Turkey Vulture

87W_Cathartes_aura_vers1_72x30

Turkey Vulture | Cathartes aura

Turkey vulture info via Wikipedia:

Turkey vulture
Cathartes aura -Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA -adult-8a.jpg
At Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, US
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Cathartidae
Genus: Cathartes
Species: C. aura
Binomial name
Cathartes aura
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Turkeyvulturerange.jpg
Range of C. aura      Summer only range     Year-round range

The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow,[2] is the most widespread of the New World vultures.[3] One of three species in the genus Cathartes of the family Cathartidae, the turkey vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.[1]

Like all New World vultures, it is not closely related to the Old World vultures of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The two groups strongly resemble each other because of convergent evolution; natural selection often leads to similar body plans in animals that adapt independently to the same conditions.

The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion.[4] It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals.[4] In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.[5] It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation.[6] It has very few natural predators.[7] In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.[8]

Taxonomy

In flight over Florida

The turkey vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male wild turkey, while the name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer", and is a reference to its feeding habits.[9] The word buzzard is used by North Americans to refer to this bird, yet in the Old World that term refers to members of the genus Buteo.[10] The generic term Cathartes means "purifier" and is the Latinized form from the Greek kathartēs/καθαρτης.[11] The turkey vulture was first formally described by Linnaeus as Vultur aura in his Systema Naturae in 1758, and characterised as V. fuscogriseus, remigibus nigris, rostro albo ("brown-gray vulture, with black wings and a white beak").[12] It is a member of the family Cathartidae, along with the other six species of New World vultures, and included in the genus Cathartes, along with the greater yellow-headed vulture and the lesser yellow-headed vulture. Like other New World vultures, the turkey vulture has a diploid chromosome number of 80.[13]

The taxonomic placement of the turkey vulture and the remaining six species of New World vultures has been in flux.[14] Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world. Some earlier authorities suggested that the New World vultures were more closely related to storks.[15] More recent authorities maintained their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World vultures[16] or place them in their own order, Cathartiformes.[17]

However, recent genetic studies have made it clear that neither New World nor Old World vultures are close to falcons, nor are New World vultures close to storks.[18] Both are basal members of the clade Afroaves,[19] with Old World vultures comprising several groups within the family Accipitridae, also containing eagles, kites, and hawks,[20][21] while New World vultures in Cathartiformes are a sister group to Accipitriformes[19] (containing the osprey and secretarybird along with Accipitridae[21]).

There are five subspecies of turkey vulture:

  • C. a. aura is the nominate subspecies. It is found from Mexico south through South America and the Greater Antilles. This subspecies occasionally overlaps its range with other subspecies. It is the smallest of the subspecies but is nearly indistinguishable from C. a. meridionalis in color.[22]
  • C. a. jota, the Chilean turkey vulture, is larger, browner, and slightly paler than C. a. ruficollis. The secondary feathers and wing coverts may have gray margins.[23]
  • C. a. meridionalis, the western turkey vulture, is a synonym for C. a. teter. C. a. teter was identified as a subspecies by Friedman in 1933, but in 1964 Alexander Wetmore separated the western birds, which took the name meridionalis, which was applied earlier to a migrant from South America. It breeds from southern Manitoba, southern British Columbia, central Alberta and Saskatchewan south to Baja California, south-central Arizona, southeast New Mexico, and south-central Texas.[24] It is the most migratory subspecies, migrating as far as South America, where it overlaps the range of the smaller C. a. aura. It differs from the eastern turkey vulture in color, as the edges of the lesser wing coverts are darker brown and narrower.[22]
  • C. a. ruficollis is found in Panama south through Uruguay and Argentina. It is also found on the island of Trinidad.[25] It is darker and more black than C. a. aura, with brown wing edgings which are narrower or absent altogether.[25] The head and neck are dull red with yellow-white or green-white markings. Adults generally have a pale yellow patch on the crown of the head.[23]
  • C. a. septentrionalis is known as the eastern turkey vulture. The eastern and western turkey vultures differ in tail and wing proportions. It ranges from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States. It is less migratory than C. a. meridionalis and rarely migrates to areas south of the United States.[22]

Description

A large bird, it has a wingspan of 160–183 cm (63–72 in), a length of 62–81 cm (24–32 in), and weight of 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3 lb).[26][27][28][29] Birds in the northern limit of the species' range average larger in size than the vulture from the neotropics. 124 birds from Florida averaged 2 kg (4.4 lb) while 65 and 130 birds from Venezuela were found to average 1.22 and 1.45 kg (2.7 and 3.2 lb), respectively.[30][31][32] It displays minimal sexual dimorphism; sexes are identical in plumage and in coloration, and are similar in size.[33] The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings.[26] The adult's head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak.[34] The irises of the eyes are gray-brown; legs and feet are pink-skinned, although typically stained white. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid.[35]

The two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases.[36] Tracks are large, between 9.5 and 14 cm (3.7 and 5.5 in) in length and 8.2 and 10.2 cm (3.2 and 4.0 in) in width, both measurements including claw marks. Toes are arranged in the classic, anisodactyl pattern.[37] The feet are flat, relatively weak, and poorly adapted to grasping; the talons are also not designed for grasping, as they are relatively blunt.[3] In flight, the tail is long and slim. The black vulture is relatively shorter-tailed and shorter-winged, which makes it appear rather smaller in flight than the turkey vulture, although the body masses of the two species are roughly the same. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side one can see through the beak.[38] It undergoes a molt in late winter to early spring. It is a gradual molt, which lasts until early autumn.[6] The immature bird has a gray head with a black beak tip; the colors change to those of the adult as the bird matures.[39] Captive longevity is not well known. As of 2015[update] there are two captive birds over 40 years old: the Gabbert Raptor Center on the University of Minnesota campus is home to a turkey vulture named Nero with a confirmed hatch year of 1974,[40] and another female bird, named Richard, lives at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, CA. Richard hatched in 1974 and arrived at the museum later that year.[41] The oldest wild captured banded bird was 16 years old.[4]

Leucistic (sometimes mistakenly called "albino") turkey vultures are sometimes seen.[42][43]

The turkey vulture, like most other vultures, has very few vocalization capabilities. Because it lacks a syrinx, it can only utter hisses and grunts.[5] It usually hisses when it feels threatened, or when fighting with other vultures over a carcass. Grunts are commonly heard from hungry young and from adults in their courtship display.

Distribution and habitat

The turkey vulture has a large range, with an estimated global occurrence of 28,000,000 km2 (11,000,000 sq mi). It is the most abundant vulture in the Americas.[3] Its global population is estimated to be 4,500,000 individuals.[1] It is found in open and semi-open areas throughout the Americas from southern Canada to Cape Horn. It is a permanent resident in the southern United States, though northern birds may migrate as far south as South America.[4] The turkey vulture is widespread over open country, subtropical forests, shrublands, deserts, and foothills.[44] It is also found in pastures, grasslands, and wetlands.[1] It is most commonly found in relatively open areas which provide nearby woods for nesting and it generally avoids heavily forested areas.[26]

This bird with its crow-like aspect gave foot to the naming of the Quebrada de los Cuervos (Crows Ravine) in Uruguay, where they dwell together with the lesser yellow-headed vulture and the black vulture.[45]

Ecology and behavior

Spread-winged adult

The turkey vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups which sometimes even include black vultures. It roosts on dead, leafless trees, and will also roost on man-made structures such as water or microwave towers. Though it nests in caves, it does not enter them except during the breeding season.[6] The turkey vulture lowers its night-time body temperature by about 6 degrees Celsius to 34 °C (93 °F), becoming slightly hypothermic.[36]

This vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria. It is practiced more often following damp or rainy nights. This same behavior is displayed by other New World vultures, by Old World vultures, and by storks.[7] Like storks, the turkey vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis.[46] It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs.[47] The turkey vulture has few natural predators. Adult, immature and fledging vultures may fall prey to great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles, while eggs and nestlings may be preyed on by mammals such as raccoons and opossums.[7][27][48][49][50]Foxes can occasionally ambush an adult but species that can climb are more likely to breach and predate nests than adults.[51] Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest.[6] It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal in order to take flight to flee from a potential predator.[34] Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years, with a captive life span of over 30 years being possible.[52][53]

The turkey vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet.[34] While soaring, the turkey vulture holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the turkey vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring.[54]

Diet

Feeding on dead gull at Morro Bay, California

The turkey vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead, and avoiding carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. They may rarely feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, coconut[55] and other crops, live insects and other invertebrates.[44] In South America, turkey vultures have been photographed feeding on the fruits of the introduced oil palm.[56][57][58] They rarely, if ever, kill prey themselves.[59] The turkey vulture can often be seen along roadsides feeding on roadkill, or near bodies of water, feeding on washed-up fish.[4] They also will feed on fish or insects which have become stranded in shallow water.[6] Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.[60]

The turkey vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world, often flying low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals.[7] The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals.[7] This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King vultures, black vultures, and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the turkey vulture to carcasses. The turkey vulture arrives first at the carcass, or with greater yellow-headed vultures or lesser yellow-headed vultures, which also share the ability to smell carrion.[7] It displaces the yellow-headed vultures from carcasses due to its larger size,[60] but is displaced in turn by the king vulture and both types of condor, which make the first cut into the skin of the dead animal. This allows the smaller, weaker-billed turkey vulture access to food, because it cannot tear the tough hides of larger animals on its own. This is an example of mutual dependence between species.[61]

Reproduction

The breeding season of the turkey vulture varies according to latitude.[62] In the southern United States, it commences in March, peaks in April to May, and continues into June.[63] In more northerly latitudes, the season starts later and extends into August.[64] Courtship rituals of the turkey vulture involve several individuals gathering in a circle, where they perform hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partially spread. In the air, one bird closely follows another while flapping and diving.[44]

Eggs are generally laid in the nesting site in a protected location such as a cliff, a cave, a rock crevice, a burrow, inside a hollow tree, or in a thicket. There is little or no construction of a nest; eggs are laid on a bare surface. Females generally lay two eggs, but sometimes one and rarely three. The eggs are cream-colored, with brown or lavender spots around their larger end.[44] Both parents incubate, and the young hatch after 30 to 40 days. Chicks are altricial, or helpless at birth. Both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them, and care for them for 10 to 11 weeks. When adults are threatened while nesting, they may flee, or they may regurgitate on the intruder or feign death.[6] If the chicks are threatened in the nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating.[44] The young fledge at about nine to ten weeks. Family groups remain together until fall.[44]

Relationship with humans

A side view, showing the perforated nostrils.

The turkey vulture is sometimes accused of carrying anthrax or hog cholera, both livestock diseases, on its feet or bill by cattle ranchers and is therefore occasionally perceived as a threat.[65] However, the virus that causes hog cholera is destroyed when it passes through the turkey vulture's digestive tract.[34] This species also may be perceived as a threat by farmers due to the similar black vulture's tendency to attack and kill newborn cattle. The turkey vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of black vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind. Nonetheless, its appearance at a location where a calf has been killed gives the incorrect impression that the turkey vulture represents a danger to calves.[66] The droppings produced by turkey vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation.[67] The turkey vulture can be held in captivity, though the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prevents this in the case of uninjured animals or animals capable of returning to the wild.[68] In captivity, it can be fed fresh meat, and younger birds will gorge themselves if given the opportunity.[34]

The turkey vulture species receives special legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States,[8] by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada,[69] and by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals in Mexico.[69] In the US it is illegal to take, kill, or possess turkey vultures, and violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.[68] It is listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Populations appear to remain stable, and it has not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in 10 years or three generations.[1]

References

Notes

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  58. ^ Souza, J. S. (2012). WA794679, Cathartes aura (Linnaeus, 1758). Wiki Aves – A Enciclopédia das Aves do Brasil. Retrieved February 14, 2013
  59. ^ Kritcher, John C. (1999). A Neotropical Companion. Princeton University Press. p. 286. ISBN 0-691-00974-0. 
  60. ^ a b Gomez, LG; Houston, DC; Cotton, P; Tye, A (1994). "The role of greater yellow-headed vultures Cathartes melambrotus as scavengers in neotropical forest". Ibis. 136 (2): 193–196. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1994.tb01084.x. Archived from the original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2016-11-08. 
  61. ^ Muller-Schwarze, Dietland (2006). Chemical Ecology of Vertebrates. Cambridge University Press. p. 350. ISBN 0-521-36377-2. 
  62. ^ Burton, Maurice; Burton, Robert (2002). The International Wildlife Encyclopedia. 20 (third ed.). Marshall Cavendish. p. 2788. ISBN 0-7614-7286-X. 
  63. ^ "Species Description: Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)". Georgia Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  64. ^ "TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)". Government of British Columbia. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  65. ^ Kirk, D. A., and M. J. Mossman (1998). Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). The Birds of North America No. 339 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  66. ^ Paulik, Laurie (2007-08-06). "Vultures and Livestock". AgNIC Wildlife Damage Management Web. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  67. ^ Paulik, Laurie (2007-08-06). "Vultures". AgNIC Wildlife Damage Management Web. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  68. ^ a b "Migratory Bird Treaty Act". US Code Collection. Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  69. ^ a b "Game and Wild Birds: Preservation". US Code Collection. Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 

Bibliography

  • Ffrench, R. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. ISBN 0-7136-6759-1
  • Stiles and Skutch. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
  • Kirk, D. A. and M. J. Mossman. 1998. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). In The Birds of North America, No. 339 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_Vulture

Baby Great-tailed Grackle

Baby Grackle 2
Baby Great-tailed Grackle 2 | Quiscalus mexicanus
Baby Great-tailed Grackle 6 | Quiscalus mexicanus
Baby Great-tailed Grackle Prints
Baby Great-tailed Grackle 8 | Quiscalus mexicanus

Baby Great-tailed Grackle info via Wikipedia:

Great-tailed grackle
Quiscalus mexicanusMPCCA20061226-0567B.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Quiscalus
Species: Q. mexicanus
Binomial name
Quiscalus mexicanus
(JF Gmelin, 1788)
Quiscalus mexicanus.svg
Range of Quiscalus mexicanus

The great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is a medium-sized, highly social passerine bird native to North and South America. A member of the family Icteridae, it is one of ten extant species of grackle and is closely related to the boat-tailed grackle and the slender-billed grackle.[2] It is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "blackbird" in the southern United States,[3] although blackbirds belong to the genus Euphagus. Similarly, it is often called "cuervo" in areas of Mexico owing to its glossy black plumage, although it is not a member of the genus Corvus, nor even of the family Corvidae.

