Except for the "jumpy" attitude in her eye, this beautiful bird looks as if she forages slowly on the ground.
Silver-eared mesias (Leiothrix argentauris) are native to Southeast Asia where they live in the forest eating insects and fruit.
DNA testing recently re-classed them into new family (Leiothrichidae) and genus names (Leiothrix instead of Mesia), so it's confusing when you look them up. The books are hopelessly out of date and the Internet has both names.
At this link to an old name, Mesia argentauris, you'll find videos, photos and sounds. The birds are so fast-moving that some of the videos are posted in slow motion! Even when standing still, silver-eared mesias rapidly flick their wings and tails. Click here to see a male foraging at a feeding station. Wow!
This female was photographed in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand. After you've seen them move, you realize how hard it was to capture this sharp photo.
(this photo is a Featured Picture on Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)
Recently I read Flannery O'Connor's essay about peacocks, "The King of the Birds." She wrote it when she had 40 peafowl though she admitted she'd stopped counting and really had no idea how many there were.
Apparently peafowl are addictive. You can't keep only one -- a single bird is lonely -- so you start with a pair (male and female) but these two make more and if you haven't planned for offloading the peachicks you end up with ummmmm ... "40."
Though not affectionate Indian blue peafowl (Pavo cristatus) are breathtaking to watch. During the breeding season the males display majestically for almost any reason. (They also fight.) The only creatures indifferent to their beautiful tails are the peahens. "Ho Hum," she says. "I've seen that before."
Those who keep peafowl know they need space -- lots of space -- because they're loud and because they roam. They'll eat anything, especially the neighbors' flowers, fruits and vegetables. In spring and summer the males shout like this. If you're not a peacock addict, the sound can get on your nerves.
Though peafowl spend all day on the ground, they roost in tall trees at night just like wild turkeys. When peacocks run away from home, they hang out with wild turkeys.
Imagine finding peacocks in the woods!
(photo in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
Cloud is white because there's no melanin in his feathers, a recessive trait that expresses when both parents pass it on to their offspring. Cloud is leucistic, not an albino, because he does produce some melanin, shown in his blue eyes (not pink) and yellow legs and cere (not white).
Cloud led a normal life and raised at least one family at a railyard in Ohio until his territorial choice was his undoing. One day he caught prey on the railroad tracks and did not get out of the way when a train approached. The train ran over his wing.
His color saved his life. Because of his beauty he was a favorite with the railyard workers who immediately saw he'd been struck and mobilized volunteers to collect and deliver him to Medina Raptor Center.
Cloud was so badly injured they thought he would die but he fought his way back to health. Unfortunately he will never fly again. Part of his left wing is missing.
However, he's now an excellent educational ambassador, teaching people about leucism and the lives of red-tailed hawks.
Thanks to Annette Piechowski at Medina Raptor Center for introducing us to Cloud. What a beautiful bird!
p.s. Do you know of any leucistic red-tailed hawks in the wild? I know of one that used to nest on the Hays hillside in Pittsburgh and another near Millers Pond at Pymatuning.
(photos by Kate St. John)
p.p.s. You can sponsor Cloud and the other educational birds at the Medina Raptor Center. Click here to see.
While seven feet of snow fell on parts Buffalo, New York last week, the birds on Lake Erie did their best to avoid the storm. Because they can fly, it wasn't hard to do.
The lake effect storm was so localized that it hammered communities south of Buffalo but barely snowed Downtown. On November 18 Alfonzo Cutaia recorded the amazing wall of white picking up moisture from the lake and carrying it away from Downtown Buffalo.
That night it snowed three inches at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA but conditions had improved by the next morning. Jerry McWilliams described the scene at Sunset Point: "The severe winter storm that was hitting the Buffalo area continued out over the lake until at least 0800 hours [with] heavy storm clouds and whiteout conditions about a mile out on the lake. This may have been the reason for a massive movement of waterfowl this morning, especially Red-breasted Merganser. Except for Redheads which were mainly moving east, most ducks were moving west."
Jerry counted 11,400 red-breasted mergansers flying away from the storm.
The ducks escaped but I can only wonder what happened to the songbirds. I hope they left on Tuesday during the first break in the three-day storm.
If you live in the U.S. West, Alaska, or northern New England, chances are you'll be warmer than normal. In the south-central and southeastern U.S. you'll probably be colder.
But as the map text explains, the white zones aren't necessarily going to be "normal." There's an equal chance of being hot, cold or lukewarm in Pennsylvania. We'll just have to live through it to find out.