In honor of Halloween, let’s talk about vampire birds.
I am using “vampire” loosely here, the same way people do when they talk about “vampire” bats. These vampire birds are hematophagic (blood-eating!), but do not follow other items of vampire lore: they have reflections in mirrors, can enter your house without an invitation, do not shape-shift, are mortal, and do not sparkle in the sunlight.
Sharp-beaked Ground Finch, Geospiza difficilus
This is one of the famous Darwin’s Finches of the Galápagos Islands. This species is a vampire only on two of the islands, Wolf and Darwin; everywhere else it eats bugs and seeds like a regular finch. Even on Wolf and Darwin, it mostly eats bugs and seeds, but sometimes it craves something a little… richer…
Dum-dum-DUMMMM. (Sharp-beaked Ground Finch. Photo by budgora*)
Mammals—including us—use facial muscles to communicate, by, say, smiling or frowning. Reptiles and birds don’t do that: they don’t have the right muscles for it. If you think a bird looks grumpy, or angry, or has any similar human-type facial expression, you’re projecting your human perceptions onto an animal that really doesn’t work like that. (Now, whether the bird actually is grumpy is a different matter; I’m just saying that you can’t tell if it is by looking at its face.)
So the appearance that all these junco chicks have of possessing some serious attitude is merely an entertaining illusion.
The higgledy piggledy poems return… (The first higgledy piggledy post is here.) Once again I have not quite followed all the rules.
what simple kindness your
offspring must lack:
eating their mama’s own
skin for a snack!
Yellow-striped caecilian. Photo by Kerry Matz*
Caecilians are a kind of amphibian. Some caecilians feed their babies by growing a special layer of skin that the babies then eat. (Hey, is it really any weirder than what we mammals do to feed our babies?) All caecilians have little tentacles on their faces. See, goofy poetry is so educational!
Don’t get me wrong, the winter Olympics is fun and all, but isn’t it just a little bit small-minded to limit ourselves to human competitors? Here are some videos illustrating how great this athletic competition could be if we made it just a bit more inclusive (and added some new events):
Event: Team Vertical Iceberg Jump. Competitor: penguin
While it seems like it might be logical for people to find my blog after searching something like “pictures of juncos” or “how do birds fly?”, internet users (and search engines) are thinking a bit more creatively. So once again I, your humble servant, will attempt to give you what you really want from this blog by responding to the actual search terms that have led you here.
This time, though, you guys are kinda scaring me.
Wait, no. Do not come to this site if you want information on human babies. I don’t know anything about human babies! Search engines, don’t send people who search “human babies” to a bird research blog! And now I’ve written “human babies” four times here so that probably won’t help…
Cute, yes, but crucially NOT A HUMAN BABY.
If these are a problem, put up some strong netting around your house, work area, etc. to catch the floating skeletons. Grab a ladder and pull the bones out of the net at least once a week so it doesn’t get clogged up.
Nesting moms, are you having trouble fitting all your babies into one nest? Your troubles are over! We’ve got photos to inspire you to fit all those babies into one nest in an elegant, orderly way. A successful breeding season doesn’t have to mean clutter anymore!
These eggs are a mess. Look at that one shoved under the others. Don’t let this be your nest!