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SANDHILL CRANE

ORDER
Gruiformes
FAMILY
Gruidae
GENUS & SPECIES
Grus canadensis
The sandhill crane is a tall, graceful bird that lives in a variety
of habitats. Its range extends from the tundra of Siberia
and Canada to the swamps of Mississippi and Florida.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: 1 ~ - 4 ft., depending on
the race.
Wingspan: 6 - 6 ~ ft.
Weight: 7-11 lb.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 3 years.
Breeding season: Spring and
summer.
No. of broods: 1.
Eggs: Usually 2, oval-shaped.
Incubation: 1 month.
Fledging period: About 2 months.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Sociable and migratory (ex-
cept southern populations).
Diet: Roots, leaves, and fruit; also
aquatic animals.
RELATED SPECIES
There are 15 crane species divided
into 4 genera. These include the Si-
berian, Manchurian, hooded, wat-
tled, and whooping cranes.
FEATURES OF THE
SANDHill CRANE
Juvenile: Lacks the adult's red patch of feath-
ers on the crown. Head and neck vary from
pale brown to gray. Full adult plumage devel-
ops after 2Jtf years.
MCMXCII IMP BV/IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM
Resident range of
the sandhill crane.
DISTRIBUTION
Breeding
range.
Breeds in northeastern Siberia and in North America from Baf-
fin Island south to Iowa. Spends winter south of this range in
the western United States and in Mexico. Resident populations
occur in the southeastern states and in Cuba.
CONSERVATION
Large populations exist, but in spite of legislation the sandhill
crane is still hunted by farmers.
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
Flight: Long, easy strokes of the
powerful wings make the bird an
impressive sight. Unusual in that its
long neck is stretched out straight.
Eggs: Usually 2. White
flecked with pale brown.
0160200801 PACKET 80
Like all other species of cranes, the sandhill crane is
well known for the beautiful ritualized dance that it
performs with its partner. This graceful, refined display
is frequently accompanied by a low trumpeting call. A
very shy bird, the sandhill crane prefers to nest and
roost in a secluded area such as a remote marsh.
~ HABITS
The sandhill crane prefers open
areas with plenty of shallow wa-
ter in which it can feed and nest.
It stays away from human settle-
ments and is sensitive to man-
made changes in its habitat. In
the northern parts of its range,
the bird lives on wet arctic tun-
dra. Farther south the sandhill
crane is found on farmland, sa-
vannas, prairies, and shallow
marshes around lakes.
The sandhill crane's low trum-
peting call can be heard from
far away, especially when large
flocks return to their roosting
sites in the evening. In the early
morning the crane flies for miles
to its feeding grounds. It is here
that a pair performs its beauti-
ful"dance of the cranes." The
purpose of this highly ritualized
display is not fully understood,
but it is probably performed in
a state of excitement in order
to reinforce the bond between
the pair.
With the start of winter, north-
ern populations migrate to the
western United States and Mex-
ico. The small resident popula-
tions in Mississippi, Alabama,
Georgia, Florida, and parts of
Cuba do not migrate.
Migrating flocks follow the
same route each year, flying in
large V formations. Young birds
learn the route in their first year.
During migration huge flocks of
cranes gather at resting places,
where they create a loud din
with their rattling calls.
~ FOOD & FEEDING
The sandhill crane's diet varies
according to season and loca-
tion. The bird prefers roots and
tubers, which it digs up with its
long bill. But it may also feed on
leaves, shoots, seeds, and fruit
and is often found picking over
potato and corn crops. The bird
may cover many miles to find
food. It is unusual because it tol-
erates both fresh and salty water.
left: The sandhill crane's long and
pointed bill is perfectly adapted for
its feeding methods.
DID YOU KNOW?
The sandhill crane has a long,
contorted trachea (windpipe)
that allows sound to be ampli-
fied. This enables it to make its
trumpeting call.
Like other cranes, the sand-
hill crane has a long lifespan.
One sandhill crane from the
The sandhill crane catches a
wide variety of animals, includ-
ing crabs, small fish, eels, mol-
lusks, and amphibians. It moves
slowly through shallow reed
beds or marshes watching for
prey. Then it makes a lightning
stab at its victim. After clamping
the prey securely in its bill, the
crane arches its neck and swal-
lows the meal whole.
Right: The sandhill crane waits
patiently in shallow water, ready
to stab at prey.
Washington Zoo lived to the
age of 55.
Flocks of sandhill cranes fly
very high during migration.
In 1963 a formation was seen
flying above Alaska's Mount
McKinley, which is more than
20,000 feet high.
