Tag Archives: Birds

I Gotta Crow About Kauai Chickens

A chick stopped to take a drink in the rainwater in a snorkel mask in the yard of the house where we were staying.  His mothers and siblings are just ahead.

A chick stopped to take a drink in the rainwater in a snorkel mask in the yard of the house where we were staying. His mothers and siblings are just ahead.

Clucking and crowing chickens, crashing waves and whirring helicopters are the sounds I’ll always associate with Kauai, the oldest of the main inhabited Hawaiian islands.

Every morning during our too-short visit to paradise, my husband and I awoke to huge waves crashing on the beach in the bay outside of our house and the crowing of roosters.

A mother hen and her chicks would make the rounds of the neighborhood several times a day. First, you’d hear the cheep cheep cheep of the chicks and then the occasional cluck of the mother as they pecked their way through the grass and bushes of the yard.

Helicopters were often crossing the sky to take tourists to view the many incredible sights, which have often been filmed for movies (“Jurassic Park,” is one example.) I’ve only been in a helicopter once — to fly over Maui almost 20 years ago. It was gorgeous, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to get into a helicopter since. My husband and I did take a boat trip on this vacation. First time I ever got sea sick. (More about that later…)

Mother hens and their chicks were everywhere on Kauai.

Mother hens and their chicks were everywhere on Kauai.

Chickens were everywhere! Other islands have wild chickens, (A rooster showed up for my son’s beach wedding in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands) but Kauai has CHICKENS. On every trail, on the beaches, in shopping center parking lots, on the sidewalks outside of restaurants, in parks, in churchyards, every neighborhood, everywhere. They are gorgeous and colorful. They are descended from the Junglefowl that the ancient Hawaiians brought with them centuries ago. They’ve bred with other types of chickens that others have brought to the island, but have mostly retained the gorgeous Junglefowl coloring. The chickens have no predator, other than man and cats, so they thrive.  People say they aren’t good to eat, so they are mostly even safe from humans. There are mongooses on some of the other islands, such as the Big Island and Maui, which eat chickens and eggs. There are mongooses on St. John, too. But mongooses were never introduced to Kauai.

Here’s What I Wrote About The Mongoose in an Earlier Post.

Here are some of my chicken photos. Yes, I do like to take photos of chickens, maybe a little too much.

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Don’t Be a Silly Goose! Fly South for the Winter!

Whose idea was it to spend winter here?

Recently, I was walking Loki, the family dog, when I saw a flock of Canada Geese (a gaggle ?) on a frozen pond in my Kansas City area neighborhood. It was a beautiful sight. The low afternoon sun cast a golden glow onto the melting water, reflecting the geese and the yellow foliage of grass and cat tails. If you didn’t look too closely, you wouldn’t see the goose poop scattered artistically across the frozen surface. I took the dog home and returned with my camera. The geese don’t like paparazzi, so they headed to the opposite side of the pond.

These geese like the neighborhood.  After a heavy snow, I saw the geese gathered on a golf course, taking advantage of a lack of golfers.

About Canada Geese.

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

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Birds on a Snowy Day

 Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder.  Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it's excellent bird-watching.  They seem to know that there's no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder. Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it’s excellent bird-watching. They seem to know that there’s no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

I hate snow, but our cats love it.  It’s great for bird watching.  We got about a foot of snow today in the Kansas City area, and the forecast calls for more.  The crowds at the bird feeder were huge today. I saw five pairs of cardinals, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, doves, nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpeckers and some birds I didn’t recognize. Click on the photos for a better view.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn.  When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out.  In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn. When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out. In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

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How Many Ostriches Do You See?

How many ostriches do you see sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) of the Cape Peninsula near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa?  I saw only one when I took the photograph. Although the ostrich is the largest of all birds, it hides very nicely in these bushes.

How many ostriches do you see sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) of the Cape Peninsula near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa? I saw only one when I took the photograph. Although the ostrich is the largest of all birds, it hides very nicely in these bushes. Click on the photo to get a better look.

I saw only one ostrich when I took this photograph near the Cape of Good Hope on the Cape Peninsula of South Africa in January 2013.  The ostrich is the largest bird in the world. How did I miss the other ones when I was taking the photo? Maybe because I ran back to the car as soon as I clicked the shutter a few times! Do you see the beak on that bird in front? He looks mad! (My companions took photos, too. I wonder how many ostriches were in their photos.)

I knew not to get close to this irascible bird. I was nearly pecked in the face by an ostrich in a zoo.  He came to the fence where I stood. He looked me in the eye and then attacked.  (He had big, beautiful brown eyes.) Thankfully, the fence stopped him from making contact with my face.