Description

Female

Great-tailed grackles are medium-sized birds (larger than starlings and smaller than crows; 38 cm (15 in)-46 cm (18 in)) with males weighing 203 g (7.2 oz)-265 g (9.3 oz) and females between 115 g (4.1 oz)-142 g (5.0 oz), and both sexes have long tails.[4] Males are iridescent black with a purple-blue sheen on the feathers of the head and upper body, while females are brown with darker wings and tail.[4] Adults of both sexes have bright yellow eyes, while juveniles of both sexes have brown eyes and brown plumage like females (except for streaks on the breast).[4] Great-tailed grackles, particularly the adult males, have a keel-shaped tail that they can fold vertically by aligning the two halves.[5]

The great-tailed grackle and boat-tailed grackle were considered the same species until genetic analyses distinguished them as two separate species.[6]

Distribution and habitat

Breeding display by male, CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica

Originally from Central and South America, great-tailed grackles expanded their breeding range by over 5500% by moving north into North America between 1880 and 2000, following urban and agricultural corridors.[7][8] Their current range stretches from northwest Venezuela and western Colombia and Ecuador in the south to Minnesota in the north, to Oregon, Idaho, and California in the west, to Florida in the east, with vagrants occurring as far north as southern Canada. Their habitat for foraging is on the ground in clear areas such as pastures,[4] wetlands and mangroves.[7]

Diet

Great-tailed grackles are noted for their diverse foraging habits. They extract larvae and insects from grassy areas; eat lizards, nestlings, and eggs; forage in freshly plowed land; remove parasites from cattle; and eat fruits (e.g., bananas, berries) and grains (e.g., maize, corn on the cob by opening the husks).[5] They turn over objects to search for food underneath, including crustaceans, insects, and worms, they hunt tadpoles and fish by wading into shallow water, and although they do not swim, they catch fish by flying close to the water's surface, and are even reported to dive a few inches into the water to retrieve a fish.[5] They are also known to pick dead insects off the license plates of parked cars,[9] and kill barn swallows while flying.[10]

Behavior

Great-tailed grackles have an unusually large repertoire of vocalizations that are used year-round. Males use a wider variety of vocalization types, while females engage mostly in "chatter", however there is a report of a female performing the "territorial song".[4] Because of their loud vocalizations, great-tailed grackles are considered a pest species by some.[11]

A male Great-Tailed Grackle, making its distinctive call

They communally roost in trees or the reeds of wetlands at night and, during the breeding season, they nest in territories using three different mating strategies: 1) territorial males defend their territory on which many females place their nests and raise young, 2) residential males live in the larger colony but do not defend a territory or have mates, and 3) transient males stay for a few days before leaving the colony to likely move onto another colony.[12] Resident and transient males sire a small number of offspring through extra pair copulations with females on territories. Territorial males are heavier and have longer tails than non-territorial males, and both of these characteristics are associated with having more offspring.[12]

Grackles can solve Aesop's Fable tests - a problem involving a tube that is partially filled with water and a floating out of reach piece of food.[13] The problem is solved by dropping objects into the water to raise the level and bring the food within reach. They are also behaviorally flexible, changing their preferences quickly in response to changes in cognitive tasks.[13]

In culture

In Mexico, where it is known as the chanate or zanate, there is a legend that it has seven songs. "In the creation, the Zanate having no voice, stole its seven distinct songs from the wise and knowing sea turtle. You can now hear the Zanate's vocals as the Seven Passions (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness, and Anger) of life." Mexican artisans have created icons in clay, sometimes as whistles that portray the sea turtle with the zanate perched on its back.[7][citation needed]

Statue of maria mulata in Cartagena

In Colombia, the species is called Maria mulata,[14] and is the official bird of Cartagena de Indias[citation needed]. Cartagena artist, Enrique Grau, had an affinity for these birds and because of his inspiration many Colombian monuments and artistic works were created in honor of its intelligence, adaptability, cheerfulness, sociability and collaborative tendencies, diligence, craftiness, and ability to take advantage of adversity.[15]

In Austin, Texas, it is commonly found congregating near the city's numerous food trucks.[16]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Quiscalus mexicanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Powell, A.F.L.A., F.K. Barker and S.M. Lanyon. 2008. A complete species-level phylogeny of the grackles (Quiscalus spp.), including the extinct Slender-billed Grackle, inferred from mitochondrial DNA. Condor 110:718-728.
  3. ^ "Eight Reasons Grackles are Awesome". Texas Monthly. Retrieved February 19, 2015. *
  4. ^ a b c d e Johnson & Peer (2001). The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
  5. ^ a b c Skutch, AF (1954). Life histories of Central American birds. Berkeley, CA: Cooper Ornithological Society. 
  6. ^ DaCosta; et al. (2008). "Historic genetic structuring and paraphyly within the Great-tailed Grackle". Condor. 110 (1): 170–177. doi:10.1525/cond.2008.110.1.170. 
  7. ^ a b c Wehtje, W (2003). "The range expansion of the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus Gmelin) in North America since 1880". Journal of Biogeography. 30: 1593–1607. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.2003.00970.x. 
  8. ^ Peer, BD (2011). "Invasion of the Emperor’s grackle". Ardeola. 58 (2): 405–409. doi:10.13157/arla.58.2.2011.405. 
  9. ^ Grabrucker & Grabrucker (2010). "Rare Feeding Behavior of Great-Tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) in the Extreme Habitat of Death Valley". The Open Journal of Ornithology. 3: 101–104. doi:10.2174/1874453201003010101. 
  10. ^ Clapp, RB (1986). "Great-tailed grackle kills barn swallow in flight". Wilson Bulletin. 98 (4): 614–615. 
  11. ^ "UT's war on grackles" (PDF). The Daily Texan. Retrieved January 6, 2013. * Hermes JJ (2005). UT's war on grackles. Daily Texan. section. 8A.
  12. ^ a b Johnson; et al. (2000). "Male mating strategies and the mating system of great-tailed grackles". Behavioral Ecology. 11 (2): 132–141. doi:10.1093/beheco/11.2.132. 
  13. ^ a b Logan, CJ (2016). "Behavioral flexibility and problem solving in an invasive bird". PeerJ. 4: 1975. PMC 4860340Freely accessible. PMID 27168984. doi:10.7717/peerj.1975. 
  14. ^ "Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) (Gmelin, JF, 1788)". Avibase: The World data bird base. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Cartagena La Heróica: María Mulata". Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Troublesome great-tailed grackle spreads north, west". Retrieved 14 August 2016. 

Further reading

  • Johnson, K., and B. D. Peer. 2001. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 576 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great-tailed_Grackle

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned hummingbird 1
Black-chinned hummingbird 1 | Archilochus alexandri
Black-chinned hummingbird 3
Black-chinned hummingbird 3 | Archilochus alexandri
Black-chinned hummingbird 7 | Archilochus alexandri

Black-chinned Hummingbird info via Wikipedia:

Black-chinned hummingbird
Archilochus-alexandri-003.jpg
Male
Archilochus-alexandri-002-edit.jpg
Female
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Archilochus
Species: A. alexandri
Binomial name
Archilochus alexandri
(Bourcier & Mulsant, 1846)
Black-Chinned Hummingbird Range.png
Global range     Year-Round Range     Summer Range     Winter Range

The black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) is a small hummingbird. It is an extremely adaptable bird, occupying a broad range of habitats.[2]

They are migratory and spend most of the winter in Mexico.

Taxonomy

A hybrid between this species and Anna's hummingbird was called "Trochilus" violajugulum. The black-chinned hummingbird is also known to hybridize with Costa's hummingbird.

As of 2011, it has the smallest known genome of all living amniotes, only 0.91 pg (910 million base pairs).[3]

Description

The black-chinned hummingbird is 8.25 cm (3.25 in) long. Adults are metallic green above and white below with green flanks. Their bill is long, straight and very slender. The adult male has a black face and chin, a glossy purple throat band and a dark forked tail. The female has a dark rounded tail with white tips and no throat patch; they are similar to female ruby-throated hummingbirds. Juvenile plumage is similar to that of adult females, but with buff margins on the dorsal feathers. Juvenile males may also possess purple feathers on their throats.[4]

Young are born almost featherless, but obtain a complete set of feathers within three weeks of hatching. Juveniles can begin replacing their plumage in November, and acquire their first basic plumage between April and May. Molts will then occur annually, taking 7–8 months at the population level.[5]

Similar species to the black-chinned hummingbird include broad-tailed hummingbird, rufous hummingbird, calliope hummingbird, Allen's hummingbird, lucifer hummingbird, Anna's hummingbird, and Costa's hummingbird.[6]

Audio recording

Distribution and habitat

Black-chinned hummingbirds are found in most of the western United States, reaching north into Canada in Alberta and British Columbia, east to Oklahoma, and as far south as Mexico.[2] They can be found in mountains, woodlands, orchards, meadows, and chaparral habitats. Their breeding habitat is open, semiarid areas, usually near water in the western United States, northern Mexico, and southern British Columbia.

Behaviour and ecology

These birds feed on nectar from flowers using a long extendable tongue or catch insects on the wing. While collecting nectar, they also assist in plant pollination.

The males and females of this species use different habitats from one another for breeding territories.[7] Black-chinned hummingbirds can exhibit territorial behavior around feeders as well as at other small feeding sites, and become more defensive as the breeding season continues. However, if there are a large number of individuals in an area as well as multiple food sources, this species will exhibit very little territoriality. Unlike most passerines, the agonistic call of the black-chinned hummingbird is acoustically complex, with notes ordered in non-random patterns, and are even more complex than their songs.[8] This species also uses diving displays (40–60 ft (12–18 m) dives) for territory defense as well as courtship, producing a variety of tones as air passes through their feathers during the plunge.[9]

The female builds a well-camouflaged nest in a protected location in a shrub or tree using plant fibre, spider webs and lichens. Black-chinned hummingbirds prefer to nest 6–12 ft (1.8–3.7 m) above the ground, often on exposed horizontal branches below the canopy. Research also suggests that they may purposefully nest near the active nests of much larger, predatory birds, as a means of reducing nest predation. The larger predators are too large and slow to be interested in the hummingbird, but their presence will deter other birds that might be interested in the black-chinned hummingbird's eggs or newly hatched chicks.[10] This species lays 2 small (8 mm (0.31 in) in width) white eggs at a time, incubating them for a period of 12–16 days.

Because of their small size, they are vulnerable to insect-eating birds and animals.

Status

Because of the black-chinned hummingbird's large range (236,000 km2 (91,000 sq mi)), large population size, and increasing trend in population (14.6% increase per decade), this species has been labeled as Least Concern.[1] Part of this increase is attributed to the increased popularity of hummingbird feeders and gardens.

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Archilochus alexandri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Baltosser, W.H.; Russell, S.M. (2000). Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri). The Birds of North America. Pittsburgh, PA, US: The Birds of North America Inc. 
  3. ^ Gregory, T.R. (2005). "Birds - Animal Genome Size Database". Genomesize.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Baldridge, Frank A. (April 1983). "Plumage Characteristics of Juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbirds" (PDF). The Condor. 85 (1): 102–103. doi:10.2307/1367900. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Baltosser, W.H. (April 1995). "Annual Molt in Ruby-Throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds" (PDF). The Condor. 97 (2): 484–491. doi:10.2307/1369034. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Black-chinned Hummingbird". The Audubon Society. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Berns, C.M.; Adams, D.C. (July 2010). "Bill Shape and Sexual Shape Dimorphism between Two Species of Temperate Hummingbirds: Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) and Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (A. Colubris)". The Auk. 127 (3): 626–635. JSTOR 10.1525/auk.2010.09213. doi:10.1525/auk.2010.09213. 
  8. ^ Rusch, K.M.; Pytte, C.L.; Ficken, M.S. (July 1996). "Organization of Agonistic Vocalizations in Black-chinned Hummingbirds" (PDF). The Condor. 98 (3): 557–566. doi:10.2307/1369568. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Feo, T.J.; Clark, C.J. (October 2010). "The Displays and Sonations of the Black-chinned Hummingbird (Trochilidae: Archilochus alexandri)". The Auk. 127 (4): 787–796. JSTOR 10.1525/auk.2010.09263. doi:10.1525/auk.2010.09263. 
  10. ^ Greeney, H.F.; Wethington, S.M. (December 2009). "Proximity to Active Accipiter Nests Reduces Nest Predation of Black-chinned Hummingbirds". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 121 (4): 809–812. JSTOR 20616992. doi:10.1676/08-174.1. 
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-chinned_Hummingbird

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovler Print, Gyotaku style
Northern Shovler 1 |  Anas clypeata

 

Northern Shoveler 4 | Anas clypeata

 

Northern Shoveler 8 | Anas clypeata

Northern Shoveler Duck Print 10
Northern Shoveler 10 | Anas clypeata

Northern Shovler info via Wikipedia:

Northern shoveler
Northern-Shoveler Anas-clypeata.jpg
Male
Northern Shoveler-Anas clypeata female.jpg
Female
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Spatula
Species: S. clypeata
Binomial name
Spatula clypeata
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas clypeata distribution map.png
Range distribution of Northern shoveler
blue : breeding area (summer)
red : nonbreeding area (winter)
Anas clypeata dis.PNG
European distribution.      Summer only range     All-year range     Winter only range
Synonyms

