Celebrate Earth Day with our feathered friends at Birdorable! We've created a collection of shareable Birdorable graphics featuring some of the world's most beloved birds. These cute and colorful images are perfect for spreading awareness and joy on social media. Whether you're an avid birder or just a nature lover, these graphics are sure to brighten your feed and inspire your friends and followers to cherish and protect our Earth. Let's tweet, post, and share our way to a more bird-friendly world this Earth Day! 🌎 πŸ’š πŸŒπŸ’šπŸŒ

This colorful image is teeming with a host of cute Birdorable birds from around the globe. From the Bald Eagle and Hoopoe to the Kakapo and Andean Condor, birds from around the world come together to celebrate Earth Day. 

Celebrate Earth Day with this huge crowd of feathered friends by sharing our "Happy Earth Day" graphic from Birdorable! Let the world know you care about our birds and the earth we all call home with this Birdorable shareable graphic celebrating Earth Day! 

The image has over 30 different Birdorable birds from around the globe, such as the friendly American Robin, the majestic Bateleur, the vibrant Spix's Macaw, and the elegant Sarus Crane. It's an ideal addition to your Facebook or Instagram feed to spread awareness and join in the global celebration of our planet.

As the night sky glows with city lights, it's easy to forget that this artificial brightness affects more than just our ability to see the stars. It also poses a significant challenge to millions of migratory birds traveling under the cover of darkness. Each year, vast numbers of birds traverse long distances, relying on natural cues like starlight to navigate. Excessive lighting in urban areas can disorient these nocturnal travelers, leading to fatal window collisions, disorientation, and unnecessary exhaustion. To combat this problem, some cities around the world have adopted "Lights Out" programs, a crucial initiative aimed at making urban environments safer for migrating birds during key periods of their journey.

The concept of "Lights Out" is simple -- yet effective. During peak migration seasons, spring and fall, residents, businesses, and city officials are encouraged to turn off or dim non-essential exterior lighting and window lighting during overnight hours. This reduction in light pollution during critical hours helps decrease the chances of birds being attracted to and disoriented by the lighting, which can lead to collisions with buildings.

Cities like Chicago, Toronto, and New York have been pioneers in this movement. These programs are often run in collaboration with local Audubon societies or wildlife organizations, which help monitor bird populations and advocate for policies that protect these aerial travelers. For example, New York City's "Lights Out New York" initiative is part of a broader effort that includes public awareness campaigns and partnerships with prominent buildings throughout the city to dim their lights during migration periods.

White-throated Sparrow in Chicago by Ryan Dickey [CC BY 2.0 Deed]

The impact of such initiatives can be profound. Research indicates that turning off lights can significantly reduce the number of birds killed due to building collisions. For instance, a study in Chicago found that bird collision deaths dropped by 80% in one building that participated in a Lights Out program (source). But complying with the program during the entirety of migration is key. This same building, McCormick Place, was also the site of a mass bird-collision event in October 2023 when the lights were not turned off as part of the program. Complying with bird-safe Lights Out programs has added benefits, including such as energy conservation, reduced carbon emissions, and building maintenance cost-savings.

Participation in "Lights Out" programs also serves an educational purpose. These programs raise awareness about the plights of migratory birds and the broader ecological impacts of human activities. For many city dwellers, these programs provide a tangible way to contribute to conservation efforts right from their homes or workplaces.

Washington DC window strike victims by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab [Public Domain]

The success of "Lights Out" in major cities has inspired other municipalities to adopt similar measures. Smaller cities and even individual property owners are encouraged to participate by turning off unnecessary lights during migration seasons. This collective effort creates a safer passage for migratory birds, helping to ensure that these creatures can successfully complete their impressive and crucial journeys.

For bird enthusiasts, participating in or promoting "Lights Out" initiatives is a direct way to engage in bird conservation. It can be as simple as switching off extra lights at night during migration months or advocating for local policies that encourage broader community involvement. By spreading the word, supporting local Audubon chapters, or even participating in citizen science projects to monitor bird populations, individuals can make a substantial impact.