Sandhill cranes pair for life, re-
turning to the same nest sites
year after year. The nests are
located in remote areas, typi-
cally in a reed bed in a swamp
or marsh. Both the male and
female build the nest from dry
plant matter.
The female lays two eggs,
which both birds incubate for
approximately a month. The
chicks hatch at 48-hour inter-
vals, and they are covered with
down. They leave the nest with-
in a few days and can fly by the
time they are 10 weeks old. Be-
fore fledging, the chicks are fed
left: Built by both sexes in a reed
cluster or marsh, the nest of the
sandhill crane is an untidy plat-
form of dry plant matter.
left: When fly-
ing, the sand-
hill crane will
stretch out its
long, graceful
neck. In con-
trast, a heron
flies with its
neck drawn up
in an 5 shape.
and cared for by both parents.
The young cranes are inde-
pendent when they are about
a year old, but they frequently
remain with their parents until
the next mating season, accom-
panying them on the spring mi-
gration. A young sandhill crane
becomes sexually mature some
time between its first and third
years and then finds a mate.
Toward the end of the breed-
ing season, the adult sheds and
replaces nearly all of its plum-
age during its yearly molt. For
five to six weeks the birds are
unable to fly. Although this puts
the adults at a disadvantage, it
forces them to stay with their
offspring, giving the young a
better chance of survival.
WILD TURKEY
FAMILY
Phasianidae
GROUP 2: BIRDS
GENUS & SPECI ES
Meleagris gallopavo
The wild turkey of North America is the ancestor of the familiar
barnyard bird. Although slimmer than its domesticated relative,
it remains popular prey for human and wild predators alike.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: Male, up to 4 ft. Female
smaller.
Weight: Male, 10-35 lb. Female,
6-14 lb.
frtl BREEDING
Breeding season: Spring.
Eggs: 8-15; pale cream speckled
with brown.
Incubation: 4 weeks.
Fledging period: Can fly at 2
weeks; independent at 3 months.
LI FESTYLE
Habit: Social; nonmigratory.
Diet: Fruit, roots, seeds, tubers, in-
sects, crustaceans, mollusks, and
amphibians.
RELATED SPECIES
There are 6 subspecies of the wild
turkey. Its only close relative is the
ocellated turkey, Agriocharis ocella-
ta, which inhabits the tropical low-
lands of Mexico as well as parts of
Guatemala and Belize.
Range of the wild turkey.
DISTRIBUTION
The wild turkey ranges from southwestern Canada and New
England to central and southern Mexico. It has been intro-
duced as a game bird in Hawaii and New Zealand.
CONSERVATION
Hunting has eliminated wild turkeys from parts of their original
range. The bird is common in many states, however, and hunt-
ing is still permitted in some.
r -;;ATURES OF THE WILD TURKEY
Facial features: Naked blue or purple skin. Both sexes have a large
throat wattle or dewlap. Below this the neck skin hangs in folds
called caruncles, which become bright red in the male.
A pencil-like projection called the
snood projects from above the bill.
Plumage: Mostly greenish bronze,
with flashes of gold and copper.
Black-tipped feathers on the neck,
breast , and back.
feet: Pinkish
mauve with short,
heavy spurs.
Beard: Tassel of breast feathers,
which may reach the ground in an
old bi rd. Present only on male.
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Male
0160200841 PACKET 84
The wild turkey is not only the largest game bird in North
America, but it is also the showiest. In addition to the
metallic rainbow hues of its plumage, the bird has fleshy
folds of skin adorning its neck and a long, pencil-like
projection or snood, drooping down from over its bill.
~ H A B I T S
The wild turkey is a large bird,
but smaller and less plump than
the domesticated variety. This
bird can be found in mountain
forests, open woodland, and
swamps throughout its range.
Except during the breeding sea-
son the sexes live and roost sep-
arately, perching high in trees.
The bird has many enemies,
including coyotes, foxes, eagles,
wolves, lynx, hawks, owls, rac-
coons, skunks, and mink. It has
to be vigilant against predators
and often roosts in trees grow-
ing in shallow water, which are
less accessible to its enemies.
The heavy turkey has trouble
flapping into the air and must
run several feet to gain enough
lift for takeoff. Young birds have
even more trouble and flutter
from the ground to a stump,
then to a low branch, and so on
up a tree to roost.
Right: The courting male wild tur-
key flaunts his feathers and gobbles
to attract mates.
~ FOOD & FEEDING
The wild turkey roams the forest
floor, picking at plants and look-
ing for food under fallen leaves.
