Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The bunny, two brand new Doves, a close call for an RT youngster, and Mrs. Hummingbird

Remember Blaze the Bunny? Sweet little Blaze who was the impetus for the fence around the garden?

Well, this is Blaze now. He's gotten quite a bit bigger. He also currently has that "busted" look on his face. In fact in his trepidation, he's even stopped chewing his dandelion leaf for a few seconds. No, I'm not going to take after him like Mr. MacGregor but he doesn't know that. You'll also notice that no, he hasn't suddenly become more heavily brindled. He's starting to be rained on. It's just one thing after another for Blaze the Bunny.

But then again, Blaze the Bunny is no dummy. He knows that when it really starts coming down, you get a "roof" over your head.
And also because Blaze the Bunny is no dummy I may have to get a taller fence. I noticed yesterday that the first clump of parsley in the row no longer is anything but stems. But then again, I can't eat as much parsley as I'm growing anyway. Why not share?

The Chicory, Cichorium intybus, is now everywhere, adding its note of blue to the profusion of Queen Anne's Lace. And yes, it too is an alien. Chicory was used as an additive or in place of hard to acquire coffee in times of privation in the early settlement of the continent by Europeans and by residents of the south during the Civil War. In fact one still finds coffee products with an addition of chicory in shops south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Remember when I said, that Doorstep Dove and Friend were showing up separately for dinner and DD might be sitting the nest? Well, she was and this time through they've ended up with two fledglings. Two being the typical number of eggs for many species of doves and pigeons.
This is Ruffles the younger of the two. Earlier in the day, when I looked out there were two young doves having a rest just in front of the step.
Ruffle's brother looked about the usual age to come off the nest. Ruffles on the other hand must be a very precocious flyer because one only rarely sees a Mourning Dove off the nest who still has such distinct spots and the white edge to their feathers. The edging gives the feathers the look of ruffles to me and hence his name. Also notice that the skin around his eyes hasn't turned blue yet and the dead giveaway, his legs and feet. He's still a bit back on his haunches when he rests. You can tell that he hasn't been up off his haunches for all that long.

Another cue to Ruffles youth are the pin feathers at the base of his beak. Though the look he's currently displaying, has a whiff of testosterone about it.
If you look carefully at the initial feathering of young birds, you'll see that the parts that need warmth and protection first, come in first. Tops of heads, the exposed wing surface, , and upper backs are often the earliest. The body under the wings , the front of the neck, portions of the face near the beak and for birds with feathers on some areas of their legs, the back of the legs lag behind in feathering. Think about the physical posture of chicks and it makes perfect sense.

Ruffles stands and appears to be doing a Quail imitation. His body is more rounded, his stance more compacted than that of a more mature Mourning Dove.

Then he goes about attempting to eat. I first recognized him as youngster not by his physical attributes though they are obvious, but rather because I glanced out yesterday and saw a dove who every time he'd peck up a seed, it would immediately fall out of his beak and back on the ground. That was yesterday. He's gotten much better at it, only about two out of three fall out now.

Doorstep Dove and Friend watch over their youngsters from the Maple tree. If there is danger, it isn't as if they will normally fly at the problem. They cue their kids that it is time to fly, by flying off themselves.
Speaking of fledglings, today I saw a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk come extremely close to being hit by a car. She came swooping down to grab a rodent that was crossing the road just as a car was was coming into her trajectory. She saw the car just in time and came out of the swoop and flapped, just barely missing being smacked She then continued to flap slightly out of balance to a nearby tree and land. Immediately upon perching she did something many other avian species do but I don't remember seeing many RTs do for tension relief. And that was, the instant her feet were solidly placed, she quickly "wagged" her tail from side to side in a kind of "Wow, that was close" tension releaser move.

And here she is, Archilochus colubris, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. She's been dropping by the feeder several times a day lately.
For the novice, how do we know she's a female? Well in this case there is that tinge of white on the right side of her neck that would be red had she been male. But let's pretend our view is a full back, no angle. In this species a female has a square tail while the male has a forked tail.
I find that fascinating. What advantage beyond recognition might that have?
So far I haven't found any explanation in the literature, but I'll keep looking. You'd think there must be a dissertation at least out there.
Okay, why? Males don't sit eggs or help in raising the young in any way so perhaps the female's square tail is more advantageous to egg sitting? But Barn Swallows who share egg sitting, both have forked tails.
Ruby-throats are extremely territorial about food sources and look to give chase and ask questions later. Perhaps if the end of what you're chasing lets you know its gender that could be extremely helpful in a decision to try courting instead of dive bombing.
Donegal Browne

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