The Georgia Wild newsletter last month highlighted some really great cams on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ website that are getting better with each passing day. The Landings Bird Cam features a recently expanded family of great horned owls, who live in a nest that was originally built by bald eagles. The nest is occupied most of the day since great horned owls are primarily nocturnal. So there’s a good chance you’ll see a vigilant parent atop or beside the two growing owlets in the nest if you take a peek during EST daylight hours.Speaking of eagles, if you’re in the mood for dynamic and large birds of prey tending to their young and want a little more daytime action, you can go right to the bald eagle source. The Minnesota DNR’s EagleCam has plenty of action to satisfy any appetite. The dark, fluffy eaglets have very recently hatched, and they’re just about as cute as they come, especially when one of their parents is feeding or teaching them bird basics. For those looking to observe nesting habits from the beginning, the Falcon Cam run by the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission shows a fairly consistent peregrine occupant. The nest, perched a dizzying 18 floors up at the Nebraska State Capitol, is still awaiting its clutch! And still, if 24-hour streams of miniature yet budding sky predators isn’t your thing, the Bella Hummingbird Nest cam in La Verne, California may be the nectar to your cheery blossom. Bella, an Allen’s hummingbird, and her two roughly Tic Tac-sized eggs can brighten even an already sunny day. The eggs are expected to hatch within the next two weeks! Whew, technology is something! But it’s still a lot more than cleverly camouflaged cameras that let you keep an eye on and learn from birds and other animals anywhere there is a screen and an Internet connection. If you’re looking for more hands-on adventure, especially as the winter thaws, the Pocket Ranger® mobile apps have got the goods. Download and get out for some spring adventuring near you!
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual event for both recreational bird counters and those focused on the contribution it makes to our knowledge of bird life and wellbeing. The Christmas Bird Count takes place at over two thousand “count circles” across the Western Hemisphere, each with a diameter of 15 miles. Each year, tens of thousands of participants show up to lend their binoculars to the effort. The bird count contributes to the study of birds internationally and here in the United States, and is one of the best and longest-running examples of citizen science in action. But its origins are modest and fairly local to the Northeastern U.S.The Christmas Bird Count, or “census” as it was originally called, was the brainchild of Frank Chapman, an ornithologist, field guide author, and early-on member of the Audubon Society. In 1900, Chapman, along with 26 other observers at 25 sites across North America, set out on Christmas morning to make a list and tally of every bird species and specimen they encountered within a given area. The count was a response to the traditional Christmas “side hunt” where teams of hunters would compete to bring in the most trophies, but was also in conversation with the environmental changes that were apparent even 115 years ago. The point of the bird count was, of course, to count and record as many unique birds as possible and get the attendees out into the fresh air just like its hunting-based counterpart. The count also bears ties to the nascent conservationist and preservationist movements.
You may be wondering why we’re even talking about this, since Christmas has already fluttered past. Good news, everyone! The official Christmas Bird Count lasts through the holidays and wraps on January 5. There’s a map of this year’s counts in addition to organizer contact information available here.But if the ship has sailed or there just isn’t a Christmas Bird Count near you, you can satisfy your bird counting desires or add to your “life list” by grabbing your guide and heading out for a walk in your yard or around your neighborhood. Or perhaps even to a state park, like those you can find with our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps!
On September 22nd, it was decided that the greater sage-grouse will not be protected under the Endangered Species Act. This news comes as a delight to ranchers, big industry leaders, and some conservationists while other environmentalists think this decision isn’t doing all it can for the sage-grouse.
These birds call eleven Western sagebrushes (the Sagebrush Sea, approximately 165 million acres) their home and are not keen to human development. They depend on the sagebrush for food, especially in the winter, and conservation of the sage-grouse would benefit many other species that also rely on the sagebrush for survival. Watching their unique mating ritual is a treat for visitors as well, one that shows the sage-grouse strutting and fanning their tail feathers about theatrically.As development continues out West, the greater sage-grouse suffer and have been steadily declining for decades. In 2010, their populations were low enough that they should have been protected under the Endangered Species Act, however, the federal government claimed to have other priorities that led to it not being added. Some environmental groups believe this was done out of economic pressure from the oil, gas, mining, and agriculture industries.
The greater sage-grouse avoided being added to the list again due to heavily managed land-use plans by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, which ensure that public and private land will be protected and improved with the greater sage-grouse in mind. Again, however, there is a split on opinions with this ruling. Some environmental groups are saying that the ruling isn’t strict enough while big industries affected by these limitations are saying they’re too harsh. In the end, these big companies face less constricting restraints than what they would have had to endure if the bird had been listed as endangered.