It feeds on beans and similar veg-
etables, fruit, grasses, leaf buds,
acorns and other nuts, roots, tu-
bers, and seeds. It also eats nutri-
tious insects like grasshoppers,
as well as small crustaceans, mol-
lusks, and amphibians.
Left: Fleshy folds of skin, or carun-
des, on the male's neck turn a rich
red as he matures.
I DID YOU KNOW?
Europeans named the turkey
after the Middle Eastern coun-
try because they confused the
bird with the African guinea
fowl. At that time, Europeans
referred to all Muslim coun-
tries, including those in North
Africa, as Turkey.
The wild turkey swallows food
whole, and its muscular gizzard
grinds up the meal. Like many
birds, it consumes grit to hasten
this process, but its digestive sys-
tem is very efficient. It has even
been known to eat metal, and
in an experiment one wild tur-
key ground up 24 walnuts with
their shells in four hours.
Right: The wild turkey withstands
even the bitter winters of the north-
western United States.
Native Americans bred the
turkey for food as long ago as
A.D.1000.
Although Benjamin Franklin
wanted the wild turkey to be
adopted as the national bird
of the United States, the bald
eagle eventually got the vote.
~ WILD TURKEY & MAN
Humans have long hunted the
wild turkey. Native Americans
introduced it as food to the Pil-
grims in the 1600s, and it soon
became a traditional part of the
annual Thanksgiving feast.
Francisco Fernandez de Cor-
~ BREEDING
At mating time, the male wild
turkey, or tom, struts around,
gobbling loudly and fanning
out his bright tail feathers. His
breast has an appendage, or
"breast sponge," that fills with
fat in spring. During the court-
ing period, he lives on this fat,
eating little food, and ends the
period quite thin. Each tom tries
to mate with as many hens (fe-
males) as possible and fights ri-
vals for control of a harem.
The hen scratches a small hol-
doba, a Spanish explorer, intro-
duced the turkey to Europe in
1519, and "turkie-fowl" became
a popular dish in England.
Bred for its meat, the modern
domestic turkey is plump: twice
as heavy as its wild ancestor.
low in the ground for her nest
and lines it with dry leaves. She
lays a clutch of 8 to 15 eggs. The
young, or poults, are covered
with gray mottled down, which
is soon replaced by feathers. The
poults molt (shed) this first plum-
age in August and have their full
adult plumage by the year's end.
Tended by their mothers, the
poults run with the females until
three months old. The young
then separate into flocks of larg-
er males and smaller females.
'" CARD 263 I
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET
,, ___________________________________

ORDER
Psittaciformes
FAMILY
Psittacidae
GENUS 8 SPECIES
Psittacula krameri
The rose-ringed parakeet is a bold bird that often nests near farms
or even in busy cities. It annoys farmers by pecking holes in bags of
freshly harvested grain and feeding on the contents.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: 15-17 in. (including
10 in. tail).
Wingspan: 1 ft.
Weight: 4-5 oz.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 2 years.
Breeding season: August to
November in Africa; December
to June in India.
Eggs: 3-4; white.
Incubation: weeks.
Fledging period: 6-7 weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Day-active. Forll)s flocks to
feed and roost.
Diet: Fruits, berries, and grains.
Call: Harsh shrieks, grating calls.
lifespan: More than 10 years.
RELATED SPECIES
One of about 330 species in the
parrot family, which also includes
budgerigars.
Range of the rose-ringed parakeet.
DISTRIBUTION
The rose-ringed parakeet is found in a band stretching across
central Africa, most of the Indian subcontinent, and east as far
as Myanmar (Burma).
CONSERVATION
Populations have remained steady or even increased despite
agricultural changes and urban development.
FEATURES OF THE ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET
Flight (female shown): Swift
and direct. Although the bird
is a strong flier, it prefers to
stay in one place.
Plumage: Bright green.
Long, pointed tail is
bluish green above.
MCMXCII IMP BV/ IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM
Male: Distinguished from female
by his black throat. Narrow
pink ring around neck , -----...
appears in the
third year.
Feet: Strong and curved to
grip branches. Well coordinated;
able to grasp food and pass it up
to the mouth.
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
Bill : Bright red.
Very strong
and deepl y
hooked.
0160200831 PACKET 83
The rose-ringed parakeet gets its name from the adult male's
pink neck ring, which stands out sharply against his bright
green plumage. A native of India and Africa, this bird favors
tropical woodlands, where it feeds voraciously on seeds and
fleshy fruit. The rose-ringed parakeet spends the day in small
flocks, but at night it gathers in large numbers to roost.
~ HABITS
The rose-ringed parakeet is na-
tive to low-lying tropical areas in
Africa and Asia, but it can thrive
at altitudes of 5,250 feet in the
Himalayan foothills.
