White-tailed ptarmigans (Lagopus leucura) hide in plain sight by blending into the landscape. They're speckled brown in summer and white as snow in winter. They virtually disappear when they close their eyes.
In late November Dan Arndt found these birds in the snow at Highwood Pass, Highway 40 in Alberta, Canada.
How many ptarmigans do you see?
Willow ptarmigans hide, too. Practice finding them in this 2010 article: Where's Willow?
Birds use alarm calls to warn each other of danger but pigeons are generally silent. What sound could a pigeon make to signal danger? The crested pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes) of Australia uses his 8th feather.
Crested pigeons make a whistling sound when they fly -- a high note on the down stroke, a low note going up. Researchers found out that the eighth primary feather is the source of the high note and that the speed of the low-high modulation provides the warning.
When a bird flaps slowly the whistle repeats slowly, so other pigeons decide the bird is not afraid. When the sound repeats rapidly it sounds like the pigeon is fleeing, so the other birds do, too.
The two wild turkeys at top are displaying to females. Which one has the best snood? I can't tell but the females can. Click here to see how the ladies reacted.
(photo credits: two wild turkeys by Cris Hamilton; women wearing snoods from Wikimedia Commons; man wearing a beard snood from sales page at Creeds UK; wild turkey diagram from Wikimedia Commons. click on the images to see the originals)
If successful, they'll release the new bird in the wild to repopulate eastern North America.
But a new study published this month in Science may throw a wrench in their plan.
Researchers gathered DNA from the toepads of passenger pigeon museum specimens and sequenced the full genomes of four birds. In doing so they discovered that passenger pigeons were extremely diverse at the ends of their chromosomes but had low diversity in the middle. Most animals, including the band-tailed pigeon, aren't like that. Most animals are diverse all the way through.
This trait may indicate that the passenger pigeon in its final form had evolved to live in enormous flocks.
So, why did this superspecies die out? Shapiro thinks it’s because the bird specifically evolved to live in mega-flocks, and developed adaptations that became costly when their numbers suddenly shrank at human hands. “Maybe they were simply not adapted to being in a small population, and didn’t have time to recover,” she says. Maybe they hit a tipping point when there were just too few of them to survive, regardless of whether they were being hunted.
Would a small population of passenger pigeons be possible in the wild? And could the birds survive in this century's altered and deforested landscape? Revive and Restore believes the answer is yes.
Can humans bring back the passenger pigeon? Should we try?
In Pennsylvania we have only one kind of pigeon and he isn't really ours. He's the descendant of European birds named rock pigeons because they nest on cliffs. This distinguishes them from another European pigeon that nests in trees, the common wood pigeon (Columba palumbus).
Wood pigeons used to be shy and stay in the woods but now they hang out in parks and cities and are the most numerous bird in London, even more numerous than rock pigeons.
When these two encounter each other you can see that "wood" is bigger than "rock."
In some parts of Europe wood pigeons are migratory. In winter large flocks browse in the fields as shown below. Notice the bright white patches on their necks and white wing bars visible in flight.
When it's time to nest they're back in the trees ...
... raising baby pigeons in the woods.
(photos and video from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)
In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast
In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest
In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove
In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.