Mastering the Water's Surface: 10 Facts on Black Skimmers

Birdorable Black Skimmers
  1. Black Skimmers are fascinating birds, known for their unique feeding method. They glide over water, using their elongated lower mandibles to skim the surface and catch fish. This specialized technique is a marvel of nature's design.
  2. Interestingly, baby Black Skimmers are born with upper and lower mandibles of the same length. It's only during the fledging period that the lower mandible grows longer, preparing them for their distinctive way of foraging.
  3. Among the world's bird species, there are only three types of skimmers, and the Black Skimmer is the only one found in the Americas. This makes it a special sight for bird enthusiasts across North and South America.
  4. Parental care in Black Skimmers is a joint effort. Both males and females share the duty of incubating the eggs. Impressively, male Black Skimmers are equipped with brood patches, which is quite rare among birds. After the chicks hatch, both parents continue to brood and feed the nestlings, showcasing a remarkable example of cooperation.
  5. The Black Skimmer has earned a variety of folk names over the years, including Seadog, Scissor-bill, and Cutwater. These names highlight the bird's unique appearance and feeding habits.
  6. While Black Skimmers are active throughout the day, they are mainly crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. This behavior allows them to efficiently feed when fish come closer to the water's surface.
  7. One of the most intriguing features of Black Skimmers is their large, vertically-oriented pupils, similar to those of cats. This adaptation is unique among birds and helps them see in low light, aiding their crepuscular feeding habits.
  8. Despite their strong association with water, Black Skimmers do not swim. They have adapted to feed and live near water without the need for swimming capabilities.
  9. The BP Oil Spill Disaster in 2010 posed a significant threat to the Black Skimmer population along the Gulf Coast. Their feeding method, which involves skimming the water's surface, made them especially vulnerable to oil contamination. The disaster resulted in the death of 192 skimmers, as noted by the FWS, highlighting the environmental risks these birds face.
  10. The Black Skimmer has been embraced by bird lovers around the world and was added to the Birdorable collection on December 2nd, 2010. This addition celebrates the bird's unique charm and the affection it inspires among birdwatching communities.

Cute Black Skimmer Gifts

10 Fascinating Facts About the Pied-billed Grebe

Birdorable Pied-billed Grebe

Dive into the intriguing world of the Pied-billed Grebe, a fascinating bird that might not grab headlines but certainly deserves a moment in the spotlight. Here are 10 captivating facts about this modest avian marvel:

  1. Pied-billed Grebes are Excellent Swimmers: These birds are adapted to life in the water, using their lobed feet to propel themselves with ease when diving for fish and insects.

  2. Their Bills Change Color: In the breeding season, the bill of the Pied-billed Grebe turns a distinctive white with a black band, earning them their "pied" name.

  3. Grebes Sink to Escape Danger: Unlike most birds that take flight, Pied-billed Grebes can sink quietly into the water to avoid predators, disappearing without a trace.

  4. They are Poor Flyers: While capable of flight, Pied-billed Grebes are rarely seen doing so. Their strong legs are set far back on their body, making takeoffs awkward and landings splashy.

  5. Pied-billed Grebes are Solitary Birds: Outside of breeding season, they prefer to keep to themselves, often seen alone on ponds and lakes.

  6. Their Vocalizations are Unique: The calls of Pied-billed Grebes include a series of loud, cuckoo-like calls and a strange, pumping noise.

  7. Baby Grebes Can Swim at Birth: Almost immediately after hatching, Pied-billed Grebe chicks are in the water, swimming under the watchful eyes of their parents.

  8. They Eat Their Own Feathers: Both adults and chicks consume feathers, which help prevent injury from fish bones and form a plug in the stomach to trap and digest bones more efficiently.

  9. Pied-billed Grebes Build Floating Nests: Their nests are anchored to plants in the water, providing safety from predators and rising water levels.

  10. They Have a Wide Range: Pied-billed Grebes can be found across the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, adapting to various freshwater habitats.

The Pied-billed Grebe might not be as flashy as some of its avian counterparts, but its unique characteristics and behaviors make it a remarkable species worthy of attention and admiration. Whether you're a seasoned birdwatcher or new to the avian world, keeping an eye out for these intriguing creatures can add an exciting element to your next outdoor adventure.

Pied-billed Grebe by Susan Young (public domain)

Cute Pied-billed Grebe Gifts

From Fruit Fanatics to Wax Tips: Cool Facts about Cedar Waxwings

Birdorable Cedar Waxwing in tree with berries

Cedar Waxwings boast a range of unique features and behaviors that set them apart in the bird world. From their distinctive appearance to their unusual dietary habits, here are some cool facts about the Cedar Waxwing, offering a glimpse into their lives and habits:

