Friday, March 25, 2016

BRL: Bird Request Live: Hummingbird and Pelican

Welcome to a new feature! You write in with your bird requests, I do a blog about them (provided I actually have the bird in question), and that's the whole thing. Realistically, I imagine this feature will repeat approximately never to once every 6 months, because that's the estimated level of interest here. Still, nearly at 20,000 clicks and on our 4 year anniversary, it doesn't feel bad to add a new feature. Happy Amateurniversity to me! If you'd like to request a bird, hit me up on the Twitter or just leave a comment.

Today's bird request is coming in live from Lia P. in Atlanta, GA. Lia writes:

Do you take requests? Like, maybe you could do a DJ Fly feature (get it? Because most birds fly) and do a post on requested birds. If so, this is Lia in Atlanta and I'm requesting the hummingbird and pelican, two of my favs.

I absolutely can, Lia, but I have to say I don't really understand that joke. Sense of humor has never been our strength here at The Amateurnithologist. You requested 'the hummingbird' and 'pelican', so I assume you just leave it up to me which type of hummingbird and pelican you'd like to see.

There are 338 known species of hummingbirds, but only 20 that are regularly found in North America. Even then, most of those are located south of or on the southern US border with Mexico. Narrowing things even further, the only hummingbird regularly seen on the east coast is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (covered on this blog here). We've also done Anna's Hummingbird, the most common on the West Coast. Today we have a new hummingbird to show you.
Costa's Hummingbird (slightly speculative, I find these very hard to tell from Anna's)
Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, California, USA
February 2016
Member of the Hummingbird Family
§A Bouquet of Hummingbirds§

~true bird fact~ You picked a really interesting bird in the hummingbird. It has many unique features, but I won't share them ALL today. Hummingbirds eat only flower nectar, generally only from very specific flowers. Often hummingbirds will co-evolve beaks that fit perfectly with the flowers they pollinate. That's how you sometimes see hummingbirds with extreme or unusual bills.

As always, here at Amateurnithologist, we maintain that hummingbirds are not actually birds, but rather malfunctioning machines, or perhaps bugs


Pelicans were the other bird requested. There are only two species of pelican that live in North America, and we've covered both of them here on the blog- American White Pelican and Brown Pelican. Impressively, I've managed to do 8 blogs that at least include images of pelicans despite there only being two types (well, two types here. There are still only 8 worldwide). A testament to the interestingness level of pelicans. And interesting they are- some of the worlds heaviest birds, they look like they should never be able to fly. However, their body structure is incredibly light for how bulky it is, as they have connected networks of air sack organs in their bones and skin that not only make them lighter, but let them float high in the water. Their strange bill is defined by an expandable pouch that usually catches fish, but can also hold rain water.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Java Sparrow

Java Sparrow aka. Java Finch, aka. Java Rice Bird, aka. Paddy Bird (sounds potentially offensive, tread with care)
Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, USA
December 2015
Native of: Java, a few other Indonesian islands
Member of the Weaver-Finch Family (huh?)
§A Trembling of Finches§
★Largest Weaver-Finch

~true bird fact~ Those aka's ain't kidding, the Java Sparrow is serious about rice. Considered a major threat to rice-based agriculture, it was a popular cage-bird in America until it was banned for concern that they would wreak havoc on our grain fields if they escaped.

~true bird history~ Ironically, they remain popular pet birds throughout Asia despite this. Java Sparrow domestication goes back centuries, at least until the Ming Dynasty. A famous and well regarded Japanese novelist, Natsume Sōseki, wrote about his pet Java Sparrow in the 1909 essay, Buncho.

How endangered are they? The real numbers are not really known, but the places he lives are so small and so under-threat, that they are considered a Vulnerable species.

Mild-mannered and friendly
A good, active listener
Upbeat, but sympathetic
Communicates a lot with a simple look

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hermit Warbler

Hermit Warbler (juvenile)

Washington Square Park, San Francisco, California USA
January 2014
Member of the Wood Warbler Family
§A Fall of Warblers§

~true bird fact~ Diet consists strictly of bugs and spiders. Short fact for you today, folks...

Ok fine, here's another. It's shy. Every website says that, what's going on, I thought anthropomorphizing was my deal? Are they trying to capture the magic of the Amateurnithologist brand? Anyway, it's a boring bird. Every other fact I can find is this lame inside-baseball stuff about Townsend's Warbler displacing their populations. Dangit Townsend's Warbler, not again!

Loves a good view
Has a conspiratorial nature
Doesn't stand up to Townsend's Warbler one bit, I can tell you that for sure

Saturday, March 5, 2016

California Condor

California Condor
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California USA
Member of the Vulture Family
§A Scarcity of Condors§ (a bit on the nose..)
★Largest North American Bird

~true bird fact~ Truly a creature out of another time, Condors are huge, slow, and long-lived. They thrived 40,000 years ago, when giant mammals roamed the continent. Condors can go weeks without eating, and when they do eat, they can store up to 3 pounds of meat in their crops (bird food-holding organs). Unlike most birds, young Condors stay with their parents for more than a year, and actually take 6-8 to reach full maturity. Overall, one of the longest-lived birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years. Basically these are bird dinosaurs.

How endangered are they? Very much so. The California Condor is critically endangered. As of 1987, there were only 27 birds left. Dramatic action was necessary, and they were all taken into captivity to attempt a breeding program. It's slow and laborious work, partly because female condors only nest once a year, and sometimes not even that much, and partly because birds take so long to reach maturity. In 1991, Condors began to be released back into the wild. As of today there are 425 birds alive, full stop. Only 219 of them are wild, making them one of the world's rarest birds. This means that I've now seen a little more than 1% of all the wild California Condors.

Heavy emphasis on family life
Superstitious. Uses folk medicine
Like most vultures, has a strong stomach, literally and metaphorically