Tag Archives: birds

Weekly Puzzler Answer #144

Did you know last week’s bubbling bird song? If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve probably read posts about this bird. It’s one of my favorites–the Carolina Wren.

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One of my favorite posts of all time was about the wren–called 4 Things we can learn from Carolina Wrens. 

This baby wren keeps falling asleep!

This baby wren keeps falling asleep!

Another post I like is about surprise gift that I found one day when I was tidying up for visitors–called a gift from wrens and still another, this one a weekly quote about resilience and telling the story of wrens that nested in our yard. And then ONE more! about a wren making me smile.  (Because he kept falling asleep even though he was supposed to be fledging)

You can attract wrens to your hanging a bird feeder, especially one like this* that has room for suet. (Here’s a recipe for making your own suet, though putting it out in the hot months of the year is not recommended)

I hope they make you smile, and that you enjoy your Sunday. See you again soon.

 

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Weekly Puzzler #145: Name that Bird!

So last week’s puzzler was a bird song–one of our most lovely, the Carolina Wren. I thought I would do another bird, this one common throughout much of North America, especially the southeast, and west to California. If this bird hasn’t found a mate, it might get desperate–much to the dismay of homeowners everywhere– and sing in the middle of the night–not bothering to wait until sunrise.

Listen here. Then give your guess using the comment box below.

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He Cleans…Then He Dances! Watch this Amazing Bird.

In the past I have focused my blog posts primarily on nature in North America, wanting to highlight those plants and animals that most of my subscribers would have a chance to encounter if they spent time outside in their backyards or wild areas. But sometimes I come across videos or other resources that shed light on animals and plants that live elsewhere on our planet and absolutely amaze me. The variety and perfection of adaptations in the natural world is astounding! In honor of this fascinating diversity, I am adding a new category to my blog posts, called It’s a Wonderful World.

Some new friends on a recent trip to Costa Rica alerted me to the existence of a new series called Planet Earth II. Many of you are probably familiar with the first series of Planet Earth which came out many years ago. The first one I watched in the new series featured a bird of paradise called a Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. This bird is amazing! First he cleans his “dance floor” of leaves, stick and other debris, then he belts out a tune to call in the female and after she arrives, he proceeds to put on a magnificent display. You can see it here! First the short version–just one minute from the Lab of Ornithology, and then below that, a longer version that is 30 minutes from National Geographic. Enjoy! And as always, I’d love to know what you think! Drop me a comment in the box below to share your thoughts.

See you again soon!

 

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It’s Spring…Have You Done This Yet?

feeder2-3360Guess who’s headed north? It’s that time of year again when the ruby-throated hummingbirds are heading back from their long migrations to their northern homes to breed and raise babies. You can check out their progress here to see if they are in your area yet.

Are your feeders out yet? If not, it’s time to put them out! The sooner the better as birds finding feeders on their way might be tempted to stay and nest if they find suitable food sources nearby.

My hummingbird feeders. I have 5!

My hummingbird feeders. I have 5!

Here’s a recommendation I have for a couple of great hummingbird feeders:

  1. My very favorite feeder is a suction cup feeder *that has a built in ant moat. I own two of these and love them! The moat keeps the ants out and the suction cups allow me to have it mounted on my second story office window where I can watch the birds feeding all day long. It is less than 6 feet from my chair so I am at eye level when the birds visit. They don’t usually seemed phased at all by my presence if I sit still. I never tire of watching them, and getting this close-up look is fabulous. If you have young kids, they will love this… or if YOU are a kid yourself, you will love it! (You can see this feeder in action here if you want)
  2. This hanging feeder works great in the garden or on a hook on your deck and you can add an ant moat that sits above the feeder. What I most love about this one is that it comes completely apart for easy cleaning. When it comes to feeders, this is SO IMPORTANT as many do not open and so it is impossible to clean them, which means mold grows and can harm the birds. Another plus of this feeder is that it has no yellow on it. Know why this is good? Because bees, yellow jackets and other insects are attracted to yellow. There is no reason to use yellow when the red parts attract the birds.

So you probably know you can make your own nectar–saving some money and NOT supporting the red dye products that may be harmful to the little birds. Just mix up four parts of water to one part of regular white granulated sugar. You do not need red dye!

