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This bird was found in my backyard in the north east of Italy. It's about 5cm long and can fly as high as 1.5m (so far).
It's probably a white zebra finch:
Inside Birding: Habitat
A bird’s habitat is often a signature of its identity. For example, you’ll usually find herons near water and you can expect to find meadowlarks in open fields. There are four broad categories of habitat: (1) woodland habitats—coniferous or deciduous trees (2) aquatic habitats—lakes, ponds, swamps, marshes, oceans, and shorelines (3) scrub-shrub habitats—short woody plants and bushes and (4) open habitats—grasslands, agricultural fields, and tundra. Once you learn what kinds of birds depend on each habitat you have a quick tool to help you identify birds in the field. Join Chris Wood and Jessie Barry as they explain how being aware of habitat cues can make you a better birder.
This video is part of our 4-part Inside Birding series. Each roughly 10-minute video guides you through the 4 basic keys to bird identification with clear instruction and examples. The four videos in the series are:
For more on the 4 keys of bird ID, see our Bird ID Skills pages on All About Birds.
Would you like to learn more about how understanding habitat can help you identify more birds in your area? Bird Academy’s online courses let enthusiasts of all levels learn at their own pace. You can browse our course catalog to find the perfect online learning resource for yourself. Be a better birder today: View course catalog
Cream-Eyed Bulbul: New Species of Bird Discovered
The cream-eyed bulbul (Pycnonotus pseudosimplex) in Lambir Hills National Park, Miri Division, Sarawak, Malaysia. Image credit: John C. Mittermeier / Shakya et al, doi: 10.25226/bboc.v139i1.2019.a3.
An uniformly olive-brown bird called the cream-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex) occurs from southern Indochina throughout the Sunda Islands, except Palawan in the south-western Philippines.
In most of its range, this species has white eyes. On the island of Borneo, however, most individuals have red eyes, although there are also a few with white eyes.
For more than a century, ornithologists have thought the eye-color difference on Borneo was a trivial matter of individual variation.
Through persistent detective work and advances in genetic sequencing technology, Louisiana State University researcher Subir Shakya and co-authors have discovered that the white-eyed individuals from Borneo in fact represent a completely new species — the cream-eyed bulbul (Pycnonotus pseudosimplex).
“One of the reasons we knew we had a new species as opposed to just a variant of another species was because the two populations — the red-eyed and white-eyed populations — actually occur together on Borneo,” Shakya said.
The cream-eyed bulbul (Pycnonotus pseudosimplex). Image credit: Subir Shakya, Louisiana State University.
The scientists sequenced the DNA of several bird specimens from Sumatra and compared them to specimens from other sites in the region to determine the degree of genetic relatedness of various birds from the different islands and the mainland of Asia.
Several bulbuls from Borneo and the surrounding region were among the specimens they compared. However, the white-eyed cream-vented bulbuls from Borneo appeared genetically distinct from all the other white-eyed and red-eyed cream-vented bulbuls they examined.
Further work to understand this discrepancy led to the conclusion that the white-eyed birds from Borneo were in fact a new species.
“We had found white-eyed individuals of the bulbul in old-growth hill forest in Crocker Range National Park in 2008 and in Lambir Hills National Park in 2013 we also found them in Batang Ai National Park in 2018. All of these areas are in Malaysian Borneo,” said team member Dr. Fred Sheldon, also from Louisiana State University.
The discovery is outlined in the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club.
7. Slender-billed curlew
The Numenius tenuirostris is a species of curlew that inhabits the peat bogs and marshy areas of the Siberian taiga. They migrate to the Mediterranean region for wintering and live in the shallow fresh-water habitats in the region. The curlew is 36 to 41 cm long, has a grayish brown plumage, whitish underparts (with dark brown streaks), rump, and lower back, and round or heart-shaped spots on the sides. Females of this species have a longer bill. The species is distinguished from the Eurasian curlew by its longer, more slender, and straighter bill and whiter plumage. The slender-billed curlew is the most threatened of the eight species of curlews. Hunting in the wintering grounds of the bird, habitat loss, and pollution has drastically reduced the population of this species. As of 2007, it was estimated that there are only about 50 surviving adult birds of the slender-billed curlew. Thus, the species is labeled as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
The little gray songster called the mockingbird is a plain-looking bird with thin legs and a slender body that is no more than nine to eleven inches long, including its tail. Both the male and female have gray upper parts and white underparts. Their white wing patches and outer tail feathers show up in flight, and their wings and tails appear rounded. The birds look alike except the female has a little less white in her feathers and is slightly smaller than the male. Since the mockingbird's appearance is less than spectacular, you may wonder why Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas have all selected the mocker as their official state bird. The secret of its popularity is its unique singing ability.
