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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Boreal birds could visit us again

Red-breasted Nuthatch

A few years ago, north Texas was treated to an influx of Red-breasted Nuthatches. It happens every few years. These were from the vast evergreen forests of Canada and the northern U.S. known as the Boreal Forest, a huge forest that's home to over 300 species of birds, including Nuthatches. You can usually identify them climbing headfirst down tree trunks, probing the bark for bugs.


Nobody knows precisely why some species fly to more southern areas for the winter; and why Nuthatches sometimes winter here, versus (for instance) Arkansas.  But be prepared for more visits from several “boreal” species this coming fall.


Can you breathe and sing at the same time?
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Birds can.  Birds sing through a branched organ called a “syrinx”. Each branch can be controlled independently. So birds can produce two different sounds at the same time. Birds also have a specialized breathing system. They can inhale and exhale (perhaps through the syrinx) since they can manipulate air sacs and lungs independently.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

calling them "buzzards" might be because you watched a lot of old movies

Black Vulture & Turkey Vulture  (not "buzzards")
      In North America, the vulture is purely a scavenger (road kill and such), never killing a healthy, live animal. A similar word grew out of European mythology. The word “buzzard” originated (improperly) from “busart” in French, and “buteo” – a Latin term for a hawk; a large bird which happens to soar like many other birds. The early settlers of this continent (being largely uneducated) knew only the improper term “buzzard” and applied it to any large soaring bird, including the Red-tailed Hawk, Condor and Turkey Vulture (which certainly isn’t a “buzzard”) merely because they scavenged meat. The only true buzzard is a type of hawk native to Europe. However, many Hollywood films imprinted this error onto audiences, and the improper use of “buzzard” persists in everyday speech.

If we didn't have Vultures around we'd be up to our ankles in roadkill. To my way of thinking, calling these birds "buzzards" is an insult to these gracefully-flying and necessary birds.