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Bird World Part 5

The Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata is common over most of eastern North America, except for the far north, and inhabits both deciduous and coniferous forests, The photograph shows the parent bird removing a faecalsac from the nest. This is the way in which most small birds keep their nests clean and tidy; the young produce their droppings in a sort of natural polythene bag, which is then removed by one of the adults and either eaten or deposited at some distance from the nest. This is important, not so much for reasons of hygiene as for protecting the nest from predators. White droppings in the vicinity of the nest would draw attention to the site.

The Blue Jay is often migratory , particularly in the more northern parts of its range; it is also ‘irruptive’. A number of bird species, particularly those occurring in or near the Arctic, undergo irruptions, which are sudden migrations caused by insufficient food for the bird populations, Some times these irruptions will take the birds hundreds of miles outside their normal range, and new areas may be colonized.

The third species illustrated is the Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedorum , Which is also rather dependent on food supplies for its seasonal migrations, although it is rarely as irruptive as its close relative the Bohemian Waxwing, Which is also found in Europe. It takes its name from the colored wax-like wing tips.

The nestlings are fed almost exclusively on insects, but after they have left the nest their diet gradually changes to fruits, particularly berries. The berries are almost exclusively those of wild plants. So the Cedar Waxwing is rarely harmful to agriculture; in fact, it is often useful to farmers, for during the breeding season it consumes larges numbers of insect pests, including the Colorado Beetle and Gypsy Moth. The small finches and buntings occur in most parts of the world. They are often attractively plumaged and many of them have pleasant songs, and consequently they are very popular as caged birds. Many of them can subsist largely on seeds which also makes them suitable as aviary birds.

Although buntings are fairly widespread in the northern hemisphere, the Golden-breasted Bunting Emberiza flaviventris is one of the relatively few species which occur in southern Africa. Its striking plumage distinguishes it from the other species, which are often rather dull brownish birds. It is found in rather dry, wooded areas.

The Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis is both common and widespread throughout Europe. It has also been introduced into many other parts of the world, including North America, Australia and New Zealand. In its native Europe, it can often be seen on thistles growing on open ground, particularly on the edge of farmland. It breeds in hedgerows, orchards and parklands, and builds a neat, cup-shaped nest, which is often very well concealed. The nest is constructed from fine roots, grasses, mosses and leaves, and it is lined with thistledown, feathers and wool.

The nestlings are fed mainly on insects and their larvae, but once out of the nest they soon begin feeding on seeds. The Goldfinch is generally considered very useful to agriculture as the seeds on which it feeds are mainly those which are a nuisance to the farmer-ragworts, thistles and other weeds. By late autumn the Goldfinches and their families have gathered into flocks, or ‘charms’ as they are appropriately known.

The Redpoll Acanthis flammea is a widespread species occurring right round the northern hemisphere, both in the New World and the Old World. It is a bird of the temperate woodlands, breeding in the northern woods; in the Arctic areas it is usually replaced by a very closely related species, the Arctic Redpoll. The planting of conifers in forestry plantations has led to an increase in the numbers of Redpolls in many parts of their range. In winter they are also often seen on farmlands, but more commonly they gather in mixed flocks with various species of tits (chickadees) and Siskins. These mixed flocks, which are often noisy with the constant twittering of the various species, are always on the move. They prefer wooded habitats, including birch woods, orchards, young conifers, and, particularly, alder willow carr. The illustration shows a Redpoll drinking, clearly showing the splash of bright pink-red on the forehead, from which the bird takes its name.

The Gouldian Finch Chlodbin gouldiae was named after the famous English naturalist and artist who described so much of Australia’s wildlife as it was being discovered at the beginning of the last century. It is one of the most colourful of all the finches and occurs in three colour forms: the red-heads , the black-headed and, very rarely, a yellow-headed variety. It is a bird of the open dry country of the tropical northern parts of Australia.
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Article Added on Thursday, September 25, 2008
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