Its scientific name, Mimuspolyglottos, means "many-tongued mimic," and the Indians called it Cencontlatolly, which means "four hundred tongues." Although the Indian name may exaggerate the bird's talents, the mocker not only has a beautiful song of its own, but also can imitate the songs of dozens of other birds. It can warble, whistle, trill, and call, as well as make such interesting sounds as a squeaking gate, croaking frog, barking dog, and chirping cricket. Its mimicry is so good that an electronic device might be needed to tell the original sound from the bird's if it weren't for the mocker's habit of repeating things at least three times.
The mockingbird gets its name from its ability mimic the songs of dozens of other birds, but it also has a beautiful song of its own.
On one occasion, during an outdoor production of the symphony "Peter and the Wolf," a mockingbird added its own accompaniment to the flutist's portrayal of bird calls in the concert. Needless to say, the audience was delighted with the bird's mimicry. However, on another occasion, when a mockingbird decided to copy the sound of a traffic policeman's whistle, the bird's efforts were not appreciated. The drivers, who thought all of the whistle sounds were coming from the policeman, were confused about whether to stop or go.
Some people think the mockingbird's song is all mimicry, but researchers tell us that only 10 percent of it falls into this category. The bird actually sings at great lengths in musical phrases that are pure mockingbird song. As the bird sings, it repeats each phrase three to six times, and it can change its tune as often as eighty-seven times in seven minutes. This repetition and the sudden changes of song help distinguish the mockingbird's sounds from those of other birds.
A mockingbird will perch in a tree or sit on a telephone pole or television antenna and sing both day and night. While singing, it spreads its tail, drops or raises its wings, and may even fling itself several feet into the air without missing a note. It has been known to sing for more than an hour without stopping and is especially noisy on moonlit nights. These nighttime concerts often make it unpopular with people who are light sleepers. The mockingbird sings all year long in the southern regions, but it is most vocal throughout its range from February to July and from late August through October. Young mockingbirds can sing, but their songs are described as "soft whisper songs."
The mockingbird lives primarily in the eastern, southern, and midwestern parts of the United States and it can be found throughout Texas. It is adaptable and will make its home in both rural and heavily populated areas. Once a mockingbird stakes out its territory, it will defend that territory against all intruders, including animals much larger than itself. The size or type of opponent does not seem to matter, but the bird is not always successful in driving away the intruder.
Mockingbirds have been known to attack big birds, such as the carcacara.
Snakes create double trouble for the birds since they feed on both eggs and young. Occasionally a few well-placed pecks will discourage the snake, but all too often the reptile ignores the bird's attack. One observer reported seeing a mockingbird delivering repeated blows to the head and neck of a 2-1/2-foot black snake for more than thirty minutes without causing the snake much injury or making it change direction.
On another, more humorous occasion an observer saw a pig wander over to eat some oranges that had fallen from a tree in which a pair of mockingbirds had built a nest. The birds dived at the pig, pecking it with their beaks and beating it with their wings. But instead of being frightened away by this display of hostility, the pig seemed to enjoy the feel of their beaks pecking on its tough hide. It settled to the ground and rolled over so its broad side would be exposed to their attack. Each peck seemed to increase the pig's enjoyment. After about thirty minutes, the mockingbirds gave up and returned to their nest.
When a photographer recorded a mockingbird's attack on a caracara (a large bird also known as the Mexican eagle), he reported that the mocker's aggressive behavior did not seem to threaten the big bird. However, the nuisance of being dived at and pecked repeatedly did cause the caracara to change its perch a couple of times in an attempt to get rid of the small gray nuisance.
House cats, dogs, and squirrels are easier for the mockers to harass, and on many occasions the birds seem to be teasing the animals. There are numerous accounts of mockers attacking house cats, even though the cats are not near the nest and pose no threat to the birds. Many times the cats cannot even lie in the sunshine and sleep without being dive-bombed by the birds. Another report told how a battling mocker made a pet dog's life miserable. Every time the dog went outside, the bird swooped down and pecked its head and back. Then one day, without any apparent reason, the attacks stopped. The bird either tired of the "game" or accepted the dog as being no threat to its territory.
