Download Wildlife Fact File - Birds - Pgs. 101-110 PDF

TitleWildlife Fact File - Birds - Pgs. 101-110
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Page 1




Mimus polyglottos


The northern mockingbird is named for its ability to mimic,
or mock, other birds' songs. It is even able to imitate

mechanical sounds and human voices.


Length: Head to tip of tail,
9-11 in.
Tail length: About 5 in .

Breeding season: Beginning to
end of summer.
No. of broods: 2-3 in a season.

Eggs: 3-6, blue-green speckled
with brown.
Incubation: 12 days.
Fledging period: 2 weeks.


Habit: Solitary except during
breeding season.
Diet: Insects and fruit.
Call: Bubbling song; also mimics
other birds, voices, and sounds.

About 30 related species,
including the blue mockingbird,
Melanotis caerulescens, of Mexico
and the Galapagos mockingbird,
Nesomimus trifasciatus.

Range of the northern mockingbird.

Found in the United States, Mexico, and the West Indies.

The northern mockingbird's numbers are probably in-
creasing in all areas. Any persecution by fruit farmers has
little effect on the bird's total population. It has been
introduced to Hawaii.


Plumage: Both
sexes are dark
gray above and
whitish below,
with long tail


Chicks: Fed by
both parents.
Fledge in about
2 weeks.

Nest: Built from
twigs about 3 feet
above ground.


Threat display: The bird cocks
its tail, calls out shrilly, and fans
out its tail feathers. It may do
this along the boundary of its
territory or at the approach of a
predator. It sometimes swoops
and attacks predators that come
near a nest full of young.

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Page 2

The northern mockingbird belongs to a family

of over 30 species that includes catbirds, thrashers,

and tremblers. All the species are known

in the Americas, but it is the northern mockingbird

that is renowned for its bubbling song and

its ability to mimic.

Once confined to scrubland
and canyons, the northern
mockingbird is now seen more
often in gardens and parks.
These places provide every-

1010 YOU KNOW?
I • The northern mockingbird

is the state bird of Arkansas,
Florida, Mississippi, Texas,
and Tennessee.

• The bird's scientific name,
Mimus polyglottos, means
"many-tongued mimic."

• Other bird mimics include
the European starling, the

thing the bird needs-grass
for feeding, tall perches the
male can sing from, and dense
shrubs and trees for nesting
and roosting.

European marsh warbler, and
some Iyrebirds and parrots.

• The Galapagos mocking-
bird evolved in total isolation.
It has longer legs and a flatter
bill than other mockingbirds.

• Northern mockingbirds
were brought to Bermuda in
1893 but soon died out.

I I }~ SPECIAL ADAPTATION The northern mockingbird's In addition to using its
song is a series of notes and own song, the mockingbird
syllables that are constantly mimics the sounds of other
changed or repeated. Some- birds. When a mimicked
times the bird sings a favor- song is recorded and played
ite tune repeatedly and then back, it sounds identical to
discards it altogether. the original bird 's song .

The northern mockingbird's
breeding season begins in
early summer. The same pair
of birds may breed for several
years. They have a rapid court-
ship that involves flashing the
white on their wings as well as
aerial displays.

After mating, the pair finds
a nest site, usually in a dense
bush about three feet above
the ground. The nest is made
of small twigs and lined with
grass and tiny shoots. Both

Left: The mockingbird prefers a
habitat of dense trees, as well as
pasture or scrubland.

The northern mockingbird
has a varied diet. It searches
the ground for insects such as
grasshoppers and beetles. It
also eats snails, spiders, and
small reptiles. It seems to stir
up insects in the grass by
flicking its tail to one side or
by flapping its wings.

Fruit is a large part of the
bird's diet, and it eats many
kinds of wild berries. It also
likes cultivated fruit such as
grapes. For this reason, it has
been persecuted.

Right: Nesting takes place in
summer, when the female in-
cubates up to six eggs at a time.

birds take part in nest build-
ing. They complete the nest in
three to four days. The female
then lays three to six eggs in
the nest. She does most of the
incubation, but th~ male takes
over while she eats.

The eggs hatch after 12
days, and the chicks are fed by
both parents for two weeks.
Because the entire breeding
process takes only a month,
the pair can raise more than
one brood in a season.

The northern mockingbird
sings to defend its territory.
Unlike many other birds, it de-
fends its territory year-round,
not just in the breeding sea-
son. Outside the breeding
season, a bird will defend its
territory even from its mate.