This parakeet feeds, nests, and
roosts in trees, preferring lightly
wooded areas to dense forest or
jungle. It often lives near farm-
land or in cities. In urban areas,
it usually builds its nest in parks.
If leafy trees are unavailable, this
adaptable bird may use an old
fort, abandoned building, or a
nook in a noisy marketplace.
Active by day, the rose-ringed
parakeet remains in small flocks
that provide it with some pro-
tection. Although it can outfly
most predators, it is vulnerable
to diving attacks from above. If
a hawk appears, the birds mob
the predator, pecking at it, flap-
ping their wings, and making
noise until it retreats.
This parakeet roosts in a large
flock, sometimes with hundreds
of individuals. The birds begin
arriving at the roost site approx-
imately an hour before sunset,
either in silent groups or swoop-
ing down noisily from above.
After 20 minutes or so of squab-
bling over roosting positions,
the group settles down and is
silent by sunset.
~ BREEDING
Rose-ringed parakeets pair up
well before the breeding season,
and stay together for life. As the
breeding season begins, the pair
avoids other birds and stays near
its nest in a tree hollow.
Before mating, the pair per-
forms an unusual courtship dis-
play on a branch near the nest.
For several days the male struts
along the branch with eyes glar-
ing. The female responds to him
by drooping her wings and roIl-
ing her eyes upward. Eventually
she lets the male approach.
Left: Only the male has the pink
ring around its neck that gives this
parakeet its name.
DID YOU KNOW?
Female rose-ringed para-
keets fight more often than
males. Fights over nesting ter-
ritories are sometimes fatal.
In spite of their tropical ori-
gin, escaped or released rose-
ringed parakeets do very well
in temperate climates, even in
The female lays three or four
eggs, but half of the clutch is
often lost to snakes and preda-
tory birds such as crows. Both
parents rear the young, begin-
ning to feed each chick when it
is only halfway out of its shell.
They continue to feed each of
the hatchlings approximately
three times daily by regurgitat-
ing food into its bill. A young-
ster becomes independent at six
months but only develops full
adult plumage in its third year,
after it has bred for the first time.
Right: The rose-ringed parakeet
often makes its nest on a ledge in
the hollow of a tree.
severe winters. Small numbers
exist in the United States.
In India, this parakeet is con-
sidered the most serious bird
pest to agriculture.
The rose-ringed parakeet is
sometimes known as the ring-
necked parakeet.
~ FOOD &: FEEDING
Although it is a strong flier, the
rose-ringed parakeet stays in a
small area if it provides enough
seeds and fruit. The bird feeds
several hours after sunrise and
about two hours before sunset,
frequently joining with monkeys
eating berries. In addition, the
bird pecks off flower petals to
get at nectar.
While feeding, this parakeet
curves its strong feet around a
branch to grasp it firmly. In dry
regions where food is scarce, it
makes the most of whatever is
Left: The rose-ringed parakeet can
grasp food with its foot and then
pass it up to its mouth.
Left: During
courtship, the
pair rubs bills,
and the male
brings the fe-
male food. She
twitters at him
and rolls her
eyes as he ap-
proaches, strut-
ting along a
branch.
available. It takes a seed pod in
its foot, passes it to its mouth,
and uses its bill and tongue to
extract every last seed. When
food is plentiful, the bird seems
almost wasteful, pecking at a
piece of fruit only a few times
before discarding it.
The rose-ringed parakeet is
considered a pest by farmers
because it often feeds on culti-
vated fruit such as dates, figs,
and guavas. It also strips young
buds off crop plants. In addi-
tion, the bird feeds heavily on
harvested grains, often pecking
holes in and feasting from bags
of rice, corn, or wheat.
WAXBILL
,,"-------

ORDER
Posseriformes
FAMILY
Estrildidoe
GROUP 2: BIRDS
GENERA
Estrildo, Pytilio, Lonchura, etc.
Waxbills are a family of small birds well known for their varied
and colorful plumage. They are highly prized as cage birds,
and many species are trapped in the wild and sold.
KEY FACTS

SIZES
Length: 4-6 in.
Weight: )4- oz.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: Under 1 year.
Breeding season: During the
rainy season.
No. of broods: 1.
Eggs: 4-8; white.
Incubation: 10-21 days.
Fledging period: 16-20 days.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Social; may form lifelong
pair bonds.
Diet: Mainly grain, seeds, grasses,
and small insects.
Call: Various specialized contact
and flight calls.
Lifespan: Up to 8 years in some
species; usually short-lived.