Anas clypeata Linnaeus, 1758

The northern shoveler (/ˈʃʌvələr/; Spatula clypeata), or northern shoveller in British English, sometimes known simply as the shoveler, is a common and widespread duck. It breeds in northern areas of Europe and Asia and across most of North America,[2] wintering in southern Europe, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Central, and northern South America. It is a rare vagrant to Australia. In North America, it breeds along the southern edge of Hudson Bay and west of this body of water, and as far south as the Great Lakes west to Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon.[3][4]

The Northern shoveler is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.[5] The conservation status of this bird is Least Concern.[1]

Taxonomy

The northern shoveler was first formally described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae. He introduced the binomial name Anas clypeata.[6] A molecular phylogentic study comparing mitochondrial DNA sequences published in 2009 found that the genus Anas, as then defined, was non-monophyletic.[7] The genus was subsequently split into four monophyletic genera with ten species including the northern shoveler moved into the resurrected genus Spatula.[8] This genus had been originally proposed by the German zoologist Friedrich Boie in 1822.[9][10] The name Spatula is the Latin for a "spoon" or "spatula". The specific epithet is derived from Latin clypeata, "shield-bearing" (from clypeus, "shield").[11]

No living subspecies are accepted today. Fossil bones of a very similar duck have been found in Early Pleistocene deposits at Dursunlu, Turkey. It is unresolved, however, how these birds were related to the northern shoveler of today; i.e., whether the differences noted were due to being a related species or paleosubspecies, or attributable to individual variation.[12]

Description

Northern shoveler in Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
Female stretching after bathing in Kolkata

This species is unmistakable in the northern hemisphere due to its large spatulate bill. The breeding drake has an iridescent dark green head,[13] white breast and chestnut belly and flanks. In flight, pale blue forewing feathers are revealed, separated from the green speculum by a white border. In early fall the male will have a white crescent on each side of the face.[4] In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake resembles the female.

The female is a drab mottled brown like other dabblers,[13] with plumage much like a female mallard, but easily distinguished by the long broad bill, which is gray tinged with orange on cutting edge and lower mandible.[4] The female's forewing is gray.

They are 48 cm (19 in) long and have a wingspan of 76 cm (30 in) with a weight of 600 g (1.3 lb).[3]

Behavior

In flight
Large groups of northern shovelers swim rapidly in circles to collect food from the surface by creating a funnel effect.

Northern shovelers feed by dabbling for plant food, often by swinging its bill from side to side and using the bill to strain food from the water. They use their highly specialized bill (from which their name is derived) to forage for aquatic invertebrates – a carnivorous diet. Their wide-flat bill is equipped with well-developed lamellae – small, comb-like structures on the edge of the bill that act like sieves, allowing the birds to skim crustaceans and plankton from the water's surface. This adaptation, more specialized in shovelers, gives them an advantage over other puddle ducks, with which they do not have to compete for food resources during most of the year. Thus, mud-bottomed marshes rich in invertebrate life are their habitat of choices.[13]

The shoveler prefers to nest in grassy areas away from open water. Their nest is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with plant material and down. Hens typically lay about nine eggs. The drakes are very territorial during breeding season and will defend their territory and partners from competing males. Drakes also engage in elaborate courtship behaviors, both on the water and in the air; it is not uncommon for a dozen or more males to pursue a single hen. Despite their stout appearance, shovelers are nimble fliers.[13]

This is a fairly quiet species. The male has a clunking call, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.

Habitat and range

Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

This is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some emergent vegetation. It breeds in wide areas across Eurasia, western North America and the Great Lakes region of the United States.[14]

This bird winters in southern Europe, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, northern South America, Malay Archipelago,[2]Japan[15] and other areas. Those wintering in the Indian Subcontinent make the taxing journey over the Himalayas, often taking a break in wetlands just south of the Himalaya before continuing further south to warmer regions. In North America it winters south of a line from Washington to Idaho and from New Mexico east to Kentucky, also along the Eastern Seaboard as far north as Massachusetts.[3][4] In the British Isles, home to more than 20% of the North Western European population, it is best known as a winter visitor, although it is more frequently seen in southern and eastern England, especially around the Ouse Washes, the Humber and the North Kent Marshes, and in much smaller numbers in Scotland and western parts of England. In winter, breeding birds move south, and are replaced by an influx of continental birds from further north. It breeds across most of Ireland, but the population is very difficult to assess.

It is strongly migratory and winters further south than its breeding range. It has occasionally been reported as a vagrant as far south as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.[16] It is not as gregarious as some dabbling ducks outside the breeding season and tends to form only small flocks. Among North America's duck species, northern shovelers trail only mallards and blue-winged teal in overall abundance. Their populations have been healthy since the 1960s, and have soared in recent years to more than 5 million birds (2015), most likely because of favorable breeding, migration, and wintering habitat conditions.[13]

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Spatula clypeata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 
  3. ^ a b c Floyd, T. (2008). Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. NY: Harper Collins. 
  4. ^ a b c d Dunn, J.; Alderfer, J. (2006). National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (5th ed.). 
  5. ^ "Anas clypeata". Agreement on the conservation of African-Eurasian migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). AEWA. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Volume 1 (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. p. 124. 
  7. ^ Gonzalez, J.; Düttmann, H.; Wink, M. (2009). "Phylogenetic relationships based on two mitochondrial genes and hybridization patterns in Anatidae". Journal of Zoology. 279: 310–318. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00622.x. 
  8. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Screamers, ducks, geese & swans". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Boie, Friedrich (1822). "Generalübersicht". Isis von Oken (in German). Col 564. 
  10. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 460. 
  11. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 111, 361. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  12. ^ Louchart, Antoine; Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile; Guleç, Erksin; Howell, Francis Clark; White, Tim D. (1998). "L'avifaune de Dursunlu, Turquie, Pléistocène inférieur: climat, environnement et biogéographie" [The avifauna of Dursunlu, Turkey, Lower Pleistocene: climate, environment and biogeography]. Les Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences IIA (in French). 327 (5): 341–346. doi:10.1016/S1251-8050(98)80053-0. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Northern Shoveler". Ducks Unlimited. 
  14. ^ Birds of Eden - Northern Shoveler Retrieved March 2, 2017
  15. ^ Brazil, Mark Ducking out for a nature moment October 20, 1999 Japan Times Retrieved March 2, 2017
  16. ^ BirdLife species factsheet for Spatula clypeata
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Shoveler

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 Northern Mockingbird 1 | Mimus polyglottus

Northern Mockingbird 2

Northern Mockingbird 2 | Mimus polyglottus

Northern Mockingbird info on Wikipedia:

Northern mockingbird
Mimus polyglottos adult 02 cropped.jpg
An adult northern mockingbird in New Hampshire
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Mimidae
Genus: Mimus
Species: M. polyglottos
Binomial name
Mimus polyglottos
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Northern Mockingbird-rangemap.gif
Northern mockingbird range      Breeding range     Year-round range

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south during harsh weather. This species has rarely been observed in Europe. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturæ in 1758 as Turdus polyglottos. The northern mockingbird is known for its mimicking ability, as reflected by the meaning of its scientific name, 'many-tongued mimic.' The northern mockingbird has gray to brown upper feathers and a paler belly. Its tail and wings have white patches which are visible in flight.[2]

The northern mockingbird is an omnivore. It eats both insects and fruits. It is often found in open areas and forest edges but forages in grassy land. The northern mockingbird breeds in southeastern Canada, the United States, northern Mexico, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and the Greater Antilles. It is replaced further south by its closest living relative, the tropical mockingbird. The Socorro mockingbird, an endangered species, is also closely related, contrary to previous opinion. The northern mockingbird is listed as of Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The northern mockingbird is known for its intelligence. A 2009 study showed that the bird was able to recognize individual humans, particularly noting those who had previously been intruders or threats. Also birds recognize their breeding spots and return to areas in which they had greatest success in previous years. Urban birds are more likely to demonstrate this behavior. Finally, the mockingbird is influential in United States culture, being the state bird of five states, appearing in book titles, songs and lullabies, and making other appearances in popular culture.

Taxonomy

Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus first described this species in his Systema Naturae in 1758 as Turdus polyglottos.[3] Its current genus name, Mimus is Latin for "mimic" and the specific polyglottos, is from Ancient Greek poluglottos, "harmonious", from polus, "many", and glossa, "tongue",[4] representing its outstanding ability to mimic various sounds.[5] The northern mockingbird is considered to be conspecific with the tropical mockingbird (Mimus gilvus).[6]

This species is categorized as the northern mockingbird as the closest living relative to M. gilvus.[7][8]

Subspecies

There are three recognized subspecies for the northern mockingbird.[9][10] There have been proposed races from the Bahamas and Haiti placed under the orpheus section.[10]

Description

The northern mockingbird is a medium-sized mimid that has long legs and tail.[11] Males and females look alike.[12] Its upper parts are colored gray, while its underparts have a white or whitish-gray color.[13] It has parallel wing bars on the half of the wings connected near the white patch giving it a distinctive appearance in flight.[13] The black central rectrices and typical white lateral rectrices are also noticeable in flight.[13] The iris is usually a light green-yellow or a yellow, but there have been instances of an orange color.[9] The bill is black with a brownish black appearance at the base.[9] The juvenile appearance is marked by its streaks on its back, distinguished spots and streaks on its chest, and a gray or grayish-green iris.[9]

Northern mockingbirds measure from 20.5 to 28 cm (8.1 to 11.0 in) including a tail almost as long as its body. The wingspan can range from 31–38 cm (12–15 in) and body mass is from 40–58 g (1.4–2.0 oz). Males tend to be slightly larger than females.[14][15] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 10 to 12 cm (3.9 to 4.7 in), the tail is 10 to 13.4 cm (3.9 to 5.3 in), the culmen is 1.6 to 1.9 cm (0.63 to 0.75 in) and the tarsus is 2.9 to 3.4 cm (1.1 to 1.3 in).[9]

The northern mockingbird's lifespan is observed to be up to 8 years, but captive birds can live up to 20 years.[16]

Distribution and habitat

The mockingbird's breeding range is from Maritime provinces of Canada westwards to British Columbia, practically the entire Continental United States south of the northern Plains states and Pacific northwest, and the majority of Mexico to eastern Oaxaca and Veracruz.[9] The mockingbird is generally a year-round resident of its range, but the birds that live in the northern portion of its range have been noted further south during the winter season.[13] Sightings of the mockingbird have also been recorded in Hawaii (where it was introduced in the 1920s),[17] southeastern Alaska,[18] and twice as transatlantic vagrants in Britain.[13] The mockingbird is thought to be at least partly migratory in the northern portions of its range, but the migratory behavior is not well understood.[17]

In the nineteenth century, the range of the mockingbird expanded northward towards provinces such as Nova Scotia and Ontario and states such as Massachusetts, although the sightings were sporadic. Within the first five decades of the twentieth century, regions that received an influx of mockingbirds were Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Iowa, and New York.[17] In western states such as California, the population was restricted to the lower Sonoran regions but by the 1970s the mockingbirds was residential in most counties.[17] Islands that saw introductions of the mockingbird include Bermuda (in which it failed), Barbados, St. Helena, Socorro Island, the Cayman Islands and Tahiti.[17][19]

The mockingbird's habitat varies by location, but it prefers open areas with sparse vegetation. In the eastern regions, suburban and urban areas such as parks, gardens are frequent residential areas. It has an affinity for mowed lawns with shrubs within proximity for shade and nesting.[13][17] In western regions, desert scrub, chaparral are among its preferred habitats When foraging for food, it prefers short grass.[13] This bird does not nest in densely forested areas,[9][20] and generally resides in the same habitats year round.[17]

Behavior

Diet

The northern mockingbird is an omnivore. The birds' diet consists of arthropods, earthworms, berries, fruits, seeds, and seldom, lizards.[9] Mockingbirds can drink from puddles, river and lake edges, or dew and rain droplets that amass onto plants.[13] Adult mockingbirds also have been seen drinking sap from the cuts on recently pruned trees.[13] Its diet heavily consists of animal prey during the breeding season, but takes a drastic shift to fruits during the fall and winter.[13] The drive for fruits amid winter has been noted for the geographic expansion of the mockingbird, and in particular, the fruit of Rosa multiflora, a favorite of the birds, is a possible link.[9][13] Mockingbirds also eat garden fruits such as tomatoes, apples, and berries.[21][22]

Displaying

These birds forage on the ground or in vegetation; they also fly down from a perch to capture food.[13] While foraging, they frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches. There is disagreement among ornithologists over the purpose of this behavior, with hypotheses ranging from deceleration to intimidation of predators or prey.[23][24]

Breeding

Both the male and female of the species reach sexual maturity after 1 year of life. The breeding season occurs in the spring and early summer.[11] The males arrive before the beginning of the season to establish their territories. The males use a series of courtship displays to attract the females to their sites.[11] They run around the area either to showcase their territory to the females or to pursue the females. The males also engage in flight to showcase their wings.[11] They sing and call as they perform all of these displays. The species can remain monogamous for many years, but incidents of polygyny and bigamy have been reported to occur during the bird's lifetime.[25][26]

The northern mockingbird pairs hatch about 2 to 4 broods a year.[11] In one breeding season, the northern mockingbird lays an average of 4 eggs. They hatch after about 11 to 14 days of incubation. After about 10 to 15 days of life, the offspring become independent.[11]

Both the male and female are involved in the nest building.[27] The male does most of the work, while the female perches on the shrub or tree where the nest is being built to watch for predators. The nest is built approximately three to ten feet above the ground.[27] The outer part of the nest is composed of twigs, while the inner part is lined with grasses, dead leaves, moss, or artificial fibers. The eggs are a light blue or greenish color and speckled with dots.[14] The female lays three to five eggs, and she incubates them for nearly two weeks. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female will feed the chicks.[27]

