""CARD 211 I

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~ Caprimulgiformes
Chordeiles minor
The common nighthawk is one of the best-known summer birds in
North America. It is famous for its zigzagging flight, which takes
it high into the air and is followed by a spectacular dive.
Length: 9-10 in.
Wingspan: About 2 ft.
Weight: 2 - 2 ~ oz.
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: Mid-May to
No. of broods: 1, which may be
replaced if it is destroyed.
Eggs: 2. Grayish white, heavily
speckled with brown and lilac.
Incubation: 19 days.
Fledging period: About 3 weeks.
Habit: Pairs in the breeding sea-
son; flocks during migration.
Diet: Mainly flying insects.
Lifespan: Usually up to 6 years.
There are 3 other members of the
genus Chordeiles, and they are all
found in the Americas.
Breeding range of the
common nighthawk.
Winter range.
Breeds in North and Central America from southeastern Alaska
and Canada south to Panama. Winters in South America from
Colombia to Argentina. Very occasionally seen in Iceland, the
Faeroe Islands, Great Britain, and the Azores.
It is now illegal in the United States to shoot the common
nighthawk. The bird is abundant and not endangered.
Flight: Irregular. zigzag action.
Narrow wings with dark,
pointed tips. White wing bars
on both sexes are known as
"holes in the wing." The male
has a white tail bar.
Plumage: Dark brown or gray, mottled with brown.
Whitish underparts are striped wi th dark feathers. Throat is
white on the male and light yellow on the femal e. Juvenile
has paler body plumage with a less distinctive throat color.
Eggs: 2; grayish white and speckled
with brown and lilac. Laid directly
on open ground or in a shallow
scrape (depression) .
Bill: Tiny when
closed, but held
wide open dur-
ing flight to fun-
nel flying insects
into the mouth.
Perching: Like its relative the whip-poor-will, the common
nighthawk perches lengthwise on a branch. In this posi-
tion, with its subtly patterned pl umage, it is almost invisi-
ble to the naked eye.
Despite its name, the common nighthawk is neither
active at night, nor is it a hawk. It is more closely related
to the whip-poor-will, and it is most active in the early
evening. At that time the common nighthawk darts and
swoops over grassland to catch insects in its gaping bill.
Like the other species of nighthawk, this bird is well
camouflaged by its striped, earth-colored plumage.
The common nighthawk breeds
from subtropical Central America
to the northern parts of North
America. It is found mainly in
lowland areas, but it has been
seen at elevations of 8,000 feet
in the Rocky Mountains. There
it inhabits barren slopes and
breeds in rocky, exposed areas.
In lowland areas, the night-
hawk inhabits open grassland
and recently cleared or open
coniferous forest. The bird for-
ages high over open areas such
as lakes, rivers, and meadows.
Although it can adapt to a va-
riety of nesting sites, the night-
hawk never nests in shade. It
prefers rocky or burned areas
that are similar in color to its
plumage and eggs. Recently it
has taken to nesting on the flat
roofs of city buildings.
In August the nighthawk heads
for its winter habitats in South
America. It is often seen flying in
flocks beside a river.
Right: Like its relative the whip-
poor-will, the common nighthawk
rests lengthwise on a branch.
The common nighthawk is one
of the last summer birds to ar-
rive at its breeding grounds from
its winter habitat. The birds re-
main paired for the summer,
and several pairs are frequent-
ly found within a few yards of
one another.
Egg laying begins in mid-May
but is most common in early
June. Because a nest on open
ground would draw attention
to the bird, the nighthawk does
not build one. Instead, the fe-
male lays her eggs on the bare
soil or in a furrow that she has
scratched in the ground.
Left: The female nighthawk lays
two eggs on open ground and incu-
bates them for almost three weeks.
During incubation and after
hatching, the male perches on a
nearby branch to act as a l o o k ~
out. He often flies high over the
nesting area and then falls like a
stone before pulling himself up
at the last moment a few yards
from the ground.
It takes 19 days for the eggs to
hatch. For three weeks the chicks
are fed balls of insects regurgi-
tated by their parents. Both par-
ents defend the chicks, putting
up a threatening display to scare
off intruders. The female often
fakes injury to divert the atten-
tion of a predator.
Right: The common nighthawk is
hard to spot because it often rests
on mottled surfaces.
Left: Few birds
are as helpful to
farmers as the
common night-
hawk, yet hunt-
ing at one time
threatened its
future. It is now
protected in the
United States,
and its popula-
tion is stable.
• As the common nighthawk
dives, its wings make a roaring
sound, like the noise produced
by blowing over the mouth of
an empty bottle. The noise is
caused by wind pressure on
the bird's stiff wing feathers.
• When defending his young
from an intruder, the male
nighthawk puffs up into a ball,
The common nighthawk's well-
known zigzagging flight can be
seen in early evening, when it
searches for food. It alternates
between fast and slow wing
beats as it looks for insects. The
bird can also be seen in flight
during the day, especially in
cloudy weather. It sometimes
flies at night during the breed-
ing season, when it needs more
insects to feed its young.
The nighthawk feeds on flying
ants, beetles, moths, crickets,
and grasshoppers. Because it
beats his wings against the
ground, stares wildly, and ut-
ters a blowing hiss.
• As many as 2,000 winged
ants were found in the stom-
ach of one nighthawk. Anoth-
er's stomach contained over
500 mosquitoes, and a third's
contained over 1,000 insects
of more than 50 species.
loses heat quickly, this small bird
must consume many insects to
sustain itself. It catches large
numbers of insects by holding
its mouth wide open in flight.
At times it sweeps low to gorge
on grasshoppers or skims the
surface of a lake to drink.
The nighthawk's huge appe-
tite makes it popular with farm-
ers, because it helps to control
insect populations on farmland.
Among the crop pests it eats are
Colorado and cucumber bee-
tles, weevils, and froghoppers.
Bronta /eucapsis
A close relative of the Canada goose, the barnacle goose can be
seen each winter on the coasts of northwestern Europe. In
early summer it returns to the Arctic Circle to breed.
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Length: 2 - 2 ~ ft.
Weight: 3-4 lb.
Sexual maturity: 3 years.
Breeding season: May to June.
Eggs: Usually 3-5.
No. of broods: 1 .
Incubation: About 3 ~ weeks.
Fledging period: About 7 weeks.
Habit: Sociable; breeding, flying,
and feeding in flocks.
Diet: Almost entirely grass, but
also some coastal plants and small
Breeding range of the
barnacle goose.
Winter range.
Call: Short, sharp bark.
