Birdorable Black Swans in Sydney Harbor in front of the Opera House

The Black Swan, a bird steeped in history and symbolism, has traversed an incredible journey from myth to reality in the eyes of Europeans. For over 1,500 years, the term "Black Swan" was a metaphor in European cultures for something that was impossible or did not exist. The prevailing belief was that all swans were white, as evidenced by the only known species at the time, the Mute and Whooper Swans, both predominantly white. Mute Swans and Whooper Swans, both mostly white, were the only species of swan known to western culture at the time. The very idea of a black swan was considered as impossible as a flying pig. 

The discovery of the Black Swan in Australia in the late 1600s by European explorers was nothing short of astonishing. It upended centuries of entrenched beliefs, serving as a powerful reminder of the vastness and mystery of the natural world. The sight of these elegant birds, with their striking black plumage and contrasting red bills was as astounding as stumbling upon a mythical creature.

The Black Swan's presence became a symbol of discovery and the unknown, challenging the limits of people’s understanding of nature. It shifted from a metaphor for the impossible to an emblem of the unexpected and the rare.

In Australia, the Black Swan has assumed a significant cultural role, particularly in Western Australia. Its uniqueness and contrast to the northern hemisphere’s white swans have made it a symbol of Australian identity and the distinctiveness of the antipodean experience. This symbolism is reflected in its prominent inclusion on the flag and coat-of-arms of Western Australia.

The Black Swan’s story is not just about a bird; it’s a narrative that intertwines nature, culture, and history. It represents a paradigm shift in thinking, from the certainty of the known to the acceptance and embrace of the unfamiliar. Australians, especially those in Western Australia, have adopted the Black Swan as a representation of their unique place in the world, celebrating the beauty and diversity of their natural heritage.

If you'd like to read more about Black Swans and pop culture, check out this article.

Cute Black Swan Gifts

After a very turbulent early season, there is some wonderful news out of the Rochester Falconcam today. The star Peregrine Falcon pair Beauty and Dot.ca became proud parents with the hatching of their first chick early this morning. Here is a screen shot of Beauty, the fluffy chick, and the two remaining eggs.


Screen shot from earlier today (June 20, 2012) from the Rochester Falconcam

The season began with Beauty in rehab and different female Peregrine Falcon at the nest site. In fact, one of those remaining eggs wasn't even laid by Beauty! Follow the link to the Imprints blog at the beginning of this post for a quick catch-up on this dramatic breeding season. We continue to support the Genesse Valley Audubon Society in bringing the Rochester Falconcam to the world. New designs featuring our updated Birdorable Peregrine Falcon reflect this year's changes to the players in this year's drama. As always, 30% of the retail price for all Birdorable Rochester Falconcam product sales will be donated GVAS.

You can also donate directly to the Rfalconcam via this link: Individual Donors. Follow Rfalconcam on Facebook to stay updated!

The New York Times reported last week that the number of Red Knots stopping at critical refueling grounds on the East Coast of the United States this year was double the number seen last year.

Red Knots on the beach

Each year, Red Knots migrate over 9,000 miles during their migration from South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle. Along the way, they stop at beaches of the East Coast to feed on horseshoe crab eggs to fuel their remaining journey. Legislation protecting horseshoe crabs has probably contributed to the good number of Red Knots found this year. The population of the American subspecies of the Red Knot has been in steep decline; hopefully this year's bounty is a good sign towards recovery! The Red Knot is one of our 378 cute Birdorable birds. We have commemorated the special relationship between the knots and horseshoe crabs with two unique designs. Check them out: Crab-Knot Cycle and Horseshoe Crabs are Life. The small blue blobs making shapes in each design represent horseshoe crab eggs!

You can learn more about the Red Knot from Cornell's All About Birds website: Red Knot. Hat tip to the ABA Blog for this story.

Red Knot Gifts

Check out these three new Birdorable coloring pages for lots of cute coloring fun! Go to Coloring Pages to download the PDFs.

Birdorable Coloring Pages for cute Harpy Eagle

You can visit the meet pages for each bird to check the colors: Harpy Eagle, Lilac-breasted Roller and Crested Caracara. Which one is your favorite bird?

Birdorable Coloring Pages for Lilac-breasted Roller and Crested Caracara

These downloads will be available until 1 August 2012. Check here for more coloring pages. Subscribe to the Birdorable Blog by RSS feed or by email to get notified when new downloads like this are added. Have you used our coloring pages at home, in your classroom, or at an event? We’d love to hear about it! Send us photos of the pages in action, or the final result – we may showcase them on our blog!

Birders know that Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks look alike. These two species share many of the same field marks, and can often be found in the same habitat, behaving the same way. However, they don't often appear in the exact same place at the same time. That's what makes a series of photos posted earlier this month on the Cornell FeederWatch blog truly remarkable. A staff member observed and photographed a Sharpie mobbing a Cooper's Hawk, and the results were pretty amazing: Sharp-shinned Hawk Versus Cooper’s Hawk. When you've just got one bird to identify, there are few key points to consider when trying to determine whether your bird is a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk versus Sharp-shinned Hawk ID tips

Size, head shape, and body proportions are among the important attributes to keep in mind in this identification challenge. This cute original design featuring a Birdorable Cooper's Hawk next to a Birdorable Sharp-shinned Hawk points out these tips and more. This new design is available on t-shirts and novelties for your accipter-studying convenience.

