The Bird Watching Answer Book: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Birds in Your Backyard and Beyond (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
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critical. Many birds have all-white plumage except for black wingtips, including American White Pelicans, Snow Geese, Whooping Cranes, White Ibises, and gulls; if you see one of these, its color pattern won’t be very useful until you get to the pages that show its family. And in poor light, you may not get a good sense of color at all. So shape and posture are usually the first features to pay attention to. As you flip through your field guide and come across an interesting species, don’t read
the ballons sink, the bird will have moved on. Some people recommend using Great Horned Owl decoys to scare birds away, but I once saw a bird using one of those as a perch from which to more conveniently continue to attack the window. MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL Some birds, especially in the crow family, can probably recognize that a mirror reflection is just that, not a real bird. One experiment showed that magpies marked with bright yellow or red on the throat reacted to their mirror image by
their eyes open and they start noticing their parents and one another. Once they recognize the birds that feed them, they will crouch down if anything else shows up. By the time they’re 10 or 11 days old, if anything approaches the nest they’ll fly off in a flurry, though they can’t go far and can’t get back up to the nest. (This is why it’s so important to not peek into robin nests after the young are about a week old.) If the young survive this sudden, panicky escape, their parents will
austral migrants. Birds that breed in the Southern Hemisphere and migrate north for their winter. brood parasites. Birds that do not build a nest or care for their young directly, instead searching out host nests in which to lay their eggs. brood patch. A bare spot on the belly or chest where a bird’s body heat warms the eggs. cloaca. The opening chamber to the intestines, ureters, and sex organs. contour feathers. The outer feathers that keep moisture and wind out and streamline a bird.
defended. Overall, you’ll feed far more hummingbirds by setting out four tiny one-port feeders, spread out so a bird at one doesn’t easily see the others. You’ll get to watch hummingbirds through more windows, and they’ll be much happier, too. RARE VISITORS: VAGRANT HUMMINGBIRDS If you keep your hummingbird feeders up during the fall anywhere in the United States and southern Canada, you may get a surprise visitor. Hummingbirds from the tropics may suddenly appear, even as late as December.