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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why do some birds have wing markings?

Common Nighthawk
Some birds have developed distinctive wing markings over the ages.  If the species is often the target of aerial predators, it develops "false targets", visible from behind. A pursuing bird (eagle, hawk, osprey etc.) hopefully aims at the false target, which is mostly feathers. Not at the prey's body.
Red-winged Blackbird
Blue Grosbeak

Spotted Towhee

Northern Flicker
Northern Mockingbird

Birds normally don't die close to your house. But it happens. Usually they get far away from any activity and "become part of the food chain" with help from some scavenger.

But in case you run across a dead bird, how you handle it is your choice; the bird won't care. Burying it in the ground is about your emotions and traditions. This may prevent disease, but a raccoon (or other scavenger) may dig it up. A better way is double-bag the carcass and simply put it in an outdoor garbage can.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The bird that disappeared for several years

Baltimore Oriole
For a while there was no such bird as a Baltimore Oriole (like there was originally). In the seventies, it seems, ornithologists determined that the Baltimore and Bullock's Orioles (the two most widespread orioles) were a single species. They grouped them together as the somnambulently-named Northern Oriole. But further research (including then-new DNA testing) proved them to be two separate species all along, so the separate names were reinstated.

The Baltimore Oriole is a summer resident here. A
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Orchard Oriole
more common oriole in north Texas yards, however, is the Orchard Oriole.

Yes, birds can carry ticks. But ticks are very "host-specific". So it's extremely unlikely that a bird-borne tick will latch onto a human, cat or dog. Also, birds  groom themselves a lot and actually eat ticks.

If you like to be "one with nature" occasionally, you may pick up unwanted hitchhikers in the form of ticks. To rid yourself of the vast majority of them, try a lint roller - with wide tape. Unless they've dug in, it will collect them effectively.