Birdorable Blog

Birdorable Turkey Vulture

Bird Term: Allopreening

February 14th, 2019 in Bird Terms No comments
Allopreening Turkey Vultures

Allopreening refers to one animal preening another. While preening and grooming are usually individual actions, in some species, birds or animals will preen one another. This occurs in birds as well as other classes of animal.

We previously mentioned allopreening when discussing vultures during Vulture Week in 2015. The post Glossary of Vulture Terms explained, in part, that "allopreening refers to social grooming between multiple individuals, often performed to strengthen social bonds."

Social bonds may not be the only reason that birds preen or groom one another. Allopreening is most common in species that tend to gather in large flocks. In these species, birds in frequent close proximity to each other are more likely to transfer parasites amongst the close-knit group. Allopreening in these species helps to keep pests like ticks under control.

Allopreening between mated pairs of birds occurs more often in species where both the male and female raise their offspring together. The preening ritual may help strengthen the longer-lasting bond. In mated pairs where the birds may be separated for a long period of time, allopreening is part of a greeting ritual. For example, this type of allopreening occurs when male and female penguins are reunited after a long incubation shift where one of the mates was feeding at sea for days or weeks.

Allopreening may also help to reduce conflict or tensions among large flocks or breeding colonies of birds. The social structure of the colony plays a large part in who receives preening and how much.

Allopreening Eurasian Spoonbills
Allopreening Eurasian Spoonbills by Amy Evenstad
Allopreening Black Vultures
Allopreening Black Vultures by Judy Gallagher (CC BY 2.0)
Allopreening Arrow-marked Babblers
Allopreening Arrow-marked Babblers by Derek Keats (CC BY 2.0)
Birdorable Western Grebe

Baby Birdorable: Western Grebe

February 4th, 2019 in Baby Birds, Grebes No comments

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr Creative Commons) of the Western Grebe.

The male and female in a mated Western Grebe pair build the nest together. The nest is built from material found underwater, used to build a supportive mound on water or adjacent to water. Incubation is done by both partners and takes around 24 days. Within minutes of leaving the egg, chicks are able to climb upon the back of a parent. The adults take turns swimming with and feeding the chicks.

Nesting Western Grebes
Nesting Western Grebes by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)
Baby Grebe
Baby Grebe by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)
Western Grebe and chicks by
Western Grebe and chicks by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)
Western Grebes Have Baby Races Too by
Western Grebes Have Baby Races Too by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)
Western Grebe Carrying a Baby Grebe on Its Back
Western Grebe Carrying a Baby Grebe on Its Back by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)
Birdorable Wild Turkey

Bird Terms: Wattles, Dewlaps, and Snoods, Oh My!

December 11th, 2018 in Bird Terms No comments
Difference between comb, wattle and dewlap

Some birds have fleshy growths hanging or protruding from the head or the neck. When these are a normal part of their anatomy, they are called caruncles.

Caruncles are often made of bare skin, though some may have a sparse covering of small feathers. They are usually bright in color, like the bright red comb of a domestic chicken.

Caruncles are thought to be ornamental in nature, found in male birds and used to attract mates, though caruncles are found in females of some species, too. Large bare patches of flapping skin may also be used to thermoregulate the bird, especially in warm climates.

Some caruncles have specific names depending on where they are found on the body.

Wild Turkey showing snood, wattle and beard by Birdorable

Comb
A comb or cockscomb is a caruncle that grows on the top of the head. Males and females of a species may both have a comb, but it is generally larger in male birds. Combs are found in domestic chickens, like the Faverolles, and related bird species.

Wattle
A wattle is a caruncle that hangs from the head or the neck. Wattles come in a set of two; when one such growth is present, it is known as a dewlap. On the Wattled Crane, the wattles hang from the upper throat and are almost fully feathered. Another wattled bird named for this distinguishing feature is the Long-wattled Umbrellabird.

Snood
A snood is a caruncle that hangs from the forehead, and can extend over the beak. These are found in both the Wild Turkey and domestic varieties. During courtship, the snood elongates and darkens in male birds.

The King Vulture has an unusual caruncle on its beak, which appears as an orange fleshy crest-like protuberance attached to the cere.

Some other species with caruncles include the Masked Lapwing (wattles), Andean Condor (comb and wattles), and the White-winged Guan (dewlap). Can you think of other bird species that have caruncles?

Compare caruncles on birds
Birdorable Scaly-headed Parrot

2018 Bonanza Bird #10: Scaly-headed Parrot

December 2nd, 2018 in Birdorable Bonanza 2018, Parrots No comments
Cute Birdorable Scaly-headed Parrot

Today we wrap up our 2018 Birdorable Bonanza with a species of South American parrot: the Scaly-headed Parrot!

This pretty bird is a medium-sized parrot native to eastern parts of South America, where it can be found in a variety of forest habitats. It is named for the scalloped feathers on its head that look like scales.

Scaly-headed Parrots are one of the most popular species of pet bird, and are thus known by a variety of alternate names, including Scaly-headed Pionus and Maximilian Parrot. They can live to be 40 years old or more when well cared for in captivity.

Thanks for following along during our 10th annual Birdorable Bonanza!

Birdorable Tufted Puffin

2018 Bonanza Bird #9: Tufted Puffin

December 1st, 2018 in Auks, Birdorable Bonanza 2018 2 comments
Cute Birdorable Tufted Puffin

Today's new bird is a seabird of the Pacific Ocean: the Tufted Puffin!

The Tufted Puffin is also known as the Crested Puffin. Both males and females develop yellow tufts of feathers on the sides of the head during breeding season.

Adult Tufted Puffins spend most of their life at sea. During breeding season, they congregate along rocky cliff edges on northern Pacific islands, where they nest in rock crevices or inside burrows that can be over five feet deep.

Tufted Puffin swimming
Tufted Puffin by NOAA Photo Library (CC BY 2.0)
Tufted Puffins on a Rock
Tufted Puffins by Isaac Sanchez (CC BY 2.0)

Tomorrow we'll reveal our last Bonanza bird for 2018. It's a South American parrot named for the scalloped feathers on its head. Do you know the species?

Birdorable Jabiru

2018 Bonanza Bird #8: Jabiru

November 30th, 2018 in Birdorable Bonanza 2018, Storks No comments
Cute Birdorable Jabiru

Today we introduce Birdorable's version of South America's tallest flying bird: the Jabiru, a species of stork.

Jabiru have an all-white plumage. The head and neck are black and featherless. Another distinguishing feature is a red pouch at the base of the neck. Males and females look alike, though males may be up to 25% larger than females.

Jabiru are found in wetland habitat across parts of Central and South America. They feed on a variety of prey items, including fish, mollusks, and amphibians, generally foraged in shallow water.

Tomorrow's new bird is a member of the puffin family, named for a plumage feature that occurs during part of the year. Do you know this bird?