Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Orange-fronted Parakeet

Orange-fronted Parakeet aka. Half-moon Conure
Playa Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Parrot Family
§A Company of Parrots§

~true bird fact (birdter homes and gardens edition)~ The Orange-fronted Parakeet makes his home inside a hanging termite nest. A nesting pair will choose an appropriate spot and spend about a week burrowing into it from below and making a rather intricately laid-out nesting chamber. The birds then give the termites another few days to seal-off their tunnels to this area and voila, a nest that is hidden from predators, insulated, and dry. A guy in Costa Rica told your amateurnithologist that it was also a source of easy food for the young chicks, but I can find no corroboration of that claim on the internet. Let it never be said that I don't do the research!

Never complains, always seems to have a good mood
Laughs easily, big fan of pratfalls and physical comedy
Never talks philosophy or politics
Enjoys his free-time unashamedly, loves to relax

But that's not all parrot-fans. Your favorite bird blog has caught parrot fever! That's right, this month will be all parrot-posts all the time. If you're a fan of these lively and interesting birds, check back in the coming weeks. We've even got a birding expedition to attempt to find the notorious wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill of San Francisco! Will we succeed?! Keep checking the blog to find out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Different Birds: Cattle Egret vs. Snowy Egret vs. Great Egret

Ready for some birdin' 101? Of course you're not, you are only a casual consumer of bird knowledge. Otherwise you'd be visiting one of those other "more professional" bird blogs where "experts" "know what they're talking about" and aren't "ignorant". But still, wouldn't you like to be the guy or gal who, when out hiking with a group of friends, can confidently point to a cool looking bird and name him? Of course you don't. But our mission statement here at birdateunithologist dot com involves the pursuit of useless knowledge and plenty of it, so we press on.

Today we'll be covering a trio of terrific waterbirds with subtle yet still visible-to-the-naked-eye distinctions from one another.

Cattle Egret

Sarapiqui River, Heredia, Costa Rica
Member of the Herons/Egrets/Bitterns Family
§A Stampede of Cattle Egrets§

~true bird fact~ One of those rare, resourceful birds who have made humanity into an ally rather than a threat, Cattle Egret loves agriculture. Spending most of his time with domesticated farm animals, he gets his daily meal of insects by following the clouds of them kicked up by the activities of larger animals. He is also known to eat the ticks right off of them. What a good friend. In different parts of the world, Cattle Egret preys on the stir-up of camels, elephants, giant tortoises, and airplanes.

Rises to the top when times get hardest.

Snowy Egret (who we already know)
Corte Madera, California, USA
Member of the Herons/Egrets/Bitterns Family
§An RSVP of Egrets§

Secretly reading epic fantasy novels.

Great Egret
Corte Madera, California, USA
Member of the Herons/Egrets/Bitterns Family
§A Wedge of Egrets§
Symbol of the National Audubon Society

~true bird fact~ Like many in their family, Great Egret rocks the distinctive s-shaped neck. In there is a very unusual long vertebra that acts like a hinge, enabling him to strike out quickly at far away targets.

Does really have a private life due to his important position. No one knows what he's really like, except through hearsay.

Ok, let's break this down. What differences did you notice? Were they all obvious? They might not be, out in the wild, when there's no one else to contrast them with, though, eh? The first thing you might look to is color of the break, since we are drawn to look at the faces of things as human beings. That'll help you differentiate between the Snowy Egret and they other two. If you want to stay with beaks, you can notice that the Great Egret has a thinner, longer, pointier beak than his Cattlesome brother.

The biggest difference is probably in the physical size of these birds. Next to each other you'd never mistake them. They go smallest to largest Cattle, Snowy, and Great. There is also some difference in general bulkiness vs. slenderness. Of course our great motto of 'always look at the feet' serves you well here too. Cattle Egrets have yellowish-greyish feet and legs, Great Herons have black feet and legs, and Snowy Egrets split the difference by having black legs, and weirdly yellow toes. Of course if the bird is standing in mud, you're out of luck.

Sometimes the sad truth of the matter is the only way to know what bird from what is location. This is where knowledge and research come into play. Cattle Egrets mostly hang out in open fields, while the other two are mostly water's edge types. The other things that's important to note is breeding season, during which all these birds look dramatically different. So good luck with that!

