Blog Birding #99
by Nate Swick
Does lack of contact between exotic bird populations in North America and their wild ancestors mean that they learn different vocalizations? Earbirding's Nathan Pieplow looks at two parrot species in Florida and says yes:
These two small South American parakeets are closely related — in fact, they were until recently considered a single species, “Canary-winged Parakeet.” They look and sound quite similar, and where both species occur in south Florida, they sometimes hybridize. As a result, their status and distribution in Florida have been somewhat difficult to tease apart. I’ve heard from a couple of sources that White-winged used to be the more common of the two species in south Florida, but has declined in recent years, while Yellow-chevroned has increased.
Tammy, writing at Birding is Fun, explores a series of photos showing a Little Blue Heron slowly turning blue:
There are some species of birds that attempt to fool us with a name that inaccurately depicts them, such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers. In this case, one would visualize a sharp billed bird with a cherry colored stomach, when in fact these birds present with a red head and gray belly. Another species that can cause one confusion based on its name is the Little Blue Heron.
David Sibley explains the little known and often confusing juvenal plumage in songbirds:
Most Passerines only hold juvenal plumage for a few weeks, quickly molting to a more adult-like plumage soon after they fledge and before fall migration. It’s a plumage that is seen almost entirely on the breeding grounds, but the breeding grounds (and fledging time) of many birds overlaps broadly with the fall migration of others, so it’s common to see a mixture of juveniles and fall migrants of various species. Learning to recognize juvenile songbirds, and appreciating the things they all have in common, can help avoid confusion in the late summer and early fall.
Laura Erickson tries, in vain, to predict the last hummingbird of fall:
Every September, I get inundated with questions about when we should take down hummingbird feeders. The vast majority of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds light out for the territory in August, and most of us in northern states notice our last ones on or before Labor Day. If you’re putting out hummingbird feeders for your own enjoyment of these tiny dynamos, take in your feeders when you stop seeing them. But unless you’re watching your feeder every minute of every daylight hour, you are almost certainly getting occasional visits from hummingbirds migrating through. Keeping feeders available can give these last ones, mostly young of the year, a quick supply of calories. A hummingbird feeder provides far more carbs per visit than individual flowers do, so a feeder allows migrants to spend more time traveling and less searching for food.
Nick, of The Birdist, digs into the words behind the bird names, with some result both expected and unexpected:
What I've been thinking about recently is the words for birds themselves. It seems to me that words for birds are particularly interesting - from the unusual words (Owl, Osprey) to silly ones (Tit, Booby, Goatsucker), to obvious ones (Woodpecker, Stilt) to mysterious ones (pretty much everything else). How did these words evolve? Are there trends? Stories? I did some digging through the OED - Online Etymology Dictionary to see what I could find.