The beauty of the night sky is universal, and ensuring it can be navigated safely by our feathered friends is a responsibility we all share. The "Lights Out" programs represent a hopeful synergy between urban development and natural preservation, proving that even small changes in our behavior can facilitate major positive outcomes for wildlife conservation.

Species Profile

Feathers of Green: Learn About the Green Jay

Birdorable Green Jay

The Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) is a vibrant jewel among birds, with its dazzling array of green, blue, black, and yellow feathers. Native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, and spotted as far north as the southern tips of Texas, the Green Jay is an avian example of nature's colorful palette. These birds are not only a feast for the eyes but also play a vital role in their ecosystems, embodying the interconnectedness of life within their habitats.

One of the most striking features of the Green Jay is its colorful plumage, which blends seamlessly with the lush tropical environments it inhabits. This brilliant coloration serves as camouflage, hiding them from predators as they move through the foliage. The blend of greens and blues mirrors the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees, while their brighter colors dazzle and distract. Their appearance is not just for show; it's a survival strategy honed by evolution.

In addition to their beauty, Green Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social behavior. They are corvids, after all, part of a family of birds that includes crows and ravens, all known for their social interactions and intelligence.

Green Jays live in family groups and exhibit cooperative breeding behaviors, where not only the parents but also older siblings participate in raising each batch of young. This communal lifestyle strengthens social bonds and increases the survival rate of their offspring.

The Green Jay's diet is omnivorous, including insects, seeds, and fruits, which makes them important seed dispersers and pest controllers in their ecosystems. Their foraging behavior contributes to the health and regeneration of their forest homes, showcasing their role as ecological engineers.

Green Jay by Dominic Sherony (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Green Jays are also notable for their vocalizations, which include a variety of calls and mimicked sounds. Their ability to mimic the calls of other birds and potentially even human-made noises demonstrates their adaptability and intelligence. These vocal skills are not merely for communication within the flock; they can also be used to deceive other species or deter predators, adding another layer to their complex behaviors. Another remarkable part of their vocal behavior occurs during breeding season, when the birds become quiet, with all individuals remaining silent when caring for vulnerable babies in the nest.

Despite their adaptability, Green Jays, like many species, face threats from habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation and agricultural expansion. Protecting their natural habitats is crucial for their survival, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts in tropical and subtropical regions. Initiatives to preserve large tracts of forest and establish wildlife corridors are vital to maintaining the biodiversity and ecological integrity of these areas.

The Green Jay's presence enriches the tapestry of biodiversity in the Americas, reminding us of the beauty and complexity of the natural world. Their behavior and ecology offer fascinating insights into the workings of tropical ecosystems, emphasizing the need for conservation and the importance of each species in the web of life. As we strive to protect these vibrant birds and their habitats, we also safeguard the health and diversity of our planet for future generations.

Green Jay photo

Green Jay in Texas by Andy Morffew (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Birdorable Green Jay Gifts

Birdorable Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Eurasian Eagle-Owl

As part of our continuing series on bird myths, today we unravel the truth behind a familiar claim: Owls Can Turn Their Heads 360 Degrees. While this statement stretches the truth by nearly 100 degrees, the reality is no less astonishing. Owls are indeed masters of neck gymnastics, possessing the ability to rotate their heads up to an impressive 270 degrees, which is 3/4 of the way around. This incredible feat of flexibility is no party trick -- it serves a critical role in the survival and hunting strategies of these nocturnal raptors.

The myth of 360-degree neck swivels is rooted in what humans can observe in owls. One can imagine that seeing an owl look directly behind themselves without turning their body might lead someone to believe that owls can actually turn their heads all the way around. But careful observation will reveal the truth -- the bird must turn its head back the way it came to turn back forwards.

But how can owls turn their heads so far, and why do they have this adaptation? Owls have fixed eye sockets, meaning they cannot move their eyes within their skulls in order to look around, as humans and many other animals do. Instead, nature has equipped them with a highly flexible neck, allowing them to swivel their heads extensively in order to look around them. This unique adaptation enables owls to have a wide field of vision, essentially giving them the ability to observe their surroundings in almost every direction, without the need to move their entire body. This capability is crucial for spotting potential prey or identifying threats in their environment, particularly during the night, when visibility is low and owl vision excels.