If you have spent much time watching squirrels playing in the trees, you may have seen one of them being chased by a mockingbird. You probably thought it was funny to see the squirrel leap from limb to limb, race down a tree trunk, run across the ground, and then scoot up another tree with a mockingbird hot on its heels, getting in a jab whenever possible. But if you had been the squirrel, you might not have seen any humor in such persistent attacks.
Squabbles between mockingbirds are not uncommon when territories are being established. Boundary disputes between two birds may be settled with a type of challenge "dance." With heads and tails raised, the birds dart back and forth across the disputed boundary until one gives ground. A mockingbird also may challenge its own image reflected in a window or shiny surface. Males and females establish their own territories except during the breeding season. It is reported that one male and female mocker, which mated with each other for several years in a row, not only established their own separate territories after raising each brood, but also defended these territories against each other. Then when spring arrived, the hostilities stopped and the pair got together again in a mutual territory until the next brood was raised.
Young mockers quickly learn to assume the threatening posture, cocking and fanning their tails while uttering sharp notes. These threatening displays are not directed at any particular object at first, but the young soon learn from their parents which animals should receive these threats.
When choosing his mate, the male attracts the female's attention by lifting and spreading his wings high above his back and displaying his white wing patches. He also moves his tail up and down, coos softly, and occasionally runs back and forth in front of her carrying a twig. The two birds may then stand opposite each other and perform a dance pattern, repeating the sequence of steps before flying away.
Both adults are involved in nest building. The male often gathers the materials while the female fits them together to form the nest. Grass, tender roots, and leaves form the lining for the small circular nest. It may take the two birds three or four days to build their nest, but the task can be finished in a single day if both birds work at a fast pace. Most nests are found in low bushes, vines, or shrubbery near buildings or along woodland edges on stumps, brush piles, and fence posts. Usually they are three to ten feet off the ground, but they can sometimes be found as low as one foot off the ground or as high as fifty feet.
The three to six eggs, normally laid one a day, are spotted with brown and may vary in color. They can be yellowish or buffy grays or shades of green, blue, brown, or purple. The incubation period is from ten to fourteen days, and the female assumes most of the duties. The male may sit on the eggs if she leaves the nest for a few minutes, but she will probably run him off when she returns. Once the eggs hatch both parents take care of the young. The young stay in the nest for about a week, and then remain close by for another few days or so. The parents will build a new nest if they raise a second brood.
Mockingbirds feed on insects, wild fruit, and weed seeds. During the spring and summer caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, bees, and other insects make up most of their diet. While feeding on the ground, mockers may spread their wings to expose the white undersides. Some observers believe this "wing-flashing" is used to startle insects such as grasshoppers into moving so they can be seen and caught. During the winter mockingbirds eat mostly vegetable matter. Wild fruits are a favorite whenever they are available, but the birds also may eat or damage some domestic fruits. Because of their insect-eating habits, most people consider them more helpful than harmful, and no one can dispute the fact that the birds truly sing for their supper.
Our small state bird has certainly earned the title "King of Song" and also the reputation for being a scrappy fighter against all odds.
1989 &ndash Mockingbirds: Introducing Birds to Young Naturalists. The Louise Lindsey Merrick Texas Environment Series, No. 9, pp. 52-56. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.
What species is this little white bird? - Biology
Phylum or Division: Viruses
Class: RNA positive-strand viruses
Genus: Flavivirus Japanese Encephalitis Antigenic Complex 1
Current Distrubution: Probably in all the contiguous United States and, though currently un-reported, due to avian migratory routes West Nile Virus is being introduced throughout the Americas. In the United States West Nile has been found in forty mosquito species and over 70 avian species. 4
Mode(s) of Introduction: When crows began to die, suspicions of a possible epizootic were aroused, but it was not until fall that West Nile Virus was identified, at which point the (human) epidemic had apparently died out. Ultimately, analysis of the strain of West Nile in the United States indicated that it was most closely related to West Nile that had been isolated from an Israeli Goose in 1998. 5 How did West NileVirus get from Israel to the United States? No one really knows. A mosquito or tick had to ingest the blood and the West Nile Virus with it from livestock geese in 1998. Possible vectors include legally or illegally imported flora, which might harbor the vector or its eggs, and fauna for food or pet trade. An immune deficient human could have transported the virus to New York City, so too could mosquitoes trapped in transatlantic airplanes or larvae on transatlantic boats.
