The Grey-headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma) is an endangered  albatross of the Southern Ocean, averaging 81 cm (32 in) in length and 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in wingspan, which breeds further south than any other mollymawk. Though its common name derives from the species’ ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck, the scientific name is a reference to the bright golden streaks on its bill.

Photographs: adult - JJ Harrison; chick - Ben Tullis

(via: Wikipedia)

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK: Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) Family: Accipitridae Broad-winged Hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies and large heads. In flight, their broad wings come to a distinct point. The tail is short and square with black-and-white bands. Their call is a piercing, two-parted whistle.  One of the greatest spectacles of migration is a swirling flock of Broad-winged Hawks on their way to South America. Also known as “kettles,” flocks can contain thousands of circling birds that evoke a vast cauldron being stirred with an invisible spoon. Witness the marvel of migration in person by visiting the Smith Point Hawk Watch on the Bolivar Peninsula. Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, counters and volunteers record the number of hawks observed from Aug 1- Nov 15. Broad-winged Hawk migration makes up 70% of the birds counted. During the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration on the day of or the day after a cold front, it is not unusual for more than 10,000 raptors to pass by the tower. 
Learn more about the watch by visiting their blog: 
http://smithpointhawkwatch.wordpress.com/
(via: Houston Audubon)

HOUSTON AUDUBON BEAK OF THE WEEK:

Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

Family: Accipitridae

Broad-winged Hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies and large heads. In flight, their broad wings come to a distinct point. The tail is short and square with black-and-white bands. Their call is a piercing, two-parted whistle.

One of the greatest spectacles of migration is a swirling flock of Broad-winged Hawks on their way to South America. Also known as “kettles,” flocks can contain thousands of circling birds that evoke a vast cauldron being stirred with an invisible spoon.

Witness the marvel of migration in person by visiting the Smith Point Hawk Watch on the Bolivar Peninsula. Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, counters and volunteers record the number of hawks observed from Aug 1- Nov 15. Broad-winged Hawk migration makes up 70% of the birds counted. During the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration on the day of or the day after a cold front, it is not unusual for more than 10,000 raptors to pass by the tower.

Learn more about the watch by visiting their blog:

http://smithpointhawkwatch.wordpress.com/

(via: Houston Audubon)

Bird Droppings Led to U.S. Possession of Newly Protected Pacific Islands
A 19th-century quest for natural fertilizer, bird guano, led to the world’s largest marine reserve.
by Dan Vergano
Blame it on “guano mania.” A craze for natural fertilizer made from bird droppings spurred the U.S. to take possession of a group of remote Pacific islands in the 19th century, and now those islands are home to the world’s largest marine reserve.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to cover nearly 490,000 square miles, six times larger than its previous size.
(See “U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California.”)
The Guano Islands Act of 1856 made it possible. The United States long ago used the act to claim islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as territory, which means that today the U.S. government has the legal authority to protect waters up to 200 miles out from each island, an area known as the exclusive economic zone…
(read more: National Geographic)
photograph: Tui De Roi/National Geographic

Bird Droppings Led to U.S. Possession of Newly Protected Pacific Islands

A 19th-century quest for natural fertilizer, bird guano, led to the world’s largest marine reserve.

by Dan Vergano

Blame it on “guano mania.” A craze for natural fertilizer made from bird droppings spurred the U.S. to take possession of a group of remote Pacific islands in the 19th century, and now those islands are home to the world’s largest marine reserve.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to cover nearly 490,000 square miles, six times larger than its previous size.

(See “U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California.”)

The Guano Islands Act of 1856 made it possible. The United States long ago used the act to claim islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as territory, which means that today the U.S. government has the legal authority to protect waters up to 200 miles out from each island, an area known as the exclusive economic zone…

(read more: National Geographic)

photograph: Tui De Roi/National Geographic

libutron
libutron:

Puna Flamingo - Phoenicoparrus jamesi 
What you see in the picture is a species of flamingo that is not often seen outside their habitat, it is Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Phoenicopteriformes - Phoenicopteridae), a Near Threatened species distributed on the high Andean plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. 
This species is unique among flamingos as it lacks the hind toe. Other common names: James’s Flamingo, Flamenco Andino Chico, Flamenco de James, Parina Chica.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©Christopher Momberg | Locality: Laguna Chaxas, Salar de Atacama, Chile (2014)

libutron:

Puna Flamingo - Phoenicoparrus jamesi 

What you see in the picture is a species of flamingo that is not often seen outside their habitat, it is Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Phoenicopteriformes - Phoenicopteridae), a Near Threatened species distributed on the high Andean plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. 