RELATED SPECIES
There are over 1 30 species of wax-
bill in 29 genera.
Range of waxbills.

DISTRIBUTION
Widespread throughout tropical and temperate forests, scrub,
grassland, and semideserts across sub-Saharan Africa, Mada-
gascar, Asia, and Australia.
CONSERVATION
Many waxbill species are caught in the wild and sold for the
pet trade, but conservation measures do not seem to be neces-
sary at present.
I THREE AFRICAN SPECIES OF WAXBILL
I
Orange-cheeked waxbill: Lives in
parts of western and central Africa.
Distinctive orange cheeks.
Black-rumped waxbill: Black rump
and tail feathers. Red band through
eye. Inhabits open savanna and
woodland in central Africa.
Common waxbill:
Tapered red streak
through eye.
Inhabits sub-
Saharan Africa,
preferring grassy,
cultivated areas.
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species.
0160200851 PACKET 85
Waxbills are extremely social birds that frequently form large
flocks to feed, breed, and roost. Many other species have
similar flocking instincts, but waxbills actually coordinate
their movements so that they appear to move as one. It
seems likely that the members of a flock use a complex
system of calls and visual signals to communicate.

Very social birds, waxbills flock
in large numbers. A typical flock
may contain several waxbill spe-
cies plus various species of the
closely related weaverbirds.
Flock members seem to syn-
chronize their activities. The
birds feed together, take off at
the same time, and seem to
move as one while flying. A
complex system of calls and
visual signals probably helps re-
inforce the flock's behavior. Spe-
cial "flight calls" may regulate
takeoff and landing, as well as
other movements. Certain be-
havior, such as simultaneous
preening or bathing, may arise
from the sight of other birds en-
gaged in the same activities.

In most species of waxbill, the
male displays during the rainy
season, leaping about or sway-
ing before a female to show off
his colorful breeding plumage.
Many waxbills form strong pair
bonds that last even beyond the
breeding season. The birds rein-
force their links by preening one
another and clumping (perch-
ing close together on a branch).
After mating, both male and
female build the nest, which is
Left: A waxbill's nest is usually a
fairly elaborate, domed structure
made of grass.
DID YOU KNOW?
The pin-tailed whydah, a
weaverbird, often lays its eggs
in the nest of the common
waxbill. The latter may then
raise a mixed brood of chicks.
Waxbill species that live in
dense forest rely more on calls
than on visual signals to com-
usually enclosed except for a
side entrance and shaped like a
pear, melon, or bottle. Some
species build separate, more
open nests for roosting. The
common waxbill builds a roost-
ing nest on top of its breeding
nest. A few species nest in holes
in the ground.
The female lays four to eight
white eggs, which are then in-
cubated by both sexes for 10 to
21 days. The parents feed the
hatchlings in the nest for up to
t hree weeks. When the nestling
opens its mouth to feed, distinc-
t ive patches on its palate and
t ongue are visible. These mark-
ings help the adult find a chick's
mouth in the nest's dim light.
Left: Although a waxbill has a var-
ied diet, its bill is typical of seed-
eating birds.
Right: The male blue waxbill has
much more vivid plumage than
the female.
municate with flock members.
l\Jot surprisingly, the opposite
is true of species that dwell in
open areas.
It The colorful Gouldian finch
is a protected species, and it
may not be exported from its
home in Australia.
FOOD &: FEEDING
Waxbills feed on small insects,
grass, and seeds. Some species
also eat nectar and flower buds.
The birds generally forage in a
flock and begin feeding in the
morning, often on grain crops.
When food is plentiful, the birds
may stop eating in the after-
Left: Paired and unpaired waxbills
often perch close together.
Left: Orange-
cheeked wax-
bills are found
in sub-Saharan
Africa. Their
long claws
are suitable
for perching
on branches.
Left: Waxbills
may lay up to
eight eggs per
clutch. But in
some African
species, such as
the violet-eared
waxbill, less
than a third
hatch and pro-
duce fledglings.
noon and move to water, where
they drink, bathe, and preen be-
fore returning to a communal
roost at night.
In the breeding season, some
species feed almost exclusively
on insects, which are abundant
at that time of year. This diet is
probably more nutritious for the
chicks than plant matter.
'" CARD 265 I
EASTERN KINGBIRD
,, _________________________________ __
.... ORDER FAMILy .... GENUS & SPECIES
Passeriformes Tyrannidae Tyrannus tyrannus
The eastern kingbird is a busy, aggressive resident of North
America. If an intruder approaches its nest and chicks, this
plucky bird will go to great lengths to chase it away.
KEY FACTS
SIZE
Length: 8-9 in .
