group may stay together as a family for up to two years.

Emu dad with chicks
Emu dad with chicks by patrickkavanagh (CC BY 2.0)

The paternal (father) duties of the Emperor Penguin are widely known. After the female lays the pair's one and only egg, she carefully transfers it to the male. And then she leaves him for two months. While she is out to sea, feeding, the male remains behind, incubating their egg between the brood patch on its underbelly and its feet. When the egg hatches, the male may have been fasting for over 100 days since he first arrived at the breeding colony. Once his mate returns, she cares for the chick so the male can finally go to the sea to find food.

Emperor Penguin with chick

Hornbills have an unusual breeding strategy that involves the female being practially sealed inside the nest cavity with the eggs, with only a small slit left open. This small opening allows the male to transfer food to his mate and to the chicks, once they hatch. During incubation and the hatchling phase, the family relies entirely on the male to provide food. The mother and chicks only leave the nest once they are too large to remain inside.

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there, avian and otherwise!

Birdorable African Grey Parrot

World Parrot Day

May 31st, 2019 in Parrots No comments
Birdorable Parrot Heart

World Parrot Day is celebrated this year on May 31, 2019. The first World Parrot Day was in 2004.

The event was initiated by the World Parrot Trust as an opportunity to highlight threats to wild and captive parrots around the world. Actions that began on that first World Parrot Day led to the eventual ban of wild bird imports into Europe.