This species is unique among flamingos as it lacks the hind toe. Other common names: James’s Flamingo, Flamenco Andino Chico, Flamenco de James, Parina Chica.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Christopher Momberg | Locality: Laguna Chaxas, Salar de Atacama, Chile (2014)

mypubliclands
mypubliclands:

Show Some Condor Love! Follow Our California Condor Release for National Public Lands Day
Today, the BLM, The Peregrine Fund and partners will release three California condors in the BLM-managed Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The annual release coincides with National Public Lands Day, and you can join the celebration on social media!  
Follow using the hashtags #CondorsOnTheRise, #WelcomeCondors and #NPLD on BLM’s Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. 
Photo by #CondorsOnTheRise Partner Arizona Game and Fish.  See more photos on our My Public Lands Flickr set,
Learn more about the annual event and condor recovery: http://bit.ly/condorsontherise

mypubliclands:

Show Some Condor Love! Follow Our California Condor Release for National Public Lands Day

Today, the BLM, The Peregrine Fund and partners will release three California condors in the BLM-managed Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. The annual release coincides with National Public Lands Day, and you can join the celebration on social media!  

Follow using the hashtags #CondorsOnTheRise, #WelcomeCondors and #NPLD on BLM’s Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. 

Photo by #CondorsOnTheRise Partner Arizona Game and Fish.  See more photos on our My Public Lands Flickr set,

Learn more about the annual event and condor recovery: http://bit.ly/condorsontherise

libutron
libutron:

Pied Falconet - Microhierax melanoleucos
Members of the genus Microhierax (Falconiformes - Falconidae) are the smallest of falcons. This species, Microhierax melanoleucos, grows up to 20 cm and has a maximum wingspan of 37 cm.
Some individuals of the Pied Falconet have a thin white line across the base of the cere, over the eyes and down to the breast giving the appearance of a white face with large black eye patches.
The Pied Falconet is found in the forests of Bangladesh, China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©阿棋 (Kei) Looking@Nature | Locality: unknown (2011)

libutron:

Pied Falconet - Microhierax melanoleucos

Members of the genus Microhierax (Falconiformes - Falconidae) are the smallest of falcons. This species, Microhierax melanoleucos, grows up to 20 cm and has a maximum wingspan of 37 cm.

Some individuals of the Pied Falconet have a thin white line across the base of the cere, over the eyes and down to the breast giving the appearance of a white face with large black eye patches.

The Pied Falconet is found in the forests of Bangladesh, China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©阿棋 (Kei) Looking@Nature | Locality: unknown (2011)

cool-critters

cool-critters:

Horned guan (Oreophasis derbianus)

The horned guan is a large, approximately 85 cm long, turkey-like bird. is distributed in humid mountain forests of southeast Mexico-(Chiapas) and Guatemala of Central America. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, green leaves and invertebrates. This species is the only survivor of a very ancient lineage of cracids that has been evolving independently from all other living members of this family for at least 20, possibly as much as 40 million years. Due to ongoing habitat loss, small population size, limited range and hunting in some areas, the horned guan is evaluated as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

photo credits: revuemag, guppiecat, stlzoo

Sulphur crested cockatoos dig metre long den at Muirfield Golf Course in North Rocks, outside of Sydney

by Angela Ranke

The burrowing birds caught the attention of Castle Hill’s John Hill who emailed the Hills Shire Times after he came across their strange 1m tunnel.

“Initially they were digging around the base of trees but then they became more ambitious and today have created a small underground den nearly 1m long and with a large earth mound outside from their excavation,” he said.

“Occasionally you can see both birds huddled together at the extremity of their burrow.”…

(read more: Daily Telegraph)

Whooping Crane Conservation News:
Four endangered whooping crane chicks raised in captivity began their integration into the wild Saturday as part of the continuing effort to increase the wild population of this species. The cranes, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. At one point in the past, researchers believe the Whooping crane population dropped to fewer than two-dozen birds. Today the population is estimated to be approximately 425 in the wild, with another 125 in captivity. If you’d like to read more about the chicks’ release, follow this link: 
Whooping Crane ReleasePhoto by: Kara Zwickey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
(via: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS))

Whooping Crane Conservation News:

Four endangered whooping crane chicks raised in captivity began their integration into the wild Saturday as part of the continuing effort to increase the wild population of this species.

The cranes, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

At one point in the past, researchers believe the Whooping crane population dropped to fewer than two-dozen birds. Today the population is estimated to be approximately 425 in the wild, with another 125 in captivity.