In the meantime, both sides are threatening litigation to either reduce the limitations or have the sage-grouse be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The sage-grouse’s eligibility for being listed as an endangered species will be reevaluated in five years, in which time its population will hopefully start to grow regardless of what happens in court.
Common Wildlife “Emergencies”
When it comes to wildlife, we like the Center for Wildlife‘s motto: Don’t rescue unless rescuing is needed. While some wildlife injuries require expert medical attention, there are other injuries or situations that either do not need human intervention or can be treated or resolved at home. Here are three common wildlife emergencies and what you can do to help.
Situation 1: You heard or saw a bird strike a window.
From raptors to tiny songbirds, when the sun strikes a window just right, a bird in flight may not see it in time or believe it’s a valid flight corridor. Some birds succumb to the injuries sustained from such a collision. Others may survive the collision, but — due to shock — become easy pickings for a predator. It’s these disoriented survivors that could use a little help! Below are six steps for rescuing just such a stunned bird:
- If you have seen or heard a bird careen into a window, the first thing you can do is find a box with a lid. Poke holes in the lid for ventilation and add some paper towels as bedding.
- Bring the box with lid outside and begin looking for your bird. Most likely, the bird will be directly under the window in a dazed state. If the bird is in this condition (dazed, on the ground, easily caught), it could use your help.
- Gently scoop up the bird and place in the box. Take a moment to assess the bird’s condition. Is there any blood, and if so, how much? Do the bird’s wings look broken? If there is a lot of blood or the bird appears to have broken bones, call your local wildlife rescue for guidance. If the bird only appears dazed, secure the lid over the box and bring inside.
- Find a quiet, warm, dark space inside your home, such as a closet or a kitchen cabinet. With the lid still in place, leave the box with the bird in this quiet place. The quiet darkness mimics nighttime, which puts the bird in a restorative sleeping state.
- After thirty minutes to an hour, check on your bird. Quietly and carefully pull up the lid on the box. If the bird seems more energetic, take the box outside, remove the lid and let the bird fly away.
- If the bird does not leave the box or if you can easily catch him again, place the bird back in the box, secure with lid, and return to that quiet place within your house for an hour more. When another hour is up, take the box outside again, open lid, and give the bird another chance to fly away. If the bird still shows signs of injury, contact your local wildlife rescue. The bird may be suffering from internal injuries that need to be professionally treated.
Situation 2: You’ve found a baby bird on the ground.
Finding a baby bird outside it’s nest may be disconcerting, but don’t sound the alarm just yet! A chick outside the nest doesn’t always mean that it’s in danger. First, assess the situation. Does the chick look injured? If the chick looks healthy, decide if it is a fledgling or a nestling. For most birds, the key difference between the two is that a fledgling is feathered, closely resembles an adult bird and can easily perch on a thumb or finger. A nestling is too young to perch and is often more fuzz than feathers. If you’ve come across a nestling, locate the nest and carefully place the chick inside. Unlike the old wives’ tale, the parents will return to the nest to care for the chick. If you can’t find the nest or the nest appears damaged, call your local wildlife rescue. They will have the staff and facilities for successfully raising a chick.While it may appear incapable of survival, a fledgling outside the nest is oftentimes perfectly okay. Even when on the ground, the parents will continue to feed a fledgling, and within a few days, the fledgling will be flying. Give the fledgling space; keep children and pets away so the parent birds will not be deterred from caring for the chick. Also keep in mind that not all bird species raise their young in trees. Some birds (such as shorebirds, pheasants and certain owls species) raise their young in scrapes on the ground.
Situation 3: You’ve found baby squirrels out of their nest and/or on the ground.
With the nice weather comes construction projects, and oftentimes this means cutting down old or nuisance trees. Trees provide valuable habitat for a variety of species, such as birds, porcupines, and squirrels. When a tree is cut down, these animal inhabitants have to re-home themselves.Nests of baby squirrels are frequently found within these logged trees. If the nest is in a relatively safe spot on the fallen tree, resist the urge to scoop up the baby squirrels and rush them to a wildlife rescue! Instead observe the nest from a distance for about an hour. Oftentimes, the mother squirrel is busy locating and reassembling a nest in a nearby tree. Within an hour, this mother squirrel will have moved all of her babies to the new location. Only if the mother squirrel does not appear or if you can confirm that the mother has died, call your local wildlife rescue for guidance. Raising baby squirrels is immensely time-consuming and should only be done by professionals to ensure that the squirrels can be released back into the wild when they are old enough.
Ways You Can Keep Wildlife Safe
- Be prepared for wildlife rescues by storing a box with a lid, heavy work gloves and blankets in the trunk of your car and/or a closet at home. Save contact information for the nearest wildlife rescue and Fish and Wildlife office in your phone. Remember all wild animals are potentially dangerous and when injured, their first means of defense may be to attack. Keep yourself safe by adequately judging the situation first, approaching and handling injured wildlife only when absolutely necessary.
