Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Common Merganser

Common Merganser aka. Buff-breasted Merganser aka. Sawbill aka. Fish Duck aka. Goosander
Lake Tahoe, California, USA
June 2015
Member of the Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family
§A Flush of Ducks§

{Etymology Corner} The name Merganser comes from the latin for Plunging Goose.
How good of a name is it? 7/10 It's pretty cool sounding, and it's fairly literal, as this is a large water bird that does a lot of diving. Could be better if it weren't misidentified as a goose or if the name mentioned that unusual toothed bills.

~true bird fact~ Common Mergansers are quite some hunters. They're got those teeth in their bills so that they can seize prey underwater. Other birds have been known to take advantage of this, following flocks of feeding Mergansers and trying to steal fish from them as they surface. Prime offenders are Seagulls and Bald Eagles, which makes sense, as both are well known layabouts.

Has a good personality, like all ducks. Affable
Often misspeaks or makes gaffes, but doesn't seem bothered by it
Often ahead of the curve on social issues
A real sweet-talker

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo aka. Storm Crow aka. Rain Crow (colloq.)
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn, NYC, USA
July 2015
Member of the Cuckoo Family
§An Asylum of Cuckoos§

~true bird fact~ Nesting pairs of Cuckoos have a bold move to scare off predators called a "distraction display". One bird stays on the nest and the other attempts to distract the predator, basically by acting injured. The bird will fly to an openly visible perch and make weak flapping and hopping motions, hoping to get the intruder off the trail of the nest. Cool trick!

Commits faux pas, but then doubles down on them proudly
Gets followed a lot by small time paparazzi
A bad example for kids, but doesn't care
In some ways, being thrust into the spotlight at a young age and the way we treat celebrity in general in our culture is an explanation of the Cuckoo's behavior and an acquittal of the Cuckoo herself. Still rubs you the wrong way, even though you know this.

One interesting note about this picture- it was taken as the former Bird of the Year candidate sat like this for a long time, while an increasingly agitated American Robin shouted at him and fluttered around. Eventually the Cuckoo was driven away. My amateur theory, knowing what I know about this bird, is that he was hoping to frighten the Robin away from her nest. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, like our last subject, the Brown-headed Cowbird, is a brood parasite, meaning it lays eggs in the nest of other birds. Perhaps this was step one in the process of 'get another bird to raise your young'? The Cuckoo, however, unlike the Cowbird, is not strictly a brood parasite, so who knows.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird
Eastmont Hills, Oakland, California, USA
June 2014
Member of the Blackbird Family
§A Corral of Cowbirds§

~true bird fact~ Brown-headed Cowbird's are the USA's most prolific and common brood parasites. A female Cowbird does not build her own nest and instead spends her energy laying eggs in the nests of as many other birds as possible, laying as many as 3 dozen in a season. These eggs (and chicks) are then cared for by the other species. Unless, of course, the mother bird recognizes the eggs as not her own, in which case she will try to puncture them or throw them out of the nest. Some birds are too small to do this, and instead build a new nest over the cowbird eggs. Sometimes the mother cowbird comes back to check on her eggs, and if they have been disturbed engage in ransacking and harassment of the nest.

Cowbird chicks are pretty rude as well, hatching and growing earlier than average in order to force out the other bird's eggs or chicks from the nest. Can a bird be considered evil? We will be examining this issue more closely in our next few blogs.

Treats others as objects to an end. Has a hard time empathizing
Has a lot of self pity
High level of business savvy
Good at manning a grill

And yes, in case you were wondering, they are named cowbirds because they hang around cows (and other herd animals). This is because the movement of the herd kicks up a lot of food, mostly plant seeds and insects who get stirred up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Baby Birds in New York City

It's summer and baby birds are on the rise! Well, more like adolescent birds at this point, for the most part. These pictures were all taken in the past week or so in NYC, where your Amatuernithologist took a short vacation. Birding there was.. not spectacular as far as numbers or new species, but I got some good pictures, and there were some pretty neat discoveries that I'm sure you'll all be excited to see whenever they roll onto the blog. What New York did have, however, was an abundance of young birds, which is good news, since our Research shows that blog readers respond most to Cute Baby Animals (followed shortly by Unusual Animal Friends [UAFs]).

American Robin
The High Line, Manhattan, NYC, NY, USA
July 2015

When I saw this guy squabbling with an adult American Robin, I was hoping that I had a cool new bird. A little research confirmed that I was probably just looking at a younger robin. How come it's never a Wood Thrush? This bird listens to rebellious music.

This is American Robin in her adult form (and baby form, if you look closely). Notice how she has become more mature with age, and has settled into adult responsibility. Takes care of herself with small wellness rituals every day.

European Starling
Battery Park, Manhattan, NYC, NY, USA
July 2015

Major sibling rivalry here, these two birds are developing in different directions in order to differentiate themselves and find their own place in the world. Until they are no longer competing, there will be a high amount of stress in the family.

Makes you say "Wow, what a cool bird". I'm so glad some lunatic imported Starlings from Europe. This bird has decided that he doesn't want kids, and is going to seek fulfillment in a different way, perhaps artistically. Likes kids, but would rather be a 'cool uncle'.

Gray Catbird
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NYC, NY, USA
July 2015

This Gray Catbird is really a baby, and as such has not developed any descernable personality yet. Bares a vaguely concerned and confused look most of the time. Experiences a muted and muffled version of our own reality.

Gray Catbird is really making something of himself. Time is money, show me the numbers, let's reorganize to optimize our marketshare. Might be successful, but has lost track of the ability to see the world as a place of beauty. On auto-pilot, for now. Some things that we knew as a baby, we forget.