Borrego Springs, CA

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Chuck-Will's-Widow

This morning, I went with Chris and Connie to check on the brown-headed cowbird traps. These traps are located at three places throughout the black-capped vireo's habitat. If you don't know about brown-headed cowbirds, I'll be happy to enlighten you. ;) I think these birds should really be called brown-headed buffalo birds since they historically followed the buffalo herds of North America. If a bird is following a constantly moving buffalo herd, it is impossible to establish a breeding territory for a long enough time to raise young. So, what's a bird to do? Well, the female cowbird developed the strategy of laying their eggs in the nests of smaller more sedentary birds that stayed on a breeding territory to raise their young. Upon hatching, the young cowbirds are larger than the other nestlings and get more food and kick the other young out of the nest. A great strategy for the cowbirds, but especially disastrous for vireo and warbler species that are on the edge of extinction! Hence, the traps at this refuge that harbors two endangered species. This trapping is not without controversy, but it is the present policy.

Later, in the afternoon, I headed into the office to continue work on the Songbird Festival preparations. Tomorrow morning will be the set up of all the stations for visitors and tents.

When I got back to the rig, Emma and I spent time outside enjoying the birds at the feeders and playing fetch. The winds have been very high again today, so I secured things outside before coming in for the evening. Emma drinks a lot of water during our fetch game, so it wasn't long after coming in that she needed to go outside again. We had a real serenade from the Chuck-Will's-Widows. This is a bird that sings it's name loudly after dark, and is classified as a goatsucker. I'm not sure where that designation comes from, but they are birds that are nocturnal insect eaters that have flat heads and enormous mouths. Unless you are very lucky, it's very difficult to see them during the day, and you'll probably only see them at night in the headlights of your car. Since my night vision has deteriorated, I don't drive much after dark, so I'm not sure I'll ever see this bird. I do get a thrill from hearing them, though.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

No comments:

Post a Comment