Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Laughing KOOKABURRA of Australia

Laughing Kookaburra
Laughing Kookaburra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae is also called the Laughing Jackass, or simply the Kookaburra. There are actually two species of Kookaburra. As well as the Laughing Kookaburra so familiar to people in the southern states of Australia, there is a Blue-winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachii, which lives in eastern Queensland. The ranges of the two species overlap. This article is about the laughing Kookaburra.

At Raptor Domain near Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island, Dave Irwin included two Kookaburras in his "Birds of Prey" show. The Kookaburra is not technically a raptor but shares some characteristics with the raptors. The Kookaburra is a large Kingfisher. In the Australian Bush, they do not catch much fish because there is little water. In settled areas, Kookaburras will certainly catch Goldfish out of garden ponds. There also catch other pond fish, but brightly coloured fish are easier to see.

In the Bush, the Kookaburras eat almost any animal of the right size. This includes venomous snakes, lizards, small birds, earthworms, insects, mice, etc. Dave Irwin told us that a few days before we saw his show both the Kookaburras caught and ate mice during the show. When an animal is caught by a Kookaburra, the bird will kill the little animal by beating it against a branch. Kookaburras that live near Humans can become quite tame and will come for pieces of meat. The Kookaburra will still beat the meat and make sure it is dead.

The natural range of the Kookaburra is the whole of eastern Australia, including South Australia and Kangaroo Island. They are not native to Tasmania, Western Australia or New Zealand, but have been introduced to these areas. The kookaburra is a protected bird in the areas it is native to, but is not endangered.

Kookaburras are believed to mate for life. They breed from August to January. Not only do the two parents share the upbringing of the new babies, but also their offspring from the previous two years help with their younger siblings. The nest is typically a natural hollow in a tree, or sometimes a hole in a termite mound of the type that is in a tree.


The name Laughing Kookaburra comes from the cry of this bird which sounds like raucous laughter.

The Kookaburra will typically perch while looking for prey. Dave Irwin was able to demonstrate an interesting adaption of the Kookaburra. Tree branches often sway in the wind. The kookaburra can compensate for minor swaying and keeps its head still so it can concentrate on looking.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Bird Feeding: Attracting the AMERICAN GOLDFINCH

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis, Fort Eri...
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also known as the American Canary, the American Goldfinch is just about the brightest flash of colour you can get at your feeder and they often sing a beautiful song - even in flight! Another plus for this bird is just how easy you can get a whole flock at your feeder!

Goldfinches are social birds that inhabit nearly all of North America year-round. Naturally seed-eaters, these guys can be found in open fields, the edges of forests and backyards.

Experienced bird feeders will recognize the goldfinch as part of a group known as "clingers." These birds prefer not to use traditional perches but will cling at all angles to get at their food source. This is an important consideration when choosing feeders for these guys. Other notable clingers are woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.

These birds naturally eat small seeds so thistle (nyjer) is one of their ultimate favourites. You can also feed them finely crushed sunflower hearts by themselves or with thistle mixed in. Mine love the nyjer and hearts mixed together.

Good feeders for these guys can have specialized perches or spirals running the length of the feeder or have a custom design that only goldfinches would use.

Aspects actually make a tube feeder with the seed ports below the perch. Goldfinches don't take issue at all with having to feed upside down and you keep birds such as sparrows and house finches from taking over and forcing the goldies out.

Another great way to feed them is with a thistle sock. Just fill the sock with thistle, hang it and enjoy! Anywhere from 4-12 birds can cling to the sides and feed depending on the length of the sock.

Mesh feeders are a more and more popular way of providing food for goldfinches as well. The fine mesh walls of these feeders both provide a great place to latch onto while feeding but the seed is also held securely in the feeder but easy for the birds to pluck out with their beaks. I included a picture of a Birds Choice mesh feeder below.

Their mating behaviour is also a little different from other birds. They prefer to nest in mid to late summer instead of in the spring. This is because they time their young to hatch when the thistle seed is ready to eat. Goldfinches can be found nesting through August. Providing nesting materials in your yard could encourage them to take up residence nearby!



As I said earlier, goldfinches stay in most of their range all year round but a lot of people don't realize they are still around. The finches actually lose their bright yellow colour in the winter and turn a nice shade of olive-brown. A lot of people just assume they are sparrows. Goldfinches will actually come to your feeders in much larger numbers in the fall and winter in search of food so it is a great time to get large flocks of them!




Saturday, October 17, 2020

How To Raise DUCKS - Simple Tips To Help You In Keeping Ducks Whatever Your Reason Is

(Cairina moschata) with wings outstretched
(Cairina moschata) with wings outstretched (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raising ducks has become more popular. Ducks can bring interest and variety to your life. Ducks can be a good source of income too. People raise them for meat or for eggs. Whatever your reasons, this guide will help you learn how to raise ducks.

