Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Black Leghorn Chicken

Black Leghorn aka. Livorno Chicken aka. Italian Chicken (possibly a Valdarno Chicken, but seems less likely. Either way, it is a chicken from Italy)
Mission de San Juan Bautista, California, USA
February 2015
Member of the Junglefowl Family
§A Flock of Chickens§

~true bird fact~ Actually, rather than try to summarize what I've learned about this chicken, you should probably just click on this link to theleghornclub.com. It is truly an experience.

~true Mission de San Juan Bautista fact~ Famous for being the Mission in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, it is now overwhelmed with chickens. The town once celebrated their iconic free roaming chickens, including emblazoning them on souvenirs and holding an annual festival and chicken parade. As they are wont to do, people took the whole chicken thing too far, and it became common for unwanted chickens to just be dropped off in the town. It is now a constant battle to keep chicken numbers down.

Formerly imprisoned in a chicken farm, escaped to freedom.... flew the coop, if you will
Inspires others with his example, advocates for chicken's rights
Embraces expressions of culture through traditional art forms (singing, painting, short plays)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee aka. Oregon Towhee (archaic)
Berkeley, California, USA
June 2014
Member of the American Sparrow Family
§A Teapot of Towhees§

~true bird fact~ Spotted Towhees were once considered to be the same bird as their close relative, the Eastern Towhee. They look pretty much exactly the same, except that the Spotted Towhee has those white spots on his shoulders and back. It is theorized that this is an evolutionary development to better camouflage the Spotted Towhee, as he forages in an overall sunnier climate. The white spots make him blend in with the sun-dappled leaf litter. This whole pattern of two almost identical bird species existing on the East and West coast is a holdover from the Ice Age, when the continent was divided rather impenetrably by great ice sheets. Like this, bird species that used to be one were divided for long enough that they turned into two.

A loose cannon. You never know what he might do
Talkative. A hit at dinner parties
Bad with responsibility. Won't remember the groceries, eg.
Irrationally well liked by his friends

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bewick's Wren

Bewick's Wren
Redding, California, USA
November 2014
Member of the Wren Family
§A Chime of Wrens§

~true bird fact~ He might look innocent, but don't let that fool you. This Bewick's Wren is engaged in a high stakes game of deadly nest espionage with his hated rival, the House Wren. Bewick's Wrens have all but disappeared from the Eastern United States, and it's thought that the expansion of the House Wren population is to blame. House Wren's frequently sneak the Bewick's Wren's eggs out of the nest and take it over themselves. In response, these birds often build 'dummy nests' as a misdirect, peck holes in other bird's eggs, and "defend nesting territory with singing" (a direct quote from the Audubon.org field guide, which leaves the way this is accomplished up to the reader's imagination).

Paranoid and jumpy (is it paranoia if they're really out to get you?)
Considers family traditions very important
Seeks closer bond with humans than most birds. Acts cute to get attention

Thomas Bewick
This bird was named after Thomas Bewick, by his friend James Audubon. Bewick was an engraver first, but eventually found acclaim as a naturalist and author. He illustrated children's books, engraved silverware, and did engravings for advertisements. He became well known for his illustrations of various versions of Aesop's Fables and a book called A History of Quadrupeds. He was a big proponent of wood engraving as a medium, and pioneered new techniques and tools to make it higher quality and less expensive. His most famous work was A History of British Birds, which he co-wrote and illustrated. A man after your amateurnithologist's own heart, he was credited with adding humanity and humor to his illustrations and books, adding unrelated illustrated vignettes to his nature books.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush
Alvarado Park, Richmond, California, USA
January 2015
Member of the Thrush Family
§A Hermitage of Thrushes§

~true bird fact~ The Varied Thrush is a Bird in the News lately. Usually it would be somewhat rare for this bird to be seen in your Amateurnithologist's neck of the woods (Bay Area, California, USA), but lately they've been popping up in great numbers. Furthermore, the birds have been seen as far south as LA, which is nearly unheard of. What's going on here? No one can say for sure, but it seems likely that the sudden movement in the population of these thrushes has to do with some complex combination of the ongoing California drought, acorn production numbers, and the bird's usual 2 year population growth and decline cycle. Still, a strange occurrence, and perhaps an omen in these troubled times. For good or for ill, enjoy these thrushes, as they are pretty cool looking. As we always say here on Amateurnithologist, 'nothing's ever promised tomorrow today'.

A bit of a claustrophobic
Needs a lot of time "to process"
Creates art/poetry, but is almost always too shy to share it with the public
Likes Halloween best among the holidays

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
Alvarado Park, Richmond, California, USA
January 2015
Member of the Woodpecker Family
§A Descent of Woodpeckers§

~true bird fact~ Hairy Woodpeckers have been known to follows around other, larger woodpeckers like the Pileated Woodpecker, and takes advantage of the holes he started, but digs deeper, grabbing the insects the Pileated missed. They've also been observed drinking the sap out of holes started by Sapsuckers. I guess Hairy Woodpecker is not one to shy away from profiting off the work of others.

Workmanlike, methodical. Excels at office politics
Whenever he has down time, uses it to advance some other goal. Never relaxes
Really good at spotting spelling errors or bad grammar
Pushes your buttons