Friday, February 26, 2016

Kookaburra (Laughing Kookaburra, Australia)

The cheeky, bright-eyed Laughing Kookaburra will make YOU laugh.

Locally known in Australia by its last name only, the Kookaburra is an entertainer.

At dawn and dusk the Kookaburra sings out a cackling, laughing tune to announce his territorial rights. It's a social behavior often sung in unison by family members.

A Kookaburra alone in captivity does not sing.

An adult female can reach eighteen inches from tip to tail and weigh about a pound.

The Kookaburra is a meat eater. They dine on a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates with an occasional taste for snake.

Grabbing a small snake behind its head, a Kookaburra first takes it for a ride.

After dropping it from on high, she then confidently retrieves her meal.

(Sexes look alike)

The Kookaburra is not a shy bird. Unlike most birds, they tolerate human presence and are quite approachable. This pair, sitting in a gum (eucalyptus) tree in Cardinia Reservoir Park, Victoria, Australia, allowed me to intrude upon their sunset solitude with only a brief nod in my direction.

Although the sign reads 'Do Not Feed the Birds' at Badger Creek Holiday Park, Healesville, Victoria, some guests still do.

The Kookaburra will gladly accommodate a human desire to be entertained by flying down to accept an offering.

There are many places in Australia where you could wake up to the chortling of the Laughing Kookaburra, as they are widespread and common.

If you get the chance, don't pass it up.


(Click any picture to enlarge.)

You can view a youtube video of a captive Kookaburra singing in the San Diego Zoo at:

Credit: National Geographic

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Spotted Towhee

Spotting a Spotted Towhee is not that easy. They tend to hide in the underbrush and reveal only for good mainly.

The Spotted Towhee is a bird of the western United States...quite common, but secretive.

Males and females look alike, although the male is more boldly spotted. The spotted pattern is thought to be an adaptation evolved to mimic the sun's dappled reaches of the underbrush.

This male Spotted Towhee searched the patches of ground exposed by the retreating snow.

Seeds and berries make up his diet in winter...summer includes insects and invertebrates.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Perched proudly on a red twig dogwood, this male Spotted Towhee is at home on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona.

It is noonday at my brother Kenn's cabin...8000 feet.  As snow melts reluctantly at this altitude, looking for a mate in early February may be futile, but he is in good form already.

In spring the males rise to sing in the tree tops in hopes of attracting a mate. He sings long and loud during the pairing process.

If successful, he'll return to the security of the thicket to raise a family.

The Spotted Towhee is a striking specimen of a sparrow. You may never get to see one east of the Mississippi River...rather unfortunate. So, for people living in the eastern half of the United States, please accept my opinion that this is one beautiful bird.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike

The golden, dry vegetation of the Southwest compliments a Say's Phoebe's own coloration, as this phoebe braces into a whipping wind.  A small, slender songbird, common in the West from Northern Alaska to Southern Mexico, the Say's Phoebe is comfortable around people. This one had his eyes fixed on a prize.

At the leading edge of a Catalina Mountain stream, insects scurry to get out of the way of the slowly advancing water. That's where the Say's Phoebe stakes out a hunting ground.

Flying at the water's edge, it is only a matter of time for an insect to reveal itself.

Flying insects and small crustaceans make up his diet. The Say's Phoebe can hover in place to pluck insects from vegetation or snatch them in the air.

This Loggerhead Shrike interrupted the phoebe's meal with a half-hearted attack, but they are not real enemies.

The Loggerhead Shrike is only slightly larger. The shrike managed to chase the phoebe off his perch, but not far away.

The two maintained an agreed upon margin of separation, as they worked the same leading edge of the river.

The Say's Phoebe is a bird that says,
"Come take notice of me.  I'm a slender, cinnamon songbird, approachable and colorful."

Good advice!


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

The Sibley Guide to Birds