Pigeons Are Pretty Cool

nest-birds1-pigeonsOut of all the birds, the Pigeon has to be one of my favorites.  One reason is because I have always found it interesting how a group of pigeons perched on a building, would take off… fly around in circles and then land back on the same building.  Also, a childhood friend of mine (Chuck Plum) has a few pet pigeons and he talks a lot about them.  He got them from one his company’s clients.  He’s a tree guy for Seattle City Tree Service and one day while he was trimming a few trees at a home the owner asked him if he would be interested in taking care of some pigeons because he (the owner) was going overseas.  When the owner returned, he told Chuck he could keep the pigeons because he was starting to travel more.  Chuck is crazy about those birds and looks forward to getting home to look after them.  

Pigeons are characterized as a broader or meatier bodied bird with a shorter neck. 

A couple of things that make them so remarkable are both their high intelligence and natural navigational skills.  Their navigation is so incredible that you may recall seeing something known as a carrier pigeon from either a movie or cartoon that would deliver letters.  The particular species recognized for that is the Homing Pigeon.  It has been shown that these birds will use something in their nose that some scientist believes to be a natural compass experiments proved if the scientists interfered with these two internal magnets they carry in their nose that they would fail to find their way back home.  They can’t navigate by following their nose alone, though; they are smart enough to use the sun as well as make use of obstacles made by man like streets, or other landmarks.  With their hearing they can even detect and avoid storms at quite a distance. 

If you want to be further intrigued, I will also tell you that they are smart enough to be of few to be able to recognize their selves in a mirror, crazy, huh?.

Today for most common folk pigeons can be a bit of a pest leaving droppings on freshly cleaned cars, but at one point even their poop was a sought after resource for fertilizer! 

As a social bird, pigeons tend to stick around in flocks, and will typically only have two chicks together with their mate.  Although they can only lay two eggs at once, they will happily lay eggs multiple times throughout the year.

Pigeons are known to mate for life in which both parents take an equal role in caring for their young.  These birds live an average of about ten to fifteen years and are ready to leave the nest at around two months of age.  They have a unique way of feeding their young by feeding them a naturally produced form of milk that is obtained when the baby chick sticks their beak inside their parents mouth to a special lining inside that will release the milk.  Even more unique that this milk is not solely produced by the female bird it is also generated by the male as well!

Another interesting fact of pigeons is they are one of the birds that you can own as a pet, in some places.  I have known someone myself that cared for many pigeons and rescued them from harm. 

For the most part, pigeons enjoy eating seeds but will occasionally eat some insects.  They are great for indoor pets or outdoor pets if you can safely keep them away from predators who will want to kill them.  Although they should be kept safe, they have a history of living very close to humans, and as a pet can live in the same house as dogs peacefully as well as fearlessly.

Is This Really A Bird’s Nest?

nest-birds1-blue-eggWith all of this talk about birds I can’t forget to talk about where they live, lay eggs, incubate eggs and raise offspring. A bird’s nest is a common term and pretty much anyone who hears it knows exactly what it is but what’s not so common is the fact that a bird’s nest can vary greatly from species to species.

What do you think about when you hear “bird’s nest”?  Do you envision a small structure in a tree made of twigs and leaves?  Well, you would be partially correct but bird’s nest can also be made on the ground or inside a drilled hole in a tree.  Some birds don’t even make nests so the idea of a bird’s nest, as we know it, can’t just rest in trees or on the roof of a house.

For example, seabirds like the Auk, Uria, and the Razorbill don’t make nests. They just lay their eggs on narrow ledges and within rock crevices along cliffs. This is the same area where they breed at as well.  Mother nature thought of everything because the shape of these bird’s eggs are slightly different.  They lay eggs that are drastically pointed at one end.  This shape causes the eggs to roll in a circle and this is important because without this point, the eggs would easily roll off the side of a cliff or ledge.  Because the eggs are so exposed and unprotected, the parent birds almost never leave their eggs unattended.

