Male European starlings mimic the sounds they hear. In the U.S. they’re an invasive alien species so they’re allowed as pets (other songbirds are not!). Put the two together and you get a #smartstarling. Click on the image to see the video.
NOTE: If you don’t hear anything when the Twitter video plays, click the speaker icon on the video at bottom right.
By now the American woodcocks who performed sky dances in early March have become parents. The females nested on the ground last month, hatched the eggs in three weeks, and the chicks walked off the nest to follow their mother until they’re independent in just over a month.
Following Mother means copying every move she makes. Quite soon the tiny chicks are doing the Woodcock Walk.
American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) eat earthworms which they find by probing the soil and grabbing them with their flexible upper mandibles. To convince the worms to rise to the surface the birds “charm” them by treading firmly and rocking back and forth. Amazingly they also do this when they are caught (observed) out in the open. It’s certainly charming to us!
Below, two baby woodcocks sway-step with mom.
Jkhkhjjmkhj! LOOK AT THESE BABY WOODCOCKS PRACTICING THEIR BOOTY BOP
Even when they’re almost grown they follow mother step by step and freeze in place when she does.
Perhaps I’ll see woodcocks somewhere in Allegheny County this month. I usually see them at Magee Marsh, Ohio this week — where Charlie Hickey took this photo in 2013 — but the Boardwalk is closed this year for the COVID-19 shutdown.
No matter what stage your local COVID-19 shutdown is in — whether it’s active or about to end — make a list right now of the unusual and wonderful things that happened while we stayed at home so we don’t forget.
When the shutdown eventually ends I will miss amazing wildlife in cities, free time, no traffic, and clean air.
Here’s #1 on my list:
?Ain’t nature great when it’s claiming back it’s home ?
This spring a mockingbird, robin or cardinal may go mad in your neighborhood. Because birds don’t understand reflections, many of them hit windows in flight and some attack car mirrors and windows. They don’t realize that the angry bird who won’t back down is a reflection of themselves.
Mockingbirds are relentless and will do this all year long. Robins and cardinals reserve their attacks for the breeding season.
As we shelter indoors, wildlife is reclaiming our neighborhoods faster than we thought possible. Limpkins in Florida, deer in Pittsburgh, and wild boars in Italy!
Limpkins in Florida:
Now that human activity has slowed in Boca Raton, my sister-in-law says that limpkins have moved into the neighborhoods and are shouting all night to attract mates and establish territories. If you’ve never heard a limpkin you’d think it’s a human in distress and you might call 911. Ooops! It’s a bird. Limpkins are a thrill to birders but annoying if you’re trying to sleep. Here’s what one looks and sounds like from 2012. You can hear other limpkins in the distance.
Deer in Pittsburgh:
Deer are getting bolder and coming out during the day now that Pittsburghers are not outdoors. Yesterday, 31 March, Donna Foyle found a family group right next to a front porch in Brentwood.
Yesterday the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. exceeded the number in China. Those who became infected and contagious(!) 10 days ago are now feeling sick. Now more than ever we must stay at home and wait it out. It’s a very stressful time.
We need a laugh. Parrots are here to help.
p.s. If you have a pet bird you have lots of time right now to work with him on new tricks. 🙂
In a study reported widely last month, animal cognition scientists at the Max Planck Institute discovered that African gray parrots will share with each other even when the sharing individual knows it will get no reward.
Clean your feeders: Bird feeders accumulate mold and bacteria, including Salmonella. Clean them every two to four weeks by emptying and soaking for 10 minutes in a weak solution of 10% bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) described at The Spruce: Bird Feeder Cleaning Tips.
Keep your cat indoors.
Provide shelter (described above).
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman, video tweet from @RLJSlick)