Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday Miscellany

A flock of approximately 20 American Goldfinches flew through today. They spent some time in the feeding area and once again I was struck by how similar the sexes are in their winter plumage.

The bird above is male. He has a little patch on his "shoulder" that looks in this case to be white.

But if you look carefully, you'll find that in the male it's a white patch topped with a blaze of yellow.

I was also reminded today that it hasn't been all that long ago that scientists still thought that birds only used monocular vision. See how the female House Finch above is only looking at the camera with one eye?

But the Mister here, is displaying binocular vision in a photograph similar to the one of a crane which finally helped convince ornithologists that birds truly could and did look at things with both eyes.

And from Karen Anne Kolling--

V formation - Operation Migration has a neat video showing one of the cranes on the migration training flight that's in progress now taking advantage of the lift from the wing of one of the ultralights that are leading them:

From Sally of Kentucky--I am glad your lady junco did fine, but aren't you afraid she will fly into the mirror left unattended in the bathroom?

Not really. The reason most collisions with glass occur, is because a green space and or sky are reflected in the glass. The bird sees it as a possible flight avenue, and accidentally flies into the hard surface instead. Whereas in a bathroom with the window curtained there isn't a way for a false flight path to be reflected in the mirror therefore the bird won't be fooled into flying into it.

Donegal Browne


Sally said...

My cockatiel flew into the mirror in the bathroom often so I have to shut the door to it when she is out. She also has long conversations with the birdy in the mirror when she perches on the kleenex box! Guess she is just dumb...she also talks to remote controls and random hairbrushes, too. She may not be an average bird...

Donegal Browne said...


Sorry, one thing I forgot to mention about my second bathroom and its mirror. The bathroom is quite small and the mirror only reflects the opposite wall and curtained window, as opposed to a mirror that reflects a more spacious room which gives a bird the impression that there is a good distance to go before a solid surface is encountered.

Do you think it might be possible that your Cockatiel isn't just accidentally running into the mirror but rather going for the bird she's seeing?

When I bring in a bird who is going to be staying and will be free flying in the house at times, I do a circuit of the house and show the bird all the windows and mirrors. I put them very close so their beak touches the surface and I also knock on the glass. For the most part the pigeons and Quicksilver the African Grey "got it".

Pinkie, our rescued Laughing Dove runs into everything as he has absolutely no control of his flight. I understand that is a feature of this human bred breed. He now realizes that flying just isn't for him so he trots around on the floor (attempting to pick fights with birds three times his size) while the cages are being cleaned. (We're very careful not to step on him.)

Silver seems to understand that that his reflection is not another bird. Pinkie tries to start fisticuffs with his reflection. One of the female pigeons Thumper,is completely enamored with her reflection. Most of the others aren't particularly interested one way or the other. Except Sesame, a little brown dove, who upon having access to a mirror began to lay eggs one right after another until we put the mirror where she couldn't see it.

Now, now, let's not jump to conclusions about your cockatiel. I've seen any number of birds who interact with their reflections. But I'd love to know why the remote controls and the hairbrushes. There has to be something that is cueing her to talk, wouldn't you think? Now Silver sometimes looks like he's talking to empty boxes are sticking his head into cans or cups and talking to them. But in those cases he's listening to how talking in those confined spaces changes the sound. Could it be something about the pattern of "spots" or whatnot on remotes and hairbrushes that is cuing your cockatiel to talk?

Silver does say "hairbrush". He finds it gets a laugh if he says it from deep in the recesses of his carrier while we ride in crowded elevators. As to remotes none of ours any longer have their red power buttons. Silver goes on a mission to remove them as soon as possible whenever a new remote appears in the house.

Sally said...

Tuft the cockatiel has always been enamoured with things that have buttons, like remotes and telephones, and the plastic-round-tipped bristle hair brush. I don't know how she reacts to regular bristle hair hair brushes. She postures, and stands up so straight and talks her limited "hello" "pretty girl" "kiss-kiss-kiss" vocabulary and sometimes really starts in chattering things I don't understand but she is definitely having a conversation. She responds similarly to the cat as well when she comes to sniff her, not a wise behavior at all. She even does it to my border collie! SO-shiny things, things with buttons and bristles, and furry things. Hmm. She has done it since she was quite young, probably from when we got her 15 years ago as 'weanling" however old young cockateils are released from breeders as she was locally bred for a small mom-pop pet shop here. We quickly learned we couldn't have a mirror in her cage as she got VERY defensive of it and was quite mean with a mirror around, I guess she was defending her "friend". She is usually very social unless she is near a mirror, or sometimes defends shiny things she is playing with, like my watch, when you try to remove her from it or it from her. I am sure she is no where near as clever as Silver!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on sexing winter Goldfinches.


Sally said...

Winter Goldfinches-I haven't had as many this year so far, but then everything seems to be late; I still have leaves on my pears and dogwood trees and it is December 5! Do the females have as much yellow on their throats as the males? I don't remember the females having so much color, but perhaps I never notice because compared to the summer male they are so dull. Most of the one's frequenting my feeder have a bright throat of yellow, a few seem duller, and only one so far have I seen the yelllow shoulder patch on, though it is hard to spot.