There are 4 other species in the
genus Bronta: the Canada goose,
B. canadensis; the brant, B. bemi-
c/o; the Hawaiian goose, B. sandvi-
censis; and the red-breasted goose,
B. rufical/is.
The barnacle goose breeds in Greenland, Spitsbergen, and No-
vaya Zemlya. It winters on the coasts of Ireland, Great Britain,
Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Although sometimes hunted, the barnacle goose is not in any
immediate danger. The successful conservation of wintering
grounds has caused an increase in numbers.
Plumage: Both sexes have black
necks and upper breasts; white lower
breasts and flanks; pale gray, distinc-
tively striped backs; and black tails.
The juvenile is duller and grayer
Flight: The black chest and white belly present an obvi-
ous contrast, while the rump is eye-catching if
than the glossy adult.
seen from above. Flocks fly in a ragged
formation, often with a chain of
birds strung out behind.
Head: White, with black
crown and eye streak. The
stubby bill is black.
Nest: Usually built on
a cliff ledge and lined
with down and
Eggs: Usually 3 to 5, but on
rare occasions as many as 9.
Gray-white when first laid,
but soon become darker.
The striking black-and-white coloring of the barnacle goose
distinguishes it from the four other species in its genus. This
sociable bird nests in large co/onies, and it often makes a
considerable amount of noise. At times the barnacle goose
yelps almost continuously, somewhat like a small dog.
This bird is at its noisiest when it is taking flight.
The barnacle goose spends its
breeding season on the coast of
Greenland, the Arctic island of
Spitsbergen, or the islands of
Novaya Zemlya in Russia . A
sociable bird, it nests in large,
noisy colonies. Family groups
link up to form large flocks for
The barnacle goose feeds at
any time of day. This bird pre-
fers coastal grass that is flooded
occasionally by salt water. When
that is not available, it moves
inland to find pastures.
In its summer quarters, the
barnacle goose also eats the
the fall and spring migrations.
When migrating, barnacle
geese fly in the familiar V for-
mation adopted by most other
geese. But at other times, the
flying pack, or skein, is irregu-
lar, with a chain of single birds
strung out behind the leader.
shoots of coastal plants. In win-
ter, when grass is less plentiful,
this goose sometimes eats sea-
weed, water insects, mollusks,
and crustaceans.
Right: The barnacle goose feeds
frequently throughout the day as
well as the night.
The breeding season begins
shortly after the birds return
to the Arctic. When courting,
pairs rush around with their
necks outstretched, flicking
their wings and calling loudly.
Each bird has only one mate
for the season, and this pair
bond may last a lifetime.
The barnacle goose joins a
large nesting colony. It often
makes its nest on a cliff ledge,
and it may share the nesting
ground with seabirds such as
left: The white face contrasting
with the black head and neck dis-
tinguishes the barnacle goose.
• The barnacle goose was
named by medieval Britons.
Because they never saw the
goose nesting on their shores,
they believed it did not hatch
from an egg but from a type
of barnacle, which they called
the goose barnacle.
murres. Other popular sites in-
clude river gorges, rocky hill-
sides, and sometimes tundra.
The nest is always a depression
lined with lichens and down.
In June the female lays three
to five eggs but may lay more.
She incubates them for three
to four weeks while the male
stands guard. The young geese
are active immediately and fly
in about seven weeks. They
migrate with the family group
and stay with it for the winter.
Right: Goslings can soon care for
themselves, but the family bond
lasts all winter.
• Medieval Christians ate the
barnacle goose during Lent, in
the belief that it was more fish
than fowl.
• For protection from the Arc-
tic fox, the barnacle goose
may build its nest near birds
of prey that scare off the fox.

The distinctive plumage of the
barnacle goose makes it easy
to pick out from other geese,
including its close relatives the
brant and Canada goose.
The bird is often seen in the
coastal areas of northwestern

At the end of summer the bar-
nacle goose migrates to its win-
ter home. About 35,000 birds
from Greenland fly across Ice-
land to the Western Isles of Scot-
land and stretches of the Irish
coast. In addition 12,000 birds
from Spitsbergen fly along the
Scandinavian coast to the Sol-
Europe between October and
Apri l. Its favorite sites are salt
marshes, grassland near river
estuaries, or tidal mud flats,
where it feeds. In addition the
barnacle goose often settles
on small islands.
way Firth on the western coast
of Great Britain. These flocks
never mix. Well over 50,000
birds from Novaya Zemlya fly
across the Baltic Sea to coastal
areas of Denmark, the Nether-
lands, and Germany.
The barnacle goose occasion-
ally appears on the coasts of the
Mediterranean, the Azores, and
even northeastern North Ameri-
ca. But this is probably because
it has been blown off course.
In spring the goose flies north
again, usually arriving at its Arc-
tic breeding grounds in May.
left: The barnacle goose flies with
the deep, powerful wing beats com-
mon to all geese.
Opisthocomus hoazin
The hoatzin is an extraordinary bird that lives in the flooded
rainforests of South America. It was once widely believed to be a
living link between modern birds and extinct, reptilian species.
Length: About 2 ft.
Weight: 1 % lb.
Mating: At various times through-
out the year.
Eggs: 2-5; creamy white with
brown and violet speckles.
Incubation: 4 weeks.
Habit: Social. Feeds in the morning
and evening, resting during the
hottest parts of the day among
plants or branches.
Diet: Flowers, leaves, fruits, and
marsh plants. Sometimes small
crabs or fish.
Call: Hoarse shrieks and croaks.
Lifespan: Unknown.
The only species in its family, the
hoatzin is now recognized as a rela-
tive of the cuckoos.
Adult: Among the hoatzin's many dis-
tinctive features are its hunched back,
red eyes, bare-skinned bluish face, and
long tail feathers.
Plumage: Mainly brown upperparts
with buff streaks. Long, wispy
crest, buff-colored breast
and neck, and chest-
nut underparts.
Range of the hoatzin.
The hoatzin is found in northern parts of South America, in the
Amazon basin area stretching from Guyana and Brazil west to
Bolivia and Colombia.
The hoatzin's habitat is threatened by the destruction of rain-
forests and the draining of flooded areas.
Eggs: The female lays 2 to 5 large,
creamy white, speckled eggs that
hatch after 4 weeks.
Wing claws: The juvenile has 2
claws on the end of each wing
that help it climb in branches.
The claws disappear as the
bird matures.
With its primitive features and highly specialized habits,
the hoatzin is an intriguing creature that scientists have
found difficult to classify. Because it has little in common
with any other living bird, different experts have placed it
in eight different orders-including one of its own. Today,
however, scientific authorities are convinced that the
hoatzin is most closely related to the cuckoo family.