The bird displays a threat-
ening posture when it faces an
enemy. Cocking its tail, it gives
a shrill warning before fanning
its tail. It will swoop on cats,
dogs, or other intruders.

Below: From perches like this the
male sings his "mocking" songs.

Page 10

The vermilion flycatcher belongs

to the large family of tyrant flycatchers.

The male's vivid red coloring distinguishes

him from most other tyrant flycatchers.

The female is much less colorful than the male.

The vermilion flycatcher can
be found in tropical and sub-
tropical regions of the Amer-
icas. It lives at the edges of
woodland, in open fields, and
in semiarid scrub.

Birds in the northern areas
vary in their seasonal move-
ments. In Arizona some move
into the wetter valleys for the
winter. Others spend only the
summer in Arizona and then
migrate to Mexico, the Gulf

coast, or southern California.
The male vermilion flycatch-

er's distinctive song is heard
during his courtship display.
He starts from a low perch and
flutters upward in a spiral, with
his crest erect, his breast feath-
ers puffed out, his tail spread,
and his wings vibrating rapidly.
All the time the flycatcher is
singing. At a height of about
65 feet, he turns and flutters
slowly down.


• The male vermilion fly-
catcher tends to lose his
vivid coloring in captivity.
His head and breast become
a spotty red and white.
• In the United States, the
adult vermilion flycatcher

The vermilion flycatche r eats
a variety of small insects such
as beetles, grasshoppers, and
flies. Near beehives, it may
also prey on honeybees.

This bird catches its prey in
a typical flycatcher manner.
It sits upright on its perch . As
soon as it spots a flying in-

Left: During breeding season, a
male starts to sing from his perch
before flying upward.

molts, or sheds, all its plum-
age after the breeding
season. It also partially sheds
its plumage in early spring.
• The male vermilion fly-
catcher is noted for its soft,
tinkling courtship song.

sect, it darts out to snatch its
victim. After returning to its
perch, the bird swallows the
insect. To eat a large insect,
it holds the insect down with
one foot and pecks off small
pieces. The flycatcher may
also snatch beetles and grass-
hoppers on the ground .

Right: The female vermilion fly-
catcher lacks the male 's bright
red coloring.

The breeding season is sig-
naled by the male vermilion
flycatcher's courtship song
and flight . After he attracts
and mates with a female,
the pair starts to build a nest
in the fork of a horizontal
branch . This nest is general-
ly 10 to 25 feet above the
ground and is often located
near water.

The female usually lays
three eggs, two to three
times a year. She does the
incubating, but the male
stays nearby and fends off
intruders. The young first fly
about two weeks after hatch-
ing but take a year to develop
their full adult plumage.

Left: The vermilion flycatcher is
abundant in suitable habitats.

Page 11






Known for their affectionate habits, lovebirds are
appropriately named for the way pairs perch together,

nuzzling and preening one another.

___ ",~K;.;;;;;.EY..;...... FACTS

Length: 5-7 in.
Wing length: 3-4 in.
Weight: y' -2 oz.

Sexual maturity: In captivity,

1-2 years.
Breeding season: Varies depend-
ing on region, but usually follows

the rainy season.
Eggs: 3-8, rounded.
Incubation: 22-25 days.
Fledging period: 5-7 weeks.

Habit: Most species live in flocks
and form strong pair bonds.
Diet: Seeds, fruit, leaf buds,
flowers, and insects.
Call: Sharp, metallic, often high-


The 9 species of lovebird form
1 genus within the large parrot
family Psittacidae.

Range of lovebirds.

Found in western and central Africa east to Ethiopia, Tan-
zania, and Kenya; southwestern Africa; parts of Zambia,
Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar.

Trapping for the caged-bird trade has heavily reduced the
numbers of some species. Any trade now is either strictly

controlled or illegal.

1. Red-faced lovebird: Short-tailed
and stocky like all lovebirds. Hooked

3. Madagascar lovebird:

bill is large in comparison with its
body. Green plumage with red face.

2. Black-collared lovebird: Mainly
green feathers with black collar on
the nape. Gray bill.


Bluish gray head and
throat. Yellow breast

4. Fischer's lovebird: Mainly green
with bright orange head and throat.
Black primary wing feathers.

0160200421 PACKET 42

Page 19




Corvus corax


The common raven is the largest member of the crow family.
This bird may appear to move slowly on the ground, but it

can perform sophisticated displays in the air.

KEY FACTS -----311 .... --

Length: Over 2 ft.
Weight: 11.; - 3 ~ lb.


Sexual maturity: 3 years.
Breeding season: February

to March.
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: 4 to 6 pale blue or green
eggs, speckled gray or brown.
Incubation: About 3 weeks.

