Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks nest in tree cavities and will use nest boxes. They can often be found perching in trees. In fact, they used to be known as Black-bellied Tree Ducks. There are 8 species of Whistling-Duck in the world. They are named for their unmistakable whistling calls.
The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a striking species of duck with a visually pleasing mix of black, white, and chestnut to its plumage. In addition, they have a bright pink-orange bill and feet, making them easy to distinguish from other species of duck.
Tomorrow's new Birdorable species is a really new species -- only recently officially described by science. Can you guess this species, first found in Borneo over 10 years ago?
Today's new Birdorable species is a parrot endemic to Australia, where it is found along the eastern coast. Today we introduce the Birdorable Australian King-Parrot!
Australian King-Parrots display sexual dimorphism -- males and females have different coloration. Our Birdorable cartoon is of a male bird, which has red on the head and chest, with blue-green elsewhere. Females have a similar color palette but the arrangement is different: green at the head, back and chest; red at the belly; and blue at the rump.
Australian King-Parrots are fairly gregarious and can be found flocking with rosella parrots within their range.
Tomorrow we'll add a duck to Birdorable! The new species is known for its bright feet and beak, and belongs to a family named for the way it sounds! Can you guess the species?
Today's new bird has a fabulous plumage and an interesting name: here is our Birdorable Mrs. Gould's Sunbird!
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird is a small species of bird native to parts of Asia, including China, India, and Thailand. It is part of the sunbird family, which consists of 146 different species spread across parts of the Old World.
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird is named after the British artist Elizabeth Gould, whose works include the illustrations for The Birds of Australia and Darwin's Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle.
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird has a striking plumage, with a bright reddish-orange back, yellow breast, and blue tail. There are iridescent feathers at the crown, cheeks, and chin. It has a downcurved bill, specialized to feed on the nectar of flowers.
Tomorrow's new species is a parrot from Down Under. Males and females of this endemic species have very different plumage. Tune in tomorrow to see our new bird!
It's Bonanza time again here at Birdorable! Today we're kicking off our 11th annual Birdorable Bonanza! For the next 10 days, we'll reveal a new Birdorable bird. Today we introduce a new species of cuckoo to Birdorable: the Yellow-billed Cuckoo!
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are migratory. They breed across much of the eastern half of the United States, as well as across the Caribbean and into parts of Central America. They spend the winter across much of South America.
While the Common Cuckoo of the Old World is known to be a brood parasite, much like the familiar Brown-headed Cowbird of the New World, Yellow-billed Cuckoos only rarely lay eggs in other birds' nests. In times of especially abundant availability of food, Yellow-billed Cuckoos have been known to lay eggs in other cuckoo nests, as well as in nests of robins, catbirds, and thrushes.
In the southern United States, where Yellow-billed Cuckoos breed, they have been known colloquially as the Rain Crow or the Storm Crow. This is because they have a reputation for calling or singing before summer thunderstorms.
Today we'd like to share with you the meaning of the term altricial, especially as it relates to birds. It is the opposite of a term we shared earlier on the blog: precocial. Let's learn about what it means to be altricial!
The term altricial comes from the Latin alere, which means "to nurse, to rear, or to nourish." An altricial species is one in which the newly hatched or born young need to be cared for by their parents for an amount of time. While a precocial animal may be mobile and relatively independent within days or even hours of being born or hatched, an altricial species must rely on its parents to survive for a period of weeks, months, or even years before it is independent.
In birds, this means youngsters come out of the egg almost completely naked. They are relatively immobile, needing to stay in their nest, and some have closed eyes as well.
While having helpless babies may seem to be a disadvantage, there are advantages to this breeding strategy. Altrical eggs are smaller, relatively speaking, than precocial eggs, resulting in less biological stress to mother birds. Precocial animals are born or hatched with brains relatively large compared to their body size, but don't grow much as they mature. Altricial species are born or hatched with smaller brains which grow as the animal matures. In general, altricial species therefore "have a wider skill set" when they reach full maturity.
Most songbirds have altricial young, as do owls, hawks, herons, and woodpeckers. Rodents, cats, dogs, and humans also have altricial young, which rely on their parents for the first few weeks or decades of life, depending on the species and individual young.
The Ridgway's Hawk is a Critically Endangered bird of prey endemic to the island of Hispaniola. Since 2002, the Ridgway's Hawk Project has been fighting to save this species in the Dominican Republic. The program involves several components, including research, assisted dispersal, and education.
The town of Los Limones is located outside of Los Haitises National Park, where the Project has been working with the community for almost 20 years on Ridgway Hawk conservation. As a part of the Project's outreach, a local youth baseball team was named Los Gavilanes, to honor the species, Gavilan in Spanish. Friends of the Ridgway's Hawk Project donated uniforms to the kids, which feature a Birdorable profile image of the namesake species!
When most people think of owls, one of the facts that often comes up is that they are nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are most active during the night, sleeping by day. While most owl species are nocturnal, not all are. Adaptations found in nocturnal animals include enhanced eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. Besides owls, other bird species known for being nocturnal include the Southern Brown Kiwi, the Kakapo, and the Common Nighthawk. Familiar nocturnal animals include bats, raccoons, and fireflies.
Diurnal animals are most active during the day, and sleep at night. For the most part, all animals first evolved to be diurnal. Nocturnal animals later evolved adaptations for being active at night in order to avoid predators and reduce competition with other species. Advanced color vision is an adaptation seen in diurnal animals. While most birds are diurnal, many species migrate at night, mostly to avoid predation. Animals known for being diurnal include most reptiles, pollinator insect species, and primates (including humans).
There are other terms to describe when animals are active:
Crepuscular animals are most active during twilight hours, around dawn and around dusk. Examples of crepuscular birds include the Barred Owl and Chimney Swift.
Cathemeral animals are active during spurts of time during the day and night. The activity is sporadic and occurs at irregular intervals. Cathermal animals are usually active during parts of both daytime and nighttime. Lions and some species of lemur are known for being cathermal.
On this date* in 1844, off the coast of Ireland, a pair of Great Auks were killed. These proved to be the last specimens of Great Auk ever collected.
The Great Auk was a flightless species. It stood up to 33 inches tall and weighed about 11 pounds. The Great Auk's scientific name, Pinguinus impennis, roughly translates to plump and flightless. The auk's black and white plumage was similar to that of penguins; penguins are so named after the auk's scientific name due to this similarity. Despite the physical similarities, the species (auks and penguins) are not closely related genetically.
Great Auks lived in the North Atlantic Ocean coasts, coming to land only for breeding. They nested colonially in areas close to favorable feeding grounds and away from predators like polar bears and White-tailed Eagles.
Although somewhat clumsy on land, Great Auks were agile in the water, able to propel itself underwater using its wings. It was also able to dive deeper and hold its breath longer than other alcid bird species.
Great Auks were once abundant. They were hunted as food by the Neanderthals more than 100,000 years ago. There are records of Great Auks being hunted more than 20,000 years ago in Spain, Italy, and France. While the Little Ice Age between the 16th and 19th centuries may have contributed somewhat to population losses for the Great Auk, it was massive human exploitation that ultimately doomed this species. Great Auks were hunted for their down and collected for their eggs, feathers, and skins.
Today there are 78 specimen Great Auks (skins) in museums and other collections. A Great Auk specimen sold to the Icelandic Museum of Natural History for £9000 in 1971; this was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive bird specimen ever bought and sold.
* Published sources are conflicted on the date; June 3 is also sometimes cited.
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.
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.
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.
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!