Posted by: atowhee | February 22, 2015

THE BODY ELECTRIC: BEAK, WINGS AND CLOACA

There was intense biology being had down at the pond this afternoon.  At first glance all was serene, soporific even.  But upon close scrutiny…

WHY DON’T WE DO IT IN THE TREES?

In what must be mundane sexual acrobatics for woodpeckers (no pun intended), a pair of Flickers were hard at work on the next generation even though it is only February.FLKR FUKR1 FLKR FUKR2Two f-words involved, and only one of them is “flicker.” FLKR FUKR3NOFL DO IT P2330605 (1280x960) P2330616 (1280x960)Clearly these birds have a prowess even NFL linebackers would be jealous of.  And they didn’t need any team-mates “egging” them on.

TO TAKE WING

The most magical thing about the avian Merlin, how quickly it can disappear.  This time I just happened to be taking pictures when it vanished.  Now we can see how they go away:MERL SITS MERL LIFTOFFIn these two shots the bird is headed directly away from the camera. MERL GONThe Merlin’s quick take-off and powerful wing beats bring it up to speed almost instantly by our slow-moving standards.  Here this second, gone the next.

A MIGHTY TOOL

Over the eons the avian folk gave up their front legs for flight, a clever trade.  They are the world’s most adept long-distance flyers.  But that means their two feet must perform many functions…and their only other grasping, manipulating tool is…the beak.

S-J BEAKFor some birds it is a grasping and tearing tool. For some–like creeper or leafgleaner–it is a pair of tweezers.  For many it is a nest building tool.  For woodpecker and nuthatch it is a chisel.  For all it is a drinking cup.  For those who build mud nests it doubles as both hod-carrier and stucco spatula.  For birds like ibis and godwit it is a probe and a sensor of vibrations in the mud.  For the cranes it is a spade.  For the kiwi it is a sensitive soil probe.  For dabbling ducks it is a sieve and sensitive taste organ.  For many it is a weapon.  For raptors it can be a butchering tool.  For some falcons it has a notch that elevates it to an efficient dispatching weapon.  For toucans and their ilk it is a fruit knite extraordinaire.  For many vocal birds it is a megaphone.  For pelicans it is both fishing net and creel.  And for nearly all birds it is comb and preening tool. S-J BEAK1 S-J BEAK2 S-J BEAK3 S-J FACINGAshland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 22, 2015 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM.  17 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  7
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2     copulating
Merlin (Falco columbarius)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  6
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  9
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  X

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