Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher aka. Common Vermilion Flycatcher aka. Darwin's Flycatcher aka. Galapagos Flycatcher
Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the Tyrant/Flycatcher Family
§An Outfield of Flycatchers§ (I show you this stupid name, dear readers, only to illustrate the injustice that somehow this is a thing, but not my wonderful suggestion for a group of chats. The mind boggles)

~true bird fact~ As debonair in personality as he is in appearance, the male Vermilion Flycatcher woos females with a colorful bouquet (usually a butterfly or other interesting looking insect).

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a trust fund to beat the bank
Lives a globetrotting life of excitement
Since he's done it all already, it's hard for him to get excited for much anymore
He's not really a bad guy intrinsically, but he has trouble connecting with people in a sincere way

*record scratch*

*fancy classical music starts playing*

First Described by...

Pieter Boddaert
1730 - 1795
This guy over here. He was a Dutch doctor and naturalist, and his main claim to fame seems to have been that he knew a lot of other better known naturalists and thinkers. I want to rag on the guy, but honestly, being a very good friend to a lot of famous people is a good historical niche to find yourself in. He corresponded extensively with our pal Linnaeus, for example. When he published a series of illustration plates from the blockbuster french encyclopedia Histoire Naturelle he added his own scientific names to the animals, thus christening them. What a sneaky way to get into the history books, good on you Boddaert. He stayed in the animal encyclopedia game, publishing Elenchus Animalium (A Directory of Animals) where he named even more stuff.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting aka. Nonpareil (fr)
Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the Cardinal Family
§A Palette of Buntings§

{Etymology Corner} The scientific name of this bird is Passerina ciris. Evidently, it's named after the Greek Mythological character, Princess Scylla. She is turned into a bird after betraying her father in favor of an invading King Minos, who she has fallen in love with at first sight. She subsequently drowns while attempting to swim after her fleeing love, who wants no part of this whole thing. It's a wild story. It's also a pretty bad name for this bird, since she was supposedly transformed into a seabird, which this is not. I can agree, however, that this looks like a bird brought into the world through magical means.

~true bird fact~  As anyone can see from looking at it, this bird is incredibly colorful. This has made him a frequent target of poachers. In the 1800's, the were trapped in the thousands and shipped back to Europe for heavily marked-up sale as caged birds. This kind of trade is now illegal, happily, but has not been entirely eliminated. I know it's probably none of you dear readers, but please stop buying wild animals.

How endangered are they? They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Now I don't want you to panic, because they are till a fairly common bird, with an estimated 13 million adults out there. The rating is probably the result of a dramatic 60% dip in their population that took place between 1966 and 1995. Numbers have seemed stable since then, but you can never be took careful with a bird like this. The pressures on their population seem to be habitat loss from development and the aforementioned poaching.

Musically inclined
Despite his outwardly confident appearance, he's been the subject of a lot of pressure throughout his life
You can tell how he's feeling very easily- 'wears his hear on his sleeve'
Always laughs at your jokes

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat
Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
July 2017
Only Member of the Chat Family
The brand new family this bird belongs to has §No Collective Noun§, but if I was gonna just straight make one up (as I suspect often happens), I'd call them a... §Smalltalk of Chats§

~breaking bird news~ The Yellow-breasted chat, was, until this very year, considered to be our largest Wood Warbler. I guess this was based mostly on him being a yellow songbird, even though he is, like, twice as big as all the other wood warblers, and displays other biological differences as well. He even imitates songs, like a member of the mockingbird family. I guess hindsight is 20/20 and I'm no bird scientist, but I think we probably could've called this one a little sooner. Anyway, this is all so new that he is currently considered to be the only member of his taxonomic family, and almost all websites still incorrectly list him as a wood warbler. In fact, things as so uncertain for the chat, that he might get categorized as something else entirely at some point. I think we should just let him do his thing.

Ahead of his time- in 20 years we'll all look back on what Yellow-breasted Chat was doing and realize he was just miles ahead of us
Pursues his personal philosophy very consistently
Shows vulnerability in a very strong way
Finds the more simple acts of day to day living challenging sometimes

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cartoon Roadrunner vs. Real Roadrunner

Let's talk about the Road Runner. He was my favorite cartoon when I was a kid for sure, beating out even the antics of beloved proto-troll, Bugs Bunny. But as you age, you put away childish things, and now I probably prefer real road runners. This is a bird that's been on by bird-bucket list (birdcket list(TM)) for a while now, and on my recent Texas trip I finally got to see him, and in abundance. So I was thinking, just how does the Road Runner cartoon compare to the genuine article.

Long, prominent tail
Dark crest
Darker wing than belly

Not really predominantly purple/blue
Wrong number of toes
Beak shape wrong
Neck too long


Runs quickly, favoring roads (up to 15 miles per hour)
Doesn't really fly (flight is possible, but brief)
Lives in the Southwestern American Desert (per Chuck Jones)

Can outrun a coyote (they can get up to a whopping 43 miles per hour)
Would be hunted by coyote (coyote are voracious hunters and scavengers, but one of the few things that live in their range that they don't eat are Road Runners. Not worth the effort?)
Call is just extremely wrong

So how do we put this all together? Ultimately, I'm going to give him a passing grade because I think this cartoon succeeds in depicting a caricature of a roadrunner for the most part. The important part is that he is recognizable as his real-world inspiration, but just barely. The color is the real tricky part- it's just not a color these birds have (except in a small spot behind the eye). Most damningly, no other Looney Tune has a color scheme this unrealistic. Rabbits can be grey, ducks black, pigs pink, coyotes brown, etc. I guess what I'm saying is he's no Beaky Buzzard

Realism Score: C-

Also, have a profile, cause why not 

Greater Roadrunner aka. Chaparral Bird, aka. Chaparral Cock, aka. Ground Cuckoo aka. Snake Killer
Big Bend Ranch State Park, Presidio, Texas, USA
July 2017
Member of the Cuckoo Family
§A Race of Roadrunners§
Excellent State Bird of New Mexico

~real bird legend~ Road Runners have a special place in the belief systems of many Native North and Central American peoples. They are considered to be courageous, strong, and fast, perhaps because of their habit of taking on fearsome venomous prey like rattlesnakes, scorpions, and horned lizards. The X shaped mark their feet make (2 toes in front, 2 in back), is thought to ward off evil and has been used as a sacred symbol by the Pueblo tribes. The footprint disguises the direction you're going in, keeping evil spirits from following.

Adventurous, tends to rush in
Equally at ease by himself and around big groups. Either way he ends up talking a lot
Maybe should be a little more careful, seems to walk around like he's invincible
Sleeps well at night