Two new birds in the gull family Laridae join Birdorable this week! We've added the Pallas's Gull and the Western Gull to our cute cartoon bird family.
The Pallas's Gull is one of the largest species of gull in the world. It is a so-called "black-headed" gull because it is one of several species of gull that develops a fully black head during breeding season. An alternative name for this bird is the Great Black-headed Gull. They can weigh over four and a half pounds as full adults! Only the Great Black-backed Gull and Glaucous Gull average larger.
This bird is named after the prolific naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who has several other species named in his honor, including Pallas's Cat, Pallas's Squirrel, and Pallas's Tube-nosed Bat.
The Western Gull is another large species of gull -- they can weigh in at three pounds or more. This is a "white-headed" gull found along the Pacific coast of North America. Western Gulls feed on the ocean, taking prey like squid, fish, and jellyfish on the surface since they are unable to dive. Western Gulls will also feed on carcasses of large marine mammals like sea lions, and opportunistically take food items like snails and starfish in intertidal habitats.
The San Francisco Giants have experienced problems with flocks of Western Gulls visiting their stadium in the late innings of baseball games. They presumably come to feed on refuse left in the stands by fans, but before the game is over flocks visiting the park poop on fans and swarm the playing field. The native birds are protected by federal law, although the Giants could get the gulls to disperse with the help of a falconer.
For the last 25 days we have been unveiling a new bird here and on our Facebook page every day until Christmas. Today's final bird in our Birdorable Bonanza: Advent Edition is the Elf Owl!
Elf Owls are tiny owls native to parts of Mexico and the southwestern United States. They are the world's lightest owls among the smallest. These little cuties are cavity nesters, using old woodpecker holes excavated in hardwood trees or saguaro cactus.
Despite their size, Elf Owls are still fierce birds of prey, hunting for all of their meals. They feed on a variety of insets as well as small lizards, snakes, and even infant mammals like baby rats.
Some Elf Owls migrate, while others are year-round residents. Birds that breed in the southwestern United States fly south for the winter. Birds that live in Baja California are non-migratory permanent residents in their territory.
Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition is starting to wind down. Today, on Christmas Eve, we reveal our second-to-last Bonanza bird: the Bulwer's Pheasant!
Bulwer's Pheasants are wildly plumaged chicken-sized birds endemic to Borneo in southeast Asia. They are found in highland tropical forest habitat, where they feed on ants, termites, seeds, and more. This species has several alternate names, including Bulwer's Wattled Pheasant, Bulwer's Fireback, and White-tailed Wattled Pheasant.
Bulwer's Pheasants exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism -- male and female plumage varies significantly. Male Bulwer's Pheasants, like our cute Birdorable version here, have an unmistakable plumage. They have long and puffy white tails. They also have amazing bright blue facial wattles which can be distended during mating rituals. Females, however, have a mostly dull brown plumage.
We've almost reached the end of our 25 day Bonanza! Tomorrow's bird is is a small owl that lives in the United States and Canada with a somewhat Christmasy name. Can you guess what it is?
Boat-billed Herons are medium-sized herons found in parts of Central and South America. They live in mangrove forests and feed on a wide variety of food items, including tidal fare like shrimp, insects, and fish.
The Boat-billed Heron is named for its large and wide scoop-like bill. The top of the bill resembles the underside of a boat. The species is also known simply as the Boatbill.
Boat-billed Herons are known for their courtship rituals. Pair-bonding displays include mock fighting, head crest raising and lowering, and bill duels.
Photo by Amir Matityahu (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo by Bernard DUPONT (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Tomorrow's bird is a wildly plumaged chicken-sized bird endemic to Borneo. Males have bright blue facial wattles. Can you guess what it is?
Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition has just has a few more days to go! Today's new bird is a widespread species of plover: the Black-bellied Plover!
Black-bellied Plovers are medium-sized shorebirds that breed in the high Arctic, in tundra habitat. During the winter months, this migratory species can be found along ocean coasts all around the world.
Black-bellied Plovers feed on insects and some plant material while breeding on the Arctic tundra. Their winter diet is very different, with coastal prey like crustaceans, marine worms and more on the menu.
Black-bellied Plovers change their look along with their location throughout the year. Breeding adult plovers have a striking black and white pattern on the back with a white-bordered black belly, breast, neck, and face. During the winter the plumage is much more subdued, with greyish upperparts and dull white underparts. Outside of North America the species is known as the Grey Plover.
Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage by nigel (CC BY 2.0)
Black-bellied Plover in winter plumage by Peter Massas (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Black-bellied Plover joins Birdorable today as our 638th cute cartoon bird. Be sure to check out our selection of apparel and gifts featuring our Birdorable Black-bellied Plover.
Tomorrow our Bonanza will reveal a type of heron with a very wide bill. Can you guess tomorrow's species?
Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition just has a few more days to go! Today we reveal a little cutie from the same family as chickadees: the Azure Tit!
Azure Tits are small songbirds found across parts of Russia and central Asia. For the most part they are resident birds (non-migratory) throughout their range. This little cutie-pie is in the same family as titmice and chickadees.
The Azure Tit is found in many different types of forested habitat, including cultivated lands like orchards and gardens. Azure Tits feed on a varied diet, which inlcudes both insects and plant material. Outside of breeding season, they will feed in mixed foraging flocks which may contain other species of tit as well as warblers.
Azure Tits nest in cavities. They use holes in trees but also other cavities like inside man-made structures or even in a nook in a pile of rocks. Female Azure Tits construct the nest cup inside the cavity, lining it with soft material like animal fur and moss.
Azure Tit by Jargal Lamjav (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Azure Tit by Anita Szeicz (CC BY-ND 2.0)
The Azure Tit joins Birdorable today as our 637th cute cartoon bird. Be sure to check out our selection of apparel and gifts featuring our Birdorable Azure Tit.
Tomorrow our Bonanza will reveal a widespread species of shorebird that is named for the color of its belly during the breeding season. Can you guess tomorrow's species?