~ H A B I T A T
The hoatzin lives in flooded for-
ests and lowland swamps in the
Amazon basin. In this habitat
the trees stand in deep water
for six months of the year, after
the rains. During this period the
hoatzin must remain above the
ground, occasionally leaping or
flying between trees.
In some areas the water may
be more than 30 feet deep, and
only the tops of the taller trees
remain above the surface. At
such times, the hoatzin sits in
the treetops, feeding mostly on
leaves. When the waters recede,
the bird roams more widely, for-
aging in the mud and wet areas
beneath the trees.
A social and largely sedentary
bird, the hoatzin often remains
within a very limited region for
its entire life. Older birds avoid
swimming, flying, and foraging
on the ground. They prefer to
rest in the trees.
The hoatzin builds its nest high
in the trees, above the flood lev-
el. A closely packed platform of
twigs, the nest is built by both
sexes. The pair lives in a group
of up to 30 birds that help each
other in nest building.
The female lays from two to
five eggs. The young stay with
their parents for a long time. A
chick thrusts its beak inside the
wide-open mouth of one of its
parents to get food.
The chick begins leaving the
nest when it grows a coat of
down, but it does not learn to
fly for some time. Instead, it
uses its bill and the tiny claws
Left: Because of its appearance, the
hoatzin has often been classified as
a game bird.
• The hoatzin can defend it-
self by emitting an unpleas-
ant, strong, musky smell that
discourages predators from
eating it.
• Fossilized hoatzin remains
have been found that are 40
to 50 million years old.
• The juvenile hoatzin is the
only bird that has true claws
at the tips of its wings to climb
around in branches and then
return to the nest. It was once
thought that the wing claws
were an inheritance from long-
extinct species. But today the
claws are considered a recent
adaptation to the demands of
a tree-dwelling lifestyle.
By the time the hoatzin ma-
tures, its wing claws have disap-
peared. The adult is a poor flier,
flapping with great effort over
relatively short distances. How-
ever, special muscles move the
wings, so that the bird can climb
in a manner that is unusual for a
modern bird.
Right: The chicks are born feather-
less but grow a coat of gray down
after a few days.
on its wings. However, some
other young birds, such as
rails, also use their wings to
climb through branches.
• The young hoatzin can es-
cape enemies by dropping
from its nest into the water
below the tree. It dives re-
peatedly until the predator
loses interest.
The hoatzin feeds in the early
morning and evening. It eats
marsh plants and the tough
leaves, fruits, and flowers of
two South American tree spe-
cies. Occasionally it drops to
the water to catch fish or shell-
fish, such as crabs.
Like many birds, the hoatzin
swallows food whole, storing
Left: The hoatzin's red eyes and
bluish face are two of its distin-
guishing characteristics.
Left: Because of
the young hoa-
tzin 's wing claws,
the bird was once
thought to be
linked to Archae-
opteryx and simi-
lar long-extinct,
primitive species.
However, it is now
known that the
claws are a re-
cent adaptation.
it in its crop-a pouched en-
largement of the gullet. When
they are hungry, most birds
grind up the stored food in
their second stomach, or giz-
zard, before digesting it. But
the hoatzin grinds food in its
crop. This peculiar digestive
system can make the bird very
top-heavy when its crop is full.
As a result, it often needs to
rest with its breast supported
against a branch.
'" CARD 214 I
" ~ ________________________________ G_R_O_U_P_2_:_B_IR_D_S __ ~
~ Piciformes ~ Picidae ~ Co/aptes auratus
The lively northern flicker is the American counterpart of Europe ~
green woodpecker. Its name may derive from the flicking motion of
the b i r d ~ head as it discards bark chips from its nest.
Length: 11 -14 in .
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: Spring.
No. of broods: 1.
Eggs: 5-10; white.
Incubation: 11-12 days.
Fledging period: About 4 weeks.
Habit: Nests in tree holes but
feeds mainly on the ground.
Diet: Mainly ants; also other
insects as well as berries, nuts,
and fruit.
Call: Loud, rapid "wick-er"
and single, raucous screech.
There are 7 other species of flicker
in the genus Co/aptes, including
Fernandina's flicker, C. fernandinae,
which is found in Cuba; the rest
live in South America.
Range of the northern flicker.
Found from the tree line in Alaska and Canada south to the Gulf
of Mexico and the Greater Antilles. The yellow-shafted subspe-
cies is especially common east of the Rocky Mountains.
The northern flicker is extremely widespread and common
throughout its range.
Male: Depending on the subspecies, has
a black or red stripe on each cheek.
bars. Pink
with black
spots on
belly. Red
streak on
back of head.
provide support
while climbing.
Flight: Lively
and bobbing. Reveals the
white rump.
Legs: Very strong for gripping
tree trunks. All 4 toes
have sharp claws.
Bill: Long,
pointed, and
very sturdy for
hollowing out
nest holes
and feeding.
Female: Plum-
age is similar to that
of the male. Female
lacks the black or
red cheek stripe.
US P 6001 12076 PACKET 76
The northern flicker is widespread across wooded areas
of North America and is often seen migrating in flocks
along the coasts. This woodpecker frequently ventures
into suburban areas, where it pecks at buildings and
television antennas when it cannot find suitable trees.
~ H A B I T S
The northern flicker is found in
open woodland as well as sub-
urban areas. Like all woodpeck-
ers, it is well suited to life in the
trees. It uses its strong tail, sharp
claws, and curved wing feathers
to support itself while feeding
or hollowing out its nest hole.
The bird also spends much of its
time on the ground, however,
foraging for food.
In the north of its range, this
flicker is found around the tree
line in both Alaska and Canada.
Northern populations migrate
south in fall, sometimes travel-
ing long distances. Large flocks
are often seen flying along the
coasts of North America. The
birds can be identified in the air
by their characteristic wing and
tail movements. They can also
be recognized by their white
rumps and the striking golden
yellow or pink on the undersides
of the wing and tail feathers.
The northern flicker has an ex-
tremely large appetite. At least
60 percent of its diet consists
of insects, and two-thirds of
them are ants. When they are
available, the bird eats several
thousand ants a day, using its
long tongue to find the ants
among fallen leaves and on
stumps and decaying logs.
Left: The most widespread subspe-
cies of the northern flicker is also
called the yellow-shafted flicker.
• The northern flicker some-
times rides on ships, especial-
ly in stormy weather. In 1962,
one bird apparently crossed
the Atlantic on a ship.
• Desert-dwelling northern
flickers hollow out nest holes
in giant cacti.