Snowy Owl photo

Snowy Owl

The anatomical secret behind an owl's remarkable head rotation lies in the owl's neck bones. Unlike humans, who have seven cervical vertebrae, owls are endowed with 14, providing the additional flexibility to turn the neck so far around. Moreover, owl neck arteries have special adaptations to prevent blood flow from being cut off or causing damage during extreme rotations. This includes a system of blood vessels that ensures continuous blood supply to the brain and eyes when the main pathways are pinched during rotation.

This 270-degree rotational ability enhances the owl's silent hunting prowess. By minimizing movement, owls can stealthily observe and target their prey, maintaining an element of surprise. Their silent flight, combined with this panoramic vision, makes them formidable predators of the night, capable of detecting and swooping down on unsuspecting prey with remarkable precision.

Understanding the truth behind the owl's head rotation demystifies one of the many fascinating adaptations in the avian world, highlighting the complexity and beauty of nature's designs. It's a great example of the evolutionary marvels that allow birds, like the owl, to thrive in their specific niches, perfectly adapted to their ways of life.

Eurasian Pygmy Owl photo

Eurasian Pygmy Owl

Birdorable Owl Gifts

The "Magic Hedge" at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary in Chicago by Raed Mansour (CC BY 2.0 DEED) with Birdorable birds

Chicago's skyline, while iconic, poses a significant threat to tens of thousands of migrating birds each year. Birds, unable to recognize clear or reflective glass as an obstacle, suffer fatal collisions with buildings. Since 2016, Bird Friendly Chicago (BFC) has been at the forefront of addressing this pressing issue, culminating in a 2020 directive from Chicago’s city council to the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to prioritize bird-friendly building design.

Despite these efforts, as we approach spring 2024, the DPD hesitates to make bird safety measures mandatory, choosing instead to list them as optional. This decision could perpetuate the cycle of avian fatalities, undermining years of advocacy and research aimed at protecting Chicago's feathered visitors.

The time to act is now. The DPD's upcoming Sustainable Development Policy must include mandatory bird-friendly building standards with their policy release scheduled for April 15th -- there is not time to wait.

BFC has outlined two immediate actions for the public:

  1. Participate in the DPD survey, emphasizing the importance of Bird Protection. Learn more on the Chicago Ornithological Society website here.
  2. Send a personalized email to Mayor Brandon Johnson and key city officials, advocating for mandatory bird-friendly provisions. A sample letter is provided at the COS site linked above.

By engaging in these actions, and spreading the word through social media, Chicago area birders can amplify a collective voice for conservation.

COS has identified April 4th as a Day of Action, where many voices can join together to make a big impact.

This issue transcends environmental considerations; it's about shaping a city that coexists harmoniously with nature. Let's ensure Chicago leads by example, safeguarding the lives of migrating birds for generations to come.

South Africa's National Bird: The Elegant and Endangered Blue Crane

Birdorable Blue Cranes

The Blue Crane, with its enchanting grace and striking presence, holds the esteemed title of the national bird of South Africa. This elegant avian animal (Anthropoides paradiseus) is not just a symbol of the nation's fragile, rich biodiversity, but also an emblem deeply woven into the cultural fabric and heritage of South Africa. The choice of the Blue Crane as the national bird reflects the country's commitment to conservation and the importance of preserving its natural wonders for future generations.

Endemic to the southern regions of Africa, today the Blue Crane can be found almost exclusively in parts of South Africa, with a small, isolated population living in Namibia.

Displaying Blue Crane photo

Blue Crane by Bernard DUPONT
(CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Though small for a crane, the Blue Crane is a large bird, standing about four feet tall, with a wingspan that can reach up to seven feet. It is easily recognizable by its pale blue-gray plumage, elongated neck,  extended head feathering that gives them the appearance of having a large, uniquely shaped head, and the strikingly long feathers that droop from its wings, creating an effect of having a long tail. These wing feathers, or tertials, flutter captivatingly in the breeze.