Another non traditional nest and probably the simplest one is the basic Scrape nest.  This type of nest is a slight indention in the soil or vegetation and only deep enough so that the eggs aren’t rolling around.  The parent bird usually will add a bit of debris, feathers, or shells to help keep the eggs from sinking in case there is rain.  Sandgrouse, Ostriches, Bustards, Tinamous, Partridges, Many Ducks, Quail, most Shorebirds, Pheasants, most Terns, and some Falcons build this type of nest. This type of nesting leaves the eggs highly susceptible to predators so the parents are experts at camouflaging nests and have mastered diversion tactics to draw attention away from their nests.

Birds like the busy Woodpecker make their home in the cavity of trees.  Actually, Woodpeckers will make a cavity in a tree and that will become its nest. nest-birds1-cavityWoodpeckers and just a handful of other birds are adept at making cavity nests.  The whole process takes about two weeks to complete and the nests will be used for about a year. There are birds, such as Bluebirds, Tits, Parrots, and a few other birds that don’t make their own Cavity Nest.  These birds will use old ones abandoned by other Cavity Nest builders. Usually, cavity nests are built on the downward facing side of a branch to make it difficult for predators to access the nest.  Also, when the nest is built on the downward facing side, it reduces the chances of rain flooding the cavity.

A platform nest is a large nest usually built by birds of prey, or raptors. Depending on the bird, the platform nest can be on the ground or elevated but wherever they are, the nests are many times bigger than the bird.  This occurs because the bird will just add to the nest over the course of many years instead of building a new one.  These types of platform nests can easily damage trees if the nest is kept active by the birds.

Leaftossers, Puffins, Miners, Shearwaters, Crab Plovers, Motmots, Kingfishers, and Todies are among the birds that use Burrow Nests. Typically, the incubating parent, the young and the eggs are all sheltered by these burrow nests.  Most birds who use these types of nests, excavate their own nest but there are a few that will just use leftover ones left by another bird or animal.




Migrating is Serious Business

nest-birds1-bar-headed-gooseEvery since grade school I pretty much understood, or thought that I understood everything about birds and their migrating process.  And I think that my understanding was basically the same for a lot of other people.  Birds migrate to somewhere warmer during the colder seasons of that particular region.  I never really thought about the “why” to the migrating process, I just knew that it happened.  

I’m a simple guy so the explanation was basic for me.  Since I’m not crazy about cold weather and if I live outdoors, why would I stay somewhere that’s cold?  I would just go to a warmer climate so that I could be comfortable while I eat and sleep outside.  With further investigation though, it didn’t take me long to realize that my thought process was limited and came from my current reality of not having to actually live a life that’s exclusively outdoors and that I didn’t have to hunt for my food.  

Migration is, of course, a seasonal event and of the birds that do it, they migrate mainly because a lot of the “food” that they regularly partake of isn’t available during the colder months.  Of course, many birds aren’t built for extremely cold weather and would more than likely die if exposed too long to the cold but the main reason for their migration process is because their main food sources don’t do well in the cold either.  So, its necessary that some birds migrate in order to survive. Where there is an abundance of their food source, birds are able to carry on with the natural order of things like mating and reproducing.  

If you notice, I subtly mentioned that not all birds migrate.  Most do, but these birds don’t: northern mockingbird, grouse, gray jay, ptarmigan, common raven, quail species, Townsend’s solitaire, a lot of the owl species, Carolina wren, pileated woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and downy woodpeckers.  These birds are adaptive to their regions and will survive off of what the land provides for them during the colder season.  

Bird migration is a seasonal event that usually patterns north to south movements.  These north to south movements of the birds happen along what is called a flyway.  A flyway is just a general term for the path that birds take when they are migrating.  A flyway can span over continents and even oceans.  

Migration for birds comes with serious drawbacks… the main drawback being preyed on by birds of prey and by humans as well.  Along with this, because they often travel really long distances, birds become easier prey simply out of sheer exhaustion.  Nature has it to where certain types of birds of prey will have their breeding season during this migration time so that they can feed their young the migrating birds.  nest-birds1-arctic-tern

Of the birds that migrate, there are two types that I found to be interesting.  The arctic tern is one of those birds and is considered to be strongly migratory.  Here’s what I mean.  The arctic tern is a seabird and migrates from its northern breeding grounds to the Antarctic coast for the southern summer and then six months later it goes back again, usually seeing two summers.  Studies have been done on the Arctic Tern and they have shown that the annual round trip for birds nesting in Iceland and Greenland is about 44,100 miles and 56,000 miles for those that nest in the Netherlands.  It nests once every 1 to 3 years but most of its lifespan is spent flying, making its long southern migration.

