The Milkweed Diaries

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Amazing Bird Facts

Golden Crowned Kinglet
I spent yesterday at the Organic Growers School getting inspired, learning things, reconnecting with old friends, and meeting fabulous new people.    My two favorite classes were about birds and bees (cue dorky "the birds and the bees" jokes here).  

"Meet the Bees" was a wonderful introduction to identifying pollinators--more on that later.

In "Introduction to Bird Language" I learned all kinds of amazing facts about birds and how they communicate with each other - both within families and species and among species.  Here are 10 of my favorites:

Migration Paths

  1. Some birds use the stars to navigate, others use magnetic fields, others navigate by memorizing landmarks along their migration path while taking the journey with their family.  Some species combine more than one of these methods in navigating migration. Birds that navigate solely by memory and sight will sometimes become non-migratory if separated from their family group - if they haven't made the trip enough times to memorize the route.
  2. The golden crowned kinglet, barely bigger than a hummingbird, can survive temperatures down to -40 degrees. This tiny, yellow-mohawked bird is rarely seen because they are so small, quick, and tend to spend most of their time very high up in the tops of trees.
  3. 80% of a Cooper's Hawk's diet is songbirds. Almost always caught in midair.  Hawks can fly 60 miles per hour, and kill over 200 songbirds per nesting season.  It takes 53 songbirds to raise one Cooper's Hawk chick to 6 weeks old.
  4. Tufted Titmice and Chickadees are dramatic gossips who observe what is going on with other birds and talk loudly about everything they observe, sharing information about predators and other happenings with other species. You can count the "dees" in the chickadee's song to gauge the level of alarm - generally more than five "dees" indicates a higher level of alarm. Also, Titmice and Chickadees will often socialize and even share nests!
  5. Albatrosses sometimes spend six months at a time in the air - eating, breeding, and even sleeping on the wing.
  6. The dawn chorus of songbirds is always happening somewhere on the planet, and has been for millions of years.
  7. Bird language falls into five main categories: adolescent begging calls, territorial aggression, companion calls (to mates or family members), song, and alarm calls.  
  8. Cardinals pair bond for life and are constantly checking in with each other through companion calls.
  9. Alarm calls, sounded by many different species of songbird, will follow a predator through the forest, alerting all birds and other small animals to the presence of a threat as the predator moves from place to place.
  10. Some bird language is body language - in addition to vocalizations, birds use non-vocal communication to convey information within and among species.
Cooper's Hawk

Death by Cooper's Hawk
Chickadees and Titmice



Girl In An Apron said...

Okay so I kinda always guessed titmice and chickadees were swingers; LOVE that some use the stars to navigate!!!!; and cannot believe albatross sleep on the wing! Dang I really wish I had attended this class! Thanks so much for highlighting! Birds rock steady!

Dana said...

I concur about birds rocking steady. I'm waiting for the blue grey gnat-catchers to arrive and buzz their way around the Big Springs as my harbinger of the season. Also, anyone want to go kingfisher nest hunting this year?