• The northern flicker is the
Extending about two inches
beyond the bill, the flicker's
tongue is coated with sticky
saliva and has two small barbs
at the tip that can trap many
ants at a time.
In addition to insects, the
northern flicker feeds on plant
matter such as berries, small
nuts, and wild fruit.
Right: Both parents feed the young
northern flicker partially digested
food every hour or two.
state bird of Alabama. During
the Civil War, soldiers from Al-
abama wore flicker feathers in
their caps.
• The name flicker is often at-
tributed to the "flick" of the
bird's head, but it may also be
derived from the characteris-
tic "wick-er" call.
During spring the male north-
ern flicker engages in his court-
ship display. He performs very
elaborate "dances," nodding
his head back and forth, fan-
ning out his tail feathers, and
holding his tail at a slant, often
at an angle of 45 degrees to the
body. Several males may display
to and pursue one female, but
the choice of a mate is up to her.
Once paired, the male and fe-
male often call loudly to each
other from previous nest sites.
They then select a nest site of
their own, usually in the trunk of
a decaying tree. Both sexes hol-
low out the nest hole, pecking
out bark with their beaks and
Left: The young northern flicker
makes its first trip from the nest
about a month after hatching.
discarding it with flicks of their
heads. Old nest holes and natu-
ral cavities are also used as nests.
The female flicker lays 5 to 1 0
white eggs, producing one egg
a day. During the day the male
and female take turns incubat-
ing the eggs, but at night only
the male incubates. After 11 to
12 days the young hatch, bl ind
and featherless. The male covers
them with his wings at night.
Both sexes feed the chicks by
regurgitating partly digested
insects into their gaping beaks.
The nestlings are fed at long in-
tervals, only once every one or
two hours. Nevertheless, they
develop quickly and can leave
the nest at a month old. They
usually remain with the parents
for another month, however.
Chrysolophus amherstiae
Lady Amherst ~ pheasant is a secretive bird that usually hides
in dense undergrowth. For this reason the bird is difficult to
observe in the wild, and little is known about its habits.
Body length: Male, lOin. Female,
12 in.
Tail: Male, 2 ~ - 3 ft. Female, 1-2 ft.
Weight: Male, 1 ~ - 2 lb. Female,
about 1 ~ lb.
Breeding season: April to June.
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: 6-12; glossy creamy white to
pale yellow.
Incubation: About 3 weeks.
Habit: Active at dawn and dusk.
Pairs during the breeding season.
Sociable in fall and winter.
Diet: Buds, seeds, plants, insects,
and spiders.
Call: Harsh crowing call. Low call to
alert partners to food.
The closest relative of Lady Am-
herst's pheasant is the golden
pheasant, Chrysolophus pictus.
Range of lady Amherst's pheasant.
Found in southwestern China, parts of northeastern Myanmar,
and southeastern Tibet. Wild populations of introduced birds
live in parts of Great Britain.
Lady Amherst's pheasant is probably becoming scarce in its na-
tive range, so that Great Britain's population of 200 to 500 birds
is important.
Eggs: 6 to 12; creamy white
to pale yellow.
Female: Dull brownish beige plum-
age striped with black. Tail feathers
are much shorter than the male's.
Bill , face, and legs are blue-gray.
Tail feathers:
Much longer than
the female's.
feathers at the
Male: -Brilliant plumage of deep blue,
yellow, red , and green. Scalloped neck
cape and crimson crest.
0160200631 PACKET 63
The male Lady Amherst's pheasant is one of the
most beautiful, brightly colored birds in the world. Its
striking plumage of glossy blue, green, red, and yellow is
set off by a striped black and white tail that is up to three
times as long as the bird's body. With her dull brownish
beige plumage, the female is drab by comparison,
resembling the female common pheasant.

In Asia, Lady Amherst's pheas-
ant lives in remote mountain
areas at elevations of 6,500 to
15,000 feet . It prefers thorny
thickets and dense stands of
bamboo. In severe winters, it
descends to valleys to escape
the harsh mountain weather.
Birds that have been intro-
duced to Great Britain live in
a different habitat. They prefer
tree farms of half-grown conifers
from 10 to 30 years old. These
close-growing young trees block
out most light, so ground plants
cannot grow. As a result, these
areas lack the thick undergrowth
that the birds often hide in.
Lady Amherst's pheasant can
also be found in deciduous or
mixed woodland with dense
growths of bramble and rhodo-
dendron. It generally stays in
the same range all year, but
sometimes it moves locally to
new areas of woodland.

During the breeding season, the
male Lady Amherst's pheasant
performs an elaborate courtship
display. First he runs around the
female in wide circles, trying to
block her escape. Then he stops
and suddenly rushes up to her,
putting his head as close to her
as possible. At this point, he
adopts a strange posture.
He flicks his neck cape forward
on the side nearest the female
and stares intently at her. The
rest of his head, except for his
thin, bright red crest, is buried
in the cape. At the same time,
he lowers the wing on the side
near the female and raises the
Left: Most Lady Amherst's pheas-
ants are hybrids. Many birds are
bred with the golden pheasant.
• This pheasant is named for
Lady Sarah Amherst (1762-
1838). She was the wife of
William Pitt Amherst, an En-
glish earl who was governor-
general of India from 1826
until 1828. When Lord and
Lady Amherst returned to
Great Britain, they brought
a pair of the pheasants, and
other wing. His whole body is
flattened to display his green
back and bright yellow and red
rump. His tail is slanted, and the
scarlet-tipped feathers at its base
are fully extended. He seems to
be unable to mate unless he has
performed this display.
The female lays up to 12 glossy
eggs in a bare scrape (shallow
depression) in the ground. She
incubates the eggs for about
three weeks. After they hatch,
the young are able to walk and
feed themselves. But the female
tends them for a short period,
covering them with her wings
during the night.
Right: The female's grayish blue
face and legs distinguish her from
the common pheasant.
the birds were quickly rec-
ognized as a new species.
• In China, male Lady Am-
herst's pheasants have been
hunted for many years for
their beautiful plumage.
• One Chinese name for the
species translates as "flower
pheasant," a fitting descrip-
tion of the gaudy male.

Lady Amherst's pheasant is a
shy bird that prefers to hide in
dense cover. The best chance
of seeing the bird is in winter,
when it may dash across the
open ground between trees.
In spring, the male's distinctive
harsh, four-note crowing calls
Like other game birds, Lady
Amherst's pheasant eats both
plants and small invertebrates.