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: Spring.
Eggs: 3-4; white to pale pink,
speckled with brown.
Incubation: 16-20 days.
Fledging period: 2-3 weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Aggressive. Forms pairs in
the breeding season. Roosts in
flocks during winter migration.
Diet: Mainly insects; fruit during
the fall.
Call: Harsh chattering notes, of-
ten heard at dawn.
RELATED SPECIES
There are over 360 species in the
Tyrannidae, of which 12 are
in the genus Tyrannus, including
the western kingbird, T. verticalis.
Breeding range of the
eastern kingbird.
DISTRIBUTION
Winter range.
Found in southern and western Canada and throughout the
U.S. mainland, except in a band from southern California to
south Texas. Winters from southern Mexico to northern and
western parts of South America.
CONSERVATION
The eastern kingbird's aggressive behavior and wide range
make it one of the most numerous tyrant flycatchers.
THE EASTERN AND WESTERN KINGBIRDS
Plumage: Dark
slate-g ray back
with white edge
on the tip of tail.
White underparts
with pale gray
tinge to breast
feathers. Bill: Broad-based and
flat. Prominent black
bristles at base.
Plumage: Black tail with
white on outer edges. Pale
gray upperparts tinged with
olive on back. Pale gray
breast and yellow belly.
MCMXCII IMP BV/ IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM PRINTED IN U.S.A.
Head: Black with white
cheeks and throat.
Orange-red crown patch
visible only when the bird
raises its crown feathers
Eggs: White to
pale pink
with brown
speckles.
Eastern
kingbird
0160200811 PACKET 81
The eastern kingbird is a member of a large family of
insect eaters known as tyrant flycatchers. There are seven
kingbird species that nest in the United States; and these
birds are among the most aggressive in this family.
None is more daring than the eastern kingbird.
~ HABITS
The eastern kingbird is found
in central and western as well
as eastern North America. This
bird lives in woods and on prai-
ries as well as on farmland and
in gardens. It is frequently seen
perched on a branch or fence,
watching for intruders. The bird
is very agile not only in the air
but also on the ground, where it
moves quickly by hopping.
The eastern kingbird's repu-
tation for daring comes from its
fearless protection of its nesting
territory during the breeding
season. It does not hesitate to
attack large intruders such as
crows and hawks. It dives at
them violently, making as much
noise as it can. It will even alight
on their backs and attack them
with its claws and beak until
they retreat.
In the fall the eastern kingbird
migrates south in large, loose
flocks. In its winter quarters, it
roosts at night with hundreds or
even thousands of other birds.
The eastern kingbird is less ag-
gressive away from its breeding
grounds, and it does not chal-
lenge other, resident birds in its
usual way.
Right: Perched on a high fence, the
eastern kingbird has an all-around
view of its territory.
~ BREEDING
During spring the male eastern
kingbird engages in fierce fights
with other males to establish a
territory in which to nest and
breed. He then courts a female
with acrobatic flying. During
this display, he raises his crown
feathers to flash the patch of
orange-red on his black head
and sings his chattering song.
Once paired, the birds build a
nest on a branch or high post.
The nest is made of leaves, small
twigs, grass, and strips of bark.
It is lined with young roots, hair,
and feathers.
Left: The eastern kingbird closely
guards its chicks and is always
ready to attack.
DID YOU KNOW?
Native Americans named
the eastern kingbird "little
chief" because of its courage.
The eastern kingbird does
not attack intruding swallows
because it cannot compete
The female incubates the eggs
for a period of 1 6 to 20 days.
The male stands guard nearby,
dashing out to harass any intrud-
er. He raises his crown feathers
when excited.
The hatchlings are thinly cov-
ered in down. The female cares
for them while the male perches
nearby, keeping watch. From
time to time one parent flies out
from the nest to catch insects for
the young birds. The young can
fly after two or three weeks but
depend on their parents for food
for several more weeks.
Right: The eastern kingbird builds
its untidy nest on a forked branch
high in a tree.
with their expert flying skills.
.' The "tyrannical" behavior
exhibited by the eastern king-
bird when defending its nest
earned the bird its scientific
name, Tyrannus tyrannus.
~ FOOD &: FEEDING
Insects are the eastern kingbird's
main food. The bird's simple,
repetitive call is one of the first
sounds that is heard at dawn.
From then until dusk, it spends
its time looking for insects fly-
ing nearby. It forages mainly in
open areas, usually watching
for its prey from a fencepost or
tree branch.
The eastern kingbird frequent-
ly catches insects in midair. Sit-
ting quietly upright and alert, it
darts out, snaps up its prey, and
then returns to the perch to eat
it. Sometimes it throws the vic-
tim into the air and catches it
again before eating it.
