Summer Naturalist Series 5: Birds

Join in the flutter of wings.

Bluebirds of happiness, migrating Canadian geese, the ugly duckling, mythology surrounding the phoenix…it’s no surprise that our avian friends play a central role in many cultures and mark the seasons of our lives.  Flying dreams take me above the treetops to rescue people like superman or evade predators with the carefree ease of a bubble floating into the air on a summer’s day.  Even as an adult, my imagination tempts me to consider every knee-high rock a launching pad for a springy step into the air.  On road trips I pretend that the highway is a combination ice rink and air field, allowing my mind to envision elegant dances in mid-air around the telephone poles, feet just barely tickling the tall roadside grass and wildflowers that our birds and other wildlife depend on for food.

There are many great websites that make an interest in birds even more fun…

“What happens when a jazz composer challenges a vocal virtuoso to match the voices of some of her favorite birds? Serious fun! Join Grammy-recognized artists Maria Schneider and Theo Bleckmann in their musical experiment to help us tune in to nature’s music—from the melodious to the downright weird. You’ll never think of a sparrow or a toilet plunger in the same way again.” Visit Birds Got Swing: A Musical Experiment

“Train your brain to recognize over 50 bird songs with the Bird Song Hero matching game. Listen closely to featured songs and match each with the correct spectrogram visualization. You’ll be harnessing the power of the visual brain to help you identify the unique qualities of each song and commit sound patterns to memory.”

Learn about the features of a great birdhouse, pick the right box for the right species of bird, and learn how to install a nest box camera (ooooh!) at NestWatch.

Bird Trivia

(Answers Below)

  1. What’s the difference between precocial and altricial chicks?
  2. True or false: Great Blue Herons can seriously injure a human being.
  3. True or false: Hummingbirds can be as big as your hand.
  4. Birds are amniotes. What does this mean?
  5. When do two Bald Eagles lock their talons in a free-fall?

Organizations for the Birds

American Bird Conservancy

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds

Audubon Society

Hummingbirds at Home is a fun way to gather data and track hummingbirds.

Lend a Wing: Helping Birds

There are almost as many ways to help birds as there are flying fantasies.  Pick from a myriad of options like the Great Backyard Bird Count, or eBird Counts year-round, and boost the end of your summer into the beginning of lifelong friendships with the feathered variety of sacred beings:

  1. Build a variety of bird feeders like platform feeders, finch feeders, suet feeders and more.
  2. Build a variety of bird houses or nest boxes for songbirds, doves, and owls.
  3. Create a backyard full of seasonal food sources for wildlife and birds.
  4. Put window decals on any windows that may confuse birds into colliding with them.
  5. Keep house cats indoors to prevent songbird killings.  Cat predation is a major reason for songbird decline (2014).  I have pet cats and love them, but my emotional love for cats is no reason to ignore the science involving cat numbers and bird numbers.  My love would be better spent increasing the cats’ indoor quality of life than denying science exists.  And no, just because cats are predators does not make them natural local predators or make their excess predation sustainable for ecosystems. Habitat loss and predation from other animals does kill birds, too, but it doesn’t cancel out cat-on-bird predation. “It was sort of like arguing that because there are wars going on out there, my little murders shouldn’t count.” -Richard Conniff, author. Fact Sheet on cats and wildlife.

Answers to Trivia Questions

Precocial means that chicks are hatched in an advanced state and able to feed themselves almost immediately, Altricial chicks require longer care from their parents because they hatch in a less developed state; True; True; Amniotes are organisms who reproduce with eggs that contain amniotic fluid and are adapted to lay eggs on land instead of in water; Bald Eagles lock talons in a free-fall during courtship.

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Brad Volz

Fun, and very helpful with all the links. I enjoyed your imaginary flight plans. 🙂 Thanks Amanda.

Amanda Bancroft

Thanks Brad! Coming up next: Stars! Maybe I can fly around the galaxy next. 🙂

Brad Volz

LOL, have a nice space flight!

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