Birdorable Western Gull and Pallas's Gull

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.

Pallas's and Western Gull Gifts

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!

Birdorable 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.

Elf Owl
Photo by BBODO

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 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.

Photo of a Bulwer's Pheasant
Drawing of a Bulwer's Pheasant

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?

Birdorable Boat-billed Heron

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.

Boat-billed Heron
Photo by Amir Matityahu (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius)
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?

Cute Boat-billed Heron Gifts

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!

Birdorable 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.

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Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage by nigel (CC BY 2.0)
Black-Bellied Plover, Winter Plumage. Barnegat N.J.
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?

2015 Bonanza Bird #21

Getting to Know the Azure Tit: A Resident Bird of Eurasia

Birdorable Azure Tit

Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition is drawing to a close, but the excitement continues as we introduce more delightful birds! Today, we're thrilled to showcase a charming little bird from the family of titmice and chickadees: the Azure Tit!

Azure Tits are small songbirds with a striking appearance, native to parts of Russia and Central Asia. Primarily resident birds, they tend to stay within their range throughout the year, not undertaking long migratory journeys. Their close relationship with titmice and chickadees is evident in their behavior and adorable appearance, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts.

The Azure Tit's habitat is quite diverse, encompassing various types of forests, including cultivated areas like orchards and gardens. This adaptability allows them to thrive in different environments. Their diet is as varied as their habitat, consisting of a mix of insects and plant material, providing them with the necessary nutrients to flourish.

During the non-breeding season, Azure Tits often join mixed foraging flocks. These flocks can include other tit species and even warblers, demonstrating their sociable nature and ability to collaborate with other bird species in search of food.

When it comes to nesting, the Azure Tit displays remarkable versatility. They prefer nesting in cavities, which can range from natural holes in trees to man-made structures or even nooks in rock piles. The female Azure Tit skillfully constructs the nest cup inside the chosen cavity, carefully lining it with soft materials like animal fur and moss to ensure a cozy environment for her eggs.

Photo of an Azure Tit

Azure Tit by Francesco Veronesi (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

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?

Cute Azure Tit Gifts from Birdorable

Birdorable Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees are large sparrows found in western parts of North America. They are closely related to the Eastern Towhee. In fact, the Eastern Towhee and Spotted Towhee were once considered to be subspecies of a single species: the Rufous-sided Towhee. Today the Spotted Towhee has at least 20 recognized subspecies of its own.

The Spotted Towhee spends a lot of its time close to the ground. They nest in low bushes or directly on the ground. Feeding also occurs mostly on the ground. They forage for insects like beetles and crickets, as well as plant material like seeds and fruits, by scratching through leaf litter.

Some Spotted Towhees migrate, while others are sedentary throughout the year. Birds in interior parts of their range tend to migrate with the changing of the seasons; coastal birds tend to reside in the same location year-round. Depending on food resources, some non-migratory Spotted Towhees may make altitudinal movements throughout the year.

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee by Jan Arendtsz (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee by Andy Morffew (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Tomorrow's bird is a small songbird with a white head that can be found across parts of Russia and Central Asia. It is in the same family as titmice and chickadees. Can you guess what it is?

Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition rolls on today with an unusual species of grouse from South America: the Helmeted Curassow!

Birdorable Helmeted Curassow

Helmeted Curassows are large grouse found in the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes Mountains. They can be found in subtropical cloud forest habitat. Their diet primarily consists of seeds and fruits. They will also feed insects and small animals.

The Helmeted Curassow is recognized by the large blue-grey casque, or "helmet", on its forehead. This unsual feature gives the species its name. Both males and females have the casque and look alike. A rare color morph can be found in some females where the plumage is rufous with barring.

Helmeted Curassows are considered to be Endangered by the IUCN. Their current range is heavily segmented along the eastern Andes mountains in Venezuela and Colombia and the species faces major threats from habitat loss and hunting.

Northern Helmeted Curassow
Photo by Jason Wesley Upton (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Helmeted Curassow
Helmeted Curassow by Jean (CC BY 2.0)

The Helmeted Curassow joins Birdorable today as our 635th cute cartoon bird. Be sure to check out our selection of apparel and gifts featuring our Birdorable Helmeted Curassow.

Tomorrow our Bonanza will reveal a spotted species of sparrow. Can you guess tomorrow's species?

Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition rolls on today with a large species of eagle: the White-bellied Sea Eagle!

Birdorable White-bellied Sea Eagle

White-bellied Sea Eagles are large birds of prey found across parts of Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Indian Subcontinent. It is found in both coastal and inland habitats.

The White-bellied Sea Eagle is also known as White-breasted Sea Eagle. Like many birds of prey, this species is an opportunistic carnivore. The diet is extremely varied and includes aquatic animals like fish and turtles. They take other prey items, including land animals like opossum, as well as birds. White-bellied Sea Eagles also readily consume carrion and will even steal food items from other predatory birds.

The White-bellied Sea Eagle is considered to be culturally significant across several communities within their geographic range. Some indigenous tribes in Australia thought the bird to be a guardian animal. Traditional tales from groups on the Andaman Islands and in some Malaysian communities include the White-bellied Sea Eagle in their mythology.

Photo point- white bellied sea eagle
White-bellied Sea Eagle by shankar s. (CC BY 2.0)
white bellied sea eagle 6Photo by Jim Bendon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The White-bellied Sea Eagle joins Birdorable today as our 634th cute cartoon bird. Tomorrow's bird is from the same family as one of the birds we featured earlier this month, but this one has a helmet on. Can you guess what it will be?

Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues today with a beautiful and colorful sea duck: the Harlequin Duck!

Birdorable Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks are very beautiful sea ducks found along coastal waters across North America and eastern Asia. The species prefers fast-moving water and will frequently breed near fast-flowing streams.

The male Harlequin Duck has a striking plumage for which the species is named. Harlequin was a colorful masked character from an Italian style of improvisational comedy theater called "commedia dell'arte". Harlequin was a relatively late addition to the art form, and was popularized when the theater movement gained success in France.

The Harlequin Duck's colorful plumage gives it a lot of interesting alternative local names, including Painted Duck, Totem Pole Duck, White-eyed Diver, and Blue Streak. They have also earned the nicknames Sea Mouse and Squeaker from one of their more un-ducklike high-pitched vocalizations.

Harlequin Ducks feed by diving or by dabbling. They will take marine invertebrates, fish, and aquatic insects as prey. Algae and seeds may also be consumed.

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Harlequin Duck by peggycadigan (CC BY 2.0)
Harlequin Duck
Harlequin Duck by Matt Tillett (CC BY 2.0)

The Harlequin Duck is our 633rd Birdorable bird. Be sure to check out our collection of apparel and gifts featuring the Birdorable Harlequin Duck!

Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with the largest bird of prey of Australia. Can you guess tomorrow's species?