Are you ready for your final test? Ok.. What bird is this-

Click here when you're ready to find out if you got it right!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Groove-billed Ani

Groove-billed Ani aka. Garrapatero Asurcado
Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, Guanacaste, Costa Ric
Member of the Cuckoo Family (sort of..)
§A Cooch of Anis§

~true bird fact~ Groove-billed Anis have communal nests where groups of 4 or 5 birds will lay their eggs, incubate them, defends the young birds, and raise them together.

A refreshingly simplistic world-view. Just, like, does things, you know? Without overthinking it.
Believes in ghosts and ancestors
Likes to keep her culture strongly at the center of family life
A fierce fighter

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Resolution Birds//Bird Resolutions 2014

Happy 2014 to birdfans and blogfans alike. How was your 2013? Ours was good. We had some great birds, expanded our e-web-presence onto 'The Twitter', traveled to exotic birding locales, and helped to crown the Bird of the Year. The beginning of the year is a time to reflect on our accomplishment, sure, but mostly, we look forward.

Here is the Amateurnitholo-List of birds we hope to see/birding goals we hope to accomplish in 2014

1) Take a picture of a Golden Eagle

© Jacqueline Deely
If there is any bird that is my bird that is the Moby Dick to my Captain Ahab right now, it is Disgraced Bird of the Year Loser, Golden Eagle. I saw one, very close up, when I was hiking in the desert outside Reno, and it was one of the most awing bird experiences I've ever had. Since then I've been trying mightily to find an opportunity to take a picture of one, going so far as to look up sightings using a birding website and actually go to places in the hopes of finding him there. Do you see what you've made me do, Golden Eagle!? In 2014 I definitely want to put this one to rest.
Possible Location: Robert Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve, California, USA

2) See a Roseate Spoonbill

© William L. Newton

The Amateurnithologist's Mom saw one of these, and he has not. Enough said. It is also a beautiful and distinctive bird that typifies the Florida Birding Experience.
Possible Location: Lake Worth Golf Course, Lake Worth, Florida, USA

3) Get a good picture of a Vulture

How often have I seen a circling Turkey Vulture and pointed my camera skyward in the hopes of capturing a good picture of this guy? Way too many times. This year I will find you at rest, Vulture, and then it's all over. Obviously the crème de la vulture would be the California Condor, but even I'm not foolish enough to bank on that happening. Call it a reach goal.
Possible Location: Big Sur, California, USA

4) Blog about more ducks

© Bob Gunderson
With the possible exception of Crows and Jays, the duck family are my favorite birds. Heck, before I began my amateurnithological journey, I would say that ducks were my favorite animals full stop. I want this blog to reflect this with a strong contingent of duck pics this year. And what better duck to look for than Surf Scoter up there. What a face!
Possible Location: Lake Merritt, Oakland, California, USA

5)  Track down the elusive Snail Kite
© Jim Neiger

He's rare, he lives only in South Florida (where ur amat. is from), and eats a ton of snails. I have to get a picture of this weirdo. I think my fascination with him comes from the fact that I went for a hike last year in one of the few places he can commonly be found in the wild and didn't see him. Well, I'm going back. And this time, it's personal.
Possible Location: Grassy Waters Preserve, Palm Beach, Florida, USA

6) Find a Painted Bunting

© Danny Bales

Am I convinced that this bird will give me magic powers if I find it? No, no, that would be ridiculous. But you certainly can't argue that it doesn't look like it would. One of those birds you hear about and then just have to see. Utterly silly.
Possible Location: Merritt Island, Florida, USA

A seventh implied goal is to keep on producing great content for this web blog on a weekly basis and to keep making improvements. Is there anything I can do to make you a happier blog consumer? Sound off in the comments. Otherwise, have a great year, and may all your birds be new.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

White-throated Magpie-jay

White-throated Magpie-jay aka. Uracca Hermosa Cariblanca (lit. Beautiful White-faced Magpie)
Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, Guanacaste,Costa Rica
Member of the Crows and Jays Family
§A Band of Jays§

~true bird fact~ Uraccas live in a style that could be accurately referred to as a matriarchal commune. When a female chick is born, she doesn't leave the nest, but rather stays with her mother to help raise future generations. Men come and go freely from the colony and there is very little conflict.

Faced great challenges before she was ready for them, stronger now as a result
Prefers mild flavors
Sees most personal differences between people as small and easy to overcome
Easily makes her decisions based on intuition and feelings