Nest Building

It continually amazes me what nature can do. While birds are the topic of this website, make no mistake I’m impressed by what all of the animal kingdom can do. This is never more apparent when it comes to reproduction. Something within every living animal knows what to do when it comes to having babies. It’s embedded deep within their DNA. A bear will find a cave to have cubs in. A rabbit will burrow a hole. And of course most birds will build nests.

 

nest 1

 

Obviously each bird is somewhat different, but the process is generally the same. A bird will build a nest (most of the times as a couple). The male will then inseminate the female. The female will carry the eggs for only a few days, before laying them in the nest. The birds will then ‘sit’ on them for a period (known as brooding or incubation time) before a young bird is born. Easy as that!

What I find most interesting is the different kinds of nests that the birds use. It’s amazing the different kinds of materials that birds will use. Basically anything they can get their hands on (or is that beaks on?). Most birds use mud, twigs and leaves depending on their environment. But realistically anything that they think is fit, they will build a nest with or on. While most birds will interweave the twigs to build their nests some birds (such as flamingos) use their saliva to hold the nest together. The edible-nest swiftlet actually uses saliva alone to construct their nests. Amazing.

 

Nest 2

 

I once saw one build it with a bottle of Venapro. Venapro is used for hemorrhoids. I’m guessing they won’t have any problems with hemorrhoids then! Which I guess is good because they are associated with pregnancy! They must have found it laying around.

Some other things I have seen being used are wiring, a wig (yes a wig!) and part of a football scarf. I remember as a child magpies pulling apart our outdoor mat because it was made of straw.

Birds most often hide their nests up in trees to keep them away from predators, but some birds will build them on land. These particular birds need to either be very protective from predators, or find themselves in areas where they don’t have any animals wishing to do them harm.

 

nest 3

 

There are even some birds that don’t even have nests. The most popular of them being the emperor penguin. The main reason for this is that there is nothing there to build the nests out of. Being so cold it wouldn’t be effective anyway, as it would let in too much cold air. The penguin basically encompass the egg until the hatching is born, keeping it warm. They also don’t need to be too concerned about predators, just the coldness of mothernature

Today I will leave you with a short you-tube video on the baby emperor penguin (another one of my favorites).

 

 

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_incubation

http://doesvenaprowork.net/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0u67Wk_hJ0

 

The Magpie – A Friend Or Foe?

Being Australian I know all about the magpie. The magpie itself is a family of birds with many different looks. They come from the crow family and can be found all over the world. The one we know so well in Australia, is of course the Australian Magpie.

 

Magpie-1

 

If you haven’t been woken up one morning by one of these guys squawking at your window, you aren’t really Australian. You will find these guys all over the country, but mainly focused along the southern areas. The metropolitan areas are full of them. And this is where the problems lay…

For 10 months of the year the magpie goes about it’s daily bird life and we, as humans, go about ours. We get along seamlessly and during this time of the year, you could in fact say that we are best of friends. I still have fond memories from when I was a child and I would feed these guys by hand from my parents back verandah. I still enjoy the calls of a magpie. It has a rather complex call, that seems to be different for each individual magpie. Research has shown that they will mimic the call of other birds, plus the sounds of dogs, cats and even humans.

 

Magpie

 

Now the other two months of the year… well… we don’t get along so well. That would be nesting season. Magpies are very protective. They seem to believe that humans have nothing better to do than steal there eggs. Despite the fact that magpies will nest high up in a tree, they will attack humans anywhere in the facility.  I still remember Dad climbing a tree to remove nests in our backyard (prior to eggs being in them), forcing the magpie to build the nest elsewhere. While most birds know that humans don’t want to steal their eggs and will leave us alone, the magpie will swoop you as soon as it looks like you might possibly be a threat.

Without fail, every year you will read about story in the newspaper, or see something in the news, about someone losing an eye to these guys. From personal experience I’ve been swooped more times than I can count. I’ve even had a couple of direct hits to the head (though no serious damage done). Here’s some good tips for how to best protect yourself from these guys (link).

Despite the fact we are prime enemy number one for those couple of months a year, the magpie is still one of my favorites. Probably because it is one of the first birds I remember from when I was a child. I also have saved several of them in my time too!

 

What Birds Eat

Birds are amazing when it comes to food. They somehow make do with whatever they have around them to survive. In fact they even adapt to ensure they can feed on the food sources around them. Darwin himself had his Aha moment when he was studying finches down in the Galapagos Islands. He noticed that birds of different islands had almost identical features except for different shaped beaks. The shape of these beaks directly related to how they got their food source (e.g. long beaked birds needed them feed on difficult to reach flower nectar etc). He went on to write a fairly popular book about evolution called “On the Origin of Species“.

Due to birds being able to adapt to their environment they can pretty much eat anything. Here are some of the most popular:

 

Insects

Yes, yummy insects! These birds will scavenge through the undergrowth to find what they want. Generally the birds that rely on insects as their main source of food have long and strong beaks to move around leaves and such in order to expose what is underneath. Pretty much all birds eat some type of insects as this is a good source of protein.

 

Bird eating

 

Meat

A lot of birds eat meat as part of their diet. Usually they eat rodents, small mammals, reptiles, fish and reptiles. In most cases birds will use surprise to attack their prey. The birds that are best at this have incredible eyesight. They can see the slightest movement from incredible distances. Those birds you see circling 100s of feet above can be hunting, waiting for that mouse to pop it’s head out from under the log.

 

Grains and Seeds

Probably one of the most common foods among the smaller birds. Because of this most of these birds make great pets. They are easy to feed and keep happy.

Also these types of birds are easy to attract to your backyard. Just get a bird feeder and if there are some in the area they will be there in no time. Just be aware some birds like some grains/seeds and not others. When buying the seeds from a pet store you will see on the box or bag exactly what birds will like it.

