Sunday, September 24, 2017

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow aka. Desert Sparrow
Big Bend Ranch State Park, Presidio, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the American Sparrow Family
§A Meinie of Sparrows§

~true bird fact~ Like many desert birds, these fellas are uniquely adapted to their hostile habitat. In the case of the Black-throated Sparrow, they can go for unusually long periods of time without water, instead extracting maximum moisture from their diet of seeds and bugs. It sounds like a thirsty life. On an unrelated note, this is one of those birds that occasionally comes up where there's like, zero interesting facts about him. He sure is sharp looking though.

Lover of dried fruit - cranberry, cherry, apricot, mango, you name it
Acts decisively
Might sometimes accidentally hurt your feelings with a pointed comment
Feels driven to create a 'legacy'

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gambel's Quail

Gambel's Quail
Big Bend Ranch State Park, Presidio, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the New World Quail Family
§A Battery of Quails§

~true bird fact~ A bird suited to life in their home in the Sonoran Desert, these Quails have a life cycle that mimics the desert landscape that surrounds them. In exceptionally dry years, few chicks are born and they just kinda hang in there, but in years with a good wet season, they thrive and their numbers increase dramatically.

Constantly creates a dramatic soundtrack to his own life
Prefers to drink his meals when possible (smoothies, shakes, etc)
Easily becomes jealous of the success of others
Hates/fears bugs

William Gambel
1823 - 1849

Hometown- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He got his start in naturalism going on collecting trips with his mentor, the well-known Thomas Nuttall at the age of 15 (!). By18 he set off on his own, traveling all the way west to California, taking a more southerly route than previous expeditions had. His birding contributions include this Quail, Nuttall's Woodpecker, and the Mountain Chickadee. He was the first trained naturalist (well... let's say trained in the European tradition) to spend significant time in California. He continued to explore the American West until he died at age 26 from typhoid while crossing the Sierra Nevada. Couldn't find an image of young William, but below is his final resting place, Rose Bar on the Yuba River.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher aka. Common Vermilion Flycatcher aka. Darwin's Flycatcher aka. Galapagos Flycatcher
Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the Tyrant/Flycatcher Family
§An Outfield of Flycatchers§ (I show you this stupid name, dear readers, only to illustrate the injustice that somehow this is a thing, but not my wonderful suggestion for a group of chats. The mind boggles)

~true bird fact~ As debonair in personality as he is in appearance, the male Vermilion Flycatcher woos females with a colorful bouquet (usually a butterfly or other interesting looking insect).

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a trust fund to beat the bank
Lives a globetrotting life of excitement
Since he's done it all already, it's hard for him to get excited for much anymore
He's not really a bad guy intrinsically, but he has trouble connecting with people in a sincere way

*record scratch*

*fancy classical music starts playing*

First Described by...

Pieter Boddaert
1730 - 1795
This guy over here. He was a Dutch doctor and naturalist, and his main claim to fame seems to have been that he knew a lot of other better known naturalists and thinkers. I want to rag on the guy, but honestly, being a very good friend to a lot of famous people is a good historical niche to find yourself in. He corresponded extensively with our pal Linnaeus, for example. When he published a series of illustration plates from the blockbuster french encyclopedia Histoire Naturelle he added his own scientific names to the animals, thus christening them. What a sneaky way to get into the history books, good on you Boddaert. He stayed in the animal encyclopedia game, publishing Elenchus Animalium (A Directory of Animals) where he named even more stuff.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting aka. Nonpareil (fr)
Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the Cardinal Family
§A Palette of Buntings§

{Etymology Corner} The scientific name of this bird is Passerina ciris. Evidently, it's named after the Greek Mythological character, Princess Scylla. She is turned into a bird after betraying her father in favor of an invading King Minos, who she has fallen in love with at first sight. She subsequently drowns while attempting to swim after her fleeing love, who wants no part of this whole thing. It's a wild story. It's also a pretty bad name for this bird, since she was supposedly transformed into a seabird, which this is not. I can agree, however, that this looks like a bird brought into the world through magical means.

~true bird fact~  As anyone can see from looking at it, this bird is incredibly colorful. This has made him a frequent target of poachers. In the 1800's, the were trapped in the thousands and shipped back to Europe for heavily marked-up sale as caged birds. This kind of trade is now illegal, happily, but has not been entirely eliminated. I know it's probably none of you dear readers, but please stop buying wild animals.

How endangered are they? They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Now I don't want you to panic, because they are till a fairly common bird, with an estimated 13 million adults out there. The rating is probably the result of a dramatic 60% dip in their population that took place between 1966 and 1995. Numbers have seemed stable since then, but you can never be took careful with a bird like this. The pressures on their population seem to be habitat loss from development and the aforementioned poaching.

Musically inclined
Despite his outwardly confident appearance, he's been the subject of a lot of pressure throughout his life
You can tell how he's feeling very easily- 'wears his hear on his sleeve'
Always laughs at your jokes