The bar headed goose is another migrating bird that I found to be interesting.  Why?  Well, because it is considered to be the world’s highest flying bird.  It breeds in large colonies in Central Asia near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia.  When its time for them to migrate these geese will take their path over the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas.  Its has been reported that some of the geese were tagged and it was shown that some of the geese got up to heights of 18,000 ft.  They travel from lowland India to breed in the Tibetan plateaus and will make the 7 hour flight straight through if the weather conditions are right.  If conditions aren’t right, they will turn around and attempt the marvelous journey gain the next day.

Duck, Duck…Nope! Just Goose.

nest-birds1-gooseRight before spring starts, if you live anywhere near a pond or lake (small or large), early in the morning you may often hear geese flying through the air honking.  They are easy to spot because they usually fly pretty low, are larger than most of the common birds around your home, and they have a distinctive honk.  They kind of look like a bigger version of a duck. 

They are a large, soft, sometimes white bird known for producing some of the cutest children imaginable also known as goslings.  They’ll have these goslings by hatching eggs that on average come to around five or six eggs in their nest for about a month or so.  The interesting fact on this is that they seem to take quite a preference to their original nesting area, because unless driven away they tend to return to it every time they nest. 

Some people consider geese to be adventurers because they migrate with a flight range of thousands of miles, and in general, will begin flight migrations within months of their birth.  A resident Goose isn’t very common, but it does tend to happen time to time when they cannot migrate due to an injury they suffered or other possible unfortunate circumstance. 

Geese are a kind, loving bird that only attack humans when they think their young are in danger.  On a beautiful, pleasant spring evening, geese can be quite a site.  I love watching a family of them from a park bench or as they fly by in their typical v-formation as they migrate starting the month of October. 

Birds like Geese or similar go through a molting period when they are not migrating.  Molting is when they get rid of their old feathers to make way for the growth of their new ones.  They go through it at least once every year around summer for a short time of about two months before they are in the air once again making the wind in a group which to them is called a gaggle. 

If geese are encountering a predator, they spread their wings and begin making a loud honking noise to scare danger away.  If not successful during their time for molting they have to hope they are near water which may be why you see them so often near lakes and ponds.  A goose can dive quite far underwater, but even so most of their time is spent on land which happens to be where they get most of their food through the process of grazing. 

Some professional golfers can find geese a nuisance because geese prefer to eat the fertilized grass over just the regular non-fertilized stuff.  So for that reason, they can be found on a golf course every once in a while where not too far off a golfer is preparing a swing wondering why there is a gaggle in his way.

Geese are wondrous creatures and just one of many birds that I like to watch fly in the sky!

It’s Time to get Tropical

nest-birds1-toucanTropical birds refer to birds that would primarily reside in a tropical climate.  These bird species are some of the most beautiful of all birds and have a broad range of colors.  When you think of tropical birds, you think of birds like a parrot, love birds, or a toucan that derive mostly from the rain forest.  Out of these birds, the Toucan is my favorite. Its probably one of the reasons that I Fruit Loops so much.  The most famous of these birds is likely the Parrot although there are currently hundreds of known species of them.  They are known for their verbal behavior, but one of the biggest talkers that people typically like to take home is the African Grey Parrot.  These are not the kind of birds you would see in a pet store these are the sort of birds you would travel to particular places like Zoos to see.

There are differences in a tropical bird raised in captivity versus the wild.  Wild tropical birds aren’t used to being fed, having a tiny area to live in, or thousands of human visitors.  As with most animals, tropical birds thrive best where they have free reign that they feast in, adapt too, and become their selves in without the interruption of their natural habitat.

Due to their beauty, tropical birds are prone to attack commonly by predators in such forests.  That is why it is best for some species to be kept in captivity to save from extinction due to deforestation and other methods of destruction of their natural habitat.   Wild is best, but when it comes to preserving their species, endangered tropical birds are best kept in captivity. nest-birds1-tropical

With the threat of being trapped illegally and deforestation of places such as the rain forest before much longer, we can begin to cease seeing such beautiful flying creatures that life has given us.  It almost makes it worth it to book a ticket now to the rainforest before they disappear entirely!

