Also sometimes known as the Golden Song Sparrow, the Sudan golden sparrow is a species of Old-World sparrow that occurs south of the Sahara Desert in Africa, ranging from Senegal east to Sudan and Ethiopia. Sudan golden sparrows typically inhabit dry open savanna, semi-desert, arid scrub and cereal cultivation. Sudan golden sparrows are highly gregarious and will form mixed flocks with other seed-eating birds, and will forage for seeds and some insects. They will breed in very large colonies, of as many as 65,000 nests. During the breeding season male Sudan golden sparrows will preform a courtship display in which he quivers his wings above his body. This is though to be an adaptation to nesting in a clump of trees surrounded by similar habitats, where an intense display might serve a purpose in keeping a colony together.
… are among the first birds to return to their breeding territories and start singing in the spring. While their songs may sound superficially similar to our ears, each male knows up to 20 versions of the basic melody and may improvise broadly on their repertoire. They will repeat a song several times in a row before switching to their next version.
Many of their songs are learned from the males on neighboring territories - a way of ensuring everyone’s talking on the same page, and which helps to establish a friendly neighborhood. The songs are an important part of individual identification - birds can, simply based on song, differentiate between neighbors and strangers; and females have been shown to prefer the songs of their mates over those of neighbors, and the songs of neighbors over those of strangers.
The Ladder-back Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) is a small black-and-white woodpecker of the southwestern United States and Mexico that forages and nests in cactus (info via: Cornell Lab of Ornithology). This one was recently photographed by Bill Supulski at Mission Nature Park in Mission, Texas.
On the 100th anniversary of one of history’s most numerous birds becoming extinct, conservationists hope to help prevent other common species at risk from following the same path.
by Barry Yeoman
In 1834 a geologist named George William Featherstonbaugh was traveling through the American South when he came across a migration of passenger pigeons, at the time the most plentiful bird on the continent. “Flocks of them many miles long came across the country, one flight succeeding to another, obscuring the daylight,” he wrote. “When such myriads of timid birds as the wild pigeon are on the wing, often wheeling and performing evolutions almost as complicated as pyrotechnic movements, and creating whirlwinds as they move, they present an image of the most fearful power. Our horse, Missouri, at such times, has been so cowed by them, that he would stand still and tremble in his harness.”
Seventy years later the passenger pigeon was extinct, the victim of such savage hunting of adults and squabs alike that the birds could no longer reproduce enough to keep up. The development of the telegraph and railroad helped create an industry of itinerant pigeon hunters who followed the flocks and killed and shipped the birds by the millions for sale as food in urban markets. The pigeons also suffered from the human belief that our own activity couldn’t possibly wipe out such an abundant species.
The last passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died around September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo, where she had lived her entire 29 or so years. Now, during the centennial of Martha’s death, a group of enthusiasts is planning a year of commemorations. They hope to educate the public not just about the pigeon but also about the value of wildlife conservation and our role in preventing natural disasters, including extinctions…
The male Banded Cotinga is a strikingly beautiful bird… The more low-key female is mottled dusky brown and white. Males also have specially modified primaries (the biggest flight feathers) that produce a whirring sound as the bird displays.
These are treetop birds that live high in the forest canopy, where they feed on mainly on fruit, sometimes supplemented by seeds and insects.The biggest threat to the Banded Cotinga is habitat loss; extensive, continuing deforestation within its range has restricted populations to a few protected areas, including the Stresemann’s Bristlefront Reserve, managed by ABC’s partner Fundação Biodiversitas. These birds have been collected for their feathers by local indigenous people, and capture for the cage-bird trade has also posed a threat…
In 2013, we planted 93,000 trees in Michigan as habitat for the threatened Kirtland’s warbler. Since we began restoring warbler habitat in 1990, their population has rebounded from 167 to 1,800 singing males. Help us restore more forests for wildlife in 2014.