The birds aggressively defend their nests and surrounding areas against other birds and animals.[27] When a predator is persistent, mockingbirds from neighboring territories may be summoned by distinct calls to join the defense. Other birds may gather to watch as the mockingbirds harass the intruder. In addition to harassing domestic cats and dogs that they consider a threat,[11] mockingbirds will at times target humans. The birds are unafraid and will attack much larger birds, even hawks. One incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma involving a postal carrier resulted in the distribution of a warning letter to residents.[28]

Sexual selection

Adult mockingbirds have solid pale grey or buff breasts, juveniles mottled

Northern mockingbirds are famous for their song repertoires. Studies have shown that males sing songs at the beginning of breeding season to attract females.[29] Unmated males sing songs in more directions and sing more bouts than mated males. In addition, unmated males perform more flight displays than mated males.[13] The mockingbirds usually nest several times during one breeding season.[30] Depending on the stage of breeding and the mating status, a male mockingbird will vary his song production. The unmated male keeps close track of this change. He sings in one direction when he perceives a chance to lure a female from the nest of the mated male.[29] Unmated males are also more likely to use elevated perches to extend his songs to a further range.[29] Though the mockingbirds are socially monogamous, mated males have been known to sing to attract additional mates.[25]

An observational study by Logan demonstrates that the female is continuously evaluating the quality of the male and his territory.[31] The assessment is usually triggered by the arrival of a new male in a neighboring territory at the beginning of a new breeding season. In those cases, the mated female is constantly seen flying over both the original and the new male’s territory, evaluating the qualities of both territories and exchanging calls with both males.[31] The social mate displays aggressive behaviors towards the female, while the new male shows less aggression and sings softer songs.[31] At the same time, both the mated male and the new male will fly over other territories to attract other females as well. Divorce, mate switching and extra-pair matings do occur in northern mockingbirds.[13][31]

Sex allocation

Northern mockingbirds adjust the sex ratio of their offspring according to the food availability and population density. Male offspring usually require more parental investment. There is therefore a bias for bearing the costlier sex at the beginning of a breeding season when the food is abundant.[32] Local resource competition predicts that the parents have to share the resources with offspring that remain at the natal site after maturation. In passerine birds, like the northern mockingbird, females are more likely to disperse than males.[33] Hence, it is adaptive to produce more dispersive sex than philopatric sex when the population density is high and the competition for local resources is intense. Since northern mockingbirds are abundant in urban environments, it is possible that the pollution and contamination in cities might affect sexual hormones and therefore play a role in offspring sex ratio.[34]

Mating

Northern mockingbirds are socially monogamous. The two sexes look alike except that males are a little larger in size than females. Mutual mate choice is exhibited in northern mockingbirds.[35] Both males and females prefer mates that are more aggressive towards intruders, and so exhibit greater parental investment. However, males are more defensive of their nests than females. In a population where male breeding adults outnumber female breeding adults, females have more freedom in choosing their mates.[35] In these cases, these female breeders have the option of changing mates within a breeding season if the first male does not provide a high level of parental care, which includes feeding and nest defense.[36] High nesting success is associated with highly aggressive males attacking intruders in the territory, and so these males are preferred by females.[36]

Parental care

Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

Northern mockingbirds are altricial, meaning that, when hatched, they are born relatively immobile and defenseless and therefore require nourishment for a certain duration from their parents. The young have a survival bottleneck at the nestling stage because there are higher levels of nestling predation than egg predation. The levels of belligerence exhibited by parents therefore increase once eggs hatch but there is no increase during the egg stage.[35]

Eggs in a nest

A recent study shows that both food availability and temperature affect the parental incubation of the eggs in northern mockingbirds. Increasing food availability provides the females with more time to care for the nest and perform self-maintenance. Increasing temperature, however, reduces the time the females spend at the nest and there is increased energy cost to cool the eggs. The incubation behavior is a trade-off among various environmental factors.[37]

Mockingbird nests are also often parasitized by cowbirds. The parents are found to reject parasitic eggs at an intermediate rate.[38] A recent study has shown that foreign eggs are more likely to be rejected from a nest later in the breeding season than from earlier in a breeding season. Early nesting hosts may not have learned the pattern and coloration of their first clutch yet, so are less likely to reject foreign eggs. There is also a seasonal threshold in terms of the overlap between the breeding seasons of the northern mockingbirds and their parasites. If the breeding season of the parasites starts later, there is less likelihood of parasitism. Hence, it pays the hosts to have relatively lower sensitivity to parasitic eggs.[39]

Song and calls

Songs and calls
Calling during spring

Although many species of bird imitate the vocalizations of other birds, the northern mockingbird is the best known in North America for doing so. Among the species and vocalizations imitated are Carolina wren, northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, eastern towhee, house sparrow, wood thrush and eastern bluebird songs, calls of the northern flicker and great crested flycatcher, jeers and pumphandles of the blue jay, and alarm, chups, and chirrs of the American robin.[40][41] It imitates not only birds, but also other animals such as cats, dogs, frogs, crickets and sounds from artificial items such as unoiled wheels and even car alarms. As convincing as these imitations may be to humans, they often fail to fool other birds, such as the Florida scrub-jay.[42]

The northern mockingbird's mimicry is likely to serve as a form of sexual selection through which competition between males and female choice influence a bird's song repertoire size.[42] A 2013 study attempted to determine model selection in vocal mimics, and the data suggested that mimicry in the mockingbird resulted from the bird being genetically predisposed to learning vocalizations with acoustic characteristics such as an enlarged auditory template.[40]

Both male and female mockingbirds sing, with the latter being generally quieter and less vocal. Male commencement of singing is in late January to February and continues into the summer and the establishing of territory into the fall. Frequency in female singing is more sporadic, as it sings less often in the summer and fall, and only sings when the male is away from the territory.[13] The mockingbird also possesses a large song repertoire that ranges from 43 to 203 song types and the size varies by region. Repertoire sizes ranged from 14 to 150 types in Texas, and two studies of mockingbirds in Florida rounded estimates to 134 and 200, approximately.[13] It continually expands its repertoire during its life,[13] though it pales in comparison to mimids such as the brown thrasher.[43]

There are four recognized calls for the mockingbird: the nest relief call, hew call, chat or chatburst, and the begging call.[13] The hew call is mainly used by both sexes for potential nest predators, conspecific chasing, and various interactions between mates. The differences between chats and chatbursts are frequency of use, as chats are year-round, and chatbursts occur in the fall.[13] Another difference is that chatbursts appear to be used in territorial defense in the fall, and the chats are used by either sex when disturbed.[13] The nest relief and begging calls are only used by the males.[13]

Ontogeny

A laboratory observation of 38 mockingbird nestlings and fledglings (thirty-five and three, respectively) recorded the behavioral development of young mockingbirds. Notable milestones included the eyes opening, soft vocalizations, begging, and preening began within the first six days of life. Variation in begging and more compact movements such as perching, fear crouching, and stretching appeared by the ninth day. Wing-flashing, bathing, flight, and leaving the nest happened within seventeen days (nest leaving occurred within 11 to 13 days). Improvements of flight, walking and self-feeding took place within forty days. Agonistic behavior increased during the juvenile stages, to the extent of one of two siblings living in the same area was likely killed by the other.[44]

Predation and threats

Riding a red-tailed hawk

Adult mockingbirds can fall victim to birds of prey such as the great horned owl, screech owl and sharp-shinned hawk, though their tenacious behavior makes them less likely to being captured. Scrub-jays also have killed and eaten mockingbirds. Snakes rarely capture incubating females. Fledgelings have been prey to domestic cats, red-tailed hawks, and crows. Eggs and nestlings are consumed by blue jays, fish crows and American crows, red-tailed hawks, swallow-tailed kites, snakes, squirrels, and cats. Blowfly larvae and Haemoproteus have been found in Florida and Arizona populations, respectively.[17]

Winter storms limit the expansion of mockingbirds in its range. The storms have played a role in the declining of the Ohio populations (where it has since recovered), Michigan, Minnesota and likely in Quebec. Dry seasons also affect the mockingbird populations in Arizona.[17]

Intelligence

In a paper published in 2009, researchers found that mockingbirds were able to recall an individual human who, earlier in the study, had approached and threatened the mockingbirds' nest. Researchers had one participant stand near a mockingbird nest and touch it, while others avoided the nest. Later, the mockingbirds recognized the intruder and exhibited defensive behavior, while ignoring the other individuals.[45]

Adaptation to urban habitats

A Northern Mockingbird on top of a Duke University Hospital sign reading "Duke medicine is 100% tobacco-free INSIDE AND OUTSIDE" in Durham, North Carolina
In the urban habitat at Durham, North Carolina

The northern mockingbird is a species that is found in both urban and rural habitats. There are now more northern mockingbirds living in urban habitats than non-urban environments, so they are consequently known as an urban-positive species.[46] Biologists have long questioned how northern mockingbirds adapt to a novel environment in cities, and whether they fall into the typical ecological traps that are common for urban-dwelling birds.[46] A comparative study between an urban dwelling population and a rural dwelling one shows that the apparent survival is higher for individuals in the urban habitats. Lower food availability and travel costs may account for the higher mortality rate in rural habitats.[47] Urban birds are more likely to return to the nest where they had successfully bred the previous year and avoid those where breeding success was low. One explanation for this phenomenon is that urban environments are more predictable than non-urban ones, as the site fidelity among urban birds prevents them from ecological traps.[47] Mockingbirds are also able to utilize artificial lighting in order to feed nestlings in urban areas such as residential neighborhoods into the night in contrast to those that do not nest near those areas.[48] The adaptation of mockingbirds in urban habitats has led it to become more susceptible to lead poisoning in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. populations.[17]

In culture

Painting by John James Audubon

It also features in the title and central metaphor of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. In that novel, mockingbirds are portrayed as innocent and generous, and two of the major characters, Atticus Finch and Miss Maudie, say it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because "they don't do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us."[49]

"Hush, Little Baby" is a traditional lullaby, thought to have been written in the Southern United States, its key first lines, "Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring."

The song of the northern mockingbird inspired many classic American folk songs of the mid-19th century, such as "Listen to the Mocking Bird".[50]

Mockin' Bird Hill is a popular song best known through recordings by Patti Page, Donna Fargo, and by Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1951.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, had a pet mockingbird named "Dick".[51][52]

State bird

The northern mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas,[53] and formerly the state bird of South Carolina.

References

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External links


source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Mockingbird

Gull feathers

Gull Feathers | Larus sp.

This print was created simply by applying india ink to the feather and pressing it onto paper. The feathers are from an unknown sea gull species. The pattern was created in an effort to create at least one perfect print by repeating and the pressing over and over again. This time, the repeated print was retained for a unique pattern of alternating feathers lines.

Gull info on Wikipedia:

Larus
Larus argentatus ad.jpg
Herring gull
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Subfamily: Larinae
Genus: Larus
Linnaeus, 1758
Species

See list

Larus is a large genus of gulls with worldwide distribution (although by far the greatest species diversity is in the Northern Hemisphere). The genus name is from Ancient Greek laros (λάῥος) or Latin Larus which appears to have referred to a gull or other large seabird.[1]

Many of its species are abundant and well-known birds in their ranges. Until about 2005–2007, most gulls were placed in this genus, but this arrangement is now known to be polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of the genera Ichthyaetus, Chroicocephalus, Leucophaeus, and Hydrocoloeus (this last had been recognized more often than the other genera) for several species traditionally included in Larus.

They are in general medium to large birds, typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet.

The taxonomy of the large gulls in the herring and lesser black-backed complex is very complicated, different authorities recognising between two and eight species.

Systematics and evolution

List of species in taxonomic order

A herring gull (front) and a lesser black-backed gull (behind) in Norway: two species with clear differences.

Fossils of Larus gulls are known from the Middle Miocene, c.20-15 mya; allocation of earlier fossils to this genus is generally rejected nowadays. Biogeography of the fossil record suggests that the genus evolved in the northern Atlantic and spread globally during the Pliocene, when species diversity seems to have been highest as with most seabirds.

  • Larus sp. (Grund Middle Miocene of Austria)
  • Larus sp. (Middle Miocene of Romania) [2]
  • Larus sp. (Late? Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, USA) - several species [2]
  • Larus elmorei (Bone Valley Early/Middle Pliocene of SE USA)
  • Larus lacus (Pinecrest Late Pliocene of SE USA)
  • Larus perpetuus (Pinecrest Late Pliocene of SE USA)
  • Larus sp. (San Diego Late Pliocene of SW USA)
  • Larus oregonus (Late Pliocene - Late Pleistocene of WC USA)
  • Larus robustus (Late Pliocene - Late Pleistocene of WC USA)
  • Larus sp. (Lake Manix Late Pleistocene of W USA)

"Larus" raemdonckii (Early Oligocene of Belgium) is now at least tentatively believed to belong in the procellariiform genus Puffinus. "L." elegans (Late Oligocene?/Early Miocene of St-Gérand-le-Puy, France) and "L." totanoides (Late Oligocene?/Early Miocene of SE France) are now in Laricola, while "L." dolnicensis (Early Miocene of Czech Republic) was actually a pratincole; it is now placed in Mioglareola.

The Early Miocene "Larus" desnoyersii (SE France) and "L." pristinus (John Day Formation, Willow Creek, USA) probably do not belong in this genus; the former may be a skua (Olson, 1985).

