Monday, December 30, 2013

Banana Eaters

No, this isn't a post about monkeys. Turacos are birds found only in Africa and the name turaco means 'banana eater'.  But their name is misleading and although they eat fruit along with buds, flowers and the occasional insect or snail, they don't eat bananas or plantains as their cousins the plantain-eaters name suggests.  They are not strong fliers and are often seen 'running' through tree canopy as they are good climbers.  Their other cousins the go-away-birds are known for their loud alarm calls which literally sounds like 'go away', there's a predator near.

Schalow's Turaco    Source: Wikipedia

White-crested Turaco   Source: Wikipedia

Red-crested Turaco   Source: Wikipedia

Purple-crested Turaco   Source: Wikipedia

Violet Turaco   Source: Wikipedia

Hartlaub's Turaco   Source: Wikipedia

As you can see, turacos are brightly colored and rather strange looking.  The largest of the group is the Great Blue Turaco which is about 30 inches in length.

Source:  Wikipedia

Their cousins are more modestly dressed.

Western Plantain-eater   Source: Wikipedia

Bare-faced Go-away-bird   Source: Wikipedia

White-bellied Go-away-bird   Source: Wikipedia

Turacos are long-lived birds reaching 30 to 35 years or more in captivity.  One of these days I hope to see one where they live and not in a zoo somewhere.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

Slater Park is all dressed up for the holidays - wreaths on the fence at the entrance and Winter Wonderland is on display with about a hundred decorated trees and a huge Frosty the snowman and a holiday 'village'.

I stopped to take a few pictures, but the real show was not so apparent.  We've had early very cold temperatures so far, even though today we're supposed to be in the 50s.  So the main pond in the park is almost frozen over.  There are a few areas around the edges where the water is evident, but for the most part, there is a layer of ice almost across the entire pond.  I noticed a few flocks of geese on the wing as I was coming into the park.

Seeing how the pond was frozen over I then understood why the geese were in the air and not in the water.  The ducks, however, along with the gulls, were still around and watching them trying to walk on the ice and landing on it had everyone laughing.  I almost called this post Duck Pin Bowling because at one point I saw a duck come in for a landing and then slide for about 6 feet almost taking out a few other 'friends' along the way.  How I wish I'd had a video camera for that one.

I enjoyed the holiday decorations, but the ducks stole the show.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Motley Crew

There's a flock of pigeons that hang out around my house on a regular basis, usually only around ten individuals that sit on the telephone wire across the street.  But sometimes other small flocks congregate and it swells to around 30 or 40 birds.  The birds that I call pigeons are actually rock doves.  Here's what a rock dove is supposed to look like.

Source:  Wikipedia

That's what the majority of 'my' pigeons look like.  But there are a few that look entirely different with a mottled appearance and no two black bars on their wings which distinguish the rock dove and they are more brown in color than the typical gray.

The species Rock Dove also includes domesticated pigeons called fancy pigeons bred by pigeon 'fanciers' of which there are hundreds of breeds.  Escaped domestic pigeons have created feral populations all over the world, some of which I'm sure that have infiltrated flocks of wild rock doves.  One domesticated breed is called the Tippler which looks like this.

Source:  Wikipedia

Hmm.  That's the closest I could find to my strange looking pigeons.  Maybe a combination of several different breeds?  I do like the name anyway.  Love to be able to say, 'Who knew there was a Tippler in the crowd.'

Monday, December 9, 2013

Humdinger Hummingbirds II

In my original Humdinger Hummingbirds post, I touched on the variety of hummingbirds that exist and how they are different.  With over 300 species, I barely scratched the surface so I decided to do another post featuring some of the spectacular hummingbirds found only in South America.  In fact the majority of species occur in South and Central America with only 48 species living and/or breeding in the U.S. and Mexico.  Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere so if you are thinking of going to Europe to bird watch for hummingbirds, you will be sadly disappointed because you will find nary a one.  If you want more pictures and information on the hummingbirds of South America, you can click here.

Like many bird species, males are more colorful than their female counterparts.  Unless noted, the photo is the male member of the species.  (Okay, so call me a female chauvinist.)

Hummingbirds come in all kinds of colors and combinations.

Amazilla Hummingbird   Source: Wikipedia

Ruby-topaz hummingbird   Source:  Wikipedia

Blue-chinned saphire   Source: Wikipedia

Juan Fernandez Firecrown   Source: Wikipeida

Velvet Purple Coronet   Source:  Wikipedia

Not only are the males and females colored differently, sometimes they look like entirely different species.

Male Violet-crowned woodnymph   Source: Wikipedia

Female Violet-crowned Woodnymph

From those photos, you might think the female is larger than the male, but the opposite is actually true.

As you can also see, they may be tiny birds, but they can have an attitude!

In another example of the difference in sexes...

Female Long-tailed Sylph

Male Long-tailed Sylph

only the male has the long tail.  And the tail does matter - when the female looks for a mate, she chooses the male with the longest one.

Some hummingbirds seem to shy away from the limelight with such colorful eye-catching plumage, but they can't help but show just a little flash.

Green-backed Firecrown   Source: Wikipedia

Brown Violetear   Source:  Wikipedia

Then again other hummingbirds love the bling!

Frilled Coquette   Source: Wikipedia

Tufted Coquette   Source: Wikipedia

Hooded Visorbearer  Photo by Ciro Albano  Source: Bird Forum

Wire-crested Thorntail   Source: Wikipedia

The wire-crested thorntail is aptly named as is the Snowcap...

Source: Wikipedia

and the Glowing Puffleg!

Well, definitely the Puffleg part.

I have to add two more hummingbirds that are NOT from South America both because of their color.

Jamaican Mango   Source: Wikipedia

As its name implies it is only found in Jamaica.  And another purple hummingbird - one of my favorite colors.

Antillean Crested Hummingbird  Source: Wikipedia

You could say he is found in the U.S., although not in the lower 48, but on many islands including the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Squirrel Yoga

I have two hooks on my patio for my bird feeder - one I need to use a chair to put it up, the second one I don't.  But if I put it on the lower hook, the squirrels can easily get to it, as well as the suet which they sometimes munch on too.  Especially if it's the peanut suet.  Even though I don't like seeing the squirrels getting into the feeder, it does provide a pretty interesting viewing opportunity watching their antics of reaching the feeder from the support pole on my patio awning.

Definitely looks like squirrel yoga, the downward dog, err rather downward squirrel, being the most popular position.

The feeder definitely empties much faster.  Amazing how those little guys can cling to that metal pole with no problem at all.