Eye-opening New Research Helps Us Understand How Birds Communicate
One species of bird is proving that eyes provide not only a window to the soul, but also an effective means of warding off unwelcome nest competitors.
by Todd Petty
A new study strengthens the case that jackdaws, crow-like birds found in Eurasia and Africa, use their eyes to communicate with other members of their own species—an ability that, up until now, was thought to only exist in humans and other primates.
Jackdaw eyes bear some resemblance to those of humans—dark pupils and colorful irises surrounded by white sclera. In fact, a 2009 study found evidence that hand-reared jackdaws could follow a human gaze to tell what a person was looking at. The new study, conducted by Gabrielle Davidson of the University of Cambridge and published in Biology Letters, is the first indication that one jackdaw can use its eyes to send a message to another…
(photos: T - Maxwell Hamilton; B - Silvia Reiche/Foto Natura/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
While not so huge as the largest non-avian dinosaurs, Gastornis was nevertheless a giant in its Paleocene and Eocene heyday between 55 and 40 million years ago. In Europe the bird towered over the mammals who inhabited the same forests – the largest herbivores and carnivores of the day were about the size of a German shepherd, with many being considerably smaller. (In North America, where Gastornis fossils were previously labeled “Diatryma“, some of the contemporary herbivorous mammals grew to bigger sizes, but there were still many smaller beasts running about.)
So it seemed only natural that the monstrous bird would have preyed on the scurrying mammals, pouncing on “dawn horses” and cleaving lemur-like primates in two with it’s powerful beak. In museums and documentaries, Gastornis marked the last gasp of dinosaur dominance before mammals took over the world.
But recent research has found that Gastornis wasn’t so terrifying, after all. While a 1991 paper concluded that the bird’s beak could have made short work of many small mammals, other publications pointed out that such a beak would have been just as well-suited to cracking seeds and crunching tough fruit. More recently, tracks of Gastornis – née “Diatryma” – found in Washington show that the bird had blunted toes rather than vicious talons, and a preliminary study of dietary clues preserved in the bones of a German specimen of the bird suggested a menu of plants rather than flesh. And now paleontologist Delphine Angst and colleagues have added another line of evidence that Gastornis probably wasn’t a rapacious mammal-muncher…
The Collared Forest-Falcon is one of those birds of prey that you rarely see. Their songs echoes through the forest morning, but you rarely get to see this large falcon at all, as they remain inside the forest. They are extremelly fierce and effective predators specialized in large birds. They may kill birds as large as guans and macaws!
We saw and photographed this guy at the extension forest tour, right where hundreds of macaws nest and roost… I wonder why.
Crab-plovers are a monotypic species, meaning they are the only bird in its Family/Genera. They are waders with webbed feet but are unique because they nest in burrows near sandy banks. As the picture suggests, they are gregarious creatures that feed and rest in groups.
"The chicks are also unique for the usually nidifugous waders in being unable to walk and remain in the nest for several days after hatching, having food brought to them. Even once they fledge they have a long period of parental care afterwards. Both males and females take care of the young.” - Wikipedia
Also known as Milky eagle owl, or Verreaux’s eagle owl, this species is the largest and heaviest African owl. Despite its large range, the giant eagle owl is locally rare and affected by human persecution and use of pesticides.
Although scientists have made huge strides in understanding Rusty Blackbirds on their breeding and wintering grounds - partly thanks to the original Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz - we know surprisingly little about the migratory requirements and habits of this species. Are there hot spots where many individuals congregate during migration? Are similar migratory stopover areas used by Rusties each year? Are stopover areas protected, or might availability of these areas be limiting Rusty Blackbird survival?
The Spring Migration Blitz will kick off in March of 2014; each state, province, or territory is assigned target dates for conducting the Blitz based on estimated peak migration periods. Looking to get involved? Volunteers like you are critical to the success of this initiative! In 2010 alone, eBirders reported more than 11,700 Rusty Blackbirds during the Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz. We encourage all experienced birders to participate; contact your state coordinator for more information!