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xilman 2019-03-18 18:01

[QUOTE=Dr Sardonicus;511035] The crow was sitting on top of a wooden "telephone pole" near a large spruce tree.[/QUOTE]

Have you heard they are not making telephone poles any longer?

[spoiler]Apparently, they are long enough already.[/spoiler]

ewmayer 2019-03-18 19:00

[QUOTE=tServo;510709]In the lot just to my south is an old ( 50-80 year ) grade school that has been chopped up into apartments and condos. It's a fairly huge brick structure with several chimneys reaching toward the sky, now rendered obsolete by the installation of modern, efficient heating units.
Also, the top floor, which probably was a storage attic of sorts, is completely abandoned now and has these slats of wood covering the former windows. The chimneys provide nesting sites for the birds; he slatted windows for bats.[/QUOTE]

Back in the late 90s when I lived in Cleveland OH, on one of my summer-evening walks I looked up to see what looked like a black tornado swirling above the red-brick chimney of a large old house on the lot next to the apartment building where I lived. On a closer look it turned out to be a great flock of chimney swifts - there must have been on the order of a thousand - swirling around the chimney. As I watched, the birds at the bottom of the funnel started crash-diving straight down into the chimney opening, and within minutes the bird-tornado had vanished and all was quiet again. Craziest animal-related thing I ever saw. Interestingly, the house they were using as their nesting site was occupied, at least for the most part. There must have been some large basement or attic space in there which was undisturbed ... but it was such an improbably large number of birds. I considered of asking the building owner/manager about it, but quickly thought better of it, didn't want to risk alerting the folks there to a bunch of "nuisance birds", in case they were unaware of the nesting flock and proved of such a mind-set.

[QUOTE=xilman;511047]Have you heard they are not making telephone poles any longer?

[spoiler]Apparently, they are long enough already.[/spoiler][/QUOTE]

And here I thought they had been displaced by hordes of will-work-for-less telephone Bulgarians - shows you what I know!

Dr Sardonicus 2019-03-18 21:05

Those big birds don't sing. They just sit and stare at you.
The turkey vulture ([i]Cathartes aura[/i]) has extended its range, due to man's activities.

The [url=]Turkey Vultures: Nature’s Roadkill Clean-up Crew[/url][quote]A century ago, turkey vultures were unknown in New York, New Jersey and other northeastern states, but thanks to our modern interstate highway system, they have moved north, following the trail of roadkill carcasses all the way up to Southern Canada. They are honorary Department of Transportation assistant road crews, reducing the amount of carrion that needs to be removed.[/quote]

Circling turkey vultures (AKA "TV's" and "buzzards," a misnomer generally accepted in the USA) are usually "just looking." They do [i]not[/i] follow dying animals and wait. They know when something has died, and "follow their noses" until dinner is sighted.

I saw a fair number of TV's perching nearby in the middle of the day -- on utility poles, and the roofs of surrounding houses. I asked one of my neighbors, "What died?" He said it was a deer. It was kind of fascinating. There were 4 of them perched on the ridge of one roof. When a fifth one came in to land there, one of the original four took off and headed for the feeding area. They seemed to want to perch just so close, but no closer. Between the vultures and the other scavengers, the deer was down to bones in just a few days.

Another time, I was standing outside around sunset, and, out of the corner of my eye, caught sight of something [i]big[/i] soaring by, really low. I looked in the direction I'd seen it go, and saw a turkey vulture land in a nearby tree. Then I saw several others already perching in the tree. They were obviously getting ready to roost for the night. They clambered through the branches by both walking, and spreading their wings slightly over slightly higher branches and using them to pull themselves along.

According to [url=]this page[/url],
[quote]Researchers proved fairly long ago that Turkey Vultures can smell. In 1938, the Union Oil Company discovered that by injecting a strong-smelling organic chemical called mercaptan into gas lines, they could readily find leaks by monitoring vulture activity above the pipelines. Some mercaptans smell like rotting cabbage or eggs. They and related chemicals are released as carcasses decompose. To us, mercaptans smell horrible, but for vultures they are associated with fine dining.

