Blog Archive: 2019

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.

Birdorable American Robin

Bird Term: Oology

May 24th, 2019 in Bird Terms 1 comment

Oology is the study of bird eggs. It also refers to the study of bird nests and breeding behavior. Oology can also refer to the hobby of egg collecting, which is illegal in many locations.

Early scientific ornithological study often involved collecting birds by shooting them to study their anatomy and plumage up close. It also involved the collection and study of their eggs. Scientists studying the difference between samples of Pergrine Falcon eggs over time were able to identify DDT usage as the cause of a decline in raptor populations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Egg collecting as a hobby remained popular as the scientific value of this type of study declined. This was extremely popular especially in the United Kingdom, though the hobby was denounced by the British Ornithologists' Union as early as 1922. Although UK laws have made the amateur hobby collection of eggs illegal since 1954, oologists continue to pursue the hobby by collecting eggs. Egg collecting is illegal in many other jurisdictions as well, including the United States.

Read more:

Bird egg illustrations
Bird egg illustrations by Biodiversity Heritage Library (CC BY 2.0)
Blue eggs in robin next
Robin nest with eggs by gardener41 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
House Finch eggs
House Finch nest with eggs by John Flannery (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mallard nest
Mallard nest with eggs by Jeremy Halls (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Birdorable Adelie Penguin

Birdy April Fools' Day Shenanigans

April 1st, 2019 in Funny, Holidays No comments

Traditionally, April Fools' Day is a time to play pranks, share hoaxes, and tell jokes. April Fool stories published by newspapers and other media outlets may trick readers into believing tall tales -- until they realize the date. Here are some bird-themed funnies that have come out on April Fools' Days in the past.

A lot of April Fool jokes involving crazy bird stories originated from photo manipulation -- an old-fahsioned version of "photoshopping". Examples of this include a German paper exposing a penguin as tall as a man in 1931; that time in 1941 when a newspaper revealed a military plan to plant bombs on crows; and the strange and silly rare human-legged ostrich that reportedly puzzled scientists in 1953 Australia.

Google is known to reveal a prank each April Fools' Day, often involving a new product or service in their technology offering. In 2002 they introduced PigeonRank to the world, exposing the truth behind their search technology. Pigeon Clusters (PCs) were the true power Google used to rank and sort web pages. The somewhat elaborate story behind PigeonRank was shared in detail, including graphs and diagrams and a FAQ.

A popular video was released by the BBC in April Fools' Day 2008 which showed Adelie Penguins taking flight. At the time it was one of the most viewed internet videos.

A mysterious physical April Fools' Day prank was played on the town of Portage, Wisconsin in 2012. Plastic lawn geese dressed in different outfits were placed around businesses, homes, and services in the city. In all, 132 geese were found. Although the perpetrators were not made known, no one who received a goose seemed to mind. Read this extremely wholesome newspaper report on the incident.

Then there was that time when we revealed a new species of crane that was discovered in South America. We even shared a colorful Birdorable image of the new species, which we dubbed the Painted Crane (Grus pictus). This April Fool prank came out just as we were celebrating Crane Week -- it was an incredible coincidence!

Birdorable Painted Crane

Watch out for more pranks and hoaxes as you go about your day and keep in mind the date! Happy April Fools' Day!

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)