  • Waxy Red Tips: Cedar Waxwings are named for the distinctive waxy red tips on their secondary feathers, which increase in number and size as they age.
  • Fruit Lovers: These birds have a strong preference for fruit and can survive on a fruit-only diet for several months.
  • Cowbird Chicks Struggle: Brown-headed Cowbirds that hatch in Cedar Waxwing nests often don't survive due to the high-fruit diet of the Waxwings.
  • Intoxicated Behavior: Waxwings can become drunk from eating overripe, fermenting berries, sometimes leading to flocks colliding with windows.
  • Unique Vocalization: Cedar Waxwings don't sing traditional songs but communicate with quiet trilling or buzzing sounds.
  • Tail Band Coloration: While typically yellow, some Cedar Waxwings developed orange tail bands in the 1960s in the northeastern U.S., a change attributed to non-native honeysuckle berries in their diet.
  • Polite Eating Habits: These birds eat in shifts, with one group feeding first before giving way to the next, displaying more courteous behavior than most birds.
  • Group Names: A group of waxwings is called an "ear-full" or a "museum" of waxwings.
  • Birdorable Feature: The Cedar Waxwing has been a part of the Birdorable collection since September 2006. Check out our cute waxwing t-shirts and gifts!

Yes, vultures can be cute - our Birdorable vultures prove just that! Although vultures may be known for eating dead things, using projectile vomit as a defense measure and even cooling themselves by urinating on their own legs, these carrion-eating baldies aren't all about the ick-factor. For example:

Egyptian Vulture
  1. The Egyptian Vulture is one of the few species of bird to use tools. It will lift small rocks in its beak and smash them into ostrich eggs to crack the hard shell. Clever birds!
  2. While Lammergeiers don't use tools, they do have a clever way to get at their favorite food. They will drop large bones while flying in order to crack them into pieces. With clever strategies like that, who needs tools?!
  3. Several vulture species lack vocal organs so they are only able to hiss or grunt. No screaming banshees here!
  4. Several species including the Turkey Vulture are extremely gregarious. Birds will roost in large community groups which may include several hundred individuals. The vulture's motto: We Are Fa-mi-ly!
Birdorable California Condor
  1. California Condors are especially fastidious and may spend hours a day preening their feathers. Beauty queens!
  2. Courting Turkey Vultures will gather in a circle to perform hopping movements around the perimeter, with wings spread. Yes, they put on the dance moves to attract a sweetheart!
  3. The Rüppell's Vulture holds the height record for avian flight, with the ability to fly up to an altitude of 37,000 feet. These birds have their place in the avian extreme games!
  4. Vultures often remain inactive until the sun has warmed up the air with sufficient thermals to support soaring. These sleepyheads need the sun to get going on their day's work. I know some people like that!
  5. The Palm-nut Vulture is so named because its favorite food is the nut of the Oil Palm tree. A veg-loving vulture!
  6. The Cinereous Vulture is also known as the Monk Vulture, because its ruff of neck feathers resembles a monk's cowl. Even vultures get funny nicknames.
  7. Often vultures gorge so much they can’t fly. Vultures know how to pig out, and they aren't afraid to do it!
  8. The Turkey Vulture can glide for over six hours without flapping a wing. Another extreme avian sports contender, category: endurance.
  9. California Condors and several other vulture species mate for life. How romantic!
  10. The Hooded Vulture is abundant through most of its range and is usually unafraid of humans. They are sometimes called "garbage collectors" by locals. In fact all vultures are nature's original waste managers!
  11. Like many wildlife species vultures have suffered from loss of habitat and illegal hunting. Several vulture species have suffered up to a 99% population decrease in India and neighboring countries due to poisoning from livestock pharmaceuticals.

That last trivia point is not actually one of our favorites, but it is an unfortunate fact. Today is International Vulture Awareness Day 2009, which promotes vulture conservation. This post is part of the Blog for Vultures carnival coinciding with IVAD09. Learn more about vultures, vulture conservation and awareness by visiting the other participants in today's virtual event. Click on the nifty badge below to learn more!

Fun Adelie Penguin Facts

Birdorable Adelie Penguins

Here are some fun facts about the Adélie Penguin, a species that captures the essence of the Antarctic's unique wildlife:

  • The Adélie Penguin holds the distinction of being the smallest penguin species residing in the Antarctic. Despite their diminutive size, they are hardy and well-adapted to the harsh conditions of their icy habitat.
  • Known for their southern breeding range, Adélie Penguins nest and raise their chicks farther south than any other penguin species, showcasing their incredible adaptability to extreme cold.
  • These resilient birds have a lifespan that can reach up to 20 years old, demonstrating remarkable endurance in one of the planet's most challenging environments.
  • Adélie Penguin colonies vary widely in size, ranging from as few as 100 pairs to as many as 250,000 pairs. These large congregations highlight their social nature and the importance of community for survival.
  • Globally, there are approximately 5 million Adélie Penguins, spread across 38 different colonies. While this number may seem large, it's worth noting that over the last 25 years, their population has decreased by 65%. This decline is attributed to factors like sea ice reduction and food scarcity.
  • The Adélie Penguin was named in 1840 by French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, who chose to honor his wife, Adélie, with this nomenclature.
  • Adélie Penguins have made appearances in popular culture, most notably in animated films. They are presumed to be the penguin characters in the 2005 film "Madagascar." In the 2006 movie "Happy Feet," the main character, an Emperor Penguin, befriends a group of Adélie Penguins, uniquely characterized by a Mexican accent.