In a 1986 study in Panama, Turkey Vultures found 71 of 74 chicken carcasses within three days. There was no time difference between finding concealed and unconcealed carcasses, and the only carcasses the vultures seemingly had trouble finding were the freshest ones. Even though the older carcasses emitted a stronger odor, the vultures showed a definite preference for eating fresher carcasses.[/quote]

Although buzzards don't like their diner "too dead," sometimes they wait a bit so the process of decay softens the carcass up enough that they can get their beaks through the hide. Without waiting, they can usually gain entry through the eyes or the genital and anal areas (as can other scavenging birds). It is this behavior which has given rise to the many tales of "cattle mutilations," in which the aforementioned areas are eaten, and "mysteriously," there are no tracks leading to or from the dead animal.

March 15 is Buzzard Day in Hinkley, Ohio. They have returned to Hinkley Ridge on that day for many years. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it's a sure sign of spring.

My mom told a story she'd heard (or read) about a hunter who'd shot a turkey vulture, mistaking it for a wild turkey. A game warden happened by, and decided that, instead of telling him of his error and issuing a citation, a more condign punishment was to let him keep it.

ewmayer 2019-03-18 23:02

[QUOTE=Dr Sardonicus;511069]March 15 is Buzzard Day in Hinkley, Ohio. They have returned to Hinkley Ridge on that day for many years. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it's a sure sign of spring.[/QUOTE]

Used to go top-rope rock-climbing those cliffs, back in the day. On the drives there and back we of course listened to the []eponymous local radio station[/url].

Hey, didja hear the one about the vulture who was denied boarding at the airport? Yep, he ran afoul of the "limit 1 carrion per passenger" rule.

kladner 2019-03-19 12:02

Some years back I was back in my state of origin: Texas, and drove fairly often from the Houston area to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. On a couple of occasions I saw really large groups of vultures and possibly other soaring birds gathering to migrate. They were really noticeable when riding the thermal elevator in huge spiraling groups. The Valley is a tremendous migratory flyway.

Black vultures do not have the turkey vultures' keen sense of smell, though they have excellent vision. Consequently, they may follow TVs to find food. BVs are more aggressive, though smaller, and may drive TVs off a carcass.

Then, there are [URL=""]caracaras[/URL]. These long-legged hawks hunt on the ground for small prey like lizards. However, they like carrion just fine. They hang around with vultures and dominate the kills found by the vultures. The ones I saw in South Texas are Crested Caracaras.

Dr Sardonicus 2019-03-19 13:17

Can you hear me now?
Some birds are real noisemakers. Here are a few I've heard of, and some I've heard live. Any others?

The screaming piha ([i]Lipaugus vociferans[/i]), a dull brown bird about 10 inches long, has an extremely loud call, one of the characteristic sounds of the Amazon rain forest.

The laughing kookaburra ([i]Dacelo novaeguineae[/i]) has a well-known call, used as a "jungle sound" in movies set in locales far from its native Australia.

Parrots, mynah birds, etc can also vocalize quite loudly.

Roosters are loud enough that municipalities which allow people to keep chickens often do [i]not[/i] allow them to keep roosters.

If you've ever heard a peacock, you know that their call is quite loud.

Crows can caw pretty loud.

A big group of blue jays can make quite a racket.

But to me, the most [i]surprising[/i] noisemaker is the Carolina wren ([i]Thryothorus ludovicianus[/i]). It's big for a wren, but still a small bird, maybe a bit smaller than a sparrow. But its call is [i]loud[/i]. So loud, it conjured an image in my mind, of a bird grasping a megaphone in its wing and holding it in front of its beak. In the "volume of call per volume of bird," it's got to be right up there with the screaming piha and the laughing kookaburra.

The loudest noise I've ever heard any bird make isn't a vocalization. It's the sound of woodpeckers "drumming," which they do in the late winter and early spring to attract mates, and to stake out territory. They used to drum on things like hollow trees, but mankind had provided something better. In my experience, the loudest drumming has been by flickers, which just [i]love[/i] to drum on the caps on metal furnace stacks, or on metal gutters near the top of downspouts.

retina 2019-03-19 13:19

During breeding season magpies will chase me on my bike.

They wait till I pass, then swoop down from the tree tops and skirt along almost at ground level before the final attack run towards my head. Sometimes I speed up so they can't catch me, which requires about 50km/h. Sometimes I slow down to let them catch me. I think they don't actually want to hit the target (me) because most of the time they adjust their speed to avoid contact. But occasionally they misjudge and hit me right in the back of the helmet. At which point they panic, or get disorientated, or something, and take a few moments to recompose themselves before flying off satisfied the job was successful.