Benefit(s): Again, it is hard to say. As a biological or quasi-biological entity, West Nile Virus is as beneficial as a cetacean or a saurischian the anthropo-centric labeling of a beneficial species is a value judgement. Human benefits from West Nile Virus are indirect the “outbreak” in New York City resulted in a system of interdisciplinary communication among scientists, healthcare officials, and administrators the study of West Nile Virus might result in a vaccine, which could lead to other Flaviviral vaccines. West Nile Virus prevention efforts might lead to human re-evaluation of pesticide and water management.
The Grand Canyon is a refuge for some of the rarest bird species in the world.
Bird Community Monitoring
The Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN) monitors the bird community in Grand Canyon's Mixed conifer forest, Pinyon-juniper woodland
Birds of Prey or Raptors
The Grand Canyon is an important location for raptor conservation efforts.
The Colorado River and its dozens of tributary streams create important riparian habitat for many resident and migratory bird species.
Other Notable Birds
The Grand Canyon is home to hundreds of important species which fill important ecological roles.
This little watering hole in the courtyard at Grand Canyon Headquarters was all aflutter with activity during fall migration 2020. As birds make their way across the country, they look for safe places to drink and bathe before they continue on their way. Some species in this video are residents to this area year-round, while others are just passing through. We are so lucky to have so many awesome birds call Grand Canyon home!
Those Little Birds On The Backs Of Rhinos Actually Drink Blood
You’ve seen it: a peaceful image of interspecies togetherness. The adorable oxpecker, perched on the back of a rhinoceros or zebra, happily having lunch while ridding its ride of pesky ticks, flies and other bugs. Not so fast–those oxpeckers are washing the bugs down with a healthy helping of blood. As if the endangered species of sub-Saharan Africa didn't have enough to worry about.
The oxpecker (there are actually two species, one that has a red bill and one that has a yellow bill) does more than just clean bugs for big game animals, writes Encyclopedia Britannica: the birds also hiss loudly when they spot danger, providing a sort of secondary warning system to their larger hosts. However, the relationship isn’t one of total simplicity: though they rid animals of pests, “oxpeckers also take blood from the sores, which may be slow to heal,” writes the encyclopedia.
That’s right. While it is true that oxpeckers do eat bugs, they also eat rhinos, and zebras and giraffes, and whatever other large animals they can hang out with. That means, wrote a group of researchers in a 2011 study published in the journal Evolution, that the oxpecker can also be viewed as a parasite to their larger hosts as well as a helper.
To figure out more about their relationship, they studied the preferences oxpeckers seem to have for their host animals. They found that both red- and yellow-billed oxpeckers pick hosts with the largest number of ticks, but don’t pick based on how thick their host’s hide is. They interpreted this to mean that oxpickers are primarily looking for animals with the greatest number of yummy ticks, rather than the most potential for bloody sores. “These results support the hypothesis that the relationship between oxpickers and ungulates is primarily mutualistic,” they concluded.
But there’s no denying that oxpickers do damage to their hosts. Until relatively recently, those who studied the two species believed they were a perfect example of mutualistic behavior, where two species help each other, writes Jason Bittel for Slate. However, “oxpeckers are notorious for pick-, pick-, picking their way into their hosts,” he writes. “Do a quick Youtube search for oxpeckers, and you’ll find videos of these birds digging into hippo flesh, fighting over buffalo blood and straddling the head of an antelope just to get at a face wound.”
The birds also use their four-legged friends/meals for nesting material. Red-billed oxpickers have been found to use wool pulled from the backs of sheep. In captivity, the birds used hairs they pulled from the ears of rhinos they shared an enclosure with.
And oxpeckers aren’t the only birds out there who have this type of relationship with other animals: A researcher at the University of Campinas found that black vultures have a similar relationship to capybaras in southeastern Brazil and other “cleaner bird” species have been found to have similar relationships, writes biologist Ivan Sazima. Just another magical (if gross) corner of the natural world.
About Kat Eschner
Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.
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