If you’d like to read more about the chicks’ release, follow this link:

Whooping Crane Release

Photo by: Kara Zwickey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

(via: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS))

Brant (Branta bernicla)
The Brant is the closest North American relative to the Canada Goose (excepting the recently-split Cackling Goose, a smaller version of the Canada). They also fly in lines, though theirs are not the tight, organized Vs of Canada Geese, but rather tend to be strung out. 
Brants breed in the high arctic, along the coasts of Alaska, the Canadian territories, and the northern Canadian islands. They have very narrow and specific migration routes between there and their wintering grounds along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US, and are rarely seen far inland. 
The Atlantic birds breed in the eastern arctic and have pale bellies while Pacific birds are western breeders and have dark bellies. Once these were considered separate species, but are now treated as subspecies. An intermediate form also occurs, with views alternatively that they represent a third subspecies, or they are the result of hybridization between the first two. 
Brants’ winter diet consists primarily of eel grass, though in recent decades they’ve started foraging in agricultural fields just inland of the coast, possibly a learned behavior from other geese.photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Brant (Branta bernicla)

The Brant is the closest North American relative to the Canada Goose (excepting the recently-split Cackling Goose, a smaller version of the Canada). They also fly in lines, though theirs are not the tight, organized Vs of Canada Geese, but rather tend to be strung out.

Brants breed in the high arctic, along the coasts of Alaska, the Canadian territories, and the northern Canadian islands. They have very narrow and specific migration routes between there and their wintering grounds along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US, and are rarely seen far inland.

The Atlantic birds breed in the eastern arctic and have pale bellies while Pacific birds are western breeders and have dark bellies. Once these were considered separate species, but are now treated as subspecies. An intermediate form also occurs, with views alternatively that they represent a third subspecies, or they are the result of hybridization between the first two.

Brants’ winter diet consists primarily of eel grass, though in recent decades they’ve started foraging in agricultural fields just inland of the coast, possibly a learned behavior from other geese.

photo by Tom Talbott (tbtalbottjr) on Flickr

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

dendroica
libutron:

We see it blue, but how is it seen by his fellows? - Some facts about avian vision
No way to know really. Although we tend to be somewhat self-satisfied with our own color vision, it is not particularly well developed when compared with that of most vertebrates. The color vision of most humans relies on three types of retinal cone photoreceptors, all of them neurally integrated in the assessment of spectral radiances and thus in the perception of color, our colors are mapped in three-dimensional color space (we are “trichromatic”).
In contrast, most birds have four types of cone involved in their color vision and are likely to be tetrachromatic. The consequence of four cone pigments, and tetrachromacy in particular, is that birds see the world differently from humans and in a way for which it is hard to compensate because we simply lack the neural machinery.
There are also other additional physiological differences that limit our appreciation of a bird’s view of the world. First, most of the retinal cones of birds contain oil droplets with high carotenoid content that act as spectral filters and modify the spectral sensitivities of the cones. Second, birds are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, whereas humans are not.
The differences between human and avian vision mean that, for many purposes, human vision, or standards derived from human psychophysics, are inappropriate for studying bird visual behavior.
In the case of the ‘bluest’ birds, those that have the highest percentage of blue feathers on the body, such as the Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea), it is known that these ornamental feathers reflect light maximally at the shortest wavelengths (UV), with the greatest intensity and the greatest contrast. 
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©Henry Koh | Locality: Kaen Krachan National Park, Thailand (2013)

libutron:

We see it blue, but how is it seen by his fellows? - Some facts about avian vision

No way to know really. Although we tend to be somewhat self-satisfied with our own color vision, it is not particularly well developed when compared with that of most vertebrates. The color vision of most humans relies on three types of retinal cone photoreceptors, all of them neurally integrated in the assessment of spectral radiances and thus in the perception of color, our colors are mapped in three-dimensional color space (we are “trichromatic”).

In contrast, most birds have four types of cone involved in their color vision and are likely to be tetrachromatic. The consequence of four cone pigments, and tetrachromacy in particular, is that birds see the world differently from humans and in a way for which it is hard to compensate because we simply lack the neural machinery.

There are also other additional physiological differences that limit our appreciation of a bird’s view of the world. First, most of the retinal cones of birds contain oil droplets with high carotenoid content that act as spectral filters and modify the spectral sensitivities of the cones. Second, birds are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, whereas humans are not.

The differences between human and avian vision mean that, for many purposes, human vision, or standards derived from human psychophysics, are inappropriate for studying bird visual behavior.

In the case of the ‘bluest’ birds, those that have the highest percentage of blue feathers on the body, such as the Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea), it is known that these ornamental feathers reflect light maximally at the shortest wavelengths (UV), with the greatest intensity and the greatest contrast. 

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Henry Koh | Locality: Kaen Krachan National Park, Thailand (2013)