Because of its secretive nature,
little is known about its diet in
the wild. Analysis of food in the
bird's crop has revealed that it
eats ferns, grains, seeds, and
nuts. Bamboo buds seem to be
Left: Lady Amherst's pheasant of-
ten eats small invertebrates, which
it finds under the leaf debris on the
forest floor.
can be heard at dawn or dusk,
when he emerges to feed or
patrol his territory.
The male Lady Amherst's
pheasant has unmistakable
plumage. The female's is pale
brownish beige with bold
black stripes.
its favorite food in Asia. In fact,
one of its Chinese names, sun-
chi, means "fowl of the buds."
It is also thought that birds in
China catch spiders and insects
such as earwigs and small bee-
tles. To find these creatures, the
birds search among pebbles and
scratch in the earth. Lady Am-
herst's pheasant may also wade
into the shallow water of rivers
and streams and turn over
stones to find food.
~ Charadriiformes "11IIIIIIII Scolopacidae
Tringa nebula ria
CARD 216
The common greenshank is an elegant wading bird named for its
long, colorful legs. A large number of these birds visit western Europe
each year on their way to Africa. Others stay in Europe year-round.
Length: 12-13 in.
Wingspan: 2 ~ ft .
Weight: 6-7 oz.
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Mating season: April and May.
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: Usually 4; buff with dark
brown blotches.
Incubation: 3 ~ weeks.
Fledging period: 4 weeks.
Habit: Solitary, but small groups
form in coastal areas.
Diet: Insects and larvae, crus-
taceans, mollusks, and worms.
Also some small fish.
Call: A loud three-part call.
lifespan: 12 years.
The 10 species in the genus
Tringa include the greater yel-
lowlegs, T. melanoleuco.
Summer range of the
common greenshank.
Winter range.
The common greenshank spends the summer in a range that
stretches from Scotland east across Scandinavia, northern Eu-
rope, and Asia to Siberia. Many migrate south to Africa, south-
ern Asia, and Australasia.
Because most of its breeding range is in remote parts of north-
ern Eurasia, the bird is current ly in little danger.
Plumage: Mottled
gray and brown up-
perparts, white un-
derparts, and darker
wings. In summer the
coloring is less brown
with more patches
of black and gray.
Legs: Long and pale green. The
bird walks through the water
with high steps.
In flight: White rump contrasts with
dark wings. Long legs stretch out
beyond the tail. Calls loudly.
Eggs: 3 or 4,
laid in May
or June.
by both
parents for
24 to 25 days.
Bill: Long, solid, and
slightly upcurved.
Blue-gray color.
us P 6001 12 077 PACKET 77
The common greenshank has a three-part ringing call
that carries long distances over the coasts and bogs of its
bleak northern breeding range. Like most members of the
sandpiper family, this bird builds a shallow ground nest in
a site that is remarkably well concealed and camouflaged.
Finding the common greenshank's nest posed an almost
irresistible challenge to egg collectors in the past.
The common greenshank is a
solitary bird except during the
breeding season. However, in
coastal parts of its range, there
may be small flocks, especially
when food is abundant. This
bird is always found close to
water, which varies from the
brackish tidewater of estuaries
and coasts to the fresh water
of lakes, large reservoirs, rivers,
peat bogs, and marshes.
The greenshank's breeding
range extends from Scotland
through northern Europe and
Asia to Siberia.
In the fall the population in
western Europe is swelled by
migrants from Scandinavia on
their way to Africa for the win-
ter. Birds in eastern Europe may
migrate from their breeding
grounds to spend the winter in
the warmer climates of south-
ern Asia or even Australia.
Right: The common greenshank is
one of the few sandpipers that reg-
ularly eats small fish.

Common greenshanks mate in
April and early May. To attract
a mate, the male gives an elabo-
rate display of flying chases and
aerobatics. He also hops up and
down on the ground.
After she mates, the female
chooses a nest site, usually on
open moors or marshy ground
covered with short heather and
lichens. She scrapes a shallow
depression in the earth, near a
rock or fallen branch for camou-
flage. Then she lines the scrape
with shoots, grass, and leaves.
She generally lays four buff-
Left: The common greenshank's
bill is the perfect shape for forag-
ing in soft mud and shallow water.
• The common greenshank
was threatened earlier in this
century by egg collectors, but
this activity is now illegal in
several European countries.
As a result, greenshank pop-
ulations have recovered.
• The greenshank's nest is re-
nowned among naturalists for
being well camouflaged.
colored eggs that are heavily
marked with dark brown spots
and blotches. Both parents take
turns incubating the eggs and
foraging for food, but the fe-
male usually spends more time
sitting on the nest.
The eggs hatch after about
three and a half weeks. In just a
few hours the downy chicks are
ready to leave the nest. Both
parents lead the chicks to the
water and remain with them for
about four weeks. By that time
the chicks are fully fledged and
can catch their own food.
Right: The female tosses eggshells
away from the nest so that they
will not attract predators.
• The greenshank now breeds
in Scotland's Outer Hebrides.
But just 40 years ago it was
hardly ever seen in that area.
• During his lively courtship
display, the male may leap
right over his intended mate.
• The common greenshank
utters a piercing call when it
is disturbed.
The common greenshank is
the largest member of its sub-
family. It can be identified by
its loud three-part call and its
long, pale green legs. The legs
trail behind the tail when the
bird is flying.
During its migration, the
common greenshank is most
frequently seen wading in the
shallow water of estuaries and
marshes, especially on coasts.
The bi rd darts about, with its
bi ll slightly parted- ready to
snatch insects and other small
animals from the water.
Every morning and evening the
common greenshank wades
through shallow water or feeds
at the water's edge. In freshwa-
ter areas it usually forages alone,
walking slowly and pecking at
the surface with its long bill.
The common greenshank's
diet consists of water insects
and their larvae plus some crus-
taceans, mollusks, and worms.
In addition the bird sometimes
preys on small fish that swim in
shallow waters.
, , ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Coraci iformes
Buceros bicornis
'" CARD 217 I
The great Indian hornbilllives in the rainforest canopy. This bird is
known for its unusual nesting habits. The female seals herself inside
a tree cavity for many weeks to lay her eggs and rear her young.
Body length: 3-5 ft.
Bill length: 13-15 in.
Wingspan: 6 ft.
Sexual maturity: Probably
2-3 years.
Breeding season: Rainy season.
Eggs: Usually 2; white.
Incubation: About 1 month.
Fledging: About 2 months.
Habit: Day-active tree dweller.
Diet: Fruit, seeds, insects, snails,
and frogs. Also small reptiles,
mammals, and birds.
Call: Noisy range of nasal barks.
Lifespan: Unknown.