These graceful birds exude an air of nobility and grace, whether observed feeding and loafing in their natural grassland habitats or while performing their intricate mating dances, flapping their tail-like wing feathers as they move.

Historically, the Blue Crane has been a symbol of importance among various South African cultures. For the Xhosa people, the bird is a symbol of bravery, and warriors were often awarded feathers to signify their strength and valor in battle. These feathers, worn as part of traditional regalia, are highly prized and considered sacred, showing the deep cultural respect and reverence held for this majestic bird.

However, the Blue Crane faces significant threats that have put its population at risk. Habitat loss, primarily due to agricultural expansion and urban development, has led to a drastic reduction in their natural grassland habitats. Additionally, poisoning, both intentional and accidental, along with collisions with power lines, has further exacerbated the decline in their numbers. Today, the Blue Crane is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), highlighting the urgent need for concerted conservation efforts to ensure its survival.

Blue Cranes photo

Blue Crane by Bernard DUPONT (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Conservation initiatives across South Africa have been mobilized to protect the Blue Crane and its habitat. Elevating the bird to national symbol status has helped with these efforts.

Conservation work to help Blue Cranes include the establishment of protected areas, the implementation of captive breeding programs, and environmental education campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the bird's plight. Farmers and local communities are also being engaged to adopt bird-friendly practices, such as marking power lines to prevent collisions and reducing the use of harmful pesticides.

The designation of the Blue Crane as South Africa's national bird serves not only as a symbol of the country's natural beauty but also as a constant reminder of the fragile connection between humans and nature. It underscores the responsibility of each citizen to protect and preserve their natural heritage, not just for the aesthetic and cultural value it provides but for the ecological balance it maintains.

Moreover, the Blue Crane's status as the national bird has significant implications for tourism, drawing bird watchers and nature enthusiasts from around the globe to South Africa's diverse landscapes in hopes of catching a glimpse of this rare and beautiful species. During our fall 2023 trip to South Africa, we were extremely excited to be able to see flocks of Blue Cranes in the wild.

For South Africa, the Blue Crane is more than just a bird; it is a national treasure that encapsulates the spirit, beauty, and ecological diversity of a unique country. Its selection as the national bird honors the country's rich cultural heritage and its commitment to conserving natural resources. As efforts continue to protect and preserve the Blue Crane, it stands as a beacon of hope and a symbol of the resilience of nature, inspiring future generations to cherish and safeguard the natural world around them.

Birdorable Blue Crane Gift Ideas

Swallow Week 2024: Violet-green Swallow

Nature's Prism: Inside the Life of a Violet-green Swallow

Birdorable Violet-green Swallow

The Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina), with its iridescent plumage that shimmers in hues of green and violet under the sunlight, is a stunning sight for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike. This bird is not only admired for its stunning appearance but also for its remarkable traits and behaviors that make it a fascinating subject of study.

Native to the western regions of North America, the Violet-green Swallow has captivated many with its agile flight and aerial acrobatics as it hunts for insects in the sky. These birds are consummate fliers, capable of executing swift turns and dives to capture their prey, which includes flies, beetles, and other airborne insects. Their diet plays a crucial role in controlling insect populations, showcasing the importance of these and other swallows in maintaining ecological balance.

Preferring the cavities of trees in open woodlands and forests, Violet-green Swallows often utilize holes created by woodpeckers or natural crevices to lay their eggs. They have also adapted to nesting in special boxes and other man-made structures, reflecting their ability to thrive in diverse environments. Inside these nests, lined with feathers and soft materials, females lay between four to six white eggs per clutch.

Violet-green Swallow by Becky Matsubara (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

The Violet-green Swallow is currently not facing significant threats and is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, like all wildlife, they are not immune to the challenges of habitat loss, climate change, and pollution. Efforts to conserve their natural habitats and ensure a healthy environment are essential for the continued survival and prosperity of these swallows.