Here are some previous posts I wrote about feeding hummingbirds:  If you’re not doing THIS, you may be causing hummingbird deaths: 8 things you need to know, or why you should NOT use red dye, and one more about attracting hummingbirds, including some plants to offer, and the recipe for making nectar. And then, just in case you want to be amazed, read this one about 10 things you may not know about hummingbirds. Or check out this 1 minute video of a male hummingbird–what a brilliant red gorget!

Don’t you just love these amazing birds??

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you buy something using one of the links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All of the opinions about these products are mine. I only feature products I own, or would own.

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The Creatures of Halloween…10 Things You Might Not Know

pump-8537So happy Halloween everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day and doing something festive for the holiday. Maybe you carved a pumpkin or went to a parade or will give out some candy tonight. Whatever the case, Happy Day!

A Lyle's flying fox from Thailand--these have a 3 foot wingspan!

A Lyle’s flying fox from Thailand

You know the creatures of Halloween, right? Namely BATS, SPIDERS, RAVENS and CROWS. Can you think of any others that deserve being on this list?

Well let’s look at 10 things about these misunderstood critters that you may know know:

1.All BATS do not carry rabies! This is a myth. Less than one half of one percent contract rabies. The best thing you can do to protect yourself from bat rabies is to never touch a sick or injured bat and make sure your children or grandchildren are instructed to never touch ANY wild animal–be it a bat, squirrel, chipmunk, etc.

2.All BATS are not vampires and vampire BATS actually will share their meals with other bats! Of more than 1300 worldwide species of bats, only 3 feed on blood and those all live in Latin America. And they don’t suck it like the movies suggest, they lap it up like a kitten drinks milk. Two feed on the blood from birds and the other–a common vampire bat–usually feeds on livestock or birds. The animal seldom is even aware it has been visited and the bat drinks only about a tablespoon per visit. If a vampire bat can’t find a meal, another bat may share its meal (regurgitated blood) and then, if that bat is ever in need, the favor will be returned! And vampire bats participate in social grooming.

3. BATS are NOT blind! Bats have eyes but many rely on echolocation to “see” their surroundings, more than on their eyesight. Their sonar is so amazing they can detect an object in the air thinner than a human hair. Fruit bats have big eyes and a fabulous sense of smell to find their food–nectar and fruit.

Check out this slideshow of some of the world’s bat species–there are so many cute and amazing faces! And these pictures are truly amazing! All of these slides are courtesy of Merlin Tuttlefounder of my favorite organizationBat Conservation International. This organization works to change public perception of bats, educate decision-makers, and protect valuable bat habitat and the flying mammals these habitats serve.

Medagascan fruit batPainted bat in Thailand--Wow, this is beautiful!!Male Chapin's free-tailed bat during courtshipMinor epauletted fruit bat Africa-- (turned upside down!)Hoary bat of North AmericaEpauletted fruit bat in KenyaAustralian ghost batFish eating batFrog-eating or fringe-lipped bat in PanamaGrandidler's trident bat from MadagascarGreater Long-tongued Nectar bat, SE AsiaMacconnell's bat, Costa RicaOrange nectar bat in tropical forestsVeldkamp's dwarf epauletted fruit batBig Brown bat--one of our common NA batsFormosan golden bat, AsiaGreater Naked Bat, ThailandHairy-legged vampire bat--these feed on the blood of birdsHammer-headed bat, AfricaHonduran white batIndiana myotis--one of our endangered speciesThe world's smallest bat-Kitti's hog-nosed bat, Thailand.jpgLesser bulldog bats in ParaguayLesser short-nosed fruit bat, ThailandPallid bat with centipede--they are not affected by the stings!Rafinesque's big-eared batSpotted bat, UtahStraw-colored fruit batTownsend's big eared bat

Which one is your favorite? Are you surprised at the variety? I was! (If you want to learn more about bats I highly recommend Merlin Tuttle’s book called The Secret Lives of Bats. It is fascinating)

4.  Bats are not pests or flying rodents. Bats provide us with amazing services and are essential parts of ecosystems worldwide. An average-size bat can eat more than 1000 mosquito-sized insects (including mosquitoes) in ONE HOUR! A mother bat will eat her body weight in insects each night. Imagine how many insects an entire colony of thousands or even millions of bats consumes nightly! In addition,bats pollinate many plants, spread seeds, save farmers billions of dollars in pest control, maintain healthy forests, provide guano which is an important fertilizer in many parts of the world, and are important in medical research. Like cats, bats groom themselves regularly to keep clean and are more closely related to primates than rodents.

