Bird behavior

A video bird quiz

The answer is at the end of the video, and in the text below. It has been a relatively mild winter in Massachusetts, but the blizzard of Feb 2013 put over two feet of snow on the ground, effectively eliminating most of the grassy and weedy habitat sparrows need. In such conditions the plowed edges …

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Posture and shape distinguishes male and female Dark-eyed Juncos

Backyard Bird Discoveries While watching a small flock of juncos at my bird feeder on December 17, 2012, I noticed one particularly brownish female. Considering subspecies and watching it a little further I noticed that it seemed more active and alert, darting around quickly and holding its body more upright than the other juncos. Could this …

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Is it hard for hummingbirds to hover in the rain?

Not really. A recently-published study used high-speed video of hummingbirds hovering in simulated rain to investigate questions of how hard it is to stay airborne while simultaneously getting wet (and heavier) and getting pelted with water drops that must be a significant blow to their 4 gram bodies. The conclusion is that the birds have …

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Birds slow to react to predators because… the sun gets in their eyes

An interesting study published recently found that cowbirds in bright sunlight were slower to detect predators, and cowbirds in shade were quicker. The study concludes that the delay happens because the cowbirds are slightly disabled by the glare of the bright sun. Could this explain why small birds are hard to find in bright sunny …

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The annual plumage cycle of a male American Goldfinch

Molt is the process of feather replacement. All birds do it; they have to grow new feathers once or twice a year to stay warm, dry, and airborne, and in many cases they grow differently colored feathers at different seasons to match their surroundings or to impress others of their species. Among the small songbirds, …

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New feature: a bird identification quiz

Identify the species shown in each photo by clicking the multiple choice answers. I hope to make short quizzes like this a regular feature of this website, so please leave feedback on what you like or dislike about it. Thanks!

The mystery of the orange-throated hummingbirds

Update 16 August: a new post Progress on the orange-throated hummingbird mystery. Update 14 Aug 2011: A follow-up to this post is now available, tempering some of these points and adding more questions – Orange-throated Hummingbirds: more questions. Every year in August and September, a few perplexed observers in eastern North America send out questions about …

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