Ring species

The Larus gulls interbreed in a ring around the arctic
(1 : Larus argentatus argentatus, 2: Larus fuscus sensu stricto, 3 : Larus fuscus heuglini, 4 : Larus argentatus birulai, 5 : Larus argentatus vegae, 6 : Larus argentatus smithsonianus, 7 : Larus argentatus argenteus)

The circumpolar group of Larus gull species has often been cited as a classic example of the ring species. The range of these gulls forms a ring around the North Pole. The European herring gull, which lives primarily in Great Britain, can hybridize with the American herring gull (living in North America), which can also interbreed with the Vega or East Siberian herring gull, the western subspecies of which, Birula's gull, can hybridize with Heuglin's gull, which in turn can interbreed with the Siberian lesser black-backed gull (all four of these live across the north of Siberia). The last is the eastern representative of the lesser black-backed gulls back in northwestern Europe, including Great Britain. However, the lesser black-backed gulls and herring gull are sufficiently different that they cannot interbreed; thus the group of gulls forms a continuum except in Europe where the two lineages meet. However, a recent genetic study has shown that this example is far more complicated than presented here, and probably does not constitute a true ring species.[3]

References

  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  2. ^ a b Olson, Storrs L. (1985): Section X.D.2.j. Laridae. In: Farner, D.S.; King, J.R. & Parkes, Kenneth C. (eds.): Avian Biology 8: 181-182. Academic Press, New York.
  3. ^ Liebers, Dorit; de Knijff, Peter & Helbig, Andreas J. (2004): The herring gull complex is not a ring species. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 271(1542): 893-901. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2679 Electronic Appendix
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larus

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove | Zenaida asiatica

White-winged dove
Zenaida asiatica -Tuscon -Arizona -USA -8a.jpg
Perching on a saguaro cactus in Tucson, Arizona
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: Zenaida
Species: Z. asiatica
Binomial name
Zenaida asiatica
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is a dove whose native range extends from the south-western United States through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In recent years with increasing urbanization and backyard feeding, it has expanded throughout Texas, into Oklahoma, Louisiana and coastal Mississippi. It has also been introduced to Florida.

The white-winged dove is expanding outside of its historic range into Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and northern New Mexico. The dove's range has even expanded drastically northward into Canada. While the dove was introduced to Alberta, it still remains a common spring and summer visitor in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Description

In Texas
In Tucson, Arizona

White-winged doves are large, plump doves at 29 cm (11 in). They are brownish-gray above and gray below, with a bold white wing patch that appears as a brilliant white crescent in flight and is also visible at rest. Adults have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each eye and a long, dark mark on the lower face. Their eyes are bright crimson. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are more brown than adults. They have a blue eye ring and their legs and feet are brighter pink/red. Young also have brown eyes. Males have a slight iridescent sheen on their heads.

Pair eating fruits in a nispero tree, Aserrí, San José, Costa Rica

Behavior

The cooing calls is hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo hoo hoo . A drawn-out "hoo-a" sound is used to tell others about the presence of a predator. To impress females, males circle them with tail spread and wings raised. Males and females work together in raising the young. While calling, the tail flares. Families and nestmates often stay together for life, perching and foraging together.

Cooing, Monterrey Mexico

Ecology

Some populations of white-winged doves are migratory, wintering in Mexico and Central America. They are year-round inhabitants in Texas. San Antonio, Texas, had a year-round population of over a million doves in 2001.[2] The white-winged dove inhabits scrub, woodlands, desert, urban, and cultivated areas. It builds a flimsy stick nest in a tree of any kind and lays two cream-colored to white, unmarked eggs. One chick often hatches earlier and stronger, and so will demand the most food from the parents. A dove may nest as soon as 2–3 months after leaving the nest, making use of summer heat. The dove will nest as long as there is food and enough warmth to keep fledglings warm. In Texas, they nest well into late August.

White-winged doves feed on a variety of seeds, grains, and fruits. Western white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica mearnsii) migrate into the Sonoran Desert to breed during the hottest time of the year because they feed on pollen and nectar, and later on the fruits and seeds of the saguaro cactus. They also visit feeders, eating the food dropped on the ground. Cracked corn is a favorite of doves. This gregarious species can be an agricultural pest, descending on grain crops in large flocks. It is also a popular gamebird in areas of high population.

Probable male

Cultural References

The rock singer Stevie Nicks, a native of Arizona, where the bird is most common in the US, mentions the white-winged dove and its call prominently in her 1981 hit "Edge of Seventeen".

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Zenaida asiatica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "White-winged Dove", Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Texas A&M University, retrieved March 7, 2015 
  • Kelling, Steve. "Cornell Lab of Ornithology". "What we’re learning: Dynamic Dove Expansions: Citizen Science illustrates the spectacular range expansions taking place throughout North America". Audubon Conservation. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  • "National Geographic" Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
  • Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 4, Josep del Hoyo editor, ISBN 84-87334-22-9
  • "National Audubon Society" The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Allen Sibley, ISBN 0-679-45122-6

External links


source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenaida_asiatica

House Sparrow

House Sparrow| Passer domesticus

Printed in March 2009, this print of a female House sparrow was created using enamel paint on paper.

House sparrow info via Wikipedia

House sparrow
Passer domesticus male (15).jpg
Male in Germany
House Sparrow, England - May 09.jpg
Female in England
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Passer
Species: P. domesticus
Binomial name
Passer domesticus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
PasserDomesticusDistribution.png
   Native range
   Introduced range
Synonyms[2]

Fringilla domestica Linnaeus, 1758
Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758) Brisson, 1760
Pyrgita domestica (Linnaeus, 1758) G. Cuvier, 1817
Passer indicus Jardine and Selby, 1835
Passer arboreus Bonaparte, 1850 (preoccupied)
Passer confucius Bonaparte, 1853
Passer rufidorsalis C. L. Brehm, 1855
Passer engimaticus Zarudny, 1903
Passer ahasvar Kleinschmidt, 1904

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. A small bird, it has a typical length of 16 cm (6.3 in) and a mass of 24–39.5 g (0.85–1.39 oz). Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings. One of about 25 species in the genus Passer, the house sparrow is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and much of Asia. Its intentional or accidental introductions to many regions, including parts of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.

The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings. Though found in widely varied habitats and climates, it typically avoids extensive woodlands, grasslands, and deserts away from human development. It feeds mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is an opportunistic eater and commonly eats insects and many other foods. Its predators include domestic cats, hawks, owls, and many other predatory birds and mammals.

Because of its numbers, ubiquity, and association with human settlements, the house sparrow is culturally prominent. It is extensively, and usually unsuccessfully, persecuted as an agricultural pest. It has also often been kept as a pet, as well as being a food item and a symbol of lust, sexual potency, commonness, and vulgarity. Though it is widespread and abundant, its numbers have declined in some areas. The animal's conservation status is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.

Description

Measurements and shape

The house sparrow is typically about 16 cm (6.3 in) long, ranging from 14 to 18 cm (5.5 to 7.1 in).[3] It is a compact bird with a full chest and a large, rounded head. Its bill is stout and conical with a culmen length of 1.1–1.5 cm (0.43–0.59 in), strongly built as an adaptation for eating seeds. Its tail is short, at 5.2–6.5 cm (2.0–2.6 in) long. The wing chord is 6.7–8.9 cm (2.6–3.5 in), and the tarsus is 1.6–2.5 cm (0.63–0.98 in).[4][5] In mass, the house sparrow ranges from 24 to 39.5 g (0.85 to 1.39 oz). Females usually are slightly smaller than males. The median mass on the European continent for both sexes is about 30 g (1.1 oz), and in more southerly subspecies is around 26 g (0.92 oz). Younger birds are smaller, males are larger during the winter, and females are larger during the breeding season.[6] Birds at higher latitudes, colder climates, and sometimes higher altitudes are larger (under Bergmann's rule), both between and within subspecies.[6][7][8][9]

Plumage

Male house sparrows in breeding (left) and nonbreeding (right) plumage

The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. The sexes exhibit strong dimorphism: the female is mostly buffish above and below, while the male has boldly coloured head markings, a reddish back, and grey underparts.[8] The male has a dark grey crown from the top of its bill to its back, and chestnut brown flanking its crown on the sides of its head. It has black around its bill, on its throat, and on the spaces between its bill and eyes (lores). It has a small white stripe between the lores and crown and small white spots immediately behind the eyes (postoculars), with black patches below and above them. The underparts are pale grey or white, as are the cheeks, ear coverts, and stripes at the base of the head. The upper back and mantle are a warm brown, with broad black streaks, while the lower back, rump and uppertail coverts are greyish brown.[10]

Plumage of female house sparrow

The male is duller in fresh nonbreeding plumage, with whitish tips on many feathers. Wear and preening expose many of the bright brown and black markings, including most of the black throat and chest patch, called the "bib" or "badge".[10][11] The badge is variable in width and general size, and may signal social status or fitness. This hypothesis has led to a "veritable 'cottage industry'" of studies, which have only conclusively shown that patches increase in size with age.[12] The male's bill is black in the breeding season and horn (dark grey) during the rest of the year.[3]

A close-up of a male house sparrow's head

The female has no black markings or grey crown. Its upperparts and head are brown with darker streaks around the mantle and a distinct pale supercilium. Its underparts are pale grey-brown. The female's bill is brownish-grey and becomes darker in breeding plumage approaching the black of the male's bill.[3][10]

Juveniles are similar to the adult female, but deeper brown below and paler above, with paler and less defined supercilia. Juveniles have broader buff feather edges, and tend to have looser, scruffier plumage, like moulting adults. Juvenile males tend to have darker throats and white postoculars like adult males, while juvenile females tend to have white throats. However, juveniles cannot be reliably sexed by plumage: some juvenile males lack any markings of the adult male, and some juvenile females have male features. The bills of young birds are light yellow to straw, paler than the female's bill. Immature males have paler versions of the adult male's markings, which can be very indistinct in fresh plumage. By their first breeding season, young birds generally are indistinguishable from other adults, though they may still be paler during their first year.[3][10]

Voice

A male calling in San Francisco
Calls, recorded in England

Most house sparrow vocalisations are variations on its short and incessant chirping call. Transcribed as chirrup, tschilp, or philip, this note is made as a contact call by flocking or resting birds, or by males to proclaim nest ownership and invite pairing. In the breeding season, the male gives this call repetitively, with emphasis and speed, but not much rhythm, forming what is described either as a song or an "ecstatic call" similar to a song.[13][14] Young birds also give a true song, especially in captivity, a warbling similar to that of the European greenfinch.[15]

Aggressive males give a trilled version of their call, transcribed as "chur-chur-r-r-it-it-it-it". This call is also used by females in the breeding season, to establish dominance over males while displacing them to feed young or incubate eggs.[16] House sparrows give a nasal alarm call, the basic sound of which is transcribed as quer, and a shrill chree call in great distress.[17] Another vocalisation is the "appeasement call", a soft quee given to inhibit aggression, usually given between birds of a mated pair.[16] These vocalisations are not unique to the house sparrow, but are shared, with small variations, by all sparrows.[18]

Variation

A male of subspecies P. d. indicus in Kolkata, India
A male of subspecies P. d. parkini at Rajkot, India

Some variation is seen in the 12 subspecies of house sparrows, which are divided into two groups, the Oriental P. d. indicus group, and the Palaearctic P. d. domesticus group. Birds of the P. d. domesticus group have grey cheeks, while P. d. indicus group birds have white cheeks, as well as bright colouration on the crown, a smaller bill, and a longer black bib.[19] The subspecies P. d. tingitanus differs little from the nominate subspecies, except in the worn breeding plumage of the male, in which the head is speckled with black and underparts are paler.[20]P. d. balearoibericus is slightly paler than the nominate, but darker than P. d. bibilicus.[21]P. d. bibilicus is paler than most subspecies, but has the grey cheeks of P. d. domesticus group birds. The similar P. d. persicus is paler and smaller, and P. d. niloticus is nearly identical but smaller.[20] Of the less widespread P. d. indicus group subspecies, P. d. hyrcanus is larger than P. d. indicus, P. d. hufufae is paler, P. d. bactrianus is larger and paler, and P. d. parkini is larger and darker with more black on the breast than any other subspecies.[20][22][23]

Identification

The house sparrow can be confused with a number of other seed-eating birds, especially its relatives in the genus Passer. Many of these relatives are smaller, with an appearance that is neater or "cuter", as with the Dead Sea sparrow.[24] The dull-coloured female can often not be distinguished from other females, and is nearly identical to those of the Spanish and Italian sparrows.[10] The Eurasian tree sparrow is smaller and more slender with a chestnut crown and a black patch on each cheek.[25] The male Spanish sparrow and Italian sparrow are distinguished by their chestnut crowns. The Sind sparrow is very similar but smaller, with less black on the male's throat and a distinct pale supercilium on the female.[10]

Taxonomy and systematics

Names

The house sparrow was among the first animals to be given a scientific name in the modern system of biological classification, since it was described by Carl Linnaeus, in the 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. It was described from a type specimen collected in Sweden, with the name Fringilla domestica.[26][27] Later, the genus name Fringilla came to be used only for the common chaffinch and its relatives, and the house sparrow has usually been placed in the genus Passer created by French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760.[28][29]

The bird's scientific name and its usual English name have the same meaning. The Latin word passer, like the English word "sparrow", is a term for small active birds, coming from a root word referring to speed.[30][31] The Latin word domesticus means "belonging to the house", like the common name a reference to its association with humans.[32] The house sparrow is also called by a number of alternative English names, including English sparrow, chiefly in North America;[33][34] and Indian sparrow or Indian house sparrow, for the birds of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.[35] Dialectal names include sparr, sparrer, spadger, spadgick, and philip, mainly in southern England; spug and spuggy, mainly in northern England; spur and sprig, mainly in Scotland;[36][37] and spatzie or spotsie, from the German Spatz, in North America.[38]