Fledging period: 5-6 weeks.


Call: Deep, far-reaching croak.

Habit: Sociable year-round.

Diet: Mainly carrion. Also small

mammals, frogs, lizards, insects.

Lifespan: Up to 12 years in the
wild . Much longer in captivity.


Closely related to other members

of the crow family, including the
carrion crow and rook.

Range of the common raven.


Found mainly in remote areas of the Northern Hemisphere,

including North America south to Nicaragua, Europe, North
Africa, and parts of Asia .


Although legal protection for the common raven has in-

creased its numbers in recent years, there are huge areas

within its range where it is no longer found .


Bill: Large, heavy,
and powerful.

Throat feathers:
Shaggy and

Chicks: Fed by both parents. Leave
nest after about 6 weeks. Juvenile
plumage is dark brown and dull.

Nest: Large
collection of
sticks, packed
together with
mud and moss.
Lined with

Eggs: 4 to 6. Pale blue or green with
gray or brown speckles. Incubated
for 3 weeks by female.

Plumage: Glossy black
with blue, purple, and

green highlights.

Page 20

For centuries, people have attempted to kill off

the common raven. In the past many people believed

that this all-black bird was an evil omen

with strange powers, perhaps because it would feed

on corpses hanging from the gallows.

Today, the raven stays away from people

and is found mainly in uninhabited areas.

Originally, the common raven
was found throughout Europe,
and was a frequent sight in
many cities. During the seven-
teenth century, however,
people came to believe that
the raven had supernatural
powers, and they tried to get
rid of it. The raven then moved
to more remote areas.

Today, the common raven is
a protected species that lives
on mountains, moors, and
rocky coasts. But it is still

sometimes hunted illegally.
The male does not mature

sexually until his third year.
Large flocks of up to 200
young fly and roost together
until they are ready to breed.

The mature raven defends its
chosen territory aggressively.
The raven is agile in the air,
so other birds are unlikely to
harm it in flight. But it moves
slowly on the ground, so it
may have to leave dead flesh
to larger birds of prey.

In the common raven's court-
ship display, both the male
and the female soar and dive
through the air. The two ra-
vens then perch together and
preen each other.

The common raven mates in
February or early March . Most
pairs stay in the same territory
all year and use the same nest
site each year. The couple
gathers branches and large
twigs to build a broad plat-
form with a cup-shaped nest
on a rocky crag or ledge. The
nest itself is made of sticks

left: The common raven raises its
throat feathers when it calls.

• The common raven and
other crows may be the
most intelligent birds.
• Parent ravens adjust their
nest's lining depending on
outside temperatures. They
make the nest warmer or
cooler for their young.
• The phrase "an unkind-

packed together with mud
and moss. It is lined with
sheep's wool and soft grass.

The female lays a clutch of
between four and six eggs.
She incubates the eggs herself
and is fed by the male. The
eggs hatch about three weeks
later, and both parents feed
the chicks for about six weeks.
The adults roost away from
the nest soon after the chicks
have hatched, visiting them
only to bring food. The young
are able to fly at five to six
weeks of age.

Right: The raven is the largest
crow and the largest songbird.

ness of ravens" comes from
the old belief that ravens
neglected their chicks.
• It is said that if all the
ravens living in the Tower
of London flew away, the
realm would fall. The ra-
vens' wings are clipped to
keep them from escaping.

The common raven's usual
habitats include sea cliffs, re-
mote wooded valleys, and
mountains. It can be con-
fused with the carrion crow
because of its similar shape
and black color. But the

The common raven's main
food is carrion (flesh from dead
animals), particularly sheep.
Several ravens collect around
a large carcass and pick the
bones completely clean. Dur-
ing spring lambing season
young ravens gather to feed
on the placenta (afterbirth) left
by ewes (female sheep).

The raven may hoard food in

left: The raven feeds mainly
on carrion, but also eats small
mammals and insects.

common raven is larger, with
a heavier, more powerful bil l
and shaggy throat feathers.
In flight the raven is distin-
gu ished by its wedge-shaped
tail, a large head, and fi nger-
like feathers at its wingtips.

the winter, but there is usually
a plentiful supply of food dur-
ing the lambing season. The
raven breeds in late February,
so its eggs will hatch in spring.
Young ravens have a protein-
rich diet of stillborn lambs,
nestlings, and carrion from
rabbits, faxes, and deer.

The raven will eat almost
anything when carrion is not
available, including small
mammals, birds, frogs, liz-
ards, and insects.

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