Today our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues with a fairly common Old World woodpecker species: the Great Spotted Woodpecker!

Birdorable Great Spotted Woodpecker

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is found across Europe and northern Asia. This is a resident (non-migratory) species for the most part, though birds in the coldest areas may move seasonally.

Though common across most of their range, this mid-sized woodpecker tends to be quite inconspicuous, spending most of its time well-hidden in tree foliage. They are often heard -- either drumming (tree-pecking) or calling (vocalizing) before they are seen.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers have a varied diet. The will feed on insects foraged from crevices in bark. They also eat plant material like seeds and fruit. Eggs, young chicks and even small rodents are also common food items for Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (adult male)
Adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker by Tom Lee (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Great Spotted Woodpecker Portrait
Great Spotted Woodpecker Portrait by Andy Morffew (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Adult female and juvenile male great spotted woodpeckers
Adult female and juvenile male great spotted woodpeckers by Dave_S. (CC BY 2.0)

The Great Spotted Woodpecker is our 621st Birdorable bird and our 10th cute woodpecker species.

Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with a very large Australian bird of prey. Can you guess tomorrow's species?

Cute Great Spotted Woodpecker Gifts

Today our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues with a beautiful species of dabbling duck from eastern Asia: the Mandarin Duck.

Birdorable Mandarin Duck

Male Mandarin Ducks, like our cute Birdorable cartoon version here, are strikingly beautiful, with a unique colorful plumage. The flanks are ruddy, with a contrasting purple breast outlined in black and white. The forehead is teal and the dark eyes stand out against a white crescent-shaped stripe. Two orange sail-like tufts appear at the back.

Mandarin Ducks are closely related to the Wood Duck of North America. Mandarins nest in trees, often in dense woods, near fresh water.

Because of their beauty, Mandarin Ducks are popular in waterfowl collections. Escaped birds have established populations outside of their native range of eastern Asia. In Europe, there are large Mandarin Duck populations in Britain and Germany; in the United States you can find Mandarin Ducks living in the wild in parts of North Carolina and California.

Mandarin duck
Mandarin Duck by Tambako The Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Mandarin duck, Hall Drive Pond, Salhouse
Mandarin Duck by Michael Button (CC BY 2.0)

Mandarin DuckMandarin Duck by thecrypt (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tomorrow's bird is a great woodpecker that can be found in Europe and north Asia. Can you guess what it will be?

Cute Mandarin Duck Gifts

Today our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues with a grouse-like bird from South America: the Blue-billed Curassow.

Blue-billed Curassow by Birdorable

The Blue-billed Curassow is a large species endemic to Colombia in South America. Males, like our cute Birdorable version here, have a mostly black plumage with a white vent and white barring at the end of the tail. Both males and females have a crest at the top of the head made of curly feathers. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Blue-billed Curassow is critically endangered. The current wild population is estimated to be 700 adult individuals or fewer. The population trend is decreasing due to various factors including habitat loss and hunting of both birds and eggs.

Conservation groups including zoos, like the Houston Zoo, have been working to save the species from extinction. More than 50 of the birds have been hatched at the zoo in their ongoing efforts.

The Blue-billed Curassow is our 619th Birdorable bird. Be sure to check out our collection of apparel and gifts featuring the Birdorable Blue-billed Curassow!

Tomorrow's bird is a beautiful duck from East Asia. It has a red bill and colorful striking plumage. Can you guess what it will be?

Cute Blue Curassow Gifts

Today our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues with an unusual heron-like bird endemic to New Caledonia: the Kagu.

Birdorable Kagu

The Kagu is a flightless bird with a pearly-grey plumage and bright orange legs and bill. The eyes are dark red. Kagus have a long head crest that may be used in territorial displays against other Kagu or as a threat to potential predators. And though they are flightless, the wings of the Kagu are far from useless. Adult birds will use a "broken wing" display to distract predators from their nest or chicks. When outstretched, the Kagu's wings have bold black and white stripes that also may serve to distract predators.

Photo of a Kagu
Kagu by Pierre Fidenci (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another unique feature that Kagus have is their nasal corns. These are small corn-shaped flaps that rest over their nostrils. These flaps are though to protect the bird's airways when it forages by probing its beak in the earth.

