August 19, 2014
Is avian keratin disorder headed your way? Here’s a blog I wrote about one case in my garden here in southwestern Oregon…then response from a USGS scientist tracking the problem.
don’t know what’s happened to my Red-breasted Nuthatch. I say “mine” because he seems to live on my suet feeders…and seeing how deformed his beak appears, I can see why.
[SEE BELOW FOR LIKELY EXPLANATION]
How could this poor guy possible pry bugs out of bark crevices when his upper mandible is a half-inch longer than the lower. Any ideas about what’s happened here? Birth defect? Lower mandible appears normal size, while upper toooooo long.
Help me solve the Case of Mismatched Mandibles.
Ornithologist Pepper Trail works at the U.S. Wildlife Forensic Laboratory here in Ashland (the only such lab in the whole world!). He has pointed me to what seems to be the explanation. Click for link to info on Cornell’s great website on birds.
HERE IS SCIENTIST’S RESPONSE:
I am investigating an epizootic of similar bill deformities in Alaska. This epizootic has recently spread to the Pacific Northwest, with a large cluster of bill deformities appearing in the Puget Sound region. Birds affected by this ‘avian keratin disorder’ have bills that are abnormally long and often crossed, such as in this nuthatch. We’ve determined that the keratin layer of the beak (like the material in a person’s fingernails) is growing too rapidly. Despite extensive testing, we still don’t know what’s causing the problem. We’ve documented beak deformities among a large number of species, including chickadees, crows, nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers, ravens, and several raptors. We are very interested in receiving reports of any birds with abnormal bills such as this one. Please visit our website at the USGS Alaska Science Center or contact me directly:
Research Wildlife Biologist
USGS Alaska Science Center
May 20, 2014
Humans and the family Hirundinidae (swallows and kin) have grown to become mutually helpful and even dependent. Without swallows many of our farms and cities would fill with mosquitoes and their ilk. Without man many swallows family members would lose nesting sites and thus diminish in numbers.
In North America the co-operation between humans and members of the swallow family has increased over the past two centuries. In the mid 1800s naturalists noted how the Barn Swallow had begun to nest around buildings in Northern California. Today Tree Swallows and Purple Martins regularly use nest sites provided by people. Sometimes Tree Swallows will appropriate a box first intended for bluebirds. Martins are colonial nesters so they oust House Sparrows and take over the provided tenements. Barn and Cliff Swallows regularly use manmade structures from bridge to barns to porches across their range.
A Purple Martin tenement at Ottawa NWR, Ohio.
A perched Martin.
Tree Swallow nesting in a natural hole.
Barn Sweallows working on nests on the side of a building.
Many other birds now take advantage of intentional or incidental manmade nest sites: Barn, Great Horned, Great Gray and Screech Owls, European Kingfishers, many raptors nest on pylons or utility poles, Wood and other ducks, nuthatches, chickadees, bluebirds or all three species, phoebes, House Wrens, White-throated and other swifts. In Europe the most obvious building users are White Storks.
All these pictures were taken during a PIB field trip to northwestern Ohio earlier in May.
May 17, 2014
The Magee Marsh Boardwalk today was alive with feeding warblers as weather and insect activity brought nearly all predators down to lower levels of the forest. Most surprising were the scads of Scarlets who came down with them…Scarlet Tanagars at about fifteen feet above the ground.
Our PIB tour group got twenty species of warbler in addition to many fine views of both male and female Scarlet tanagers during our hours on the Magee Marsh Boardwalk today. Magnolia, Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers drew gasps of appreciation. When two Blackburnians appeared near one another I commented it was a conflagration of Blackburnians (with their flame-colored throats).
May 16, 2014
Spring here in northwest Ohio comes in many shades, from gray to grass green to brilliant red. Here are a few:
Tufted Titmouse and Cardinal share feeder.
Groundhog, known also as woodchuck. How much wood wuld a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? We await the answer.
Golden-winged Warbler at Wildwoods Metropark in Toledo area. This disappearing warbler is the central figure in a conservation program headed by American Bird Conservancy.
Red-bellied Woodpecker, which has no red belly.
Solitary Sandpiper, Ottawa NWR.
Baltimore Oriole, Magee Marsh.Indigo Bunting male, Oak Openings Preserve.
All these birds seen in the first two days of the Partnership for International Birding Trip, co-sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon, to northwest Ohio for spring migration. So far we have 109 species for the two days and over 20 species of warblers seen.
May 14, 2014
There was a kettle of immature Bald Eagles over Pointe Mouillee just south of Detroit this morning. When I first saw this phenomenon I could not imagine what was up:
At one time there were six of them circling and swooping about.
One of the eagles had a duck or coot and the others were hoping to make a steal. Here’s the successful predator carrying its prey.
OKAY, KIDS, OUT OF THE WATER:
Northern Rough-winged Swallow:
Osprey on nest, Pointe Mouillee
Tomorrow we begin the PIB trip to northwestern Ohio, co-sponsored by Golden gate Audubon.
May 13, 2014
Forster’s Tern fishing along Metzger Marsh, Ohio.
Eastern Screech-Owl sleeping.
House Wren at its nest hole.
Wren on ground hunting for building materials.
The five of us here at Magee Marsh’s bird festival from Partnership for International Birding and Neblina Forest Tours had a combined species list of 179. Tomorrow two of us begin leading tour for clients from California, Colorado and Florida–here to see the warblers and their friends.