Stella was a European starling who was rescued when she fell out of her nest in St. Louis. Her rescuer, Rebecca B, was unable to return Stella to the nest (too high up) so she took care of the bird, planning to return her to the wild when she was old enough to survive on her own.
Rebecca B wrote in September 2015: “Well, that didn’t really work out as planned. Stella quickly became very attached and more of a pet than a wild bird. It became very clear she wasn’t suited to live outside in the wild when she began to talk and say “stella is a pretty bird” at only 4 months old! The whistles followed quickly.. and she hasn’t stopped learning.”
This week I wrote a lot about starlings. … Whattaya think?
p.s. In the U.S., European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are an invasive alien species and are not protected as native birds are. That means starlings, unlike native birds, can be kept as pets without a permit.
Ever since the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered that the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatan and the extinction of the dinosaurs were caused by the same event, we’ve talked about the “asteroid” that killed the dinosaurs. Recently two Harvard researchers took a new look at the composition of Chicxulub rocks and the physics of comet behavior and revised that conclusion. It wasn’t an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. It was a chunk of comet!
Cold weather will end soon in Pittsburgh with a high tomorrow of 50 degrees F but even if the cold returns we know spring is on the way by observing our starlings.
In February starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) start changing into breeding plumage from spotted brown with dark beak and legs (left above) into iridescent glossy black with yellow beak and bright orange legs (right). From what I’ve seen, the beak starts first.
Even now, before they change into breeding plumage, they start to sing their wiry song.
By the end of March they’ll be wearing summer clothes, singing and flapping to attract a mate.
How far along are your starlings? Do they have yellow beaks yet?
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption links to see the originals)
The unbanded male peregrine, Ecco, has been present every day at the Cathedral of Learning since 4 February — 19 days in a row — while the former resident male, Terzo, has not been seen since 5 February. With this kind of track record I believe that Ecco has won the site and is now the resident male.
Now that Ecco is present every day and neither he nor his mate Morela are banded how do we tell them apart? Here are some tips, photos and videos to help you compare and identify each bird.
Size: Male peregrines are 1/3 smaller than females. The slideshows display Ecco and Morela in similar poses. Morela is always the bigger bird. Check the captions if you are unsure.
The easiest way to determine size is to compare the bird to the size of the enclosure or camera view. How long is the bird compared to the available space? Morela is longer. Does the bird look bulky? Morela is bulkier.
Coloration: Morela’s breast and face are peach-colored where Ecco is white.
The videos below will give you practice identifying them on camera.
Ecco alone at the nest, 21 Feb 2021
Morela alone at the nest, 21 Feb 2021
The more we watch them the better we’ll get at identifying each one. My hope is that Ecco and Morela stay at the Cathedral of Learning for many years to come.
(photos and videos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Goose barnacles often attach themselves to old wood and float from tropical seas to northern shores including the shores of Britain. The barnacles pictured here and in the video below are Lepas anatifera. Their bodies are supported by a long, flexible stalk (a peduncle) that resembles a goose neck.
These fascinating crustaceans are goose barnacles. They live in unmistakably dense colonies, often attaching themselves to marine objects. They occasionally get washed up around our shores. ??
Nowadays that story sounds silly but we shouldn’t be too smug. We still create stories to explain things we don’t understand and spread them quickly on the Internet. In the future our fantastical stories will sound silly, too. I can think of a few about the coronavirus.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
In September 2015 K. Theule of the US Fish and Wildlife Service was in the office at Cokeville Meadows NWR, Wyoming when she saw a skunk outside the window. She picked up her camera and …
Sometimes as a photographer, I don’t make the wisest decisions. Usually it’s a light or angle or exposure mishap. However, today my risk assessment wasn’t fully completed before I poked my head out the office door. After pressing the shutter a few times I was left wondering if the smell was going to last. But who can resist a skunk only 10 feet in front of your office door?! Just a warning to any visitors this week – the Cokeville Meadows office might stink a bit for the next few days.
On Wednesday night, 17 February just after 7pm, a raccoon scaled one of the branches that holds the Hays bald eagle nest. The mother eagle was on the nest and heard the raccoon coming so she rose up, spread her wings, and scared him away.
Seven years ago a raccoon intruder did the same thing. This one was a little braver.
The raccoon hid nearby, frozen in place, but four minutes later he moved again and the father eagle arrived to help. Two eagles!! The raccoon finally left.
In 2018 in the Peruvian Amazon Phil Torres of The Jungle Diaries filmed colorful butterflies fluttering around turtles at the edge of the Tambopata River. He explains what the butterflies were doing:
A reminder that we live in a world where turtles have tears and butterflies drink them for the salt. Rainforest ecology is complex, but sometimes the simplicity of a bizarre interaction is just about perfect. pic.twitter.com/Ni2E2F5CFo