The highest level of dominance is displayed by slowly walking highly erect with bill pointed upward, fluffing out throat hackles and [fluffing] feather tracts above legs to create “pant”-like appearance, elevating “ear” tufts, and flashing white nictitating membranes. Wings are spread slightly at the shoulders. Both males and females engage in this behavior, but it is more pronounced in males. (credit: Bernd Heinrich)
Yes, these two ravens are working out who’s in charge. So why is the third one bowing low with his head puffed up?
His actions resemble the male’s pair bond display to the female(*) but he’s got his back to the other two and they aren’t paying much attention.
(*) “In direct display to female, also fluffs out head, bows to female while spreading wings and tail, flashes white nictitating membranes, makes gurgling or choking sounds, and snaps bill.” — credit Cornell Birds of North America
If you’ve been watching the Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning falconcams this month, you’ve seen the peregrines bowing and “chirping” to each other in courtship display. Their rituals cement their pair bond and get them in tune with each other for the breeding season.
Some birds have fancier courtship displays. Pairs of waved albatrosses (Phoebastria irrorata) get reacquainted after six months at sea by doing a courtship dance.
The video above shows their elaborate ritualized moves: bill clacking, rapid bill circling, bowing, touching the ground and their sides with their beaks, raising their bills, and making a whoo sound. You have to visit the Galápagos to see them as it’s the only place where they breed.
The pairs do their dance in time for the female to lay her single egg in April to June. Nestlings reach adult size in December and leave the colony by January to forage at sea until they reach maturity at 5-6 years old.
Sadly, this species is critically endangered. The waved albatross’ range is confined to the Galápagos and the Humboldt current off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador. Though long-lived, these birds are slow to reproduce and their population is declining, especially at the hands of longline fishing.
Florida scrub-jay on Joan Tague’s hat (photo by Chuck Tague)
On Throw Back Thursday:
Last week in Florida with Chuck and Joan Tague we found these brainy birds on Merritt Island. On a similar trip in 2009 a jay was so bold that he perched right next to a replica of himself — a Florida scrub-jay pin on Joan’s hat.
American bittern with fish (photo by Billtacular via Flickr Creative Commons license)
American bitterns are usually hard to find because their plumage matches their favorite habitat — marshland vegetation. Last week I saw one easily when he stepped into the open to catch a big black fish at Green Cay Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida.
These photos, taken at a New Jersey marsh by Billtacular, are so similar to my experience that I just had to share.
At first the bittern was impossible to find. I saw him nearby when he moved but he “disappeared” into the background when he stood still.
American bittern craning his neck (photo by Billtacular via Flickr Creative Commons license)
A fish caught his eye and he struck. What a long neck!
American bittern splashes to get a fish (photo by Billtacular via Flickr Creative Commons license)
American bittern catches a fish (photo by Billtacular via Flickr Creative Commons license)
At Green Cay the fish was so large that the bittern had to pause to swallow it. He remained in the open — very photogenic — until the bulge in his throat finally went down.
(photos by Billtacular via Flickr Creative Commons license)
What does a city do when it’s overwhelmed by illegal garbage dumps?
In Lima, Peru much of the trash generated by its 10 million people is dumped illegally but it’s hard to clean up because the dumps are hidden and people don’t care. In December 2015 the Peru Ministry of Environment enlisted the help of birds.
Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) are excellent at finding garbage — after all, their lives depend on it — so the program equipped 10 black vultures with GPS trackers and GoPro cameras and Ta dah! The vultures find the dumps. The humans place the dumps on the map and clean them up. And the vultures have become celebrities.
Peregrine falcon harasses pomarine jaegar, Cleveland, Ohio, January 2015 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
It was so cold a year ago that unusual arctic birds were forced off the frozen Great Lakes to Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s rivers.
In January 2015, Chris Saladin went to see a pomarine jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) on the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. Pomarines are piratical seabirds that nest in the arctic, famous for harassing gulls, terns and even gannets to steal their catches.
Chris was lucky to be on the scene when the female peregrine from the Hope Memorial Bridge decided to harass the jaeger. Click here or on the photo above to see slides of the action. At first the pomarine flies alone, then the peregrine sees it, and … the pomarine leaves. See all of Chris’ photos and read the complete story here.