Birds of the Week # 11
The body and back are a smooth grey-blue, with a black scaled pattern on the wings. The long legs are yellow and turn coral, pink or red during courtship. The most characteristic part of the yellow-crowned night heron is the head: black and glossy, with white cheeks and a pale yellow crown going from the bill, between the eyes and to the back of the head, giving the bird its common name. Such colours make the face appear striped in a horizontal black-white-black-white pattern. Long, thin, white feathers grow to the back of the crown during mating season. The bill, also black, is thick and deeply set under the eyes which are dark orange or red.
The Brown Pelican mainly feeds on fish, but occasionally eats amphibians, crustaceans, and the eggs and nestlings of birds. It nests in colonies in secluded areas, often on islands, vegetated land among sand dunes, thickets of shrubs and trees, and mangroves. Females lay two or three oval, chalky white eggs. Incubation takes 28 to 30 days with both sexes sharing duties. The newly hatched chicks are pink, turning gray or black within 4 to 14 days. About 63 days are needed for chicks to fledge. Six to 9 weeks after hatching, the juveniles leave the nest, and gather into small groups known as pods.
The Boat-tailed Grackle was first described by French naturalist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1819. Its specific epithet major means “larger” in Latin. Despite its restricted range, there are four subspecies of the boat-tailed grackle, differing in size and iris color. The boat-tailed grackle was once considered the same species as the great-tailed grackle. The great-tailed species is generally quite similar of slightly smaller body size but has a longer tail and lacks this species’ distinct domed head shape. The common grackle, with which the boat-tailed species often overlaps along the Atlantic coastline, is noticeably smaller and shorter-tailed, as well as lacking the domed head shape.
The Common Grackle forages on the ground, in shallow water, or in shrubs; it may steal food from other birds. It is omnivorous, eating insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, grain, and even small birds and mice. Grackles at outdoor eating areas often wait eagerly until an unwary bird drops some food. They rush forward and try to grab it, often snatching food out of the beak of another bird. Grackles prefer to eat from the ground at bird feeders, making scattered seed an excellent choice of food for them. Grackles can be regularly seen foraging for insects, especially after a lawn trimming.
The Brown Thrasher resides in various habitats. It prefers to live in woodland edges, thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. It can also inhabit areas that are agricultural and near suburban areas, but is less likely to live near housing than other bird species. The brown thrasher often vies for habitat and potential nesting grounds with other birds, which is usually initiated by the males.
Like most terrestrial starlings the common starling moves by walking or running, rather than hopping. Their flight is quite strong and direct; their triangular-shaped wings beat very rapidly, and periodically the birds glide for a short way without losing much height before resuming powered flight. When in a flock, the birds take off almost simultaneously, wheel and turn in unison, form a compact mass or trail off into a wispy stream, bunch up again and land in a coordinated fashion. Common starling on migration can fly at 60–80 km/h (37–50 mph) and cover up to 1,000–1,500 km (620–930 mi).
© HJ Ruiz – Avian101