Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull
Key Largo, Florida, USA
April 2015
Member of the Gulls and Terns Family
§A Scavenging of Gulls§

~true bird fact~ Another bird that was the target of egg and plume hunting in the 19th century and saw a dramatic decline, to the point where there were basically no nesting colonies in the Northeastern US at all. Since all that business stopped, they're doing just fine. It's interesting that something that was once such a major industry, like bird feathers, can just stop abruptly to the point where it now seems like a strange thing to do. Maybe it's a little bit of hope for the future- what natural resources are we exploiting now that we won't be in 200 years?

~and one more thing~ Also, the 'laughing'. Yeah, that's what his call sounds like. I don't know if I should even bother with bird facts so well known, but I guess some people who come to the blog probably are even less bird-knowledgeable than me? Sound off in the comments.

Rude and crude. Doesn't listen to authority figures
Had to grow up early to take care of his family
Seeks support from friends to survive life's struggles
Has few opportunities to express vulnerability and express self

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal
Albany Mudflats State Marine Park, Albany, CA, USA
March 2015
Member of the Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family
§A Dopping of Teal§
The Smallest North American Duck (about the size of a pigeon)★

~true bird fact~ I know it's not going to be a major bird shocker, but think for a second about migration when you see this bird. This guy breeds in Northern Alaska and the Aleutian Island chain, and is an unusually early migrator, leaving his wintering grounds as early as February and arriving just when the snow is melting. That means this is a bird that is flying 3000 miles to go to Alaska in early Spring. Birds are so tough.

Has seemingly boundless energy
A natural at many things
Doesn't know how to relax
Harbors secret desires to be a crime fighter, exercises and trains a lot

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck aka. Barbary Duck aka. Common Duck aka. Forest Duck aka. Greater Wood Duck aka. pato criollo ("creole duck") aka. pato casero ("backyard duck") and pato mudo ("mute duck")
Key West Botanical Gardens, Key West, Conch Republic
April 2015
Member of the Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family
§A Team of Ducks§

~true bird fact~ There is a lively and ongoing debate in the Jewish community about whether or not Muscovy Ducks are Kosher (permissible for strict Jews to eat). This seems to stem from a rabinical decision in the 1800's by an American rabbi, who banned the ducks. No ban has ever existed for Jews in Israel.

Additional Duck Facts

~Another bird first scientifically described by our friend Carl Linnaeus
~Muscovy Ducks don't quack, they hiss
~Muscovy Duck liver and heart are ingredients in Homeopathic medicine, said to relieve flu symptoms
~The name comes from their musky smell, seemingly. There is some debate on this topic.
~Considered an invasive species in most parts of the US, they are sometimes destroyed by wildlife services. The exception to this is in some parts of southern Florida and Texas where they are considered 'close enough' to native. The duck's usual home is Central and South America.
~Muscovy ducks have an unusually detailed wikipedia page, where most of this information is from

And now, a new feature for us here on Amateurnithologist: Selected Excerpts from customer reviews on BackyardChickens.com. We call it...

Bird Reviews
Rated #2 in ducks (!!!)

"My ducks dance where ever they go"

"Cons: creepy looking and smelly "

"These are my best ducks and are great mothers, very sweet, have beautiful babies"

"very laid back"

"I will go outside and they will be up in the front yard just doing duck things"

"We love our Muscovy drake but he is very very randy. He will try to mate with any bird he can get his beak on, which made for an awkward situation with the neighbor"

"I did not like him at all, He was huge and had very sharp nails"

"They can be a little shy at first but once they see you enough they warm right up to you and love you almost instantly"

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow
Lake Chabot, Castro Valley, California, USA
January 2015
Member of the American Sparrow Family
§A Choir of Sparrows§

~true bird fact~ The Song Sparrow has a song complex enough that even skilled mimic birds, like the Northern Mockingbird can't copy him. They sing so much because this is their way of attracting mates. A male Song Sparrow's song doesn't just tell a female what a good singer he is- she uses it as a marker to determine his intelligence and ability to learn and remember, thus ensuring a strong species. Sparrows have more going on than expected.

Sensitive to a fault. Others' problems hang heavily on him
Comes off as confidant, or even cocky to acquaintances
Finds joy/peace in travel
Notices the little details

Back in 2012, I wrote a holiday special Father's Day blog post in which I covered a family of birds that I had seen living in a drain pipe outside a Peet's Coffee (shoutout to good coffee). This was the first of my (rarely repeated) feature looking at bird homes. Yesterday I saw a bird that seemed to have made a nest inside the light of a working traffic signal and really wished I had my camera. Anyway, in that long ago post I identified the birds as "likely to be... Song Sparrows". If you're a regular reader, you can probably guess where this is going. Looking back at it now, it seems clear to me that 1) There is no indication that those were Song Sparrows 2) I don't know what those birds are and 3) I'm not going to do the research now. We apologize and retract our previous claim, dear blog reader. More interesting though, what does finding this mistake now mean? A sign of growth? An indicator of my still-amateur status? Maybe a little of everything. Your amateurnithologist, signing off.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis
Green Cay, Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
April 2015
Member of the Spoonbill and Ibis Family
§A Stand of Ibises§

~true bird fact~ Glossy Ibises are extremely nomadic as a species. Although they originated in Africa, they have naturally expanded their range to include parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and North and South America as well. All this expansion was actively happening as recently as the 19th century. No one brought them to any of these places, they just got there. Glossy Ibises are one of those birds that widely disperses after breeding season, meaning they pretty much just fly everywhere and try to settle down in new areas. I respect that kind of attitude and life style. Hey, cool, ibis

Seamlessly enters new social circles
Has a great sense of perspective. Doesn't sweat the small stuff
Frustrated by over-coddling, or by parents 'spoiling' their children
Likes gooey foods