Close-up of Kagu's nasal corn
Close-up of nasal corns

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Kagu is endangered. The current wild population consists of an estimated 250 to 1000 adult birds. They face threats including those from introduced predators, including dogs, deer, and feral pigs. The Kagu is our 618th Birdorable bird. Be sure to check out our collection of apparel and gifts featuring the Birdorable Kagu!

Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with a tropical grouse-like bird with a great "hair-do." Can you guess tomorrow's species?

The first bird in our seventh annual Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition is the darling little Cuban Tody!

Birdorable Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody is one of five species of tody in the world. All birds in the family are found in the Caribbean. Todies are related to kingfishers, rollers, and bee-eaters. Todies superficially resemble kingfishers in their general shape and colorful plumage.

True to its name, the Cuban Tody is found around much of Cuba. The species is widespread and fairly common across the island nation. Like the other todies, the Cuban Tody is a colorful little bird with a flat bill. The plumage is dominated by green and highlighted by red at the flanks and chin.

Cuban Tody - Cuba_S4E0449
Cuban Tody by Francesco Veronesi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cuban Tody
Cuban Tody by Shawn McCready (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Cuban Tody is our 617th Birdorable bird and our first bird in the tody family. Be sure to check out our collection of apparel and gifts featuring the Birdorable Cuban Tody!

Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with a crested, bluish-grey bird that is endemic to the mountain forests of New Caledonia.

Cute Cuban Tody Gifts

Get ready to be excited, because tomorrow we will start a new Birdorable Bonanza!

If you've been following us for a while, here on the blog or on our Facebook page, then you'll know that during a 'bonanza' we add a new Birdorable bird to our site every day. We've done this every year for the last 6 years (see the archived blog posts here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). This year is no different, and we're happy to announce that this year's bonanza will last all the way to Christmas! That's right, we will be adding a new cute bird every day from December 1st through December 25th.

It's like an advent calendar, but with cute birds! Every day leading up to Christmas we will share a bird on the blog and on Facebook. We have prepared lots of great birds from around the world, and each one has been requested by someone who contacted us.

As usual, we will also post a preview image each day so you can guess what the next bird will be. Here's the first one. This supercute bird is very small and can be found in Cuba:

Birdorable Wild Turkey

If you live in the United States then you will probably be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. And like many families, chances are you will have a turkey on the table. But what do you really know about these birds? Did you know that Wild Turkeys sleep in trees, can fly up to 55 miles per hour, and that they’re highly intelligent and social animals? Here are some cool facts about one of the most famous birds in North America.

  • Many people think that, because they are so heavy, turkeys are slow and that they stick to the ground. But in fact Wild Turkeys have powerful legs and can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly as fast as 55 miles per hour.
  • Wild Turkeys sleep in trees. Even domesticated birds try to sleep in trees when they get the chance. This keeps them safe from predators, such as coyotes, foxes and raccoons, as not only people have a taste for turkey.
17
Turkey in a tree by allison.hare (CC BY 2.0)
  • Male turkeys are substantially larger than females. They look different too: the male’s feathers are iridescent red, green, copper, bronze, purple and gold, while the female is much duller overall and mostly brown and grey. This difference is called sexual dimorphism.
  • A turkey’s gender can be determined by its droppings! Males produce spiral-shaped poop, while females produce “J” shaped poop. Also, the diameter of the droppings increase as the turkey gets older.
  • A popular story is that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird, instead of the Bald Eagle, but this is actually not quite true -- at least not officially. Back in 1784, Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter disapproving of a drawing that had been produced of an eagle that looked liked a turkey and that such a bird would actually be preferable to the eagle as national symbol. As Franklin explained, the Bald Eagle had a “bad moral character” and was a “rank coward” that merely steals its food from other birds. So while it is true that he floated the idea that the turkey might be a better bird for a national symbol, it was only in this personal letter and in relation to the drawing. He never actually advocated this notion publicly.
Wild Turkeys #2
Wild Turkeys by Charley Day (CC BY-ND 2.0)
  • Did you know that male turkeys have “beards”? Male turkeys are called gobblers and the hairlike bristles that grow from the center of their chest get about 9 inches in length. In some populations 10 to 20% of females have a beard too, although it’s usually shorter and thinner than that of the male.
  • The color of the Turkey’s head and throat changes depending on its mood. It can change from gray to shades of red, white and blue when the bird is excited or distressed. During mating season, the male’s wattle turns a scarlet red. The fleshy object over the male’s beak is called a ‘snood’.

