Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Life of Birds.gif part 2: The Second One

Last week Richard Attenborough died. You might know him best as the professor in Jurassic Park or Santa in Miracle on 34th street, but I knew him mostly by his relationship to Sir David Attenborough, his brother. When news of his death reached me through social media, as these things generally do, I thought for a moment that it was actually Sir David who died, and was really distraught. I even posted an embarrassingly incorrect twitter status about it. To make matters worse, this is not the first time I have confused the two men, or actually believed them to be the same person. Anyway, turns out David Attenborough is not dead, and what better time to continue to celebrate his life? Today I bring you a second batch of .gifs from his 1998 nature doc, The Life of Birds. Part 1 here for your perusal.
Today we're going to focus on some of the more impressive feats of flying highlighted in the series. We start with our friend the majestic albatross. How could you not take that guy seriously?
Albatrosses are enormous birds, boasting a wingspan of over 11 feet. Yeah, that's right, the biggest wingspan in the bird world. They have this incredible wingspan because they spend so much time in the air. They travel over a thousand kilometers a day. This is a bird that regularly circles the globe. They really are in a league of their own when it comes to flying.
Taking off and landing though? That get's a little tricky when you're essentially built to always stay in the air. Have a little sympathy for the albatross.
Here's a bird that has no trouble taking off on the fly. The broad tail and smaller wings of this hawk let him hover on an air current indefinitely while watching carefully for prey.
This barn owl shares his extreme maneuverability with the hawk, because like him he needs to dart through forests to hunt down small mammals. He also has to do it at night, and silently. His unusually shaped face acts partially as a radar dish to help him hone in on the locations of little sounds.
Osprey is an old favorite on Amateurnotholigist, what with his rich mythological background. He is another hunting bird, but he favors fish, which he reportedly hypnotizes. Once he gets the fish, however, things become a little bit difficult. In order to cut down on drag, the osprey positions the fish parallel to him for the flight home. But doesn't it actually just look like he's riding  it?

Notorious for being not actually a bird, but actually a bug or maybe a robot or something, the hummingbird is truly a remarkable feat of human or natural (or alien??) engineering. These guys can flap their wings up to 200 times per second to maintain their exact position in the air. Call it the opposite of the albatross, who barely flaps at all, but travels hundreds of miles in a day.

Are you a hummingbird or an albatross type? Take our free quiz to find out! And keep checking back for part 3, which I should be posting around Halloween (cause things are gonna get spooky!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin
Bird Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Member of the Auks, Murres, and Puffins family
Provincial Bird of Newfoundland and Labrador
§A Puffinry of Puffins§

~true bird fact~ Puffins have small wings, so they have to beat them over 300 times per minute to stay in flight. Good thing they don't have to fly much. In fact, they are small birds overall, being usually about 10 inches tall and weighing about as much as a can of soda.

~real bird ritual~ On the Icelandic island of Heimaey, fledgling Puffins who leave their nests for the first time sometimes get lost on their way to sea, so local children take turns paroling the town at night and rescuing the Pufflings (really called this). There's a children's book about this event.

Avid readers
Likes to have the same daily schedule every day, almost compulsive about it
Favorite food- soft serve ice cream
Are serious birds, and work really hard, so please don't call them 'Clown of the Sea' or 'Little Brother of the North' or other embarrassing names. Sheesh.
Nest Details
Construction: Burrow. Often beginning as a natural indentation in the sea rock, but dug out by the puffin using his strong beak. Inside there is a narrow shaft, 2 or 3 feet long, leading to a nest lined with foliage and feathers. Puffin homes often include a separate bathroom area (!!) so that the puffin chicks don't get themselves dirty.
Location: Sheer cliff face on islands that lack terrestrial predators. In this case, Bird Island in Nova Scotia's Cape Breton. Often the only way for people to see these birds is on chartered boat tours. I pause here to briefly plug Donelda's Puffin Tours, which was overall very awesome and included lots of birds that will be making the blog in the next few weeks.
Occupants: Puffins pair off monogamously and stay in the same burrow every year. They lay only one egg each year and share parenting duties. Very traditional, puffins are.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bald Eagle Seizing a Fish

Hello blog fans. We've been out of town on a birding/family/personal vacation in the great maritime provinces of exotic Canada. Unfortunately, since we had to fire that intern, there has been no one to man the bird blog while we were away. The internet access here isn't really supportive of a full blog, so instead I'm posting a triptych of a Bald Eagle swooping down and taking a fish from the water that I was able to capture on this trip. Thanks 'continuous shooting mode'. On this same boat trip I was able to check Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins off the old life list, among others. Full profiles to follow shortly. We are BACKLOGGED with birds. Consider this a teaser. -A