Taxonomy

A pair of Italian sparrows, in Rome

The genus Passer contains about 25 species, depending on the authority, 26 according to the Handbook of the Birds of the World.[39] Most Passer species are dull-coloured birds with short, square tails and stubby, conical beaks, between 11 and 18 cm (4.3 and 7.1 in) long.[8][40]Mitochondrial DNA studies suggest that speciation in the genus occurred during the Pleistocene and earlier, while other evidence suggests speciation occurred 25,000 to 15,000 years ago.[41][42] Within Passer, the house sparrow is part of the "Palaearctic black-bibbed sparrows" group and a close relative of the Mediterranean "willow sparrows".[39][43]

The taxonomy of the house sparrow and its Mediterranean relatives is highly complicated. The common type of "willow sparrow" is the Spanish sparrow, which resembles the house sparrow in many respects.[44] It frequently prefers wetter habitats than the house sparrow, and it is often colonial and nomadic.[45] In most of the Mediterranean, one or both species occur, with some degree of hybridisation.[46] In North Africa, the two species hybridise extensively, forming highly variable mixed populations with a full range of characters from pure house sparrows to pure Spanish sparrows.[47][48][49]

In much of Italy, a form apparently intermediate between the house and Spanish sparrows, is known as the Italian sparrow. It resembles a hybrid between the two species, and is in other respects intermediate. Its specific status and origin are the subject of much debate.[48][50] In the Alps, the Italian sparrow intergrades over a roughly 20 km (12 mi) strip with the house sparrow,[51] but to the south it intergrades over the southern half of Italy and some Mediterranean islands with the Spanish sparrow.[48] On the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo, Crete, Rhodes, and Karpathos, the other apparently intermediate birds are of unknown status.[48][52][53]

Subspecies

A male of subspecies P. d. balearoibericus in Istanbul
A male of the migratory subspecies P. d. bactrianus (with a Eurasian tree sparrow and young house or Spanish sparrows) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan

A large number of subspecies have been named, of which 12 were recognised in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. These subspecies are divided into two groups, the Palaearctic P. d. domesticus group, and the Oriental P. d. indicus group.[39] Several Middle Eastern subspecies, including P. d. biblicus, are sometimes considered a third, intermediate group. The subspecies P. d. indicus was described as a species, and was considered to be distinct by many ornithologists during the 19th century.[19]

Migratory birds of the subspecies P. d. bactrianus in the P. d. indicus group were recorded overlapping with P. d. domesticus birds without hybridising in the 1970s, so the Soviet scientists Edward I. Gavrilov and M. N. Korelov proposed the separation of the P. d. indicus group as a separate species.[28][54] However, P. d. indicus-group and P. d. domesticus-group birds intergrade in a large part of Iran, so this split is rarely recognised.[39]

In North America, house sparrow populations are more differentiated than those in Europe.[7] This variation follows predictable patterns, with birds at higher latitudes being larger and those in arid areas being paler.[8][55][56] However, how much this is caused by evolution or by environment is not clear.[57][58][59][60] Similar observations have been made in New Zealand,[61] and in South Africa.[62] The introduced house sparrow populations may be distinct enough to merit subspecies status, especially in North America and southern Africa,[39] and American ornithologist Harry Church Oberholser even gave the subspecies name P. d. plecticus to the paler birds of western North America.[55]

P. d. domesticus group
P. d. indicus group
  • P. d. hyrcanus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Gorgan, Iran, is found along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea from Gorgan to south-eastern Azerbaijan. It intergrades with P. d. persicus in the Alborz mountains, and with P. d. bibilicus to the west. It is the subspecies with the smallest range.[39][63]
  • P. d. bactrianus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Tashkent, is found in southern Kazakhstan to the Tian Shan and northern Iran and Afghanistan. It intergrades with persicus in Baluchistan and with indicus across central Afghanistan. Unlike most other house sparrow subspecies, it is almost entirely migratory, wintering in the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent. It is found in open country rather than in settlements, which are occupied by the Eurasian tree sparrow in its range.[39][63] There is an exceptional record from Sudan.[64]
  • P. d. parkini Whistler, 1920, described from Srinagar, Kashmir, is found in the western Himalayas from the Pamir Mountains to south-eastern Nepal. It is migratory, like P. d. bactrianus.[19][63]
  • P. d. indicus Jardine and Selby, 1831, described from Bangalore, is found in the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, in Sri Lanka, western Southeast Asia, eastern Iran, south-western Arabia and southern Israel.[19][39][63]
  • P. d. hufufae Ticehurst and Cheeseman, 1924, described from Hofuf in Saudi Arabia, is found in north-eastern Arabia.[63][66]
  • P. d. rufidorsalis C. L. Brehm, 1855, described from Khartoum, Sudan, is found in the Nile valley from Wadi Halfa south to Renk in northern South Sudan,[63][64] and in eastern Sudan, northern Ethiopia to the Red Sea coast in Eritrea.[39] It has also been introduced to Mohéli in the Comoros.[67]

Distribution and habitat

By a nest in a saguaro cactus in Arizona
House sparrows perching on a roof, during winter in the Southern Alps of New Zealand

The house sparrow originated in the Middle East and spread, along with agriculture, to most of Eurasia and parts of North Africa.[68] Since the mid-19th century, it has reached most of the world, chiefly due to deliberate introductions, but also through natural and shipborne dispersal.[69] Its introduced range encompasses most of North America, Central America, southern South America, southern Africa, part of West Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and islands throughout the world.[70] It has greatly extended its range in northern Eurasia since the 1850s,[71] and continues to do so, as was shown by the colonisations around 1990 of Iceland and Rishiri Island, Japan.[72] The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.[70]

Introductions

The house sparrow has become highly successful in most parts of the world where it has been introduced. This is mostly due to its early adaptation to living with humans, and its adaptability to a wide range of conditions.[73][74] Other factors may include its robust immune response, compared to the Eurasian tree sparrow.[75] Where introduced, it can extend its range quickly, sometimes at a rate over 230 km (140 mi) per year.[76] In many parts of the world, it has been characterised as a pest, and poses a threat to native birds.[77][78] A few introductions have died out or been of limited success, such as those to Greenland and Cape Verde.[79]

The first of many successful introductions to North America occurred when birds from England were released in New York City, in 1852 [80][81] to control the ravages of the linden moth.[82] The house sparrow now occurs from the Northwest Territories to southern Panama,[4] and it is one of the most abundant birds in North America.[77] The house sparrow was first introduced to Australia in 1863 at Melbourne and is common throughout the eastern part of the continent,[79] but has been prevented from establishing itself in Western Australia, where every house sparrow found in the state is killed.[83] House sparrows were introduced in New Zealand in 1859, and from there reached many of the Pacific islands, including Hawaii.[84]

In southern Africa, birds of both the European subspecies P. d. domesticus and the Indian subspecies P. d. indicus were introduced around 1900. Birds of P. d. domesticus ancestry are confined to a few towns, while P. d. indicus birds have spread rapidly, reaching Tanzania in the 1980s. Despite this success, native relatives such as the Cape sparrow also occur in towns, competing successfully with it.[79][85] In South America, it was first introduced near Buenos Aires around 1870, and quickly became common in most of the southern part of the continent. It now occurs almost continuously from Tierra del Fuego to the fringes of the Amazon basin, with isolated populations as far north as coastal Venezuela.[79][86][87]

Habitat

The house sparrow is closely associated with human habitation and cultivation.[88] It is not an obligate commensal of humans as some have suggested: Central Asian house sparrows usually breed away from humans in open country,[89] and birds elsewhere are occasionally found away from humans.[88][90][91] The only terrestrial habitats that the house sparrow does not inhabit are dense forest and tundra. Well adapted to living around humans, it frequently lives and even breeds indoors, especially in factories, warehouses, and zoos.[88] It has been recorded breeding in an English coal mine 640 m (2,100 ft) below ground,[92] and feeding on the Empire State Building's observation deck at night.[93] It reaches its greatest densities in urban centres, but its reproductive success is greater in suburbs, where insects are more abundant.[88][94] On a larger scale, it is most abundant in wheat-growing areas such as the Midwestern United States.[95]

It tolerates a variety of climates, but prefers drier conditions, especially in moist tropical climates.[79][88] It has several adaptations to dry areas, including a high salt tolerance[96] and an ability to survive without water by ingesting berries.[97] In most of eastern Asia, the house sparrow is entirely absent, replaced by the Eurasian tree sparrow.[98] Where these two species overlap, the house sparrow is usually more common than the Eurasian tree sparrow, but one species may replace the other in a manner that ornithologist Maud Doria Haviland described as "random, or even capricious".[99] In most of its range, the house sparrow is extremely common, despite some declines,[100] but in marginal habitats such as rainforest or mountain ranges, its distribution can be spotty.[88]

Behaviour

The house sparrow often bathes in water (at left) or in dust (at right)

Social behaviour

The house sparrow is a very social bird. It is gregarious at all seasons when feeding, often forming flocks with other types of birds.[101] It roosts communally, its nests are usually grouped together in clumps, and it engages in social activities such as dust or water bathing and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes.[102][103] The house sparrow feeds mostly on the ground, but it flocks in trees and bushes.[102] At feeding stations and nests, female house sparrows are dominant despite their smaller size, and in the reproductive period (usually spring or summer), being dominant, they can fight for males.[104][105]

Sleep and roosting

House sparrows sleep with the bill tucked underneath the scapular feathers.[106] Outside of the reproductive season, they often roost communally in trees or shrubs. Much communal chirping occurs before and after the birds settle in the roost in the evening, as well as before the birds leave the roost in the morning.[102] Some congregating sites separate from the roost may be visited by the birds prior to settling in for the night.[107]

Body maintenance

Dust or water bathing is common and often occurs in groups. Anting is rare.[108] Head scratching is done with the leg over the drooped wing.[107]

Feeding

Female foraging in Germany
Two females feeding on leftover food at a cafe in New Zealand.

As an adult, the house sparrow mostly feeds on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is opportunistic and adaptable, and eats whatever foods are available.[109] In towns and cities, it often scavenges for food in garbage containers and congregates in the outdoors of restaurants and other eating establishments to feed on leftover food and crumbs. It can perform complex tasks to obtain food, such as opening automatic doors to enter supermarkets,[110] clinging to hotel walls to watch vacationers on their balconies,[111] and nectar robbing kowhai flowers.[112] In common with many other birds, the house sparrow requires grit to digest the harder items in its diet. Grit can be either stone, often grains of masonry, or the shells of eggs or snails; oblong and rough grains are preferred.[113][114]

Several studies of the house sparrow in temperate agricultural areas have found the proportion of seeds in its diet to be about 90%.[109][115][116] It will eat almost any seeds, but where it has a choice, it prefers oats and wheat.[117] In urban areas, the house sparrow feeds largely on food provided directly or indirectly by humans, such as bread, though it prefers raw seeds.[116][118] The house sparrow also eats some plant matter besides seeds, including buds, berries, and fruits such as grapes and cherries.[97][116] In temperate areas, the house sparrow has an unusual habit of tearing flowers, especially yellow ones, in the spring.[119]

Animals form another important part of the house sparrow's diet, chiefly insects, of which beetles, caterpillars, dipteran flies, and aphids are especially important. Various noninsect arthropods are eaten, as are molluscs and crustaceans where available, earthworms, and even vertebrates such as lizards and frogs.[109] Young house sparrows are fed mostly on insects until about 15 days after hatching.[120] They are also given small quantities of seeds, spiders, and grit. In most places, grasshoppers and crickets are the most abundant foods of nestlings.[121]True bugs, ants, sawflies, and beetles are also important, but house sparrows take advantage of whatever foods are abundant to feed their young.[121][122][123] House sparrows have been observed stealing prey from other birds, including American robins.[4]

Locomotion

The house sparrow's flight is direct (not undulating) and flapping, averaging 45.5 km/h (28.3 mph) and about 15 wingbeats per second.[107][124] On the ground, the house sparrow typically hops rather than walks. It can swim when pressed to do so by pursuit from predators. Captive birds have been recorded diving and swimming short distances under water.[107]

Dispersal and migration

Most house sparrows do not move more than a few kilometres during their lifetimes. However, limited migration occurs in all regions. Some young birds disperse long distances, especially on coasts, and mountain birds move to lower elevations in winter.[102][125][126] Two subspecies, P. d. bactrianus and P. d. parkini, are predominantly migratory. Unlike the birds in sedentary populations that migrate, birds of migratory subspecies prepare for migration by putting on weight.[102]

Breeding

A pair of the subspecies P. d. indicus mating in Kolkata

House sparrows can breed in the breeding season immediately following their hatching, and sometimes attempt to do so. Some birds breeding for the first time in tropical areas are only a few months old and still have juvenile plumage.[127] Birds breeding for the first time are rarely successful in raising young, and reproductive success increases with age, as older birds breed earlier in the breeding season, and fledge more young.[128] As the breeding season approaches, hormone releases trigger enormous increases in the size of the sexual organs and changes in day length lead males to start calling by nesting sites.[129][130] The timing of mating and egg-laying varies geographically, and between specific locations and years because a sufficient supply of insects is needed for egg formation and feeding nestlings.[131]

Males take up nesting sites before the breeding season, by frequently calling beside them. Unmated males start nest construction and call particularly frequently to attract females. When a female approaches a male during this period, the male displays by moving up and down while drooping and shivering his wings, pushing up his head, raising and spreading his tail, and showing his bib.[131] Males may try to mate with females while calling or displaying. In response, a female will adopt a threatening posture and attack a male before flying away, pursued by the male. The male displays in front of her, attracting other males, which also pursue and display to the female. This group display usually does not immediately result in copulations.[131] Other males usually do not copulate with the female.[132][133] Copulation is typically initiated by the female giving a soft dee-dee-dee call to the male. Birds of a pair copulate frequently until the female is laying eggs, and the male mounts the female repeatedly each time a pair mates.[131]