These fascinating facts about Adélie Penguins offer a glimpse into the life of one of Antarctica's most charming inhabitants, highlighting both their unique characteristics and the challenges they face in an ever-changing environment.

Adelie Penguins photo

Adelie Penguins by Gregory Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Cute Adelie Penguin Gifts

10 Cool Facts about Snowy Owls

Here are ten fun facts about the Snowy Owl. Don't forget to check out our customizable Snowy Owl t-shirts and gifts and other cute Birdorable owls.

  1. Snowy Owls are diurnal, which means that unlike most other owls they are active and hunt during the day and night.
  2. The diet of Snowy Owls consists mainly of lemmings. They are known to sit and wait for their prey and spend most of their time perched still and silent on prominent lookouts.
  3. Lemming populations are cyclic and in years when lemming populations are down Snowy Owls often leave the arctic regions and fly south in search of food. Because of this, about once every four years Snowy Owls are found as far south as the northern and central United States.
  4. An adult Snowy Owl can eat three to five lemmings per day, or up to 1,600 per year.
  5. The feathers of Snowy Owls have no pigment, leaving more space for air which helps them to keep warmer because air is such a good insulator.
  6. Their legs and toes are heavily feathered to protect them from the harsh weather in cold arctic regions.
  7. Snowy Owls often hang out at airports, perhaps because the wide open spaces remind them of the tundra.
  8. Although Snowy Owls have few predators, they still have to be watchful of arctic foxes, wolves and other animals during the nesting season. Males defend the nest by standing guard nearby while the female incubates the eggs and broods the young. When a predator approaches both parents will dive-bomb (even wolves!) and try to distract them away from the nest.
  9. The Snowy Owl is also known as the Arctic Owl or Great White Owl. A group of owls has many different names, including a bazaar, glaring, parliament, stooping and a wisdom of owls.
  10. The breeding range of the Snowy Owl is circumpolar, ranging across the northern regions of Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Alaskia and Canada.

Birdorable Snowy Owl Gifts

A Gaggle of Facts: The Fascinating World of Canada Geese

Birdorable Canada Geese on the water side

Did you know that the familiar honk of the Canada Goose is just one of an impressive array of about 13 different calls? These vocalizations vary from loud alarm calls to soft sounds made between mates and family members. But their communication skills are honed long before these geese even hatch. In a remarkable display of early bird chatter, goslings begin to interact with their parents while still in the egg, a process known as 'pipping'.

Here are some more cool facts about the Canada Goose:

Early Bird Conversations

Even before they hatch, Canada Geese are beginning to find their voice. Goslings start to communicate with their parents while still encased within the egg. This early interaction, known as 'pipping,' is crucial for parent-offspring bonding and ensures that the goslings can hit the ground running—or waddling—once they hatch.

Homeward Bound

Loyalty is a hallmark of the Canada Goose, which returns to the same region, sometimes even the exact nest, as their parents did every year. This remarkable homing instinct ties generations of geese to a particular locale, sometimes leading to nests being used continuously over many years by the same family lineage.

Formation Flyers

The V-shaped flying pattern of migrating Canada Geese is not just visually stunning; it's also aerodynamically efficient. By flying in a 'V,' geese conserve energy, drafting in the wake of the bird in front of them. This technique allows some flocks to cover up to 4,000 miles during migration—a testament to their endurance and the strength of their communal bonds.

A Diverse Family

While often seen as a singular species, Canada Geese actually boast eleven different subspecies. These range significantly in size, from the small cackling goose, which can weigh as little as three pounds, to the larger subspecies that can tip the scales at twenty pounds. Such diversity reflects the adaptability of these geese to a variety of habitats and climates.

Global Residents

Canada Geese have a natural range that extends far beyond the borders of Canada. These intrepid explorers have been found as far afield as western Europe, eastern Siberia, eastern China, and Japan. Their expansion across continents highlights their adaptability and the ease with which they can find a home in a variety of landscapes.

Birdorable celebrates the Canada Goose with designs that showcase the bird's charm and appeal, making the intricate world of these feathered wanderers accessible and endearing to all. Whether you're a dedicated birdwatcher or a casual nature lover, the life of the Canada Goose is full of awe-inspiring facts that reflect the wonders of the avian world.

Canada Goose by Michael (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

From their complex communication to their incredible migratory journeys, Canada Geese are a symbol of the wilderness and a reminder of the intricate patterns woven into the fabric of the natural world. These birds, which have expanded their range to include western Europe, eastern Siberia, eastern China, and Japan, continue to fascinate and inspire us with their resilience and grace.

Birdorable celebrates these majestic birds with designs that capture their essence in a cute and accessible way. Whether you're a bird enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, Canada Geese have many lessons to teach us, and their stories are worth sharing.

Cute Canada Goose Gifts