- Keep birds from striking your windows by breaking up their external reflection. You can do this by drawing the shades or adhering stickers of hawks, crows or owls to the glass. If you have bird feeders in front of your windows, consider relocating them to a safer area.
- Don’t throw food scraps from your car window! All this time you may have been chucking banana peels and apple cores from your car window thinking you were helping the planet when in reality you’re setting a deadly trap for wildlife. Trash brings all kinds of wildlife looking for a snack onto the roadways. Keep wildlife safe by throwing away your trash in the proper receptacles.
- Keep your cat indoors! Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year in the United States! Give birds and the small mammals in your neighborhood a fighting chance by keeping your cat indoors.
- If not endangering your property, consider leaving construction projects until after the spring. From birds to squirrels to skunks, each spring wildlife locates quiet shelters to raise their young, and this may be the very shelter you are gearing up to renovate or demolish. Delaying your construction project a few weeks keeps you from disrupting or harming wildlife. Also, wildlife viewing opportunities abound when you temporarily provide habitat for these wildlife families.
- Volunteer at a local wildlife rehabilitation center! Wildlife rescues often need assistance with cleaning enclosures, caring for orphaned baby mammals, and repairing on-site structures.
Looking for wildlife? Discover wildlife viewing opportunities near you with our Pocket Ranger® apps. Share your bird and wildlife sightings with fellow outdoor enthusiasts on our Bird Feed® and Pocket Ranger Trophy Case® apps!
The weather outside is frightening, you’re freezing even under all those layers of clothes, and the birds? They’re doing fine, dallying from branch to branch, appearing brave and prepared. Though most birds migrate, some are year-round, staying for the arduous months. We wonder, how do birds stay warm in the winter? Like us, birds employ a variety of survival tactics, from using their downy feathers as protection to staying huddled in groups, and increasing food intake. Discover the many ways birds keep warm and cozy this winter.
Birds keep warm in several ways during cold weather. One way is by eating high-energy foods, especially foods with high fat content, which works as an insulator and an energy reserve. Birds eat during the day and build up fat reserves. Typically, a bird can put on up to 15 – 20 percent of its body weight in extra fat before it has trouble flying. Birds are careful not to overeat, though, since this will make them vulnerable when trying to out-fly predators.
Once content with food, birds use their metabolism to generate heat. Birds have white fat (humans have brown fat), which becomes a high-energy fuel used to generate the warming process, called thermogenisous. This simply means shivering. Shivering adds heat from muscle movement. All birds shiver through the cold to keep their core temp from about 106°F to 109°F. Unlike the surrounding temperature, a bird’s interior is basking in the sun. Feathers come in handy, since even a thin layer will shield birds from the outside air temperature, which could mean a difference of over 100 degrees!
Feathers keep cold air away from their bodies and also trap body heat; in addition birds can tuck in a leg or two under their down feathers. It’s wise for birds to stay out of windy areas, and hide inside nooks, crannies, or woodpecker cavities. Nestling inside a tree or sitting under the sun beats staying in the bare cold. Some birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches, some woodpeckers, jays, and crows will store away (cache) food during warmer months to eat throughout the winter.
When it’s cold outside, birds must abstain from energetic activities like singing or building nests to conserve energy. Birds also huddle together to conserve warmth — how cute! This helps to make them look not so vulnerable when a predator is around. While winter halts their reproduction, some birds use this strategy to counter death when their numbers are low.
It may appear that all birds are surviving winter, but sadly, not all will make it. Some birds don’t have the adaptation to withstand cold temperatures. In that case, migration is the best option, but it also means less time feeding, more time flying, and a higher chance of encountering danger, so our bird friends may be staying after all. They could use some help staying warm. When birds shiver they raise their metabolic rate, which keeps them warm but uses their fat reserves. You can set up a bird feeder and fill it with high quality seeds to replenish their energy. Also consider leaving out some fresh, unfrozen water, and adding a warm shelter like evergreens or a roost box to your backyard.Next time you see a whole family of birds up in a tree, know that they’re not just hanging out, but in fact employing some survival strategies. And when they’re out singing in the spring, this means they’ve survived the winter and need to attract mates, plus defend their territory. It’s a call that seems to say, “I’m alive!”