Robber flies, grasshoppers, and
crickets are the most common
prey of the eastern kingbird. If it
catches a large insect, it beats its
victim against its perch to stop
any twitching. Then the eastern
kingbird holds the insect with
its feet and tears off bite-size
pieces. It seems to be immune
to bee stings and eats honey-
bees. Beekeepers call it the bee
martin for this reason.
To prepare for migration, the
eastern kingbird eats primarily
fruit, which it plucks off bushes.
The fruit is high in sugar, pro-
viding the fuel the bird needs
for its long flight.
SALMON-CRESTED COCKATOO
,,----------------------------------------------
ORDER
Psittaciformes
FAMILY
Psittacidae
GENUS &: SPECIES
Cacatua moluccensis
The salmon-crested cockatoo is one of the largest parrot species.
It is also among the most beautiful, with its distinctive
pink-tinged plumage and impressive rosy crest.
__________________________
SIZES
Length: 20 in.
Wing length: 12 in.
BREEDING
Breeding season: End of the May-
to-October dry season.
Eggs: White; up to 7, but usually
2-3.
Incubation: weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Active during the day;
mostly tree-dwelling.
Diet: Seeds, nuts, fruits, and in-
sects and their larvae.
Call: Loud shrieks or screams.
lifespan: Unknown in the wild;
over 50 years in captivity.
RELATED SPECIES
There are 18 species of cockatoo.
Other similar-size related cocka-
toos include the sulphur-crested
cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, and the
white cockatoo, C. alba.
Range of the salmon-crested cockatoo.
DISTRIBUTION
Native to the Moluccan islands of Ceram, Saparua, and Haruku
in Indonesia. Also introduced into nearby Ambon.
CONSERVATION
The salmon-crested cockatoo is especially vulnerable because
of its small range. The population on Ceram has declined in re-
cent years, mainly due to the trapping of wild birds for export.
FEATURES OF THE SALMON-CRESTED COCKATOO
Crest: Broad, rounded tuft of
salmon-red feathers. Crest can
be raised to signal readiness to
mate or to show moods such
as aggression or fear.
Plumage: White
feathers with
pinkish tinge.
/
/,/
MCMXCII IMP BV/IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM
Bill: Short, deep,
and strong with
sharp hook on
upper mandi-
ble. Can crack
hard nuts.
Feet: Have
2 toes at the
front and 2
at the back for
an excellent
grip when
perching.
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
COMPARISON OF SPECIES
\
I I
White cockatoo: Pure white
erectile crest.
Lead beater's cockatoo: Red-
and-yellow erectile crest with
long white tips.
0160200831 PACKET 83
The salmon-crested cockatoo is popular with parrot keepers
around the world. However, little is known of the bird's life
in the wild. This cockatoo lives on just a handful of islands
in Indonesia, where its numbers have been declining in
recent years because of collection for the pet trade.
~ H A B I T S
The salmon-crested cockatoo is
found on a small group of Mo-
luccan islands in Indonesia. The
largest population is on Ceram;
others live on the small islands
of Saparua, Haruku, and Ambon.
On these mountainous, rainy is-
lands, the salmon-crested cocka-
too inhabits evergreen rainforests
from close to the coasts up to
3,300 feet on the slopes. Like
other cockatoos, this species is
most at home in the trees. Its
large size and distinctive color-
ing make it easy to spot in the
foliage. It can also be identified
by the shrieking call it often ut-
ters while flying tree to tree.
The bird's most distinctive fea-
ture is its salmon-colored crest,
which is larger than that of most
other cockatoos. Rounded and
broad, the crest is a tuft of feath-
ers that are almost seven inches
long. The bird can raise or low-
er its crest to display its mood.
~ BREEDING
The salmon-crested cockatoo
breeds late in the hot, dry sea-
son just before the start of the
monsoon rains in November. If
. courting is successful, the male
and female pair for life. After
mating, they prepare a nest of
wood chips at the bottom of a
tree hollow.
The female lays up to seven
white eggs, which are slightly
smaller than those of a chicken.
Both sexes incubate the eggs
for approximately four weeks.
Once hatched, the offspring re-
main in the nest for almost three
months. Then they finally ven-
ture into the forest.
Left: Salmon-crested cockatoos
pair for life. They often preen one
another affectionately.
Right: The salmon-crested cocka-
too can raise its crest of feathers to
signal its mood.
DID YOU KNOW?
This species is also called
the rose-crested cockatoo.
