On a visit to Bird Hall at Carnegie Museum I saw this bird with an unusual crown that opens sideways!
Bird crests typically open front to back so that they're aerodynamic. Cardinals, blue jays and tufted titmice can fly with their crests up. This bird would have a problem.
The label on the pedestal says Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus), native from southern Mexico to southeastern Brazil. Why does she have a sideways crest? And what is it used for?
Back home on the Internet, I found out that royal flycatchers rarely raise their crowns. They use them in perched displays with their mates and in agonistic encounters with other birds but normally keep them flattened. The birds usually look like this. Pretty boring except for the tail.
Cameron encountered this flycatcher while banding birds in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. As he held the bird, it opened its crest and beak and silently rotated its head back and forth 180 degrees in a mesmerizing display. See Cameron's video below.
I would never have learned this if I hadn't been curious about the royal flycatcher at Carnegie Museum.
The bird that wears a royal crown.
Male royal flycatcher with red crest raised, still photo and video by Cameron Rutt linked from Nemesis Bird and Flickr.
Female taxidermy mount at Bird Hall, Carnegie Museum, photo by Kate St.John.
Boring royal flycatcher not showing its crest, from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)
Reports on PABIRDS just before Christmas say there's been a surf scoter on the Allegheny River upriver from the Highland Park Bridge.
The reports don't indicate whether it's a colorful male or a dull looking first-year male or female.
This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows a female and male to give you an idea of what to look for. Notice the heavy triangular bill typical of scoters, and the white patch on the back of the head typical of surf scoters.
We won't have snow in Pittsburgh this Christmas and we certainly won't have evening grosbeaks but you can watch both -- live -- at Ontario FeederWatch.
The feeders are located in Manitouwadge, Ontario, a remote town that’s far away in the woods -- an 11.5 hour drive from Toronto and 8 hours from Duluth, Minnesota.
Manitouwadge is so far north that it has birds we never see here including evening and pine grosbeaks, gray jays and hoary redpolls. There are also a lot of birds you'll recognize: black-capped chickadees, downy and hairy woodpeckers, crows and starlings.