The first thing to consider is your duck breed. Peking ducks are the most popular. People often visualize this white duck as the stereotype whenever they plan on raising ducks. However, there are other duck breeds that you can prefer. Another breed, the Rouen duck breed is also popular. The Muscovy duck is a good choice for pasture. Ornamental duck breeds like Wood Ducks and Mandarin Ducks are also good choices. You can always check a good guide on how to raise ducks whenever you encounter any issues.

Incubating and brooding your own duck eggs and ducklings can be considered as a start. People often use a broody chicken to hatch their duck eggs while others use incubators; the choice is yours. If you prefer artificial incubation, you may use incubators that does not require manual turning of eggs. You can choose hens if you choose to use chicken incubation as they make excellent mothers. A good choice is the Silkie breed.

Duck eggs may take about 28-30 days to hatch. They hatch longer than chickens. Other breeds like the Muscovy duck, may take up to 35 days before the eggs begin hatching.

Another important aspect on how to raise ducks is brooding. As soon as the ducklings hatch, they should be placed in a brooder. If you are using the chicken brooding method, however, the hen will do the job. Put a soft litter and make sure that the duck brooder is clean and dry. You can use wood shavings or corncob for your litter. Put a 250-watt lamp to ensure that your ducklings are getting adequate heat. About 90 degrees Fahrenheit temperature should be maintained; it should be decreased by 5 degrees on the succeeding weeks.

Chick feeds can be used as an alternative when feeding your ducklings. They are high in protein and will aid the growth of your ducks. Once they grow, you can use grower feeds for chicken. You can use an ordinary poultry waterer for their water. But make sure that the ducklings can dip their entire head and beak into it. Ducks need plenty of fresh, clean water just like any other waterfowls.
Ponds and pools are not often necessary but make sure that you put a place to keep their heads wet. If you are using a chicken coop to raise your ducks, make sure that there is plenty of space for them to roam. Brooding ducklings need about a half of a square foot. This should be doubled as they grow older.

Now you know how to raise ducks. Raising ducks can be hard but is very rewarding.



Sunday, October 11, 2020

Blue And Gold MACAWS, Also Known As ARA Ararauna

Ara ararauna - (CC) Pixabay

Also called blue and yellow sometimes, are about 34 to 36 inches in length. The beak and feet are black, naked white check patches, that become rosy at times because they can blush, and even feel warmer in the face at that time. They have black feather lines on the bare white skin, that is bordered with more black feathers around the chin, as a young macaw matures these chin feathers descend future down making a much wider band.

The eyes also lighten with age from dark to gray and then to a whitish-yellow. The forehead is green and runs into the rich turquoise blue (some almost look cobalt blue) of the head, down the back, wing tops, and top side of the tail. With a rich yellow almost orange-gold on some, running down under the chin, chest, and undersides of wings, tail, under covert same but laced with blue. One thing unique to the Blue and Gold is the scent they can give off at will (smells like fresh sunshine and light cologne) if you have a Blue and Gold then you know what I'm talking about. Anyone else would think you're making it up, Diane from Country Boy Cages once said she wished she could bottle that scent.

They talk exceptionally well, often before being weaned. Macaws often make up their own phrases from what they have heard. We are always telling our dogs to get off the porch, and of course, the macaws say it too! Even getting which name goes with the right dog (pretty smart) "Turkey" (my pet macaw) will say a person name that she knows in place of the dogs' name, like: "Lisa get off the porch" followed by a hardy laugh because she knows she made it up herself and it's funny. Be careful what you say in front of them, don't assume if you not talking to them directly that they don't hear it, only to repeat it somewhere down the road when you least expect it. A friend and I attended quite a few Fairs where someone had taught a young Blue and Gold Macaw to sing "Jingle Bells", around the holiday's it was just precious, after months of this until the bird was sold it sang "Jingle Bells". 

Please make sure what you teach your bird is something you would want to hear just in case it turns out to be the favored phrase or song. Our Macaws not only talk but will also say it is the very voice of the person they learned it from, my friend will often think he is being called by me only to find out it's one of the Macaws or Cockatoos. Our dogs when in the back yard will seldom come when we call them because the Macaws just wear them out calling them by name, getting them to go back and forth all day. Macaws are intelligent and very social creatures they can be quite LOUD at times, and quite demanding, but I couldn't imagine life without them.

If your thinking of getting a Macaw to match your living room, as a novelty, colorful display, or just because they talk, then you are getting one for all the wrong reasons. Put as much planning into getting a Macaw as you would if you were planning for a child. Actually, that is how you should plan for any bird or pet for that matter.