Unlike non-tropical birds such as a crow or other bird species, tropical birds have a much more natural omnivorous diet for things like fruit, seeds, grass, insects, or small reptiles they can manage to grasp.

One of the things that make these sorts of birds so unique and beautiful is their evolutionary adaption to living in such environments.  The hummingbird, for example, will use its long needle-like beak to gather flower nectar for food.  Also, things like the long bill of the Toucan as mentioned earlier that is used to grab fruit from a nearby branch and crush it down into something eatable.  The Macaw knows what fruit is poisonous and knows how to cure it for a nice steady meal that most other omnivores likely just avoid giving them a unique first grab at it.

Pet Birds, Friend or Foe?

nest-birds1-petPet birds make fantastic companions in today’s households.  There are so many species to choose from that are also easy and cheap to care for.  If you go to a general pet store, you will likely see many parakeets which you cannot go wrong with.  Feeding them is cheap, and if you do it right the cleanup is pretty easy as well.

With dogs, people complain about them making a big racket or tearing up the place.  However, pet birds only chirp and, for the most part, remain in a cage.  There is not much a pet bird could do to a household probably if they tried.  They like to play with different toys like rope and such which can be entertaining, but also are as loving as any other pet can be with a proper owner.

As far as equipment goes every bird needs a cage, but what kind depends on whether you would like a bird as an indoor pet or outdoor pet!  Having a bird as an outdoor pet may seem a bit strange seeing as you’d think they would just fly right off.  However, with the proper cage and care, you can have just as a good time with your pet bird outside as inside.  With an inside bird although you have to have a cage to put your pet in at night.  Good news is, your whole house can be a cage!  With clipped wings of course and some proper time to bond and train first, the bird will sometimes be happy just sitting on your shoulder or a table watching what you’re doing.

Training a bird can be pretty easy it’s certainly easier than cleaning their cage after them.  They make plenty of tools to help, and there are endless resources for it, but you’ll fall in love with the idea when the first thing to teach your bird is to stand on your finger.  One of the things that pet birds are most known for are the ability of some species to mimic humans or other noises around them.  Some birds like parakeets or parrots are fully capable of this, because believe it or not birds are quite intelligent, and are almost constantly observing their surroundings.

Love them or hate them pet birds can be very affectionate creatures, and have their personalities or characteristics just as other pets.  If you live in an apartment, then a bird may be just the perfect pet for you to fill a hole in your life.  They don’t leave hair everywhere, don’t bark all day, and cleaning up after them is confined to one area of your home.  They are quite social creates and can be a good listener when you get home from work, and in fact quite possibly more social than dogs or cats.  They also tend to be much cheaper to groom since they do almost all of their grooming their selves with their many beautiful colors and species to choose from!

An Elephant Never Forgets!…or Was That a Crow?

nest-birds1-crowCrows are a very well-known species they seem like they almost cover the planet.  Some of that may be because there are approximately 40 species of these beautiful omnivores with only a few of them considered endangered.  A contributing factor to this may be that they are smart birds. 

Research has shown that it is possible that a crow may recognize, and remember a person’s face, and they use this information to help keep their selves out of danger of any particularly evil spirited human being. 

As omnivores they are not picky eaters in the least bit in fact food seems to be the only thing crows in the wild will collect while some birds are comically known in different forms of media for the collection and yearning desire for “shiny” objects like coins or such.  With some exceptions, crows are beautiful birds covered head to toe in black and can sometimes be mistaken for a raven.  However, ravens are bigger than crows and tend to flap more often than they would soar in comparison.

For years, crows have been thought of as a nuisance for hard working farmers.  The old well-known invention known as the “scarecrow” was given to us indirectly by the American Crow as they were known to destroy crops.  The scarecrow was made, hence the name, to scare away crows by putting what is supposed to look like a farmer up in the field.  These days if you see a scarecrow it’s typically in a horror movie instead. 

Studies in more recent years have led professionals to believe that crows don’t harm crops as they previously found.  Since they pretty much will eat anything they appear to help farmer’s fields by eating the most pestilent insects.  They can see them sometimes in a field trailing behind a farmers plow to gather up any worms that it may have dug up.  Off of the farmer’s field, they are great for helping us out with things like clearing up roadkill from the middle of a road that’s left to rot.