An ostrich struts his stuff near Cape Point in South Africa.

An ostrich struts his stuff near Cape Point in South Africa.

The ostriches in my photo were well disguised while sitting in the fynbos (fine bush) vegetation, which includes proteas, heath and reeds.  The Cape of Good Hope is part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area. There is also a lot of wildlife in the area, including baboons and antelope. Several species of whales can be spotted offshore, although we had missed the season, which is June to November.

A Cape Sugarbird sits in a Protea bush near the Vasco Da Gama monument near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

A Cape Sugarbird sits in a Protea bush near the Vasco Da Gama monument near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The Cape Peninsula is home to 250 species of birds, including the African penguin.

Before visiting the Cape, I didn’t know much more about the area than the names of some European explorers, such as Bartholomeu Dias, who first rounded the Cape in 1488.  The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship from Europe, following the western African coastline, begins to travel more eastward than southward. Portugal’s King John II named this area “Cape of Good Hope.” Bartholomeu Dias first named it the “Cape of Storms” in 1488 (it is very windy here). In 1580 Sir Francis Drake who called it the “The Fairest Cape in all the World.”

Europeans began exploring the African coast in the last 15th century after the Turkish empire blocked routes to the Far East. Limestone pillars (padrao) dedicated to two early Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama are in the Cape Point area.

Europeans began exploring the African coast in the last 15th century after the Turkish empire blocked routes to the Far East. Limestone pillars (padrao) dedicated to two early Portuguese explorers Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama are in the Cape Point area.

This display in the Buffelsfontein Vistors Centre shows flowers that are in bloom in January 2013 on the Cape Penisula. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area.

This display in the Buffelsfontein Vistors Centre shows flowers that are in bloom in January 2013 on the Cape Penisula. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, which includes 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which only occur naturally in the Cape area.

This is the hearth from a farm near Cape Point in South Africa that Charles Darwin visited in May 1836 while on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The hearth is now in the Buffelsfontein Visitors Center in the the Cape Point area of Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. The Beagle set sail from England in 1931. The Cape's enormous floral and fauna diversity must have fascinated Darwin.

This is the hearth from a farm near Cape Point in South Africa that Charles Darwin visited in May 1836 while on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. The hearth is now in the Buffelsfontein Visitors Center in the the Cape Point area of Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. The Beagle set sail from England in 1931. The Cape’s enormous floral and fauna diversity must have fascinated Darwin.

Cape of Good Hope, looking northwest  from Cape Point.

Cape of Good Hope, looking northwest from Cape Point.

Cape Point in South Africa.

Cape Point in South Africa.

There's a traffic jam at the Cape of Good Hope sign as people wait to get their photos taken at this landmark.

There’s a traffic jam at the Cape of Good Hope sign as people wait to get their photos taken at this landmark.

The Cape Peninsula is a fascinating place. Cape of Good Hope.

Read more about the ostrich here.

Check this out!  Panoramic View of the Cape of Good Hope

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Why Did The Mongoose Cross The Road?

When it stands, this mongoose looks like its relative the Meerkat.

Years ago in a biology class, I learned about the Indian Mongoose’s introduction to Hawaii (in 1883) as a predator to kill the rats that were thriving in sugar cane fields.  Well, like so many ideas like this, it was a disaster (rabbits to Australia, for example…) The mongooses ate the native birds and their eggs instead.

I’d forgotten about the mongoose  until I recently saw one dashing across the road on the Big Island of Hawaii, where they are pests. As it dashed, it looked like a small ferret.  Every so often, my husband and I would see another one running like mad across the road.  I was never fast enough with my camera.  Finally, I did get a few blurry photographs of a mongoose that seemed to live in the bushes of someone’s yard outside of a botanical garden.  When it stands, it looks like a meerkat, which is one of its relatives.

Standing here, he looks like his relative the Meerkat. He may have a burrow in the yard of this house.

From wikipedia: The 1800s were a huge century for sugar cane, and plantations shot up on many tropical islands including Hawai’i and Jamaica. With sugar cane came rats, attracted to the sweet plant, which ended up causing crop destruction and loss. Attempts were made to introduce the species in Trinidad in 1870 but this failed. A subsequent trial with four males and five females from Calcutta however established in Jamaica in 1872. A paper published by W. B. Espeut that praised the results intrigued Hawaiian plantation owners who, in 1883, brought 72 mongooses from Jamaica to the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island. These were raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on other islands. Populations that have been introduced to these islands show larger sizes than in their native ranges. They also show genetic diversification due to drift and population isolation.