5.There are more than 50,000 species of SPIDERS in the world! And of those only 1/20th of 1%  have venom capable of causing illness in humans. And guess what? They are HARD to identify–usually requiring a microscope.

tar-0486.You know those TARANTULAS that scary movies always seem to feature? Well one of the reasons they use them is because they are so easy to handle and their venom has such a low toxicity to humans. None of the North American species pose a bite hazard to people–the worst you have to fear when handling one are the irritating hairs on their abdomen which can cause mild skin rashes or inflammation of the eyes and face. Tarantulas can live to be 30 years old!

7.SPIDERS are not “out to get you” despite what the scary Halloween movies may suggest. Spiders use their venom solely for subduing or killing their prey–usually insects or other invertebrates. Wasting it on you for no reason is not likely. Despite what popular media and medical professionals may suggest, spider bites are uncommon.

A crab spider with a beetle. These spiders do not build webs.

A crab spider with a beetle. These spiders do not build webs.

8.All SPIDERS do not build webs. Many hunt and stalk their prey or ambush unsuspecting insects. Those that don’t build webs use their silk for protecting their eggs and as a dragline when moving around.

9.RAVENS have been known to play–just for fun. Check out this video of ravens sledding down a metal roof!

Crows are very smart

Crows are very smart

10. Crows have the largest brain to body ratio of any bird. Like a chimpanzee, they are very smart. They have excellent memories and can find food, move it, stash it again and still find it many days later.

Did you learn anything? Once I got started, I discovered there was SO MUCH to talk about… but of course 10 things is 10 things! So I stopped there. If you want to read more about this you can check out these posts about BATS or SPIDERS.  Or if you want, you can try a Halloween quiz that I created last year. Test what you know! Also, don’t forget–if you are local to western North Carolina, you still have time to sign up for my bat class at the Blue Ridge Community College on November 7th from 1-3.

Happy Halloween!

Our dog Schroeder's Halloween costume!

It’s BAT DOG!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #132

Did you see the three birds in last week’s puzzler? They are the official bird of the state of Alaska–a fabulously camouflaged bird called a ptarmigan. (in pronouncing this the p is silent) They are the smallest member of the grouse family in North America.

birdWhile backpacking in Denali National Park we saw many ptarmigans–not because they are easy to see but because we were walking through their territory, right where they were and saw them because they moved. There were several occasions when I nearly stepped on one, not noticing it until the last second. They blend in perfectly with the lichen-covered rocks on the hillsides and unless they move, they are difficult to spot. Staying still and remaining undetected is their best defense against predators like fox, wolves, bobcats and hawks.

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Can you spot the ptarmigan in this photo?

Rock ptarmigan are one of three species of ptarmigan in Alaska.  They have the most amazing camouflage of any bird I have ever seen. In winter they are white so they blend in with the snow-covered landscape and in summer they are a mottled gray to blend in with the rocks.

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Ptarmigan have feathers that go all the way down to their feet–like boots or leg warmers!–to help them stay warm during the arctic winters. And in winter they will burrow deep into the snow to roost for the night and avoid predators. They eat plants, seeds and berries. Wondering what they could possibly eat during winter when the ground is covered with snow? They dig through the snow to find moss underneath. And, since their diet in winter is rather dry,  they actually eat snow! Lots and lots of snow! Just like kids. (or at least I ate snow when I was a kid. I can’t speak for kids these days.)

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So let’s check out the next puzzler–another one about an animal found in Alaska.

Have a fabulous weekend!! See you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #131

_dsc2129Did you recognize last week’s bird as an immature cardinal?

When it first started showing up at our feeder I had never seen one in this state before and snapped a few pictures. Immature cardinals may resemble females, but notice this one’s beak–it is a dull brown rather than the colorful beak the bird will have as an adult. When males are about a year old, they will molt and become sexually mature adults with the recognizable red plumage.

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An adult male cardinal

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An adult female cardinal.

Interestingly, there is another bird that slightly resembles this immature cardinal. Called a Pyrrhuloxias, it lives in the southwestern United States and into Mexico. You can check out a photo and some info HERE–notice the similarity in coloration, but the beak is not brown, as is this immature male’s beak.

Okay, now you know! And here is the next puzzler.

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