Help Birds Have a Brighter Future

September 1st marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon. The Passenger Pigeon was one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century until they went extinct in 1914.

Billions to none… the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

 “The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon had two major causes: commercial exploitation of pigeon meat on a massive scale and loss of habitat.”

Now, a report recently released from the National Audubon Society says that climate change is threatening 314 bird species with possible extinction.

The State of the Birds Report 2014

The birds don’t get a say in how our actions and decisions affect them. We know better and we can do better. I’ve read only a fraction about some of the long- and short-term consequences of the loss of a species; it is a large part of what motivates me to give my undivided attention and best possible care to whatever winged creatures come through the doors at the wildlife rehabilitation center.

state of birds 2014 birds in rehabiliation

 Feathered friends at the wildlife rehabilitation center.

The Top 5 Reasons I Give a Hoot

  1. They are pretty, intriguing, quirky, and fun to watch. Emphasis on the pretty!
  2. They give us clues about the health of the environment.
  3. Slurping up mosquitoes and other pesky pests – insectivorous birds rock!
  4. They spread seeds and pollen which helps other environmental goodies grow.
  5. They help naturally control disease and rodent populations.

Learn how you can take action right now:  Read it.   Watch it.

humming bird mug and humming bird 2

 Because, I mean, come on.

By the way, that IS delicious bird-friendly coffee in that mug!

Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Birds?

Sleek, black as coal, smart as a whip and a little bit naughty…I am bewitched by the American Crow. When the wildlife specialist said that the recovering crow could be moved from the indoor bird room to an outside enclosure and observed for flight, I jumped at the chance to give him a lift. YES I wanted to move the crow!

The crow had remained quite calm the past several times I had provided him with room service, so gently but firmly, I carried the surprisingly light bird in my hands as I walked outside. Maybe he sensed that he was being looked at, because the very moment I glanced down at the top of his head, he looked up at me.

When I volunteer at the wildlife center, I tend to mentally slip into a bit of a Snow White fantasy world where woodland creatures may very well sing to me and help me clean up around the place. The instant our eyes met, I had a dreamy notion that we were having a true connection. We needed no words; just two sentient beings sharing a moment and an understanding. Soon, we’d be making quick work of washing all those dirty dishes…

CHOMP

Crow Nip 2014

Not only was I not mad, I admired his brass. He can’t get rid of me that easily.

♫ And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place…so hum a merry tune ♪

American Crow Wildlife Rehabilitation June 2014Here is my guy. Is he handsome or what?

UPDATE:
While this post was written in good fun, the bird was certainly not “bad,” he was just being a cautious bird that was caught by a predator (me). The title is based on the song Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Boys – Angel & The Reruns. I didn’t get any feedback prompting this update, it just breaks my heart that these birds are ever considered anything less than highly intelligent, highly social creatures that want to live their lives as much as we want to live ours.

Birdie Went a-Courtin’

Love; Exciting and New

I was typing away at my computer when some unusually boisterous tweeting outside the office window grabbed my attention. There on the deck was a male house finch energetically bowing, curtsying, flashing some tail, and singing up a storm while a lady perched opposite him looked on. Because I had a mouthful of tea, I lightly whacked Joel on the side and pointed out the window so that he’d have a look.

“What?”

(Gulp) “He’s courting her! That’s soooooo sweet. Look at him go! Why don’t you curtsy and sing like that when I enter a room?” I asked.

My male just chuckled. Noted.

House Finch 3 is a Crowd

 Uh, I’m trying to work here pal. 

The passionate suitor then fluttered up in the air a few inches away from her, teasing her into a game of chase.

Will You Accept this Seed?

I’ve also been watching a cardinal couple for several days now. It’s touching to observe just how much this male cares for his lady. Always a gentleman and protector, he lets her have prime seating at the feeder while he hops around to nibble on what remains scattered on the floor.

Cardinal Couple Feeding

Even after she has eaten, he passes along a cracked sunflower seed as a gesture of sire suitability .

Cardinal Couple Courtship Male Feeding Female

Sure, she can crack her own shells but it’s nice to have someone else do it from time to time, no? 

Notable Courtship Displays

Superb Bird-of-Paradise – I was the unimpressed recipient of a very similar dance given by a strange gent at a nightclub many moons ago. Just like the female in this video, I too fluttered away.