The genus contains the rhinoceros
horn bill, Buceros rhinoceros, and
the rufous horn bill, B. hydrocorax.
Range of the great Indian horn bill.
The great Indian hornbill is found in the tropical rainforests
of western India, across the Himalayas to Thailand, and south
down the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra.
The great Indian horn bill is threatened by human activity and
widespread habitat destruction.
Flight: Clumsy and noisy. Huge wings
have white bar and "fingered" tips.
Plumage: Predominantly
black and white, with
buff neck and chest.
Long white tail
feathers with
black bar.
Male: Iris is blood red,
with jet black area
around the eye. Black
markings on the
Casque: "Horn"
on the upper
bill mandible,
for which the
bird is named.
It is very light
in weight and
amplifies the
bird's calls.
Female: Distinguished
from the male by a pearly
white iris and a red ring
around the eye.
us P 6001 12075 PACKET 75
At a length of up to five feet, the great Indian hornbill is
one of the largest of the 46 species in the hornbill family.
This bird can be easily seen in captivity because it is a
popular animal in zoos. In the wild, however, the great
Indian hornbill is increasingly threatened by human
activity. Many of the tall trees in which it nests are being
cut down for lumber. In addition, the bird is widely hunted.
~ H A B I T A T
The range of the great Indian
horn bill extends from western
India, east across the Himalayas
to Thailand, and south through
the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra.
It lives in the canopy of rain-
forests, where it favors large ev-
ergreen trees. An agile bird, it
bounces along large branches
foraging for food. It frequently
moves through the forest with a
partner or in small groups. From
high in a tree, it honks, barks,
and bellows to call other birds.
Clumsily flapping its immense,
rounded wings, the great Indian
horn bill resembles a vulture in
flight. When air passes across its
feather shafts, it causes them to
vibrate, creating a "whooshing"
sound that is heard far away.
The great Indian horn bill feeds
primarily on fruit, which it picks
with great dexterity while hop-
ping along tree branches. It al-
so descends to the ground to
gather fallen fruit.
This horn bill appears to pre-
fer figs, which are rich in sugar
and available throughout the
year. However, it eats almost
left: Despite its unwieldy biJI, the
great Indian hornbiJI feeds with
delicate movements.
• The white eggs of the great
Indian horn bill become brown
during incubation because the
female soils them.
• It takes a week or two for the
nesting female horn bill to molt
(shed) her flight and tail feath-
ers completely.
• The female and her offspring
defecate through the slit in the
anything that it is able to reach
or catch, such as seeds, snails,
insects, and frogs. In addition,
the great Indian horn bill preys
on small reptiles, mammals,
and birds. The bird frequently
swallows its prey whole. It then
regurgitates the animal's bones
and other indigestible parts in
a pellet.
Right: The male great Indian horn-
biJI can be identified by the black
markings on his casque.
nest wall. Their droppings con-
tain undigested seeds, which
may sprout beneath the nest
hole. The height of the sprout-
ing shoots provides a clue to
the young hornbill's age and
often leads to its capture. Peo-
ple break into the nest and
take the young when it is old
enough to be sold to a zoo.
The great Indian hornbill gen-
erally breeds during the rainy
season, when the moist soil
can be used in nest building.
The bird nests in a large tree
cavity, usually 60 to 80 feet
above the ground.
After entering the nest hole,
the female horn bill seals up the
entrance from within, using a
mixture of manure and food
remains that is held together
with mud. She leaves only a
small slit in the wall so that the
male can pass her food. This
slit is small enough to keep out
any potential predators such as
snakes and monkeys.
left: The juvenile great Indian horn-
biJI has a large upper mandible, al-
though it lacks the adult's casque.
Inside the nest cavity the fe-
male lays two eggs and incu-
bates them for about a month.
Often only one egg hatches,
perhaps because there is room
in the nest only for the mother
and a single offspring. Because
the young bird is hidden inside
the nest, little is known about
. its life except that it develops
slowly over several months. The
cramped conditions inside the
nest cavity do not permit it to
develop more rapidly.
When the young bird is old
enough to leave the nest, the
female breaks down the walls
with her bill. The offspring has
to learn to fly after emerging
because it has had little chance
to exercise in the nest.
Eudromia e/egans
The crested tinamou belongs to a primitive family of Central
and South American birds. It looks somewhat like a guinea
fowl but is distinguished by its wispy black crest.
Length: 15-16 in.
Weight: 1/:1 -2 lb .
Sexual maturity: 8 months.
Breeding season: September to
No. of eggs: 5-16; shiny green.
Incubation: About 3 weeks.
Fledging period: 3-4 months.
Habit: Sociable; active by day; for-
ages for food on the ground.
Diet: Leaves, twigs, grasses, flow-
ers, seeds, buds, brush, insects and
their larvae.
Calls: Raucous and varied. Sharp
whistles, nasal calls, twittering.
lifespan: 7-9 years.
There are 47 species of tinamou,
including the brush land, the pale
spotted, the spotted, and Ingoufi's
Plumage: Buff-brown with darker brown
flecks and streaks, providing good eam-
ouflage in scrub. Breast and belly are
paler. Pale streaks run from the eye and
bill down each side of the neck.
• Range of the crested tinamou.
The crested tinamou is found in the desert, semiarid central,
and southern regions of Argentina. It is occasionally found in
Bolivia and Chile.
Persecution by hunters and trappers has depleted the crested
tinamou population. But the bird's hardiness and wary nature
have enabled it to survive.
Crest: Wispy. Feathers
are up to 2 inches long
and usually black. The
female flares her crest
in the mating season.
Wings: Stubbly,
the bird a poor
Defensive posture:
When threatened, the
bird races for ground
hcrouches low
and, for no obvious
reason, often raises its
rump. If the intruder
persists, the crested
tinamou rises and
flies away.
The crested tinamou is found primarily in desert and
semiarid regions of Argentina, where it survives well on
scant vegetation. This shYt nervous game bird is actively
pursued by hunters throughout the year. Although it is
plump and reluctant to flYt the crested tinamou has
great stamina and manages to be surprisingly elusive.
The crested tinamou is most
numerous in the brush land of
Argentina. It is also found in a
few parts of Bolivia and Chile.
Like many tinamous, this bird
is a weak flier. When alarmed, it
takes cover in a thicket or in the
burrow of another animal. As a
last resort, it flies straight up in-
to the air, clattering its wings.
The crested tinamou scrubs its
feathers in the soil frequently.
These dust baths keep its plum-
age in good condition and rid
its skin of parasites.
Among the noisiest of all the
tinamous, its calls include whis-
tles, catlike meows, and loud
"foghorn" sounds.
