More snow pictures of the most recent storm to hit NC.
This nest of Carolina Wrens (CAWR) is the third we’ve had in the Farmyard this year –that we knew about, anyway–. Mom and Dad wrens have been very protective of their three youngsters, but now that the babies are a little bigger, I managed to sneak a peak at the little ones without being crashed into by a grumpy parent.
Normally our CAWR nests are well hidden up in the rafters of the barns. This one, however, is my favorite of the season. Can you guess where it is? Post your ideas in the comment section, I’ll post the answer as soon as the babies fledge!
Once upon a midnight dreary… I decided to write about crows and ravens. Yea, I know…not as good as old Edgar but,nonetheless I am sure you will learn something in this post. One thing is my birthday falls on Halloween(presents can be left at the front desk),secondly we all know I love birds so I decided to talk about birds associated with Halloween.
Crows and their relatives are in the family Corvidae. You can find them everywhere except for the Arctic and Antarctic. Whats most fascinating to me about these birds is that they are the most highly developed of all the birds. They are intelligent, sociable and can adapt in many situations. There are about 117 species of these birds that range from 8 to 26 inches.
But Jill, whats the difference between a crow and a raven? Good question. There are some differences between the two. In the air, you can tell that ravens have a tail that is tapered and almost has a diamond wedge pattern. The crow has a shorter tail that is more square. A raven will also soar and flap in the air, whereas the crow will not. Personally, I have had a few cool experiences with ravens. On my recent trip to Bryce Canyon in Utah, a raven was hanging out in the parking lot. I was amazed on how huge this bird was compared to crows. It was the size of Misha, our red tailed hawk.
The other experience was when I visited the Tower of London last year. Now, for a little history lesson, King Charles II decreed six ravens were to be kept at the tower at all times. If the ravens were to leave, the tower would fall and so would England. This tradition still holds today, and a Raven master is appointed to take care of them full time. He probably helps the tower out in this myth since he frequently trims the feathers so they cant fly away.
They are the garbage collectors in the world of nature. They can prevent the spread of diseases that dead animals may have by consuming them before they rot. They have great eyesight to search for their next meal and are also believed to have the best sense of smell in the variety of birds of prey. Vultures can vary in size from 22lbs to 5 lbs in weight. Their wingspan can reach as much as 10feet, however, they are built more for gliding then flapping.
Around this area, we have plenty of Turkey Vultures. You will recognize them from their dark feathers and their head which is red,resembling a turkey. There are no feathers on their head for hygienic purposes. What?? Something that hangs around dead animals is worried about its hygiene? Well…yea! Birds are very clean animals, if feathers covered their heads, bacteria and pieces of raw meat would get caught in there and pose a hazard. The birds suns himself and bakes off the nastiness on his noggin. But, Jill…what about their legs? Don’t they step all up into that mess? Of course,but that’s where peeing on your legs comes into play. Yes folks, its true, these guys will urinate on their legs to kill the bacteria and it helps them cool off as it evaporates. You’re probably grossed out by now so, I wont even broach the subject of defense by vomiting.
Many people that know me are aware of the fact that I love birds. I especially like birds of prey and parrots. Being, that I am a new blogger, I decided to do a few posts about birds. In this one, I am going to introduce you to Birds of prey and raptors. All raptors are birds of prey, but not all birds of prey are raptors. Confused? Well, a raptor is defined as birds that kill prey with its feet while a bird of prey refers to birds that are carnivorous. An example of that would be a hawk is a raptor and a vulture is a bird of prey. They fall under the order of Falconiformes and are under different families. Nocturnal birds, such as owls are under the family of Strigiformes.
A bird of preys senses are all geared to one purpose,eating. Take for example its eyes. Birds will hunt mainly with its eyes,they can pick up at least four times the amount of detail of something then a human can. Some birds have great hearing, such as an owl who hunts with little light available. These hunters also have bills that are shaped for specific foods they eat.Some are designed for tearing through skin and muscle and breaking bones.Some beaks are made for pulling certain foods from inside shells such as the snail kite. Many people don’t know that a birds sense of smell isn’t the greatest. However, most vultures have exceptional smelling abilities to sniff out that yummy rotten carcass on the side of the road. Feet are very important to a raptor, it is the main method of killing its prey because sharp talons will pierce through skin and muscle. The coloration of raptors are made for blending in with their environment. Another feature is flight, some birds soar,some dive,some birds ambush and some hunt out in the open. I hope to do another blog on this subject alone.
The last thing I wanted to mention was conservation of the birds of prey species. Many of them are on the threatened list. Some of this has to do with people shooting birds like Misha. Others are in trouble because of their place in the food chain,they are one of the top dogs, or should I say birds on the order. When its prey is affected such as fish being poisoned, it effects the birds as well.
Hopefully, you were able to take some information away with you on birds of prey. Like I said before, I intend to do several posts about birds. If you have any requests, let me know.
Photo by Rolf Hicker
In a series of previous posts, I have discussed many different threats to the wild red wolf population in eastern North Carolina. About a year ago there was another topic that, had it not been abandoned, had the potential to threaten red wolves and several other wildlife species, as well.
Lately, when you walk out the main museum doors into Loblolly Park, it’s like a scene out of Hitchcock’s The Birds. The holly bushes are full of berries right now and large flocks of birds are hanging out around in the nearby trees, flying in and out of the bushes, and creating quite a symphony of bird song. I’m not the best birder, but have noticed large numbers of robins and cedar waxwings. It’s a better effect in person, so if you can get out to the museum in the next few days, before they strip the bushes entirely of berries, you can see what I mean. Here’s some video to give you an idea of it:
We are not sure how old Misha is since he was born in the wild. Red-tailed hawks don’t get their red tail plumage until their second year, and Misha had them when he arrived at the Raptor Center. This meant he was already an adult, at least 1.5 years old. Based on that, Misha would now be around 18 years or older.
For many years we were also not sure what sex he was. Male and female red-tailed hawks share the same basic plumage and they also overlap in regards to size, so there was no way of knowing unless we ran further tests. Just recently we sent his blood for DNA testing and it was determined that he was, in fact, a male.
Misha is currently one of the longest standing residents in the animal department. According to 12-year veteran Keeper Kent, he has barely shown any signs of aging in all his time here. Below is a picture of his beautiful red tail plumage, which is the best way to identify this species of hawk in the wild. The plumage of red-tailed hawks can vary between individuals, so Misha’s colors and patterns will not be exactly the same as others.Please visit the web site of Carolina Raptor Center at www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/ for more information on red-tailed hawks and other raptors.
!!!***Guest Blogger Keeper Jill***!!!
On February 9th, Birdapalooza offered a further glimpse into the world of birds and gave guests an opportunity to learn about native and non native species to North Carolina. Since birds are one of my favorite types of animals, I jumped at the chance to attend Predators from the Sky which gave information about birds of prey. The Carolina Raptor Center gave an excellent presentation about some of the birds they have rehabilitated and general facts about these raptors. We were able to see several types of birds up close, including Barred Owls and Eastern Screech Owls which we have right here on display in the museum.
The highlight of the day was a close-up program I was able to do with our Red Tailed Hawk, Misha. He is one of my favorite animals here and I love any opportunity to talk about him. Many of the guests seemed interested in asking lots of questions and at the museum we try to provide ample opportunity with our other “Meet the Keeper” programs.