A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.
As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.
But hopes are Shy Birds flying at a great distance seldom reached by the best of Guns. —John James Audubon
Happy birthday to one of the most intriguing figures of history, the French-American ornithologist, conservationist, naturalist, and painter. John James Audubon — a man whose influence is keenly felt to this day — documented countless American birds in his gorgeous and brilliant drawings. His masterpiece — the enormous (-sized) color-plate book, The Birds of America (1827–1839), is widely considered to be the finest ornithological and artistic works ever created.
Thank you, sir, and happy birthday!
Audubon, Great Egret, 1821
Great Egret in Breeding Plumage, Florida Wetlands
Audubon, Louisiana Heron (Tricolored Heron)
Tricolored (Louisiana) Heron, Florida Wetlands
Visit Florida Rambler to learn about his beautiful Key West home, where he stayed in 1832… Discovering 18 new species (well, to the Western world at least).
National Audubon Society Logo — The Great Egret in Flight (Courtesy of The National Audubon Society)
There’s so much color in the depths of South Florida, but this little one’s not native to the area. It’s native to a region where I was raised (roundabout, anyways). When I think of COLOR, my brain always returns to the petite endangered Gouldian Finch — also known as the Rainbow Finch, appropriately.
This spectacularly-colored little bird is native to Australia, where their numbers have decreased dramatically throughout the 20th century due to habitat loss. They remain an endangered species in their natural habitat, with less than 2,500 remaining. While attempts at their reintroduction have proved unsuccessful, thankfully these lovely finches are the subject of a conservation program in Australia. There are currently plans to recover and conserve their natural habitats, with management guidelines in place to educate landholders about land management, promoting the recovery program, and Gouldian Finch conservation. They’re also popular birds in captivity and among breeders, which keeps their general populations higher.
Gouldian (Rainbow) Finch posing at his sanctuary in Butterfly World
In 1992, the species was classified as endangered in the wild. That same year, Catwoman stuffed a poor Gouldian into her mouth in Batman Returns — some say, to raise awareness for their plight.
Here’s to wishing all the best for this beautiful and bright little bird!
A Tricolored (or Louisiana) Heron in breeding plumage shakes it all off, with the start of a new week, in undisguised fabulousness in our protected wetlands. While I say “Monday Morning Hair,” this is definitely a daily occurrence for me.
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. —Lou Holtz
…Which is why I’m constantly running to Nature, and to these wonderful creatures. That reminder to JUST BE (or in my words, Simmer Down). And our winters provide a more varied opportunity for observing different happenstances of this simple state of being — the migrating birds make their residences in the area, even if it is temporary.
A Wee Warbler in the Wetlands
A few Palm Warblers flit amid the trees; here, among a strand of young cypress. These tiny bright gems of songbirds — adorable little shocks of yellow in our swamp and wetlands — are easily missed if you’re in a rush, or aren’t fully aware.
Palm Warblers are common winter residents in our marshy natural areas, migrating in the late fall to the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. The species is comprised of two distinct sub-species, the Yellow Palm Warbler and the Western Palm Warbler. Those breeding in the eastern range are yellow underneath, while those inhabiting the western part of the range are duller in color, with whitish bellies. Palm Warblers primarily breed in wetland habitats — east of the Continental Divide, across Canada and the northeastern United States. A distinctive feature of Palm Warblers is tail wagging, or “pumping.” More than other warblers, this bird forages on the ground for insects and berries.
Warbling in the Everglades
Click here to listen to the delicate song of these sweet little songbirds!
Last night at our local wetlands, I ran into a friend who mentioned seeing a ruby-throated hummingbird in his yard — a bit early! And this morning, Michelle from Rambling Woods posted on the topic. Since they’ve hit the Gulf Coast states a wee bit ahead of their migratory schedule, let’s help them REFUEL on their non-stop 500-mile journey!
I’ll be getting the feeder ready for these lovely guys ASAP — habitat loss and destruction are the hummingbird’s main threats today, but changing temperatures are also affecting their migratory patterns, making it harder for them to find food.
Learn more at Annenberg’s “Journey North” website — track the hummingbirds, learn how to help, and take a peek at the updated migration maps!
Sparkling violet ear hummingbird: Not in my yard, but at Butterfly World, the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the US. A most amazing, beautiful, and fairy-like place!
Fun and Fascinating Facts About Hummingbirds:
- Hummingbirds are the second largest family of birds, with more than 325 species
- Early Spanish explorers called hummingbirds “Flying Jewels”
- Hummingbirds are found only in North and South America
- It’s the smallest bird — and the smallest of all animals — with a backbone
- Despite their diminutive size, hummingbirds are aggressive and territorial, regularly attacking jays, crows and hawks
- Hummingbirds have the largest brain of all birds — 4.2% of its total body weight
- Many hummingbirds die during the first year, but those that do survive have an average lifespan of 3-4 years. The longest-living hummingbird was a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird that was estimated at 12 years
- Hummingbirds have very weak feet — they cannot walk or hop, using them mainly for perching
- Hummingbirds have great eyesight — able to see ultraviolet light, even — but have no sense of smell
- The structure of hummingbirds’ lovely iridescent feathers amplifies certain wavelengths of light, reflecting them directly in front of the bird
- Most of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles — 25-30% reside in their muscles responsible for flight
- The average flight speed of a hummingbird is 20-30 miles per hour, though the birds can reach up to 60 mph in a courtship dive
- They can beat their wings between 50-200 flaps per second, depending on flight patterns and wind conditions
- The hummingbird can rotate its wings in a circle, making it the only bird that can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways, and hover mid-air
- Their heart beats at up to 1,260 beats per minute
- A resting hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute
- Hummingbirds must consume approximately half of their weight in sugar daily, feeding 5-8 times per hour. Much of the sugar they consume comes from flower nectar and tree sap, but they also eat insects and pollen to get their protein
- A hummingbird uses its long, grooved tongue to lap up nectar from flowers and feeders
- To conserve energy — while sleeping or during food scarcity — hummingbirds can go into a hibernation-like state (torpor), where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of normal sleep. If they’re already weakened, they may not wake from this torpor
- During their spring and fall migrations, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a non-stop 500-mile-flight across the Gulf of Mexico
- The longest migration of any hummingbird species is that of the rufous hummingbird — they travel more than 3,000 miles from their nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to winter habitats in Mexico
- Historically hummingbirds were killed for their feathers…. But today, habitat loss and destruction are the hummingbird’s main threats; changing temperatures are also affecting hummingbird migratory patterns, making it harder for them to find food
- An increase in backyard gardens hummingbird feeders allows these birds to refuel during their long migratory journeys — YAY!