Birds are a fascinating sight, but what happens when poets encounter birds? Do they take on a bird watcher’s approach or get lost in metaphors? Throughout literary history, writers have taken these images to translate something personal. Amusingly enough, a poet’s fascination goes unnoticed by the muse. We find ourselves thinking: “It flew away without saying goodbye!” The thing of admiration for poets or bird watchers comes from our ability to attach meaning to nature. Birds can be a symbol of freedom, wisdom, patience, an omen or whatever our creative mood fancies. Our connection to nature influences our writing, and our interpretion of reality comes out in pretty verses. Try writing your own! There are so many ways to go about it. But first see what wonderful ways the poet’s from below interpreted their encounter with birds.
A Bird came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought –
He stirred his Velvet Head
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home –
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam –
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.
The Sunlight on the Garden
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.
Today I wrote some words that will see print.
Maybe they will last “forever,” in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird—a goldfinch?—
that had flown into the garden shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings on the deceptive light
of the dusty, warped-shut window.
Without much reflection, for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy soft hands
pinned it against a pane,
held loosely cupped
this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball,
to all that lovely perishing outdoors.
The Dalliance of Eagles
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
They talk all day
and when it starts to get dark
they lower their voices
to converse with their own shadows
and with the silence.
They are like everybody
all day chatter,
and at night bad dreams.
With their gold rings
on their clever faces,
and the heart restless
They are like everybody,
the ones that talk best
have separate cages.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
For more bird poems, read a bird watcher’s stream of consciousness while on a trail or a silly story about birds arguing: The Virtue of Birds. Interested in bird watching? Check out our Pocket Ranger® mobile Apps to find a park with bird watching, and to document your findings use the new, Pocket Ranger Bird Feed™ App.
In 2006, it was discovered that one of our earliest fossilized ancestors, the 2.5 million year old Taung Child, was probably killed by a large bird of prey. The ancient bird left its telltale beak marks in the eye sockets of Taung Child, confirming what many of us already knew: Birds of prey have been tormenting earthbound creatures for millions of years. Birds of prey tend to eat small mammals and fish, but a few, like the golden eagle are known to prey on small goats and deer (perhaps even small humans!). Also known as raptors, these birds are generally characterized by keen eyesight, strong talons for gripping prey, and a curved beak for ripping off hunks of flesh.
Who is the baddest raptor of them all? We have used our own top secret Raptor Rank® algorithms to determine the 7 greatest North American birds of prey.
7. Bald Eagle: 37
Intimidation Factor: 7
Notes: The national bird is a jack of all trades and master of none. It is neither the consummate fisherman (like that of an osprey) nor is it the epitome of a woodland hunter (like the red-tailed hawk). Mostly, you can find bald eagles scavenging the coastline like no-good, beach bum seagulls. Eagles are also the subject of a massive media cover-up: That shrieking war cry we associate with eagles? It’s actually overdubbed from the red-tailed hawk.6. Great Horned Owl: 38
Intimidation Factor: 8
Notes: The great horned owl is ready go at a moment’s notice. His specialized feathers allow him to slip silently through the air in the dead of night, sneaking up on prey unawares. He knows more than any other bird, but he’s humble about it. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
5. Osprey: 38
Intimidation Factor: 8
Notes: The osprey is the samurai of the sky, a fastidious tactician who performs precision airstrikes on unsuspecting fish. The scales on its talons are backwards-facing so as to act like barbs. Closeable nostrils allow the osprey to dive without getting water up its nose. You can’t go wrong this bird.4. Peregrine Falcon: 39
Intimidation Factor: 6
Notes: The peregrine falcon can reach speeds of up to 250 mph, making it the fastest animal in the kingdom of animals. Because of its worldwide distribution, it is estimated that peregrines prey on up to a fifth of the world’s bird species. When you’re causing a fifth of the planet’s bird species to have nightmares about you… that’s power.
3. Red-tailed Hawk: 40
Intimidation Factor: 9
Notes: The red-tailed hawk is a cold-blooded killer that soars in dihedral angles because it understands the basic principle of Euclidean geometry: angles kill things efficiently. Because of their hunting prowess and ability to be trained, red-tails are used by most American falconers.
2. California Condor: 41
Intimidation Factor: 10
Notes: With a wingspan of 9.8 feet, the California condor is the largest North American land bird. The Condor’s size has been mythologized by several Native American tribes, notably the Yokut who believe the wings cause lunar eclipses. Condors live up to 60 years, making them the most experienced bird of prey in the world. We could solve many of the world’s problems if only we could combine the wisdom of an owl with the experience of a condor.1. Golden Eagle: 43
Intimidation Factor: 9
Notes: Powerful talons, a 7-foot wingspan, and breathtaking speed combine to make this the greatest North American bird of prey. It is the only bird brave enough to fight a condor over a kill. Kyrgyz falconers use golden eagles to hunt foxes and even wolves. These eagles don’t care whether they live or die, they just live for the hunt.
Want to see these raptors for yourself? Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for binoculars and much more!