Feathered Feature

Why Does a Woodpecker Not Bash Its Brains In When It Pecks?

PileatedWoodpeckerFeedingonTree

Pileated Woodpecker (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Protections of the Woodpecker for Pecking

Have you ever seen a flicker or woodpecker pounding away at bark, or annoyingly on a tin roof, and wondered how in the world they can do that without bashing in their brains? After all, the force of that is measured at over 1,000x the force of gravity!  The answer is pretty complex, but you can break it down into some simple parts:

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Introducing the American Woodcock, or Timberdoodle, the True Sign of Spring

American woodcock flicker tombenson76

Timberdoodle Natural History

One of the sure signs of Spring in this region is the "speent" of the American woodcock (Scolopax minor) calling at night, and their silhouetted flight with spiraling sing song wings as they ascend and descend against the slowly falling dusk. The American woodcock has many  names but the most popular is the timberdoodle. These birds are stocky brown and mottled to match leaf litter coloring, about the size of a pigeon but with a rounded stocky body and broad chest with a tapering and barely noticeable tail. They are actually shorebirds that have converted their hunting methods from using their short necks and long curved beaks to probe in the mud for clams, to probing in the mud for worms, insects, and other creatures in leaf litter. Their beak is flexible and can bend slightly to allow it to move around in worm burrows and under ground (check out "speenting" video below, you can see the beak flex slightly while the male is calling).

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Step By Step Instructions for Making Suet for Bird Feeders Backyardbirds flicker

Making Suet For Your Feeders is a Great Family Bonding Activity

This time of year many people choose to feed birds, which is a great way to support local native populations. I don't know about you, but the row after row of seed choices at the hardware store are intimidating. There are a wide variety of seeds available out there to choose from. Black oil sunflower is a favorite, but can be expensive. I've also found that the millet based seed is often just wasted. What you feed the birds really depends on where you live (an apartment manager may not like all the black oil shell husks) and the types of birds you want to feed. I'll cover choosing seeds in a later post, but for now here is a great reference page from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Today's post is all about suet, another form of food to feed birds.

Bobistraveling flicker suet feeder

Yellow rumped warblers feeding at suet feeder. (Photo: Bobistraveling Flicker commons)

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Picking a Feather off the Ground May Get You Jail Time

Migratory Bird Treaty Act Makes Collecting Bird Feathers Illegal, the Feather Atlas from USFWS Can Help

Often times when leading hikes I see visitors in my programs pick up bird feathers and want to know if they can take them home. I have to answer that by law, it's illegal. Most people are shocked to find out that picking up bird feathers, moving bird nests, or taking carcasses for stuffing is illegal. This is because of something called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

feathers

Feather Types Commonly Found (USFWS)

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The Ruddy Duck: A Bird With Style

Ruddy Duck by Juan Pons

Male Ruddy Duck by Juan Pons

An Introduction to the Natural History and Identification of the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)

In the winter a common visitor to our shores, and much of the South-East and Western US, is the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). These ducks breed mostly in the ponds and marshes of prairies, fresh water wetlands, and lakes but they travel south each year from the Midwest and Canada to grace us with their elegance and the male's colorful attire.

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