As well as being part of a large family known as the Corvidae family they are known to be quite social to each other.  We have yet to understand their broad spectrum of vocalizations and calls fully.  They are typical to stay somewhat in the area of which they are born until they die doing things such as protecting their chicks. 

Dependent on the particular species of crow a female crow is known to lay anywhere between three and nine eggs.  At around four weeks they can leave the nest, and have a lifespan in most cases of somewhere in between fourteen, and twenty years.  Unlike other species of birds that may gather in a “flock,” when a bunch of crows begins to gather together it is known as a “murder” of crows.  Some of them in more northern and colder regions will tend to migrate, but for the most part, as long as they are in a reasonably warm climate not all of them will migrate.

Top Of The Food Chain

As I mentioned in my last post, there are roughly 60 species of eagles, in total, across the world.  The majority of the 60 are from Europe, Asia, and Africa.  There are only two species of eagles in North America.  The other twelve are in Central America, South America, and Australia.  

Eagles are surprisingly large birds.  Most of the time they are spotted soaring over a huge body of water or perched high on a tree but if you take a closer look, you’ll see the true nature of these powerful raptors.  They can be as big as 15lbs.  Most of the eagles around the world are larger than any other raptor besides certain vultures.  

There is one species of eagles that is an exception to their large size.  It is the booted eagle.  It actually is the smallest of the species.  They can found in North Africa, Europe and Asia and grow up to about 2lbs.  

As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, eagles can be divided into four groups (unofficially). We have the:

Harpy Eagles
The harpy eagle is the most powerful and the largest raptor that is found in the Americas.  They don’t inhabit any areas in North America.  They are found more in rain forests in the upper canopy.  In the group, you have harpy eagles, crested eagles, papuan eagles, philippine eagle, chaco eagle, and the solitary eagle.  I must note that all the eagles in this group aren’t all necessarily related.  They are just unofficially grouped together.

Snake Eagles
These eagles can be called both snake eagles and serpent eagles.  The name basically tells it all.  These particular eagles live primarily off of snakes and other reptiles.  They have a medium to large build. These egales include: Short-toed snake eagle, Beaudouin’s snake eagle, Black-chested snake eagle, Brown snake eagle, Southern banded snake eagle, Western banded snake eagle, Congo serpent eagle, Crested serpent eagle, Great Nicobar serpent eagle, Mountain serpent eagle, Sulawesi serpent eagle, Philippine serpent eagle, Andaman serpent eagle, Madagascan serpent eagle, Bateleur, and the Philippine eagle.

True Eagles
These are usually medium sized eagles and they inhabit New Guinea, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. The eagles in this group include: Bonelli’s eagle, Cassin’s hawk-eagle, African hawk-eagle, Rufous-bellied eagle, Golden eagle, Eastern imperial eagle, Spanish imperial eagle, Steppe eagle, Tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, Gurney’s eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, Wedge-tailed eagle, and the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

Fish eagles
These eagles can also be referred to as sea eagles.  The large part of their diet consists of fish and they will eat it no matter if its alive or dead.  This eagle group consist of White-bellied sea eagle, Sanford’s sea eagle, African fish eagle, Madagascan fish eagle, Pallas’s fish eagle, White-tailed eagle, Bald eagle, and the Steller’s sea eagle.

Because of the size and power of some of these birds of prey, they are considered to be at the top of the food chain in the world of birds and flying animals.  Although the larger raptors like the bald eagle eat mostly fish, they will hunt other animals as well.

To Seize or Take By Force

nest-birds1-cassowaryIn this post I decided to pick up where I left off with the previous post and talk a little more about birds that live by eating other animals. They are called birds of prey or just simply raptors.  “Raptor” is a Latin word and it means to seize or take by force.

Many of these raptors have some of the same traits.  Actually, there are three traits that are particular to the birds of prey. They have powerful beaks for tearing into food, powerful talons (can be considered claws) for grabbing and holding on to prey, and powerful vision for scoping out prey from long distances.