Only the islands of Lana’i and Kaua’i are (thought to be) free of mongooses. There are two conflicting stories of why Kaua’i was spared. The first is that the residents of Kaua’i were opposed to having the animals on the island and when the ship carrying the offspring reached Kaua’i, the animals were thrown overboard and drowned. A second story tells that on arriving on Kaua’i one of the mongooses bit a dockworker who, in a fit of anger, threw the caged animals into the harbor to drown.

The mongoose introduction did not have the desired effect of rat control. The mongoose hunted birds and bird eggs, threatening many local island species. The mongooses bred prolifically with males becoming sexually mature at 4 months and females producing litters of 2-5 pups a year.

If that isn’t bad enough, Mongooses can carry the infectious bacterial disease Leptospirosis.

About the mongoose.

More about the mongoose.

News report about trapping Mongooses.

 

This mongoose ran back and forth on this road on the Big Island of Hawaii near Hilo several times. He kept checking to see whether I'd left.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard 

A red-bellied woodpecker in our background.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker in our backyard.

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Bird Feeder Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker at our feeder.

In my post on January 8, I spoke too soon about enjoying a snow-free winter.  A few days later, more than seven inches fell, and it’s not likely to melt any time soon in the below-freezing temperatures forecast to last for a week.

The birds are very active at our bird feeder now that their food sources are covered with snow, so I get lots of great photo opportunities.  The red-bellied woodpecker is among many species of birds taking a turn getting seeds from our feeder. The red-bellied woodpecker eats insects, fruits, nuts and seeds. We’re lucky that we live in a forested area, so that we can catch a glimpse of these colorful woodpeckers, which depend on large trees for nesting.

About Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.

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Cooper’s Hawk

A Cooper's Hawk waits on a tree near my bird feeder today. As much as I wanted this hawk to eat, I didn't want him to grab one of the black-capped chickadees or cardinals. They were smart enough to stay away today.

Click on these links to learn more: Wikipedia on the Cooper’s Hawk  and  Cooper’s Hawk  

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California Bird Houses

 

California Bird House Collage

The housing market is good for birds in some special neighborhoods in California.

 I love bird houses.  I don’t know how practical some of these are or whether birds actually live in them, but they certainly are cute.  After seeing these, I’m inspired to build my own.  I’m not very handy with a saw and a hammer, so maybe I’ll grow a bird house gourd. 

The green bird house hangs on the front porch of my friend Jan.    Plenty of birds nest in her yard, building their own homes.  Some of the homes are pretty flimsy, like the piles of sticks put together by the doves, she says.  Parrots roost in her fig trees.

The church birdhouse stands on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano.  The rows of birdhouses sitting on the white patio beams are on a home on Catalina Island.

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Kea Parrot Steals Passport

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

My favorite parrots are in the news again!  A Kea parrot has stolen a passport from a tourist visiting New Zealand. ( See the story below.)  The Keas hang out at a tunnel that everyone must pass through to get to Milford Sound.  Everyone stops there, because it’s a one-lane tunnel.  The keas are probably part of an international passport theft ring.  At the bottom is a link to a post I wrote about keas, which includes some great videos (which I didn’t take).    

 An Associated Press story, May 28, 2009.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Polly wants a passport — and isn’t above stealing one.

A brazen parrot, which spotted a Scottish man’s passport in a colored bag in the luggage compartment under a tour bus, nabbed the document and made off into dense bush with it, the Southland Times newspaper reported Friday.

The bird — a parrot of the Kea variety — made its move while the bus was stopped along the highway to Milford Sound on South Island, and the driver was looking through the compartment. Milford Sound, which runs inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock face, is part of Fiordland National Park, a world heritage site and major travel destination.

Police told the newspaper the passport has not been recovered and is unlikely to be located in the vast Fiordland rain forest.

“My passport is somewhere out there in Fiordland. The Kea’s probably using it for fraudulent claims or something,” the passport owner, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper.

A replacement passport from the British High Commission  in Wellington could take six weeks and cost up to $250.

“I’ll never look at a Kea in the same way,” the man was quoted saying.

Kea, the world’s only snow line-dwelling parrot, are widely known as inquisitive birds who appear to take delight in attacking rubber items like windshield wiper blades.

Native to New Zealand, the birds are found only in or near South Island mountains, where they live in high-altitude beech forest and open sub-alpine herb fields that stretch up into the snow line.