Despite their vibrant colors, Violet-green Swallows can be elusive, often blending into the vastness of the sky until their iridescent feathers catch the light just right, revealing their true beauty. This elusive nature adds to the allure of spotting them during their migratory journeys or while they perform their aerial feats above meadows, forests, and bodies of water.

Swallow Week 2024: Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Unassuming Aerialists: Exploring the Life of Northern Rough-winged Swallows

Birdorable Northern Rough-winged Swallow flying

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

The Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) is a modestly plumaged bird, often overlooked due to its subtle brown coloring and less flashy appearance compared to other swallows. However, what it lacks in vibrant colors, it makes up for with its intriguing characteristics and behaviors. This bird is named for the tiny hooks or serrations along the edge of its primary wing feathers, a feature unique among swallows, believed to help in catching insects mid-flight.

One of the most fascinating facts about the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is its adaptability in nesting locations. Unlike many birds that are specific about their habitat, this species can nest in a variety of settings, including sandy banks, gravel pits, or even man-made structures like drainage pipes and culverts. This adaptability showcases their resilience and resourcefulness in finding safe places to raise their young.

Conservation concerns for the Northern Rough-winged Swallow are relatively low compared to other bird species. They are currently not listed as threatened or endangered, thanks largely to their adaptability to various habitats, including those altered by humans. Nonetheless, they are not immune to broader environmental threats such as habitat destruction, pollution, and the broader impacts of climate change, which could affect their food sources and nesting sites in the future.

Birdorable Northern Rough-winged Swallow perched

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Like the other swallows we've featured this week, the diet of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is primarily composed of insects. Their aerial hunting skills allow them to catch a wide variety of prey, including flies, beetles, and moths, directly from the air. This diet makes them beneficial for natural pest control, helping to manage insect populations in their environments.

Northern Rough-winged Swallows are quite versatile in terms of habitat, found across a broad range of North America during the breeding season, from Canada to Mexico. They prefer open habitats near water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and streams, where they can easily find insects to eat and suitable nesting sites.

Nesting is a unique process for this species. They often excavate tunnels in sandy or gravelly banks or take advantage of natural cavities and man-made structures to lay their eggs. The nests are usually lined with soft materials for the eggs and developing chicks. This behavior demonstrates their ability to thrive in a variety of conditions and utilize what the environment offers for their reproductive success.

Despite their unassuming appearance, Northern Rough-winged Swallows play a significant role in their ecosystems as insectivores and as part of the avian biodiversity. Their presence across North America's skies and waterways is a reminder of the subtle beauty and complexity of nature's creations.

Northern Rough-winged Swallows by Vince Smith (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Birdorable Northern Rough-winged Swallow Gifts

Swallow Week 2024: Citizen Science

Citizen Science and Swallows: How Every Observation Counts

Birdorable Tree Swallows in Alaska

Tree Swallows in Alaska

Swallows, those aerial acrobats that delight us with their graceful flight, play a significant role in ecosystems around the world. Beyond their interesting antics and dapper good looks, swallows are a fascinating subject for study for citizen scientists. Citizen science projects involving swallows offer bird enthusiasts of all ages the chance to contribute to the conservation and understanding of these birds. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting to explore the avian world, there are a few opportunities to get involved.

Alaska Swallow Monitoring Network

Scientists and citizens team up to monitor Tree Swallows in Alaska, to study their phenology (the timing of seasonal behaviors and cues) and how climate change impacts nesting and other activities. Monitoring occurs at several locations across Alaska with nest boxes installed in appropriate habitat. More Info →

Swallows and Swifts in Italy

Rondini & Co uses iNaturalist to compile observations of swallow and swift species in Trento, Italy. The data is mainly input by students in the region. More Info →

NestWatch

NestWatch is a citizen science effort from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants monitor nests throughout the breeding season, following safety and interval protocols. Nests of virtually any species can be monitored, including commonly submitted species Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, and Barn Swallow. More Info →

Purple Martins are unique in that they are almost entirely dependent on human-provided housing for nesting in the eastern parts of North America. They nest in colonies and prefer multi-compartment birdhouses or gourds strung up on poles in open areas, a nesting habit that has developed over generations of interaction with humans. Due to this reliance on humans for nesting sites, there are several citizen science projects that involve the study of Purple Martins.