' ~
The crested tinamou is a hardy
bird that has no problem sur-
viving in the arid plains of its
habitat. It eats a wide variety of
foods and needs little water.
This bird's diet includes small
fruits, flowers, grasses, leaves,
twigs, and brush. If plants are
scarce, it eats insects and lar-
vae. Near lakes or rivers it may
also eat freshwater mollusks.
Like many other birds, it swal-
lows small stones and grains of
sand to aid digestion.
Left: This handsome game bird
deserves its alternate name: ele-
gant crested tinamou.
• The crested tinamou has
three toes. It lacks the short,
rear-pointing fourth toe most
other tinamous have.
• Flocks of 1,000 crested tin-
amous were once common,
but today flocks rarely num-
ber more than 30.
When foraging, the crested
tinamou scatters the ground
cover with its short beak. Some-
times it also hops up to reach
opening buds and blossoms.
After feeding in the morn-
ing, the bird rests with its flock
among bushes or other cover.
It feeds again in the afternoon
and then roosts in the open
until the next morning. In the
cool winter the crested tina-
mou feeds for longer periods
each morning and afternoon.
Right: Although social, the crested
tinamou may spend much of the
year alone on the dry plains.
• A startled crested tinamou
may fly up so suddenly that it
crashes into a tree or fence,
fatally injuring itself.
• The incubating male is so
reluctant to leave his clutch
that a human may approach
and even touch him.
At the beginning of the breed-
ing season in September, the
male crested tinamou stakes
out a territory in response to a
female's sharp whistle. He digs
a bowl-shaped nest pit beneath
low bushes or weeds and waits
for his mate.
At first the female is aggres-
sive toward the male, and he
crouches submissively with his
bill resting on the soil. He then
stands up and scurries in rapid
circles around the female. If she
tries to flee, he grabs her by the
neck with his bill.
left: Crested tinamou hatchlings
usually follow their father from the
nest on their first day.
Some time after mating, the
female lays 5 to 16 shiny green
eggs. The male incubates the
eggs, turning them with his
bill. He leaves the eggs only for
brief periods, after scattering
debris over them to keep them
warm in his absence.
The male also takes care of
the newly hatched young. The
chicks are able to leave the nest
as soon as they are dry but re-
main close to the male, often
wriggling under his wings for
warmth. They can fly short dis-
tances in 8 to 10 days. By the
age of three to four months,
the chicks are fully feathered
and independent.
Podilymbus podiceps
CARD 219
The pied-billed grebe is named for the two-tone coloring that
appears on its bill in the breeding season. It lacks the graceful
body of other grebes but is just as skilled at swimming and diving.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
Length: 12-15 in.
Wingspan: 15 in.
Weight: 4-5 oz.
Sexual maturity: 2-3 years.
Mating season: Mid-February
to March.
No. of broods: 1.
Eggs: 4-7; pale blue at first, then
buff or dark brown.
Incubation: 3 weeks.
Fledging period: About 6 weeks.
Habit: Lives in small flocks outside
the breeding season. Most north-
ern birds migrate.
Diet: Aquatic animals and plants.
Call: Owl-like call.
Lifespan: 10-12 years.
The genus also includes the now-
extinct Atitlan grebe, Podilymbus
gigas, of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Range of the pied-billed grebe.
Breeds from central Canada south through most of North, Cen-
tral, and South America. In the winter it is found from British
Columbia and the Great Lakes southward.
The pied-billed grebe is widespread and common throughout
most of its extensive range. But sewage and industrial waste
threaten both its freshwater and coastal habitats.
Nonbreeding plumage:
Brown upperparts, red-
dish throat, pale chin
and underparts.
Nest: A woven platform
of reeds, rushes, or
sedges. Usually anchored
to plants growing on the
edges of a freshwater
lake, marsh. or reed ged.
J Flight: Reveals dark
wings and pale
underparts. Legs
trail behind tail.
Bill : Short and deep.
Gray, with a black
band appearing
in the breeding
Breeding plumage:
Brown upperparts,
pale underparts and
rump. Black chin.
0160200871 PACKET 87
The pied-billed grebe is quite common throughout its
extensive range in the Americas. In winter this bird lives in
small, loose flocks. However, during the breeding season
the pied-billed grebe shows very little tolerance for other
pairs that invade its secluded freshwater nesting site.
~ H A B I T A T
The pied-billed grebe is found
throughout the Americas, ex-
cept in the Amazon basin. It set-
tles on coastal inlets, estuaries,
lagoons, and sluggish rivers, as
well as freshwater lakes. Outside
the breeding season, it lives in
small flocks.
Southern populations rarely
~ H A B I T S
The pied-billed grebe is clumsy
on land because its legs are set
far back on its body. But this
leg position is ideal for swim-
ming, giving the webbed feet
maximum leverage and thrust
as the grebe swims and dives.
The bird spends most of the
day feeding, preening, or rest-
migrate. Some northern birds
remain in British Columbia and
around the Great Lakes unless
winter frosts force them to fly
south. In February migrating
populations move to freshwater
reed beds, swamps, lakes, and
marshes to breed. The birds fly
at night in flocks of 50 to 1,000.
ing. If disturbed, it sinks into the
water up to its neck, then dives
and swims away.
The pied-billed grebe has a
loud call like an owl's. It starts
off slowly, then rises in tempo,
volume, and pitch until it even-
tually fades away, ending with
a "wup" or "pow" sound.
The pied-billed grebe eats small
aquatic animals and plants. It
feeds for long stretches, sifting
small items from the water with
its blunt bill. It also catches cray-
fish, fish, leeches, salamanders,
and frogs, as well as insects such
as backswimmers, water boat-
men, and damselflies.
When seeking food below the
surface, the grebe stretches into
a streamlined shape to dive. It is
able to reach a depth of 23 feet
Left: The pied-billed grebe scoops
food from the surface or dives to
seize unwary fish.
• A pied-billed grebe may con-
struct a free-floating nest up to
60 feet from the shoreline.
• There are more than 20,000
densely packed feathers on
the pied-billed grebe's body.
and stay underwater for about
12 minutes. In order to do this
on a regular basis, the bird must
preen its feathers to keep them
waterproof. It secretes oil from a
gland beneath the wings, dabs
the fluid onto its bill, and then
spreads it onto its plumage. The
sheer density of the pied-billed
grebe's feathers also helps keep
them water-repellent, enabling
the bird to hunt underwater for
long periods.
Right: Parents may spend up to
three months each year finding
food for their chicks.