Snood, wattle and beard of a turkey

  • The gizzard, which is part of the turkey’s stomach, contains tiny stones that the bird previously swallowed. Also known as gastroliths, these little stones help the bird to digest its food, since birds don’t have teeth. They actually have two stomachs. The first is called the glandular stomach, where food is broken down. After this the food entered the turkey’s gizzard. 
  • A turkey has 5000 to 6000 feathers. 18 of those are tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan.
Wild Turkey 2 3-7-15
Wild Turkeys by Larry Smith (CC BY 2.0)
  • Each turkey has a unique voice, allowing birds in a group to recognize each other. Turkeys create lasting social bonds and are very affectionate. The turkey’s gobble can be heard a mile away. Only males gobble. The females, or hens, communicate through clucks and small chirp-like noises.
  • Turkeys have very good geographic skills and are able to learn the precise details of an area over 1,000 acres in size.

Looking for something to do this Thanksgiving while the rest of the family is preparing dinner or watching a football game? Then grab your crayons and start coloring because we have a great coloring page for you with our cute cartoon Wild Turkey! Show your love for Wild Turkeys with this coloring page from Birdorable and have a wonderful day tomorrow with your friends and family.

Birdorable Happy Thanksgiving coloring page

This week's featured t-shirt is this women's American Apparel long sleeve tee featuring our Birdorable Cinereous Vulture, also known as the Eurasian Black Vulture, a huge bird of prey that can be found in parts of Europe and Asia. This shirt is available in 6 different colors: white, black, pink, navy, light blue and brown, as shown here. This design is also available on many other t-shirt and apparel styles and colors. Check out our range of other products featuring the Cinereous Vulture.

">Birdorable Cinereous Vulture Women's American Apparel Fine Jersey Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Supurb Fairy Wrens

Sexual dimorphism refers to observable differences between males and females of the same species. In basic terms, it means that a male of a species is easily distinguished from a female. In birds this usually means differences in size or in plumage. It can also be noted in behavior differences and other traits.

Earlier on this blog we talked about the extreme sexual dimorphism in Eclectus Parrots, where males and females show extreme differences in their plumage: males are bright green while females are shades of red and blue.

Sexual dimorphism exists in most species of raptor. In birds of prey, males are often smaller than the females of the species. However, this is often difficult to discern in wild birds, especially if seen at a distance or when only one bird is present.

Many common birds also exhibit sexual dimorphism. Male ducks are often colorful, while females tend to be drab. You can see this in the common Mallard.

Mallard ducks
Mallard ducks by Connor Mah (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In songbirds, males may be brightly colored while females have a similar plumage with more muted tones, as seen in Baltimore Orioles, American Robins, Eastern Towhees, and Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Eastern Towhee, female and male
Eastern Towhees: female (left) by Brian Henderson (CC BY-NC 2.0), male (right) by Dendroica cerulea (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In other birds, like the Eclectus Parrot mentioned above, the plumage differences are extreme. Examples of this can also be seen in the Superb Fairywren of Australia, and the Sage Grouse.

Can you think of other bird species where the male is easily told apart from the female? Do you have birds like this where you live? What about birds that aren't sexually dimorphic? Can you think of species where male and females are impossible to tell apart by looking at them?

Birdorable Designs Featuring Sexual Dimorphism

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 Barn Swallow. Barn Swallows build a nest of mud, often on a man-made structure. Both the male and female build the nest, which is fortified with blades of grass. The nest is then lined with softer material, like grass and feathers. The baby birds hatch after about two weeks of incubation, and fledge from the nest after another three weeks or so.

Barn Swallow nest Colorado Springs 11 July 2010
Barn swallow nest (CC BY 2.0)
Barn Swallow in the Nest
Barn swallow in the nest (CC BY 2.0)
Baby Barn Swallows
Baby barn swallos (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pointy-haired boss
Barn swallow fledling (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mama barn swallow feeds her little ones
Mama barn swallow feeds her little ones (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Barn Swallows
Barn swallows (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Barn-Swallow Rauchschwalbe (Hirundo rustica) I
Barn swallow nest (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Barn Swallows 1
Barn swallows (CC BY 2.0)
Baby Barn Swallows
Baby barn swallows (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Young Barn Swalllows
Young barn swallows (CC BY 2.0)
Barn Swallow
Barn swallow (CC BY 2.0)

Cute Barn Swallow Gifts from Birdorable