Project Martinwatch

Project Martinwatch is an effort to both improve management of Purple Martin (PUMA) colonies, and to track the reproductive biology of PUMAs. Data is collected by PUMA landlords or citizen scientists who help landlords with monitoring. Participation is easy and involves performing nest checks every 5-7 days from nest building to fledgling and submitting your data at the end of the season. More Info →

Purple Martin Scout-Arrival Study

This study aims to gather data on first arrival times of Purple Martins to nesting sites. This data, usually submitted by PUMA landlords, tracks the progress of springtime migration of Purple Martins across North America. The historical and real-time information is helpful to landlords to know when to open up their colonies to nesting birds. More Info →

Purple Martin Banding

While untrained citizen scientists cannot legally band birds without a federal permit, landlords can contact their local Audubon Society, state wildlife agency, or birding club to locate an appropriate banding program, if one exists. If you find a banded Purple Martin (or any other banded bird), you can report it to the Bird Banding Laboratory. More Info →

Birdorable Purple Martin getting banded

Purple Martin getting banded

Participating in these projects not only provides valuable data to scientists but also enriches the participant's understanding and appreciation of swallows and martins. The firsthand experience of monitoring these birds fosters a deeper connection with nature and promotes conservation efforts on a personal level.

For those looking to get involved, reaching out to local birding clubs, wildlife organizations, or online platforms dedicated to citizen science is a great start. Besides these projects, entering sighting data of the swallows and other birds you find into eBird is a great way to contribute to citizen science on a regular basis.

Birdorable Purple Martin Gift Ideas for Landlords & Citizen Scientists

Swallow Week 2024: Glossary

Swallow Family Glossary: Terms to Help Understanding Swallows

As our week-long celebration of Swallows continues here on the Birdorable blog, we're sharing a glossary of terms related to the family Hirundinidae. Understanding these related terms will help with your understanding of the unique birds in this fascinating cosmopolitan family of insect-feeding birds.

Birdorable Chimney Siwft aerial insectivore

Chimney Swifts are aerial insectivores, catching insects in flight.

Aerial Insectivores

Birds that catch insects in flight, a category that prominently includes swallows.

Apus

A genus of birds in the swift family, often confused with swallows due to their similar appearance and flight patterns. Swifts and swallows are, however, different in their wing structure and nesting habits.

Brood Parasitism

A behavior where a bird lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, relying on them to raise their young. Brood parasitism does not only involve mixed species; in their communal nesting colonies, Cliff Swallows have been observed laying eggs in other Cliff Swallow nests.

Diurnal Migration

The pattern of migrating during the day. Swallows, being diurnal, migrate during the day, utilizing the daylight hours for feeding on insects as they move.

Gape

The wide opening of a bird's mouth, often significantly large in aerial insectivores to facilitate easy feeding.

Hawking

A feeding strategy where birds catch insects in mid-air. Swallows are expert hawkers, gracefully capturing prey during flight with precision.

Hirundinidae

The scientific family name for swallows, from Latin, which encompasses various species of swallows, saw-wings, and martins.

Rictal Bristles

Stiff feather structures around the base of the beak, thought to aid in sensing and catching insects mid-flight. Rictal bristles are present in several aerial insectivorous species, including the swallows, saw-wings, and martins. Rictal bristles are also notable in nighthawks, swifts, and flycatchers -- all specialist aerial insectivores.

Barn Swallow with rictal bristles

Rictal bristles are stiff feathers around the base of the beak to aid in sensing and catching insects mid-flight.

Roost

A place where birds gather to rest or sleep. Swallows can form large roosts during migration periods. Unlike many birds that might roost solitarily or in small family groups, swallows gather in large numbers at roosting sites. 

Trans-Saharan Migrants

Refers to birds, including some swallows, that migrate across the Sahara Desert to reach their breeding or wintering grounds.

Zugunruhe

A German term used in ornithology to describe the increased restlessness in migratory birds, including swallows, as the migration season approaches.