• A relative of the pied-billed
grebe, the Atitlan grebe, once
lived on Lake Atitlan in Guate-
mala. However, the pollution
in the lake caused this bird to
become extinct.
In February, migrating popula-
tions begin heading north to
breed. Most birds pair up prior
to migrating. Before they mate,
the pair engages in a courtship
display. They may swim up to
each other, then turn suddenly
to show their tail feathers. With
their backs to each other, they
sway necks for a while before
repeating the performance. The
male also dives with a piece of
weed in his bill, surfaces in front
of his mate, and offers it to her.
Marshes, lakes, and shallow
ponds are the best breeding
sites because they contain rot-
ting rushes, sedges, reeds, and
Left: Pied-billed chicks nestle for
warmth under a parent's wing or
in its upper plumage.
Left: As the nest
vegetation de-
cays, it gives off
a gentle heat.
This helps to
keep the eggs
warm when
they are left
grasses for nest building. Select-
ing a site away from other pairs,
the grebe weaves a floating raft
that it often anchors to rooted
reeds. When finished, the plat-
form is about 9 inches high and
up to 20 inches across.
The female lays four to seven
eggs. Both sexes incubate the
eggs for about three weeks. The
parents may leave the clutch for
brief periods, but the nest is dif-
ficult to spot, and the eggs are
covered with rotting plants to
keep them warm.
The chicks are very active and
soon learn to dive. They are fully
fledged in about six weeks but
rely on their parents for most of
their food until they are about
three months old.
, , - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ardea herodias
The great blue heron is the largest North American heron and a
close relative of the gray heron of Europe. It usually has blue-gray
plumage, but in some areas it is completely white.
Length: 3-4 ft. Male larger
than female.
Wingspan: 6-7 ft.
Weight: Up to 8 lb.
Sexual maturity: 2 years.
Breeding season: Northern birds,
March to June. All year in south.
No. of eggs: 3-7; pale blue.
Incubation: About 4 weeks.
Fledging period: 2 months.
Habit: Solitary or lives in groups.
Northern populations migrate.
Diet: Insects, fish, amphibians,
reptiles, birds, mammals, plants.
Call: Harsh honk or softer croak.
Lifespan: Up to 25 years.
There are 11 heron species in the
genus Ardea. The European gray
heron, A. cinerea, is sometimes
considered the same species.
Range of the great blue heron.
Found from southern Canada throughout North and Central
America, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands.
The total number of great blue herons is difficult to establish.
The species is not thought to be in danger, but loss of habitat
may be detrimental to this shy bird.
Adult plumage:
Gray-blue with
reddish tinge on
neck and thighs.
The whitish neck
is streaked with
black in front.
There is a black
streak above
the eye.
plumes: Long,
feathers on the
head, neck,
and back of
legs: Very long, enabling the
heron to wade in deep water.
Bill: Yellow, paler in breeding
season. Long and powerful for
catching large fish and other prey.
Juvenile: Black coloring
on crown and on top
of bill. Plumage is a
duller reddish gray
than adult's plumage
and does not include
breeding plumes.
Eggs: Pale blue.
Female lays 3
to 7 in a large
nest of twigs,
usually built
high in a tree.
0160200721 PACKET 72
The great blue heron is a common bird that lives in
aquatic habitats throughout North and Central America.
It may be seen flying gracefully through the sky with s l o ~
powerful wing beats. At other times this long-legged bird
stands motionless in a lake or freshwater marsh, staring
patiently at the water while it waits for prey to appear.
The great blue heron lives on or
near marshes, swamps, lakes,
and rivers. It can tolerate salt wa-
ter and may be seen feeding in
the surf. In the winter the birds
in the north migrate to Florida,
Cuba, and South America. The
southern populations stay in the
same area all year.
There are nine subspecies of
great blue heron. One is entirely
white and is sometimes called
the great white heron. It makes
its home in coastal habitats such
as mangrove swamps in Florida
and Cuba.
The great blue heron is a com-
mon bird, with a population of
250,000 in Florida Bay alone. AI-
though it is usually shy, especial-
ly in the breeding season, birds
of the white subspecies have
developed a relationship with
humans. In the Florida Keys,
every fishing dock has a semi-
tame great white heron. It takes
scraps from fishing boats, raids
garbage cans, and steals food
from domestic animals.
The great blue heron is qui-
eter than its European relative,
the gray heron. It gives a harsh
honk when agitated in flight,
but croaks softly when disturbed
near the nest.
Right: The male and female con-
struct a large nest together, often
at the top of a tree.
The great blue heron feeds by
day, but in tidal habitats it may
forage at night. Its long legs en-
able it to feed in deep water out
of the reach of smaller wading
birds. While feeding, the great
blue heron stands still or wades
slowly, staring into the water. It
waits patiently and then quickly
strikes any prey that comes with-
in its reach.
The great blue heron has sev-
eral other feeding techniques. It
Left: A great blue heron flies with
its neck in an 5 shape and its long
legs extended.
• In Panama the great blue
heron nests as high as 5,000
feet above sea level.
• During courtship, the bird's
irises redden, the markings
between eye and beak turn
green, and the legs become
pinkish orange.
may hover over the water and
dive or jump onto prey. Or it
may probe the water for food.
The great blue heron eats a
variety of foods, including fish,
insects, amphibians, mammals,
birds, reptiles, and plants. The
plants are used to form pellets
so that the bird can cough up
indigestible items.
Right: A large bird, the great blue
heron is able to catch and digest
sizable prey.
Below: The heron's bright yellow
dagger-shaped bill enables it to
pierce slippery prey.
Among great blue herons breed-
ing often begins with a dancing
ceremony, in which birds strut
around, leaping up and momen-
tarily floating in the air. The dis-
playing male usually advertises
his presence from an old nest.
To attract a mate, he performs
displays such as "the stretch," in
which he points his closed beak
to the sky, showing off the plum-
age on his neck. Other mating
signals include preening his
wings, shaking twigs, flying in
special patterns, and fluffing his
neck feathers.
After finding a mate, the male
stabs at her in "bill duels." These
ritualized attacks help to estab-
lish a bond between the pair.
Great blue herons may nest
alone or in colonies. Pairs select
a high, quiet nest site that has a
good food supply. Three to sev-
en large, pale blue eggs are laid
on a three-foot-wide platform of
sticks. Birds in the northern part
of the range seem to produce
more eggs than those that live
farther south.
The eggs hatch in about four
weeks, and both parents look
after the young. Many chicks
die, with only about a third sur-
viving their first year. Although
some are killed by predators,
the chicks usually die of starva-
tion or by falling from the nest.