The house sparrow is monogamous, and typically mates for life. Birds from pairs often engage in extra-pair copulations, so about 15% of house sparrow fledglings are unrelated to their mother's mate.[134] Male house sparrows guard their mates carefully to avoid being cuckolded, and most extra-pair copulation occurs away from nest sites.[132][135] Males may sometimes have multiple mates, and bigamy is mostly limited by aggression between females.[136] Many birds do not find a nest and a mate, and instead may serve as helpers around the nest for mated pairs, a role which increases the chances of being chosen to replace a lost mate. Lost mates of both sexes can be replaced quickly during the breeding season.[132][137] The formation of a pair and the bond between the two birds is tied to the holding of a nest site, though paired house sparrows can recognise each other away from the nest.[131]

Nesting

Female bringing food for young in a nest made in a tree hole in California

Nest sites are varied, though cavities are preferred. Nests are most frequently built in the eaves and other crevices of houses. Holes in cliffs and banks, or tree hollows, are also used.[138][139] A sparrow sometimes excavates its own nests in sandy banks or rotten branches, but more frequently uses the nests of other birds such as those of swallows in banks and cliffs, and old tree cavity nests.[138] It usually uses deserted nests, though sometimes it usurps active ones.[138][140] Tree hollows are more commonly used in North America than in Europe,[138] putting the sparrows in competition with bluebirds and other North American cavity nesters, and thereby contributing to their population declines.[77]

Especially in warmer areas, the house sparrow may build its nests in the open, on the branches of trees, especially evergreens and hawthorns, or in the nests of large birds such as storks or magpies.[131][138][141] In open nesting sites, breeding success tends to be lower, since breeding begins late and the nest can easily be destroyed or damaged by storms.[138][142] Less common nesting sites include street lights and neon signs, favoured for their warmth; and the old open-topped nests of other songbirds, which are then domed over.[138][139]

The nest is usually domed, though it may lack a roof in enclosed sites.[138] It has an outer layer of stems and roots, a middle layer of dead grass and leaves, and a lining of feathers, as well as of paper and other soft materials.[139] Nests typically have external dimensions of 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 in),[131] but their size varies greatly.[139] The building of the nest is initiated by the unmated male while displaying to females. The female assists in building, but is less active than the male.[138] Some nest building occurs throughout the year, especially after moult in autumn. In colder areas house sparrows build specially created roost nests, or roost in street lights, to avoid losing heat during the winter.[138][143] House sparrows do not hold territories, but they defend their nests aggressively against intruders of the same sex.[138]

House sparrows' nests support a wide range of scavenging insects, including nest flies such as Neottiophilum praestum, Protocalliphora blowflies,[144][145] and over 1,400 species of beetle.[146]

Eggs and young

Eggs in a nest

Clutches usually comprise four or five eggs, though numbers from one to 10 have been recorded. At least two clutches are usually laid, and up to seven a year may be laid in the tropics or four a year in temperate latitudes. When fewer clutches are laid in a year, especially at higher latitudes, the number of eggs per clutch is greater. Central Asian house sparrows, which migrate and have only one clutch a year, average 6.5 eggs in a clutch. Clutch size is also affected by environmental and seasonal conditions, female age, and breeding density.[147][148]

Naked and blind chick
A hatchling

Some intraspecific brood parasitism occurs, and instances of unusually large numbers of eggs in a nest may be the result of females laying eggs in the nests of their neighbours. Such foreign eggs are sometimes recognised and ejected by females.[147][149] The house sparrow is a victim of interspecific brood parasites, but only rarely, since it usually uses nests in holes too small for parasites to enter, and it feeds its young foods unsuitable for young parasites.[150][151] In turn, the house sparrow has once been recorded as a brood parasite of the American cliff swallow.[149][152]

A juvenile, showing its pink bill and obvious nestling gape—the soft, swollen base, which becomes harder and less swollen as the bird matures

The eggs are white, bluish white, or greenish white, spotted with brown or grey.[107] Subelliptical in shape,[8] they range from 20 to 22 mm (0.79 to 0.87 in) in length and 14 to 16 mm (0.55 to 0.63 in) in width,[4] have an average mass of 2.9 g (0.10 oz),[153] and an average surface area of 9.18 cm2 (1.423 in2).[154] Eggs from the tropical subspecies are distinctly smaller.[155][156] Eggs begin to develop with the deposition of yolk in the ovary a few days before ovulation. In the day between ovulation and laying, egg white forms, followed by eggshell.[157] Eggs laid later in a clutch are larger, as are those laid by larger females, and egg size is hereditary. Eggs decrease slightly in size from laying to hatching.[158] The yolk comprises 25% of the egg, the egg white 68%, and the shell 7%. Eggs are watery, being 79% liquid, and otherwise mostly protein.[159]

The female develops a brood patch of bare skin and plays the main part in incubating the eggs. The male helps, but can only cover the eggs rather than truly incubate them. The female spends the night incubating during this period, while the male roosts near the nest.[147] Eggs hatch at the same time, after a short incubation period lasting 11–14 days, and exceptionally for as many as 17 or as few as 9.[8][131][160] The length of the incubation period decreases as ambient temperature increases later in the breeding season.[161]

A female feeding a fledgling

Young house sparrows remain in the nest for 11 to 23 days, normally 14 to 16 days.[107][161][162] During this time, they are fed by both parents. As newly hatched house sparrows do not have sufficient insulation, they are brooded for a few days, or longer in cold conditions.[161][163] The parents swallow the droppings produced by the hatchlings during the first few days; later, the droppings are moved up to 20 m (66 ft) away from the nest.[163][164]

The chicks' eyes open after about four days and, at an age of about eight days, the young birds get their first down.[107][162] If both parents perish, the ensuing intensive begging sounds of the young often attract replacement parents which feed them until they can sustain themselves.[163][165] All the young in the nest leave it during the same period of a few hours. At this stage, they are normally able to fly. They start feeding themselves partly after one or two days, and sustain themselves completely after 7 to 10 days, 14 at the latest.[166]

Survival

In adult house sparrows, annual survival is 45–65%.[167] After fledging and leaving the care of their parents, young sparrows have a high mortality rate, which lessens as they grow older and more experienced. Only about 20–25% of birds hatched survive to their first breeding season.[168] The oldest known wild house sparrow lived for nearly two decades; it was found dead 19 years and 9 months after it was ringed in Denmark.[169] The oldest recorded captive house sparrow lived for 23 years.[170] The typical ratio of males to females in a population is uncertain due to problems in collecting data, but a very slight preponderance of males at all ages is usual.[171]

Predation

A male being eaten by a cat: Domestic cats are one of the main predators of the house sparrow.

The house sparrow's main predators are cats and birds of prey, but many other animals prey on them, including corvids, squirrels,[172] and even humans—the house sparrow has been consumed in the past by people in many parts of the world, and it still is in parts of the Mediterranean.[173] Most species of birds of prey have been recorded preying on the house sparrow in places where records are extensive. Accipiters and the merlin in particular are major predators, though cats are likely to have a greater impact on house sparrow populations.[172] The house sparrow is also a common victim of roadkill; on European roads, it is the bird most frequently found dead.[174]

Parasites and disease

The house sparrow is host to a huge number of parasites and diseases, and the effect of most is unknown. Ornithologist Ted R. Anderson listed thousands, noting that his list was incomplete.[175] The commonly recorded bacterial pathogens of the house sparrow are often those common in humans, and include Salmonella and Escherichia coli.[176]Salmonella is common in the house sparrow, and a comprehensive study of house sparrow disease found it in 13% of sparrows tested. Salmonella epidemics in the spring and winter can kill large numbers of sparrows.[175] The house sparrow hosts avian pox and avian malaria, which it has spread to the native forest birds of Hawaii.[177] Many of the diseases hosted by the house sparrow are also present in humans and domestic animals, for which the house sparrow acts as a reservoir host.[178]Arboviruses such as the West Nile virus, which most commonly infect insects and mammals, survive winters in temperate areas by going dormant in birds such as the house sparrow.[175][179] A few records indicate disease extirpating house sparrow populations, especially from Scottish islands, but this seems to be rare.[180]

The house sparrow is infested by a number of external parasites, which usually cause little harm to adult sparrows. In Europe, the most common mite found on sparrows is Proctophyllodes, the most common ticks are Argas reflexus and Ixodes arboricola, and the most common flea on the house sparrow is Ceratophyllus gallinae. A number of chewing lice occupy different niches on the house sparrow's body. Menacanthus lice occur across the house sparrow's body, where they feed on blood and feathers, while Brueelia lice feed on feathers and Philopterus fringillae occurs on the head.[144]

Physiology

House sparrows express strong circadian rhythms of activity in the laboratory. They were among the first bird species to be seriously studied in terms of their circadian activity and photoperiodism, in part because of their availability and adaptability in captivity, but also because they can "find their way" and remain rhythmic in constant darkness.[181][182] Such studies have found that the pineal gland is a central part of the house sparrow's circadian system: removal of the pineal eliminates the circadian rhythm of activity,[183] and transplant of the pineal into another individual confers to this individual the rhythm phase of the donor bird.[184] The suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus have also been shown to be an important component of the circadian system of house sparrows.[185] The photoreceptors involved in the synchronisation of the circadian clock to the external light-dark cycle are located in the brain and can be stimulated by light reaching them directly though the skull, as revealed by experiments in which blind sparrows, which normally can still synchronise to the light-dark cycle, failed to do so once India ink was injected as a screen under the skin on top of their skulls.[186]

Similarly, even when blind, house sparrows continue to be photoperiodic, i.e. show reproductive development when the days are long, but not when the days are short. This response is stronger when the feathers on top of the head are plucked, and is eliminated when India ink is injected under the skin at the top of the head, showing that the photoreceptors involved in the photoperiodic response to day length are located inside the brain.[187]

House sparrows have also been used in studies of nonphotic entrainment (i.e. synchronisation to an external cycle other than light and dark): for example, in constant darkness, a situation in which the birds would normally reveal their endogenous, non-24-hour, "free-running" rhythms of activity, they instead show 24-hour periodicity if they are exposed to two hours of chirp playbacks every 24 hours, matching their daily activity onsets with the daily playback onsets.[188] House sparrows in constant dim light can also be entrained to a daily cycle based on the presence of food.[189] Finally, house sparrows in constant darkness can be entrained to a cycle of high and low temperature, but only if the difference between the two temperatures is large (38 versus 6 °C); some of the tested sparrows matched their activity to the warm phase, and others to the cold phase.[190]

Relationships with humans

Flocking and chirping together beneath a fluorescent tube light in Germany

The house sparrow is closely associated with humans. They are believed to have become associated with humans around 10,000 years ago. Subspecies P. d. bactrianus is least associated with humans and considered to be evolutionarily closer to the ancestral noncommensal populations.[191] Usually, it is regarded as a pest, since it consumes agricultural products and spreads disease to humans and their domestic animals.[192] Even birdwatchers often hold it in little regard because of its molestation of other birds.[77] In most of the world, the house sparrow is not protected by law. Attempts to control house sparrows include the trapping, poisoning, or shooting of adults; the destruction of their nests and eggs; or less directly, blocking nest holes and scaring off sparrows with noise, glue, or porcupine wire.[193] However, the house sparrow can be beneficial to humans, as well, especially by eating insect pests, and attempts at the large-scale control of the house sparrow have failed.[39]

The house sparrow has long been used as a food item. From around 1560 to at least the 19th century in northern Europe, earthenware "sparrow pots" were hung from eaves to attract nesting birds so the young could be readily harvested. Wild birds were trapped in nets in large numbers, and sparrow pie was a traditional dish, thought, because of the association of sparrows with lechery, to have aphrodisiac properties. Sparrows were also trapped as food for falconers' birds and zoo animals. In the early part of the 20th century, sparrow clubs culled many millions of birds and eggs in an attempt to control numbers of this perceived pest, but with only a localised impact on numbers.[194] House sparrows have been kept as pets at many times in history, though they have no bright plumage or attractive songs, and raising them is difficult.[195]

Status

The house sparrow has an extremely large range and population, and is not seriously threatened by human activities, so it is assessed as least concern for conservation on the IUCN Red List.[1] However, populations have been declining in many parts of the world.[196][197][198] These declines were first noticed in North America, where they were initially attributed to the spread of the house finch, but have been most severe in Western Europe.[199][200] Declines have not been universal, as no serious declines have been reported from Eastern Europe, but have even occurred in Australia, where the house sparrow was introduced recently.[201]

In Great Britain, populations peaked in the early 1970s,[202] but have since declined by 68% overall,[203] and about 90% in some regions.[204][205] In London, the house sparrow almost disappeared from the central city.[204] The numbers of house sparrows in the Netherlands have dropped in half since the 1980s,[94] so the house sparrow is even considered an endangered species.[206] This status came to widespread attention after a female house sparrow, referred to as the "Dominomus", was killed after knocking down dominoes arranged as part of an attempt to set a world record.[207] These declines are not unprecedented, as similar reductions in population occurred when the internal combustion engine replaced horses in the 1920s and a major source of food in the form of grain spillage was lost.[208][209]

Various causes for the dramatic decreases in population have been proposed, including predation, in particular by Eurasian sparrowhawks;[210][211][212] electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones;[213] and diseases.[214] A shortage of nesting sites caused by changes in urban building design is probably a factor, and conservation organisations have encouraged the use of special nest boxes for sparrows.[214][215][216][217] A primary cause of the decline seems to be an insufficient supply of insect food for nestling sparrows.[214][218] Declines in insect populations result from an increase of monoculture crops, the heavy use of pesticides,[219][220][221] the replacement of native plants in cities with introduced plants and parking areas,[222][223] and possibly the introduction of unleaded petrol, which produces toxic compounds such as methyl nitrite.[224]