 

bird eating fruit

 

Fruit Eating

Many birds like a slice of fruit or two. These types of birds are some of the most unpopular, particularly among farmers! Their diets will generally reply on what fruit is in the area, but they have been known to eat the healthy diet of peaches, maquiberry, berries, mangoes, grapes and nectarines. Many of these birds have specially crafted beaks in order to pierce the skin of the fruit to get to the yummy center. One bird that loves fruit is my favorite, the Toucan.

 

Mollusks

A lot of shore birds eat mollusks. They wait for low tide and then attack a clam, trying to pry open the shells to feast on what is underneath.

 

Hummingbird

 

Nector

These birds have long and narrow beaks in order to feast on the nectar deep inside a flower. They are generally very careful birds that try not to damage the flower while extracting their food knowing full well that damaging the flower will prevent them from coming back at a later date to feed again. Easily the most popular of these birds is the hummingbird (one of my favorites).

 

Gulp! Other Birds!

Yes, some birds are cannibals! This is usually associated with the bigger birds, like a raptor, falcon or hawk. They prey on wounded birds, slower birds that they can sneak up on or simply hunt a bird. These birds are usually the most powerful in the bird kingdom and have strong legs for holding down prey. Some other birds, when food is scares, will turn to this lifestyle, mainly preying on the young and weak.

 

 

Sources – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Origin_of_Species

www.maquiberryreview.net/

www.defenders.org/hummingbirds/basic-facts

 

Dealing with an Injured Bird

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have to deal with sick or injured birds a fair bit.  My friends seem to think that if they find a bird that needs attention then Bill is the man for the job. And I’m okay with that, because generally the only other option is to let the bird die. An option I don’t really like.

Now while I classify myself as a bit of an expert on birds, everything I’ve learned has been self taught. I’m not a vet or a scholar, I’m just a guy that loves his birds and I think I do a great job for someone without expertise. What I lack in education I make up for in effort. I am only really guessing, but I think I’ve nursed close to two dozen birds back to health. Unfortunately it’s not always a happy ending, but I know I give the bird the best chance of getting back up on it’s feet (or is that wings?).

 

Magpie

 

I’ve had all sorts of birds bought to me. Magpies are probably the most common bird I’ve had to deal with. They are actually really good healers and I’ve had a 100% record of getting them back into the wild. One still hangs around my property and nests every year in my back yard. He doesn’t swoop me either. He knows he can trust me. He’s probably my favorite. I like that he has had a family after everything he went through.

I remember once a guy bought me in a little finch bird he found that had a broken wing. He bought it in a muscle supplement Pro Testosterone container he had lying around. The bird was freaking out.  Probably because the container didn’t have any holes in it! While this guy did recover be never recovered enough to make it back out into the wild. He’s now joined one of my finch aviaries.

Another time a willy wag tail was bought in by a guy who remembered speaking to me at a Christmas Party two years ago. I always tell my wife that I’m memorable, and here’s my proof!

I generally have two or three aviaries available for sick or injured birds and there is very rarely a time where there isn’t someone in there.

The rehabilitation time can differ greatly. I’ve been able to let some back out into the wild in a few weeks, but some can take a long time. One we had for 6 months before we let her out. It was a happy day. Some birds we have kept, as we know they would never make it if they had to fend for themselves.

I love this work. It makes me proud of who I am. I does take effort, but is so rewarding. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For those looking for information on who to contact if you come across an injured bird (or wildlife for that matter), here is a great webpage with the available information – rspca.

 

Information sources –

en.wikipedia.org

pro-testosterone-reviews.com

kb.rspca.org.au

 

My Favorite Bird

I thought I would start off with telling you about my favorite bird.  Being Australian you would think I would pick an Australian bird, but my favorite is actually the colorful Toucan. My first memory of the Toucan is from when I was a child and my mum use to get me fruit loops. We have some pretty colorful birds in Australia, but nothing was as colorful as a toucan. That was the start of my love of the toucan.

 

Toucan

 

A little history/information

Toucans come from the  family of birds called Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. They have bright markings on both their body and large bills. There are various types of Toucans and they can range in size from 30 to 60 centimeters (fully grown). Toucans are native to South America (northern) and Central America (through to southern Mexico). You will also find them in the Caribbean. While toucans generally eat fruit, they can and will eat bugs and lizards. They are also known to raid other birds nests and steal eggs and young hatching.

For more information check out the wiki site.

 

Why are they my favorite bird

I think it comes down to the colors.  I mentioned above that I started liking them as a child. As a child I think you are naturally drawn to colorful things. The amazing thing was that they are just as colorful in real life as they were on the cereal box. While I have no doubt that my childhood memories are a big reason behind my love for them I still find them a stunning bird. The day God created them he must have been in a happy mood.  They just make you want to smile. Their large beautiful beaks make them look like they are about to tip over.

 

Toucan 2

 

Finally seeing one in the wild

It was about ten years ago I finally had the chance to see one in the wild. My wife and I decided that we would spend our holidays in Costa Rica. Not only is the bird life really big there, but the wildlife is amazing. I was truly exited to see a real life one that wasn’t in a zoo.

We packed our bags with all our bird watching gear and our first activity in the new country was to go exploring through Manuel Antonio National Park. We were lucky enough to find sloths, howler monkeys and snakes on our first visit there, but it wasn’t right until the end that we finally got to see what we had been waiting for.  Well, we heard it first.  For those of you that don’t know they are noisy. I guess that is what those big beaks are for! After hunting around for it we saw it sitting a top the tree line calling out for his mate.

The trip was already worth it and we had only been there for one day.

 

I hope you stick around. I’ve got some great stories and advice coming up in later posts. I can’t wait to get all this information out of my head!