Covered mainly in brown and green feathers, they have large flashes of bright orange feathers under their wings.

My post about Kea Parrots.

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The Birds

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Kea parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. The Kea is thought to be one of the smartest birds in the world and is the only alpine parrot.

IMAGINE THIS SCENE:  A man and a woman are watching “Country Calendar” on the television in their house on a lonely sheep station near Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand.  The woman gets up from the couch to get some tea.  She hears a fainting tapping on the front door.

“John,”  she calls out, a little alarmed.  “There’s someone here.” 

She peers through the door’s sidelight window and sees a bloody hand smearing the glass.  “Oh, my God, John.”

"What I'd really like is a roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing."

"This isn't as tasty as that roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing that I stole from those stupid tourists the other day."

John rushes to the front hall.  “What is it?” 

“A man.  He’s hurt.  He needs help.”

John looks through the window.  “Jill don’t open the door.”   He gets a cricket bat from a closet.  He motions to his wife to get back as he opens the door. 

The stranger struggles to stand on the porch.  “They took it,” he snuffles miserably.  He weakly lifts his arm.  His shirt cuff  is shredded. 

“What did they take?”

“My Rolex,” he cries, collapsing on the porch. “My wife.  Oh, my God, my wife.  They took her jewelry. Her gold earrings.  She’ll die without those.  We didn’t have insurance.”

“Who did this?”  John walks out onto the porch to help the man to his feet.

"I know there's some food in there.  You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

"I know there's some food in there. You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

“They’re coming. Don’t let them in.”  The stranger puts his hands over his head, whimpering.  “I saved for months for that watch. It was so cooool. Now it’s gone…….It isn’t right.  They don’t even need to tell time.”

An eerie sound pierces the air.   “Keaaah!  Keaaah!”  Seemingly out of nowhere, a flock of green birds swoops in, a flash of red under their wings as they dive toward the open door.

“John, John!”  Jill yells, terrified.  John starts flailing at the birds. 

A few birds swoop toward Jill.  She barely gets the door closed in time.  The birds flap at the window for a few moments, and then they disappear.  John and Jill help the stranger to a chair.  “It’s too late,” the stranger says.  “You can’t escape them. They won’t stop until they get it all.” 

“You’re safe now,” Jill soothes, heading toward the kitchen.  “I’ll get some tea.”

The two men hear a noise, something rustling.  Wings.  Screeching.  They hear Jill scream, “Oh, my God, the kitchen window is open!”

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Preserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“Cut,” the director calls out.  The actors are relieved. Those Kea really play their parts well.  (It’s all acting, folks!  Keas do like shiny objects, though.)

The birds retreat to their perches, where they get the star treatment they deserve — plenty of mango, figs and even spoonsful of honey.

Wouldn’t this be a great scene for the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” ? A new version of “The Birds” is in the works and scheduled  for release in 2011, maybe in 3-D, with Naomi Watts and George Clooney.  The Kea parrots of New Zealand would be the perfect birds to star with A-listers in the dramatically beautiful country of New Zealand.   Super producer Michael Bay, are you listening! 

A flock of these cheeky, brilliant, mischievous and curious parrots could almost take over the world, if they wanted to.  They work well in teams to solve puzzles.  (See videos below.)  

Keas are clownishly adorable and pose no real threat to humans.  Fortunately, Keas are more likely to run off with your sandwich, snatch a gold earring or rip the rubber edging from your car.  There are so few Keas now — 1,000 to 5,000 — they are in serious danger of disappearing altogether.  They’d have to be replicated by computer generated images to produce enough Kea parrots to create a menancing flock.  There were tens of thousands of them as recently as forty years ago. They were named Kea by the Maori for the “Keaa!” cries they make.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

Their numbers have fallen drastically for a number of reasons, including a bounty that was once placed on them because they do take a bite out of livestock now and then.  They also killed by poison set out to kill possums.  Keas, now protected, are an endangered bird on the South Island of New Zealand, the only place in the world where they naturally occur.  They live in the harsh conditions of the New Zealand Alps, eating a wide range of food from fruit and seeds to other birds and carrion.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

New Zealand’s spectacular scenery, already featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would be a perfect location for this new version of “The Birds”.  Naomi Watts is rumored to be in “talks” to take the role originally played by Tippi Hedren in the Alfred Hitchcock version of the Daphne Du Maurier short story, originally set in Cornwall. Watts has already starred in King Kong in New Zealand under LOTR director Peter Jackson, so she’s familiar with the terrain. And who wouldn’t want to visit New Zealand again?

 

The third video is one I took at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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