Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sick and injured birds

You know, ever since the winter of 2013, I've been noticing a lot more sick and/or injured birds.

During the winter, it's mostly House Finches with conjunctivitis, a common disease both diagnosed in humans and birds, aka pink eye. On humans it's not really bad, but on birds it really is: The eye(s) becomes puffy and swollen, then they eye begins to look wet. It's just downhill after that - the eye gets all crusty. The bird eventually becomes blind, unable to find food, and, in most cases, will die. If you want to know more, visit the House Finch Eye Disease website or the House Finch Disease Survey.

In the spring, summer and fall, a lot of things can happen. Window strikes, fights (especially in the spring), cats, and human development. Just yesterday, my neighbor waved me down while I was going for a walk. "There's a bird here that just hit my window," she said. "It's not moving." When I went over to look at it, I saw it was a Grey Catbird. So I ran home to get gloves (can't be too safe, right?) and when I got back, I saw it had its beak open and some tail feathers were broken. I scooped the poor thing up, and he struggled to get away. I laid him in the grass so we could keep an eye on him. and what was the first thing that stupid bird did? Run into a different window! I tried to pick him up, but he flew across the street and landed on someone's roof. What worried me is that what if that bird was a mother and it had died? Then we would have just lost a generation of Catbirds! Breeding season in the worst time for birds to die. If you want to help prevent window strikes, consider getting decals. And read up on it at Bird Watcher's Digest's How to Solve Window Strikes page or read about Julie Zickefoose's solution.

Fights can lead to serious injuries, but only on rare occasions.

Cats (house and feral) kill over 1 million birds per year. It's really bad during migration, because what if there's some rare species going through your area? Cat + bird = avian disaster. And that's what's happening everywhere. You think your lazy couch potato cat is too couch potatoish to kill birds? Wrong! Even the fattest, laziest cats in the US contribute to this grave cause of many bird species' demise. Here's a stupidly simple solution that should've been thought of a long time ago: Keep your cats indoors! To learn more, visit the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors! campaign. If you want to spread the word, email, go door to door, and/or order brochures.

I won't go into human development because there's a lot of debate in that area, and I really haven't studied enough to have an opinion.

Lastly, if you see a feathered baby bird hopping on the ground, leave it alone! The parents are most likely nearby. For further reading, go to the Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education's I Found a Baby Bird. Now What? page.

Friday, May 23, 2014

More pictures from the Birdfest

Chase, a Cooper's Hawk. Wing damage.
Stella the Peregrine - A retired falconry bird.
Phoenix the Red-tail. Blind in the left eye.
A baby Painted Turtle - They have one every year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Follow BBFG!

You know, if you enter your email address on the right side of the blog, then you can subscribe (don't worry, it's free) and you'll get an email every time I, Buddy or Court posts something. Not to worry - We don't get access to your email address - Blogger does. So if you wanna get notified instead of having to check like once a week, then subscribe!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Birdlog #12 - 5-18-14: Birdfest!

"Hey! Lemme go!"
Bird banding is really cool. But what is bird banding, you ask? Bird banding is the term for putting that little ring around the bird's leg. Seems pretty useless, except for style (and it doesn't even look very good!) But there's more to it than that - There's an address or phone number of email address or something like that on the band, and when another bander catches that bird in a mist net (a stationary net that's really hard to see), he takes the bird into his banding station and calls, mails, emails... communicates in some way the the original bird bander. That way the first guy know's where the bird is or went! But if the bird dies (which happens frequently, I'm sorry to say), then the first bander doesn't get told where his bird is, therefore he assumes it's dead. The cool thing is that according to the Bird Banding Labratory (BBL) site, over 64,050,611 bird have been banded from 1960 to the present! And on average, over the past decade, the BBL has received over 1.2 million banding and over 87,000 encounter records per year!

That good enough? Anyway, I had to explain all that just so you'd understand this:

The annual Birdfest at the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory (SBBO) this year was amazing! Some highlights were Scarlet Tanager (adult male), Golden-winged Warbler and Magnolia Warbler.

Scarlet Tanager, adult male.

The Sand Bluff Birdfest is just a bird celebration. People come, they buy stuff at the booths, they eat Eickman's amazing burgers, hot dogs or brats, and wander around geeking out at all the stuff to do. Or they could go along with the SBBO volunteers on a net check. My personal favorite is listening to Lee Johnson (one of the master banders) talk about all of the birds that he holds up: After they collect the birds, Mr. Johnson lets us guess the species then gives an astonishingly informative species profile. He does this for each bird almost all day during the Birdfest!

Painted Turtle.
On the long drive home, guess what me and my dad saw? A Painted Turtle crossing the road! It was that first I'd ever seen in the wild. A car ran  over it, but thankfully the driver saw the mischievous little reptile and me waving my hands in warning, so he carefully drove so his tires wouldn't squish him. After he drove away and there were no more cars coming, I ran into the middle of the road, scooped him up, and painfully helped him across - they have really sharp claws! And they skitter like mad. "Who says a turtle is slow?" said my dad. Sometimes Dad complains because "We should've kept him!"


Birdlog #11 - 5-18-14: Sulphur Butterfly

Here are some pictures of a Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly.

From the side.

Front view.

You can tell by the little dot on the middle of the wing that it was a female. Males don't have that, and they are more brightly colored. The weird thing was that after awhile, it just didn't want to leave. So I encouraged it to fly away by dropping it (that's what you do with birds after they're banded!), but it wouldn't go! So, after ten minutes or so, I finally got it to fly off. It was pretty cool - You don't get to hold Cloudless Sulphurs every day!


Friday, May 2, 2014

New site: All About Feathers

Cornell Birds has a new website: All About Feathers!

This new site goes really in-depth about feathers. There's not much else to say. Check it out!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Monthly Bird #5: Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Here's All About Birds's description: "Bursting with black, white, and rose-red, male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are like an exclamation mark at your bird feeder or in your binoculars."
And I agree entirely.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male.
In my opinion, the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a well-dressed bird, with its black suit, white undershirt and blood red tie. These are the key field marks for identifying one, along with the two white wing bars. The female can be tricky. It's brown with streaks on its breast, and its bill is the pale color of its eyebrow. The tricky part is that it looks so much like the female of another species, the Black-headed Grosbeak. I think the only difference is the Black-headed has a blacker head and a yellower eyebrow. Two other species it can be mixed up with are the females of both the Purple Finch and the Red-winged Blackbird.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks eat a huge variety of insects, seeds and berries. According to All About Birds again, they eat a lot of berries: "elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, juneberries, and seeds of smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, milkweed, plus sunflower seeds, garden peas, oats, wheat, tree flowers, tree buds, and cultivated fruit." And that's just the berries they eat - Can you even imagine how many bugs and seeds they consume?

Like many birds, elegant grosbeak is commonly found in the eastern US and Canada, wintering in Central America and northern parts of South America, along with the Caribbean Islands. Its favorite habitat is the deciduous-coniferous forest. Other spots you might see one are: suburban areas, parks, gardens, and orchards, as well as shrubby forest edges next to streams, ponds, marshes, roads, or pastures.