Often people get a pet and let it have free range in the house, this is not good because what starts out cute or funny often does not stay that way because you are letting the bird make it's own fun, set boundaries, a well-behaved pet is much more enjoyable to be around. My macaws when in my house are not destructive, but will tear up their own stuff, and they do know what NO means. Would you give a child a handful of colors in a room by him or herself with no guidance other than letting them know they are free to do whatever and do you really expect them not to color those walls? And should you have the right to be mad? Or would you give the child an area in which they have guidance to express them self's free, that would be acceptable for them to color? Well, do the same for your bird. Never hit your bird, this breaks the trust, besides there bones are more delicate being hollow making them lighter for flight. You are your pet birds flock, you are his or her family, you are the caretaker of his world please make it safe for your pet.

A Blue and Gold Macaw requires a large strong cage, no smaller than 2ft deep x 3ft wide x 3ft to 4ft high depending on if it's on legs and or casters. Larger is always better when it comes to Macaws. This is where he will spend a lot of time when he can't be out and about with you or supervised by you or a responsible person in your family. I have always recommended more than one cage for most birds. The reason being you can have an indoor and an outdoor cage for your Macaw, allowing him to experience the great outdoors or just plain breaking the mundane monotony of seeing the same thing day in and day out. My Macaws enjoy the family barbecue just not to close to the smoke and or flames, and yes when it cools they share in the feast. Remember he doesn't go to school, he doesn't go to work, he doesn't get to shop, he doesn't get to choose what he'd like out of the frig but depends on you for everything.



If you've had a bad day you can't expect him to not be excited the moment you return home (he wants to be with the people he loves) so with a second cage you can give him new scenery to unwind from the day and you'll have the space you need to chill out kick off your shoes and enjoy his company later. After he's gotten loud outside over your return and the things he gets to see outside, he'll be much calmer and more enjoyable after that headache The Blue & Gold Macaw is almost never a finicky eater if new foods have been offered, but he should have a base diet of seed, nuts, fresh fruit, and veggies, I cook most veggies into a cornbread that I serve daily. And I always cook corn on the cob because that inhibits that dreadfully toxic mold that usually begins undetected by the naked eye on raw corn and then has already reached the deadly stage when you can see it. Besides the fact that a cooked properly dried out corn cob makes for a great toy. In addition, our birds like lean cooked meat (let me rephrase that by saying we give them lean cooked meat because if they could get that fatty hamburger they'd go for it) and they do love the marrow from bones, including the chicken! Mine love seafood and fresh fish, cooked of course. 

It has been noted in the wild when water levels drop and pools of water get smaller trapping fish and other crustaceans often you will see Macaws, sometimes even an entire flock, devouring the left behind goodies. My friend (from Peru) says my Macaws are big blue buzzards come to food, and she has seen Macaws in the wild eating roadkill. How dare her to say that about my birds who often share snacks with me, although I have caught them after the dog's food and or bones as well as the cat food, "Turkey" even says "um good" when she sees something she likes to eat.

Always change the water at least daily more often is so much better, especially because Macaws like to soak and wash their food in the water.

Toys are important to all birds from finches to Macaws, it gives them activities that are healthy for a happier more content pet, this is so necessary for their well-being. Macaws need to chew as most birds do, for one it wears down the beak, and they just plan like doing it. We provide ours with blocks of clean softwood, in addition, I use wooden perches, not PVC, because I want them to enjoy it and not eat my furniture or remote control for the TV, and I give them spinach leaves to eat and tear up so they leave my house plants alone.

It is an old wives' tale to believe your bird knows what is good for it, you must keep your pet from unhealthy, harmful, toxic, and life-threatening things and or situations.

The Blue and Gold Macaws never fail to amuse or entertain, even though they are as all pets that are properly taken care of high maintenance. Gentle Giants as those of us that have them and know them well, big beak and even bigger heart! Majestic, magnificent, colorful, and just downright amazing creatures in their own right.



Saturday, October 3, 2020

PIGEONS - The Strong Fliers

Pigeons
Photo by jans canon 

Birds are a source of amusement for us. They fly in the air, have brighten colours that attract us towards them and they produce varieties of sounds that make our environment beautiful. Birds have a number of adaptations that enable them to survive in different types of habitats. They are cosmopolitan and are also beneficial to the human beings in a number of ways. Pigeon is one such bird which is not only beautiful in its look but is also a symbol of peace. Pigeon belongs to the phylum Chordata and class Aves. Its family is Columbidae. Pigeons and doves are responsible for comprising the family Columbidae with the order Columbiformes. There are about 300 species of passerines are known. In general speaking the doves and pigeons are used together for describing any of the birds. Columbidae is present throughout the world but the major species are present in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. The young pigeons are called as squabs.

