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Bird World Part 3





The Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis of North America is a pure parasite. During the breeding season it is very promiscuous, mating quite randomly and not forming lasting pairs. The female lays her egg in the nest of a smaller bird and, as with the Cockoo, the Cowbird’s egg hatches before the others in the nest, the nestling grows faster and soon starves its nest-mates out even if it does not actually crowd them out. During the summer months, the Cowbird is usually to be seen following, or even riding on, sheep and cattle to catch the insects disturbed by their feet.

Many of the whydah groups are also nest parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of the small waxbills. Not only do their eggs resemble those of the waxbill, their young have the same markings in their mouths as young waxbills as it is by these markings that the parent birds identify where to put the food and without them the nestling whydahs might starve. Only the male Long-tailed Window Bird, or Whydah, Diatropura progne has the long black tail from which it gets its name.

The Fantails are a group of nearly forty species of closely related birds found only in south-eastern Asia, the south-western Pacific and some Australasian regions. They are relatedto the Old World fly catchers and are easily recognized by their habit of cocking their tails. The Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrous is shown here on its nest, fanning its tail. It is found in Australia, the Solomons, New Guinea and a few other islands, in a variety of habitats, including jungle, scrub and mangrove swamps.

The European Wren Troglodytes troglodytes , the only species occurring in Europe, is known in North America as the Winter Wren to avoid confusion with the other nine species found there. It is thought that the wrens evolved in North America and only colonized the Old World from the New, via the Bering Straits, either during or just after the Ice Ages. In many parts of Europe, the Wren is called the ‘king’ of birds (this may have originated from confusion with the Goldcrest) and there are many superstitions and rituals connected with Wrens. On Christmas Day in Britain, the Wren was once hunted and then stoned or clubbed to death. This ritual has obvious connections with the Christian ritual of death and rebirth, centred on Christmas and the New Year.

The cock Wren, in spite of its small size, is one of the loudest songsters in the dawn chorus, and is often heard breaking into a short snatch of its trilling song even in the middle of winter. At the onset of the breeding season, the male Wren builds severalnests and the female then selects one in which to lay her eggs. The nests are domed and of fairly flexible construction; as the youngsters, which may number up to about fifteen, grow in size, the nest will stretch slightly to accommodate them.
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Article Added on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
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