Putting cable ties on the helmet with the ends pointing outwards will stop the magpies from hitting also. But I don't really care. It is kind of fun to race with them, and adjust speeds to see what they will do.

Dr Sardonicus 2019-03-19 14:02

Re: Magpies
[QUOTE=retina;511128]During breeding season magpies will chase me on my bike.[/QUOTE]The magpies I'm familiar with are black-billed magpies ([i] Pica hudsonia[/i]). I've never heard of them doing that. Hmm... <google google>. How 'bout that! It seems that [i]another[/i] species of magpie is well known for this behavior.

Magpies are not fussy eaters. They eat berries, insects, and just about anything else they can get down the gullet. They will dine on putrescent, maggot-ridden carrion that would gag a vulture. Magpies are corvids, so are quite clever birds. They can figure out traffic signals well enough to grab a quick meal.

One summer I was bicycling along one busy street, and usually had to stop at the light at the intersection with a major thoroughfare. Just past the intersection, a "parliament" of magpies (I looked it up) descended to the edge of the road to dine on some road kill, which I could smell from across the intersection. When the light changed and car engines started to rev up, the magpies took off. The road kill was a dead skunk (which is one reason I could smell it from so far away). The sight of the magpies taking off thus made an interesting study in black and white.

Brownfox 2019-03-19 15:27

Yop. I've seen videos of this behaviour somewhere.

I regularly pass Eurasian magpies ([I]Pica pica[/I]) waiting on the hard shoulder next to a piece of roadkill. They've figured out that cars don't come onto that piece of tarmac and when no cars are coming they can walk out into the road and get an easy meal.

kladner 2019-03-20 01:15

[QUOTE]If you've ever heard a peacock, you know that their call is quite loud.[/QUOTE]I grew up in a small town south of Houston, TX. A short way down our little side street was a small bayou. Across that bayou was an estate belonging to a Catholic bishop. At one time, he had imagined the place as a retreat, with dairy cows and other livestock. That plan did not work out. However, he had also stocked the place with peacocks. In the time that we lived there, there may have been as many as 200 of the creatures less than a quarter mile from our house. We were so accustomed to racket that went on in breeding season that we hardly noticed. Guests, on the other hand, were appalled. To them, it sounded like a bunch of women being slowly dismembered.
Now imagine a few dozen of such calls overlapping, going on for ~ten seconds per episode.
Typically, we could hear a preliminary 'honk', (at 55 seconds in the video,) a second of the "initiator" screaming solo, and then the grand choral opened up. I have no idea how many breeding aged cocks were over there, but it was loud.
These birds were also quite capable of flying over the tops of tall pine trees, even in full breeding plumage, with the huge tails, in the rain. Thus, they regularly came across the bayou and devoured plants in our yard. They also stomped around on our roof. My mom would get so irritated that she would throw gravel at them, which generally sent them packing.

[URL=""]Wrens[/URL] were part of the sounds of my summer childhood. When we go to downstate Illinois, it is wonderful to hear wrens shouting at various distances in the woods. Besides wrens, we also hear blue jays, [URL=""]eastern phoebes[/URL], [URL=""]pileated woodpecker[/URL]s, and some I can't identify.

We have a lot of nature sound recordings from Giant City State Park, and the Shawnee National Forest. We are going to be down there, arriving March 31st. It is hard to wait.

Dr Sardonicus 2019-05-06 12:51

Yesterday, I saw an Indigo Bunting for the first time. A sort of plump, approximately sparrow-sized bird, and the one I saw was a deep blue. It was flying, and in the shade, so I didn't get to see any possible iridescence. Looking up images, there seems to be a lot of variation in the shade of blue. Many are a much lighter shade of blue.

But the one I saw -- what a shade of blue! The only other bird I've seen that was mainly even close to that shade of blue is a Steller's Jay, which, in addition to a lot of dark blue, sports a remarkable black crest, and white around its eyes. It's a much bigger bird than the Indigo Bunting, of course.

Also bird-related: I was reading up on trees, and ran across a mention that sycamore trees can grow tremendously large (trunks up to 15 feet in diameter have been recorded), and that the hollow trunks of dead sycamores once served as homes for chimney swifts.

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