Their keen vision is what these raptors are known for… and rightly so.  They have the ability to zero in on targets that are miles away and that are under water.  The placement of their eyes gives them an outstanding range of binocular vision making it easy for them to determine distances. Their eyes are also almost two times bigger than other birds that are the same size.

Another important feature of birds of prey is their talons or claws.  These are important in that, without them, raptors wouldn’t even be able to catch the prey that they are hunting.  Sometimes the talons of the birds are used for defensive reasons.  There aren’t many that use their talons this way but a few do.

One bird called a Cassowary does.  It’s a flightless bird that can be found in the tropical forest of New Guinea and southeastern Australia.  It generally uses it’s talons for digging up fruit but when threatened, it will use its powerful claws to cause severe damage.

nest-birds1-cassowary2I must note that the internet has pegged this bird as being extremely dangerous but I don’t think that’s the case.  I haven’t encountered one of these birds in real life so I can’t say for sure if its extremely dangerous or not but of all the reports, there has only been one death to a human from these birds.  They are shy birds that keep to themselves and if provoked defend themselves by throwing a fierce kick with the 5in claw on their foot.

The Cassowary can grow up to 6 feet tall, can run up to 31 mph, jump up to 4.9ft, and is a good swimmer.  Even though their diets consists of mainly fruit they will hunt, kill, and eat smaller animals.  One of the major difference between this raptor and others is that the Cassowary is a flightless bird that doesn’t perch itself high and looks down on its prey from miles away.

One bird that does sit perched high is the Osprey (fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk are alternative names).  Its a fairly large bird that dines on fish almost exclusively.  They can be 24in in length and 71in across it’s wings.  You can find this bird all over the world with the exception of Antarctica and it will generally make its home near a body of water where fish are plentiful.  The Osprey can be recognized by its brown and greyish color.


An eagle is another raptor that hunts fish (among other things) and that shares the same features of having a powerful beak, strong talons, and keen eyesight.  There are over 60 different species of eagles and they can be found anywhere in the world. They differ from other birds of prey in that they are much larger in size .  Their wing span can go up to 7ft and they can perch up to 3ft tall.  Eagles can actually be divided into four groups and I’ll delve into those in my next post.

They Are Getting My Respect

Let’s be honest, some birds look a bit intimidating. They’re not like dogs that wag their tails when they are happy and want to play.  Birds generally have the same solemn look on their faces unless they are eating or communicating with other birds.

We all know that birds never bother humans unless we are too close to their nest or something but if you’ve ever seen an eagle or a hawk up close, in nature before then I’m sure you’ll agree that you kept an eye on it until you were out of range.  Sure, you probably admired the presence of it but I can’t believe that you didn’t also respect it out of fear of what the bird can actually do.  And they are always bigger up close then when you see them on T.V or soaring in the sky.

I remember once, a bald eagle landed on the 9th hole of a golf club that I was working at.  I thought it was pretty cool to see because I had never really seen one actually land on the ground before.  I know it sounds a bit strange but think about it, when was the last time you actually saw an eagle land and rest on the level ground?  So when I saw that eagle just chilling on hole 9 I was kind of in awe.

I was on the balcony checking it out when it started to take flight.  My jaw dropped and my eyes went wide.  The wing span on that bird was unbelievable.  If you are familiar with golf courses at all then you know there are usually only two types of birds that pretty much live on golf courses. They are crows and seagulls… and the occasional geese if there is a pond around.  Those were pretty much my only scopes of “bird” on the course before the eagle got there.  I saw them fly and land around the course so much that I stopped really paying attention to them.

But when the eagle got there I took notice.  It wasn’t grazing like the other birds normally did.  It was just standing there checking out the scenery.  When the eagle actually took off I was dumbfounded because its size was considerably larger than the other birds and I just wasn’t expecting anything like that.  As it flapped to get off the ground, bits of cut grass moved around beneath it and I could kind of hear the swooshing sound its wings were making before take off.  I talked about that eagle being on hole 9 for weeks.  It was epic for me because like I mentioned before, the only time that I had ever seen them was perched really high on the tallest tree or soaring through the sky.

Birds, for the most part, generally don’t give us humans any need to worry.  They are usually off doing their own “bird” thing but its hard not to take a respectful notice of birds that live off of eating other animals.