Flamingos – They move as a group like a beautifully choreographed ballet. Or a music video from the 80’s where everyone you meet while dancing down the street jumps in to join you, somehow magically knowing all the moves.

Greater Sage-Grouse – Some guys are less about the pomp and ballyhoo and more about making sure that you get a good eyeful of the size of their air sacs.

Green Thorntail Hummingbird – Considering how quickly hummingbirds deplete their energy, the length of this fella’s aerial dance is impressive. I bet he’s wondering how much longer it is going to take her to make up her mind.

African Weaver Bird – In my opinion, this guy wins the courting game hands down! He builds a HOUSE for his prospective lady! The other fellows can go take their flashy hips elsewhere.

Finch Courtship Get a Nest

For the Love of Birds or an Excuse for a Nap?

Feeling energized to get a jump on yard work, I set out before lunch to do some raking around our plantings under the deck. Seconds out the door, I heard a flurry of fluttering. My eyes immediately followed the fluttery mass towards the top of the closest tree. While the birds silently looked on, I scoped the area to see what the fuss was all about. I’m confident that it was all about this:

New Bird Nest Under Deck

Under Construction

 That little ledge isn’t exactly well hidden from (my) prying eyes but it does seem inconvenient for things with talons or grabby paws. Considering that it is only about three second’s flying time from the feeders on the deck, I can understand why they picked this spot.

I wanted to check yard work off my to-do list but I also didn’t want to discourage the builders from coming back, so I made quick work of cleanup from around just a few shrubs. While I tidied up, I found a bunch of feathers buried under leaves that I set aside in a small pile close to the nest. Literally, an early house warming gift:

feathers in the yard

I hope our guests will be pleased with this assortment. 

Since it’s the birds’ world and I’m just living in it, I wrapped up my task much sooner than planned. As far as I’m concerned, any wild birds that survived The Winter of 2013-2014 get to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.

And so just like the birds, it only took seconds for me to decide that I should flutter back to bed for a leisurely read and an afternoon nap.

 

UPDATE:

This photo taken on May 8th is the final result after several teardowns. They appear to come and go from a side entry; all the branches are bunched up to the top of the “roof.” I also think there is a bit of slit somewhere in there which acts as their window.  I try to sneak peeks to figure out just how they are getting in and out but they are lightning fast.

Bird: 1 Human: 0

final nest build under deck 2014

 

June 10th: We are officially now on fledgling crossing alert.

baby sighting in nest under deck June 2014

Dishpan Talons

It finally dawned on me why the birds dart away more often than not when I start to wash dishes at the sink.

dish gloves make hands look like talons

No dishpan talons for me!

I am so sorry little friends! It never occurred to me that it must be confusing that the same nice lady who provides you with a bounty of seed and fresh water also employs a beast of a bird with claws of death that hover about the window from time to time, just waiting to wash a dish and make a kill.

These gloves are bad for business. Predator-free dining is a Seed n’ Feed guarantee.

I have since switched to a nice lavender-hued set of gloves. At worst it may seem that we now have a Blue-Footed Booby tending to dishes, but fear not! They primarily eat fish and don’t live anywhere near here.

Arden Refreshing Seed and Water Winter

Yes, we’re open!

Birds in Their Holiday Finery

What makes a bird lover’s holiday merry and bright? Why, feathered friends conveniently cloaked in colors befitting of the season of course! Surely these winged lovelies could coax even the most obstinate scrooge into chirping out a holiday tune or two: 

Australian King Parrot
Santa honey, there’s one more thing I really do need…the seed.  

543945045_35435391df_z King Parrot Prescott PymPhoto by: Prescott Pym

Red Crested Turaco
Red Crested Turacos were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of snail snacks danced in their heads.5744224495_aeb32a78f3_z Red Crested Turaco Anne White

Photo by: Anne White

Bay Headed Tanager
O Bay Headed Tanager, O Bay Headed Tanager!
How are thy feathers so verdant!
  

8767703589_f1c00b2ab5_z Bay Headed Tanager JPC Raleigh

Photo by: JPC Raleigh

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Nectar came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!4602880799_94e7892aa6_z Broad Tailed Hummingbird Pat Gaines

Photo by: Pat Gaines

Chattering Lory
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the forest
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Chattering Lory 

8336185855_f79fbfdbc3_z Chattering Lory Salis

Photo by: Salis

All photos are Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution from Flickr.