Protecting insect habitats on farms,[225][226] and planting native plants in cities benefit the house sparrow, as does establishing urban green spaces.[227][228] To raise awareness of threats to the house sparrow, World Sparrow Day has been celebrated on 20 March across the world since 2010.[229] Over the recent years, the house sparrow population has been on the decline in many Asian countries, and this decline is quite evident in India. To promote the conservation of these birds, in 2012, the house sparrow was declared as the state bird of Delhi.[230]

Cultural associations

To many people across the world, the house sparrow is the most familiar wild animal and, because of its association with humans and familiarity, it is frequently used to represent the common and vulgar, or the lewd.[231] One of the reasons for the introduction of house sparrows throughout the world was their association with the European homeland of many immigrants.[81] Birds usually described later as sparrows are referred to in many works of ancient literature and religious texts in Europe and western Asia. These references may not always refer specifically to the house sparrow, or even to small, seed-eating birds, but later writers who were inspired by these texts often had the house sparrow in mind.[39][231][232] In particular, sparrows were associated by the ancient Greeks with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, due to their perceived lustfulness, an association echoed by later writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare.[39][195][231][233] Jesus's use of "sparrows" as an example of divine providence in the Gospel of Matthew[234] also inspired later references, such as that in Shakespeare's Hamlet[231] and the Gospel hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow.[235]

G37
The house sparrow is only represented in ancient Egyptian art very rarely, but an Egyptian hieroglyph is based on it. The sparrow hieroglyph had no phonetic value and was used as a determinative in words to indicate small, narrow, or bad.[236] An alternative view is that the hieroglyph meant "a prolific man" or "the revolution of a year".[237]

See also

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Works cited

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_sparrow

Winter Wren

Winter Wren| Troglodytes hiemalis

enamel paint on paper

Winter wren info via Wikipedia

Winter wren
Troglodytes hiemalis Central Park NY.jpg
In Central Park, New York.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Troglodytidae
Genus: Troglodytes (disputed)
Subgenus: T. (Nannus)
Species: T. hiemalis
Binomial name
Troglodytes hiemalis
Viellot, 1819
Synonyms

Olbiorchilus hiemalis
Nannus hiemalis

The winter wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) is a very small North American bird and a member of the mainly New World wren family Troglodytidae. It was once lumped with Troglodytes pacificus of western North America and Troglodytes troglodytes of Eurasia under the name winter wren.

It breeds in coniferous forests from British Columbia to the Atlantic Ocean. It migrates through and winters across southeastern Canada, the eastern half the United States and (rarely) north-eastern Mexico. Small numbers may be casual in the western United States and Canada.

The scientific name is taken from the Greek word troglodytes (from "trogle" a hole, and "dyein" to creep), meaning "cave-dweller", and refers to its habit of disappearing into cavities or crevices while hunting arthropods or to roost.

Description

9-10 cm. Small tail is often cocked above its back, and short neck gives the appearance of a small brown ball. Rufous brown above, grayer below, barred with darker brown and gray, even on wings and tail. The bill is dark brown, the legs pale brown. Young birds are less distinctly barred. Most are identifiable by the pale "eyebrows" over their eyes.

Taxonomy

By studying the songs and genetics of individuals in an overlap zone between Troglodytes hiemalis and Troglodytes pacificus, Toews and Irwin (2008)[2] found strong evidence of reproductive isolation between the two. It was suggested that the pacificus subspecies be promoted to the species level designation of Troglodytes pacificus with the common name of "Pacific wren. By applying a molecular clock to the amount of mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence between the two,[3] it was estimated that Troglodytes pacificus and Troglodytes troglodytes last shared a common ancestor approximately 4.3 million years ago, long before the glacial cycles of the Pleistocene, thought to have promoted speciation in many avian systems inhabiting the boreal forest of North America.[4]

Ecology

A migrant in Chicago, Illinois

The winter wren nests mostly in coniferous forests, especially those of spruce and fir, where it is often identified by its long and exuberant song. Although it is an insectivore, it can remain in moderately cold and even snowy climates by foraging for insects on substrates such as bark and fallen logs.

Its movements as it creeps or climbs are incessant rather than rapid; its short flights swift and direct but not sustained, its tiny round wings whirring as it flies from bush to bush.

At night, usually in winter, it often roosts, true to its scientific name, in dark retreats, snug holes and even old nests. In hard weather it may do so in parties, either consisting of the family or of many individuals gathered together for warmth.

For the most part insects and spiders are its food, but in winter large pupae and some seeds are taken.

Breeding

The male builds a small number of nests. These are called "cock nests" but are never lined until the female chooses one to use.

The normal round nest of grass, moss, lichens or leaves is tucked into a hole in a wall, tree trunk, crack in a rock or corner of a building, but it is often built in bushes, overhanging boughs or the litter which accumulates in branches washed by floods.

Five to eight white or slightly speckled eggs are laid in April, and second broods are reared.

References

  1. ^ "BirdLife International Species factsheet: Troglodytes troglodytes". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  2. ^ Toews, David P. L.; Darren E. Irwin (2008). "Cryptic speciation in a Holarctic passerine revealed by genetic and bioacoustic analyses". Molecular Ecology. 17 (11): 2691–2705. ISSN 0962-1083. PMID 18444983. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03769.x. 
  3. ^ Drovetski, S. V.; R. M. Zink; S. Rohwer; I. V. Fadeev; E. V. Nesterov; I. Karagodin; E. A. Koblik; Y. A. Red'kin (2004). "Complex biogeographic history of a Holarctic passerine" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 271 (1538): 545–551. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 1691619Freely accessible. PMID 15129966. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2638. 
  4. ^ Weir, J. T.; D. Schluter (2004). "Ice sheets promote speciation in boreal birds". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 271 (1551): 1881–1887. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 1691815Freely accessible. PMID 15347509. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2803. 

External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Wren

 

 

Great-tailed Grackle

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Great-tailed Grackle | Quiscalus mexicanus

male

collected 2009, Wooten Park, Austin, Travis County, Texas, USA

printed March 2012

enamel paint and clay on paper

My wife came home recently with a freshly dead male great-tailed grackle that she’d found in the park near our house. Not sure what it died of, but it was in perfect condition for printing. This is one of the most under-appreciated birds in Austin. Most people are annoyed by them since they have a habit of begging for food and congregating in huge flocks in the evenings causing a lot of noise and poop. Besides all of that, these are one of my favorite birds. They’re very smart and only get close enough to people to snag food as they leave their dinning tables or to receive handouts from a distance. I’ve never been able to coax one close enough to touch. They are also extremely beautiful in the spring – males are black with blue iridescent areas and yellow eyes. In the fall they molt and look really tattered.

Great-tailed grackle info via Wikipedia:

 

Great-tailed grackle
Quiscalus mexicanusMPCCA20061226-0567B.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Quiscalus
Species: Q. mexicanus
Binomial name
Quiscalus mexicanus
(JF Gmelin, 1788)
Quiscalus mexicanus.svg
Range of Quiscalus mexicanus

The great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is a medium-sized, highly social passerine bird native to North and South America. A member of the family Icteridae, it is one of ten extant species of grackle and is closely related to the boat-tailed grackle and the slender-billed grackle.[2] It is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "blackbird" in the southern United States,[3] although blackbirds belong to the genus Euphagus. Similarly, it is often called "cuervo" in areas of Mexico owing to its glossy black plumage, although it is not a member of the genus Corvus, nor even of the family Corvidae.

Description

Female

Great-tailed grackles are medium-sized birds (larger than starlings and smaller than crows; 38 cm (15 in)-46 cm (18 in)) with males weighing 203 g (7.2 oz)-265 g (9.3 oz) and females between 115 g (4.1 oz)-142 g (5.0 oz), and both sexes have long tails.[4] Males are iridescent black with a purple-blue sheen on the feathers of the head and upper body, while females are brown with darker wings and tail.[4] Adults of both sexes have bright yellow eyes, while juveniles of both sexes have brown eyes and brown plumage like females (except for streaks on the breast).[4] Great-tailed grackles, particularly the adult males, have a keel-shaped tail that they can fold vertically by aligning the two halves.[5]

The great-tailed grackle and boat-tailed grackle were considered the same species until genetic analyses distinguished them as two separate species.[6]

Distribution and habitat

Breeding display by male, CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica

Originally from Central and South America, great-tailed grackles expanded their breeding range by over 5500% by moving north into North America between 1880 and 2000, following urban and agricultural corridors.[7][8] Their current range stretches from northwest Venezuela and western Colombia and Ecuador in the south to Minnesota in the north, to Oregon, Idaho, and California in the west, to Florida in the east, with vagrants occurring as far north as southern Canada. Their habitat for foraging is on the ground in clear areas such as pastures,[4] wetlands and mangroves.[7]

Diet

Great-tailed grackles are noted for their diverse foraging habits. They extract larvae and insects from grassy areas; eat lizards, nestlings, and eggs; forage in freshly plowed land; remove parasites from cattle; and eat fruits (e.g., bananas, berries) and grains (e.g., maize, corn on the cob by opening the husks).[5] They turn over objects to search for food underneath, including crustaceans, insects, and worms, they hunt tadpoles and fish by wading into shallow water, and although they do not swim, they catch fish by flying close to the water's surface, and are even reported to dive a few inches into the water to retrieve a fish.[5] They are also known to pick dead insects off the license plates of parked cars,[9] and kill barn swallows while flying.[10]

Behavior

Great-tailed grackles have an unusually large repertoire of vocalizations that are used year-round. Males use a wider variety of vocalization types, while females engage mostly in "chatter", however there is a report of a female performing the "territorial song".[4] Because of their loud vocalizations, great-tailed grackles are considered a pest species by some.[11]

A male Great-Tailed Grackle, making its distinctive call

They communally roost in trees or the reeds of wetlands at night and, during the breeding season, they nest in territories using three different mating strategies: 1) territorial males defend their territory on which many females place their nests and raise young, 2) residential males live in the larger colony but do not defend a territory or have mates, and 3) transient males stay for a few days before leaving the colony to likely move onto another colony.[12] Resident and transient males sire a small number of offspring through extra pair copulations with females on territories. Territorial males are heavier and have longer tails than non-territorial males, and both of these characteristics are associated with having more offspring.[12]

Grackles can solve Aesop's Fable tests - a problem involving a tube that is partially filled with water and a floating out of reach piece of food.[13] The problem is solved by dropping objects into the water to raise the level and bring the food within reach. They are also behaviorally flexible, changing their preferences quickly in response to changes in cognitive tasks.[13]

In culture

In Mexico, where it is known as the chanate or zanate, there is a legend that it has seven songs. "In the creation, the Zanate having no voice, stole its seven distinct songs from the wise and knowing sea turtle. You can now hear the Zanate's vocals as the Seven Passions (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness, and Anger) of life." Mexican artisans have created icons in clay, sometimes as whistles that portray the sea turtle with the zanate perched on its back.[7][citation needed]

Statue of maria mulata in Cartagena

In Colombia, the species is called Maria mulata,[14] and is the official bird of Cartagena de Indias[citation needed]. Cartagena artist, Enrique Grau, had an affinity for these birds and because of his inspiration many Colombian monuments and artistic works were created in honor of its intelligence, adaptability, cheerfulness, sociability and collaborative tendencies, diligence, craftiness, and ability to take advantage of adversity.[15]

In Austin, Texas, it is commonly found congregating near the city's numerous food trucks.[16]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Quiscalus mexicanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Powell, A.F.L.A., F.K. Barker and S.M. Lanyon. 2008. A complete species-level phylogeny of the grackles (Quiscalus spp.), including the extinct Slender-billed Grackle, inferred from mitochondrial DNA. Condor 110:718-728.
  3. ^ "Eight Reasons Grackles are Awesome". Texas Monthly. Retrieved February 19, 2015. *
  4. ^ a b c d e Johnson & Peer (2001). The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
  5. ^ a b c Skutch, AF (1954). Life histories of Central American birds. Berkeley, CA: Cooper Ornithological Society. 
  6. ^ DaCosta; et al. (2008). "Historic genetic structuring and paraphyly within the Great-tailed Grackle". Condor. 110 (1): 170–177. doi:10.1525/cond.2008.110.1.170. 
  7. ^ a b c Wehtje, W (2003). "The range expansion of the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus Gmelin) in North America since 1880". Journal of Biogeography. 30: 1593–1607. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.2003.00970.x. 
  8. ^ Peer, BD (2011). "Invasion of the Emperor’s grackle". Ardeola. 58 (2): 405–409. doi:10.13157/arla.58.2.2011.405. 
  9. ^ Grabrucker & Grabrucker (2010). "Rare Feeding Behavior of Great-Tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) in the Extreme Habitat of Death Valley". The Open Journal of Ornithology. 3: 101–104. doi:10.2174/1874453201003010101. 
  10. ^ Clapp, RB (1986). "Great-tailed grackle kills barn swallow in flight". Wilson Bulletin. 98 (4): 614–615. 
  11. ^ "UT's war on grackles" (PDF). The Daily Texan. Retrieved January 6, 2013. * Hermes JJ (2005). UT's war on grackles. Daily Texan. section. 8A.
  12. ^ a b Johnson; et al. (2000). "Male mating strategies and the mating system of great-tailed grackles". Behavioral Ecology. 11 (2): 132–141. doi:10.1093/beheco/11.2.132. 
  13. ^ a b Logan, CJ (2016). "Behavioral flexibility and problem solving in an invasive bird". PeerJ. 4: 1975. PMC 4860340Freely accessible. PMID 27168984. doi:10.7717/peerj.1975. 
  14. ^ "Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) (Gmelin, JF, 1788)". Avibase: The World data bird base. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Cartagena La Heróica: María Mulata". Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Troublesome great-tailed grackle spreads north, west". Retrieved 14 August 2016. 

Further reading

  • Johnson, K., and B. D. Peer. 2001. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 576 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great-tailed_Grackle
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