Cooper's Hawk versus Sharp-shinned Hawk merchandise

Many countries have an official national bird. For example, the national bird of Israel is the Hoopoe, and the national bird of Mauritius is the Dodo. All U.S. states also have official birds. But did you know that there are even some cities that have their own official bird?

The official city bird of Rauma, Finland is the Great Black-backed Gull. Oddly, in the Rauma dialect, there is no specific name for this species. The word "truut" is used for all large gulls found in the area: Great Black-backed; Lesser Black-backed; and Herring. It is estimated that the Great Black-backed Gull was nesting on Rauma soil 4200 years before the city was officially founded! For Rauma, the gull symbolizes the care that residents should take in local wildlife.

Great Black-backed Gull with the Rauma Coat of Arms
Great Black-backed Gull with the Rauma Coat of Arms

With their special water-resistant plumage, ducks are made for water. But did you know that several species of duck actually require trees when it comes to breeding? Some ducks are cavity nesters. We've recently added one of these cute little cavity-nesting ducks to Birdorable. The Bufflehead is one of the smallest species of duck to live in North America. They're just about 14 inches long, and they use cavities excavated by Northern Flicker woodpeckers! They also use nestboxes, as in the photo below.

Bufflehead ducks

Besides the Bufflehead, some other ducks that nest in cavities or nest boxes are: Hooded Merganser; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Wood Duck; Common Goldeneye; and Common Merganser.

Crested Caracaras are distinctive birds of prey that live in parts of North, Central, and South America. Here are some cool facts about the Crested Caracara:

1) Crested Caracaras are fine at flying, but they can often be found walking around on the ground. Their long legs also make them strong runners.

2) While mostly quiet, the Crested Caracara has a distinctive social vocalization which is described as a rattle. The cackling, rattling sound is produced while the bird throws its head back in a move called the head-throwback display.

Crested Caracara head-throwback display

3) Caracaras are members of the falcon family.

4) Unlike many other falcon species, caracaras are not cavity nesters. They build stick nests high up in trees.

5) Like vultures, Crested Caracaras eat a lot of carrion.

6) The diet of a Crested Caracara may also include insects foraged through vegetation or eggs from ground-nesting birds.

7) Crested Caracaras look very distinctive, with dark bodies, a white neck, and a dark shaggy cap.

8) Baby Crested Caracaras have their dark cap from the time they hatch.

feeding time for the hungry baby caracara
feeding time for the hungry baby caracara by belgianchocolate [Creative Commons]

9) The national bird of Mexico is the Crested Caracara (an honor sometimes shared with the Golden Eagle).

10) To intimidate nest intruders, Crested Caracaras may clack their beaks, or break off dry twigs to make a snapping sound. If you can't get enough of Crested Caracaras, you're in luck! This unique species is one of our newest Birdorable birds! Check out our fun collection of cute Crested Caracara apparel and gifts.

Black-throated Blue Warblers are small migratory songbirds. We've recently added this beauty to our family of cute Birdorable birds. Here are some interesting facts about the Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Black-throated Blue Warblers
  • Black-throated Blue Warblers are tiny birds, weighing in at just 9 or 10 grams.
  • The four-letter alpha code that banders and birders use for the Black-throated Blue Warbler is BTBW.
  • Based on bird banding records, BTBWs may live to be nine or ten years old in the wild.
  • The plumage of the female Black-throated Blue Warbler differs greatly from the male. Early American ornithologists thought they were of a different species, naming the female the "Pine Swamp Warbler." John James Audubon even painted this bird as a separate species - today it is sometimes known as "Audubon's Extra Warbler."

Audubon's Pine Swamp Warbler detail
  • BTBWs don't change their appearance as the seasons change, as some warbler species do. They are easy to recognize in the fall just as well as they are in the spring.
  • BTBWs are migratory. Most individuals spend the winter in the Caribbean, especially in the Greater Antilles islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti).

Be sure to check out our great collection of apparel and gifts featuring our cute cartoon Black-throated Blue Warbler.

A chimney that served as a roosting spot for Chimney Swifts for almost 50 years may reveal clues to the decline of the species.

Cute Chimney Swifts

Last month, headlines like "Clues to Species Decline Buried in Pile of Bird Excrement" and "Clues Found In Huge Pile Of Bird Poop" were good for a chuckle, but the data gathered by going through layers of swift guano has produced interesting information. By studying the droppings, scientists could determine what food items the swifts were eating. Prior to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, the Chimney Swifts were dining primarily on beetles. DDT caused a huge decline in beetle populations, leading the swifts to hunt and eat different insects that didn't provide the same nutrition as the beetles. Chimney Swift populations have been declining, with a major contributing factor thought to be loss of habitat. This study implies that changes in diet may also have significant impact. You can read more about this study here: Historical pesticide applications coincided with an altered diet of aerially foraging insectivorous chimney swifts