Pigeons possess stout bodies with short necks, having slender bills and fleshy cere. The common species of pigeon generally available in the localities is the feral Rock Pigeon. Pigeons prefer to make their nests with the help of sticks and other debris which may be placed on the trees, ground and on the spaces of buildings depending upon the species. Pigeons lay one or two eggs at a time and both the parents participate in caring the young ones which leave the nest after 7 to 28 days after their birth. Pigeons feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. Like other birds pigeons also produce crop milk which is secreted by the sloughing of fluid filled cells lining the crop. Both males and females are able to produce the crop milk for nourishing the young ones.

Morphology
Pigeons differ in body size according to the species. The largest species of pigeons are the crowned pigeons of New Guinea which are about the size of a turkey weighing about 2-4 kilograms. The smallest species are the ground doves of the genus Columbina which are almost equivalent to the size of the house sparrow and weighing about 22 grams. Taxonomically the smaller species are called as doves and the larger ones are called pigeons and there are no distinguishing features between the two. Pigeons have short bills and short legs. Head is also small with a compact body. Pigeons have large wings with strong wing muscles comprising about 31-40% of their total body weight. They are amongst the strongest flying birds. The plumage of the family is also variable. The species that feed on seeds are called as granivorous species and they have dull plumage while the species feeding on fruits are called frugivorous and they are brightly coloured. Pigeons may be sexually monochromatic or dichromatic. Apart from the bright colours pigeons also bear spotted patterns as well as other ornamentations. Pigeons lack gall bladder.

Distribution and Habitat
Pigeons are found all over the world except the Sahara desert, Antarctica, its surrounding islands and the high Arctic. The pigeon colonies are easily found around the major oceanic islands including Polynesia and Chatham islands in the Pacific, Mauritius, Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The pigeons are able to survive every type of habitat available on earth. The largest number of species is found in the tropical forests and the woodlands where are adapted to the arboreal, terrestrial and semi-terrestrial habitats. Pigeon species are also available in the temperate forests, savannas, grasslands, deserts, mangrove forests and even the barren lands. Some species have long natural ranges also. The largest range for any species of pigeon is that of the Rock pigeon. The rock pigeon species is naturally distributed from Britain and Ireland to northern Africa, across Europe, Arabia, Central Asia, India, the Himalayas and up into China and Mongolia. Domestication has a great role in the spread of this species. Presently the species is found across major areas of North America, Japan and Australia. Some species have also changed their natural habitats because of the activities of human beings also.

Diet
Fruits and seeds are the major food constituents of pigeons. The family can be divided into the seed eating members or the granivorous species coming under the subfamily Columbinae and those which prefer to feed on the fruits or the frugivorous species forming the other four subfamilies. Granivorous species particularly feed on the seeds present on the ground and the frugivorous species feeding on fruits tend to feed on the trees. Both types of species have different morphological adaptations that can be helpful in distinguishing the two. Gizzard walls are thick in the granivorous species while it is thin in the frugivorous species. Frugivorous species have short intestines while the seed eating species have long intestines. Frugivores are capable of clinging on the branches to reach the fruits. Apart from seeds and fruits species also take other type of materials also as a part of food. Some species particularly the quail doves and ground doves also feed on worms and insects. Atoll Fruit dove is specialized for feeding on insects and reptiles as a part of its food. Some species like the Orange dove, White crowned pigeons feed on snails, insects and moths.




Evolutionary Status
Columbidae is having no correlation with other bird families. The fossil records for the pigeon family is also very limited and only one can predict that they evolved from parrot like birds on the basis of their feeding habits. The family is further classified into five subfamilies but this demarcation is inappropriate. The DNA sequencing of the members of the pigeon family also show variations among the members and provide the clue about the inappropriate classification of the family.

Economic Importance
Pigeon and doves are consumed as food especially the stronger breast muscles are the perfect source of meat. They are relished by the people across the globe. In Europe the Wood pigeon is the game bird and helps in earning a good sum of money. The Rock pigeon which is basically domesticated for meat is now available in different breeds today which enhance its meat value. The Passenger pigeon has become extinct today as it was hunted by the humans for its meat on greater scale. The pigeons have also played a major role during the World War I and the II as the pigeons were decorated with the Dickin Medal for the people who have contributed their lives for the war. Pigeons are also considered holy in the Bible as they are the symbols of Holy Ghost in the New Testament and were also used as offerings in the olden times of the Bible. They are also used as the symbol of final assistance of the prophet in the Islam.

Conservation
Pigeons and doves have benefited human beings since time immemorial. Some species have come on the verge of extinction because of immense shooting. Two species of pigeons including the Dodo and the Passenger pigeons have become extinct today because of mass shooting. About 59 species of pigeons and dove are under the category of threatened species. The Polynesian ground dove is an exceptionally critically endangered species. Various schemes are under progress to save these endangered species from extinction.
We can conclude that pigeons are the beautiful birds which require our attention to save them from extinction.