The chick had health issues which became obvious on Memorial Day weekend. When he fell on his back in the early days(*), Dorothy flipped him immediately but on May 24 she decided not to. He remained on his back, struggling and complaining. This generated a viewer firestorm until Dorothy flipped him upright. Within a day he never fell over again.
Dorothy continued to show her age and disappeared in early November. (See her video tribute here.)
On November 30, a female peregrine named Hope arrived at Pitt. Since then Hope and E2 often court at the nest. We have hope for a good nesting season in 2016.
To see a slideshow of Pitt peregrine highlights in 2015, click here or on the photo above.
(photo from May 24, 2015 at the National Aviary falconcam, University of Pittsburgh)
*NOTE: A healthy chick normally doesn’t fall on his back and if he does he’s able to right himself quickly. In reviewing the snapshots for this slideshow I discovered that Dorothy had been flipping the chick for weeks. She was so quick we hadn’t noticed.
In Africa, there are birds called oxpeckers (two species in genus Buphagus:yellow-billed and red-billed) that also perch on mammals and eat ticks, lice, fleas, and biting flies found on the animals’ skin. Studies have shown that individual oxpeckers eat up to 100 engorged ticks or 13,000 nymphs per day. Quite a benefit to the animal!
Yellow-billed oxpecker on a large bovine mammal in Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Engorged ticks contain tiny blood meals so it’s not a big leap that the oxpeckers sometimes to go directly to the blood source, pecking and plucking at an animal’s wounds. Despite this parasitic and perhaps painful behavior, many mammals tolerate the oxpeckers although elephants and some antelopes shoo them off when they land.
Yellow-headed caracaras are unrelated to oxpeckers but their tick-eating behavior extends to blood meals as well. The Handbook of the Birds of the World includes this remark about the caracara’s eating habits:
“Perches on cattle and Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) to pick off ticks; picks flesh from open wounds on backs of cattle, which often seem oddly indifferent to the process.”
It sounds gruesome but the benefits of having your own portable tick-remover apparently outweigh the occasional blood meal.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the original)
Tomorrow is the mid-point of winter, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. February 2 is also the day when a very special rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from his den to predict the weather for the next six weeks.
Phil never makes his prediction in isolation. His day in the sun (or shade) spawns a huge celebration in Punxsutawney, PA. Preview the excitement in his eight minute promo video above.
If you don’t like winter, then hope for an overcast sky so that Phil has a day in the shade. Here’s why.
The bluest bird. But only a subspecies? (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
This is a blue bird but he’s not a bluebird.
He used to be in the thrush family, just like our eastern bluebirds, but he’s been reclassed as an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae).
He is from the Old World. He breeds in the Himalayas at 9,800-14,500 ft and migrates downhill to spend the winter at 4,900-8,200 ft. This particular bird was photographed in winter in the mountains of Thailand.
But who is he?
When the photo was taken he was called a Himalayan bluetail (Tarsiger rufilatus) but his species distinction is up in the air. Though he’s a short-distance migrant and much bluer, he’s under consideration as a subspecies of the orange-flanked bush-robin (Tarsiger cyanurus). For now his old exotic name has disappeared.
He’s not a bluebird. He’s not even a Himalayan bluetail.
(This is a Featured photo on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
There’s a bird of prey in South America that likes to raid wasp nests to eat the larvae. The problem is that red-throated caracaras (Ibycter americanus) have bare skin on their faces and throats, an easy target for stinging wasps.
How do the birds get the larvae without a lot of pain? Do they chemically repel the wasps?
In 2013, Canadian Sean McCann and colleagues studied red-throated caracaras in French Guiana on the north coast of South America. They learned that, no, the birds don’t repel the wasps. The caracaras are attacked but they compensate in other ways.
Watch the video to see how the birds nab their tasty meal. They know something about wasp behavior that we had been ignoring.