Biologists think that the
salmon-crested cockatoo
probably evolved from an
earlier species that migrated
~ FOOD & FEEDING
The salmon-crested cockatoo
has a short but deep bill that is
strong enough to crack open
hard nuts. The bird also uses its
bill and narrow, blunt tongue
to manipulate delicate foods
like seeds and berries as well as
insects and their larvae. Large
forest fruits are also a vital part
of the bird's diet.
Some farmers consider this
Left: The salmon-crested cockatoo
is threatened by the cage-bird trade.
from New Guinea thousands
of years ago.
This cockatoo is difficult to
breed in captivity. Not until
1951 was one reared success-
fully, in the San Diego Zoo.
cockatoo a pest because it of-
ten eats grain crops and raids
coconut plantations. It espe-
cially likes the milk and soft
flesh inside young coconuts
and breaks through the outer
layers of shell and fiber to
reach these delicacies.
The salmon-crested cocka-
too flies to the ground to get
a drink. It uses the lower half
of its beak to scoop up water
from pools.
SPOTTED FL VCATCHER
ORDER
Passeriformes
FAMILY
Muscicapidae
GROUP 2: BIRDS
GENUS & SPECIES
Muscicapa striata
The spotted flycatcher is a small, agile woodland songbird.
Often too quick for the eye, it can be located by the sound
of its bill snapping shut on flying insects.
SIZES
Body length: 6 in.
Tail length: 2-3 in.
Wingspan: 3-4 in.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: May to June.
No. of broods: 1, occasionally 2.
Eggs: 4-5; pale blue-green or buff
with rusty red blotches.
Incubation: 12-15 days.
Fledging period: 11-14 days.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Lives alone or in pairs.
Day-active.
Diet: Large flying insects; also
small aphids and crustaceans.
Call: Short, high-pitched squeak.
RELATED SPECIES
The family Muscicapidae is a very
large and diverse group of birds
that includes the pied flycatcher,
FiceduJa hypoJeuca.
Breeding range of the
spotted flycatcher.
DISTRIBUTION
Winter range.
Winters in southern Africa from Kenya south to the Cape of
Good Hope. Breeding territories extend from Great Britain
north into Scandinavia, east into central Asia, and south to
Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
CONSERVATION
Although trapped for food in some countries, the spotted fly-
catcher is still common in most parts of its range.
FEATURES OF THE SPOTTED FLYCATCHER
Bill: Short, with
a broad, flat base.
Juvenile: Mousy brown, wi th
pr-ominent speckles over most
of the plumage.
([I MCMXCII IMP BV/ IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM
Flight: Quick and darting, enabling the
flycatcher to snatch insects from the
air. Wings are long and narrow.
Adult: Predominantly light brown
with darker crown. White under-
parts, pale brown breast and
flanks, white throat streaked
wi th brown markings.
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
Eggs: 4 or 5; pale blue-
green or buff, speckled
with rusty red blotches.
0160200861 PACKET 86
The spotted flycatcher breeds in Europe, Asia, and
northern Africa. This bird often feeds on insects such as
bees, butterflies, and dragonflies, which it catches in flight.
The spotted flycatcher inhabits the forest level just below
the dense foliage of the canopYt where there is plenty of
space for it to swoop down and pluck its prey from the air.
~ HABITS
During summer, the spotted fly-
catcher is found across most of
Europe and in central Asia. It in-
habits sparse woodland, farms,
parks, and suburbs. It requires
open space for hunting as well
as sufficient cover for building a
nest and rearing young.
This small, nimble bird has a
rapid, darting, and somewhat
erratic flight. It perches on low
tree branches or fence posts, its
head slightly sunk into its shoul-
ders, watching for flying insects
such as wasps and dragonflies.
As the weather grows colder
in September! spotted flycatch-
ers from Scandinavia, Great Brit-
ain, and as far east as Lake Baikal
in Siberia begin migrating south
to their wintering grounds in Af-
rica. By mid-November, they
have settled from Kenya south
to the Cape of Good Hope, in-
habiting large tracts of thorn
country and forest edges as
well as lush suburban gardens
in southern Africa.
~ FOOD &: FEEDING
The spotted flycatcher eats pri-
marily large flying insects such
as bees, wasps, dragonflies, flies,
butterflies, and moths. Its hunt-
ing technique is very distinctive.
This bird perches on a branch
or gate post that gives it a good
view of the surrounding area.
When it sees prey, the flycatch-
er flies out and loudly snaps up
its victim in its short, pointed
bill. The bird then goes back to
its perch or nest, either to eat
its meal or to feed its catch to
its young.
The spotted flycatcher also
Left: The spotted flycatcher is dis-
tinguished by dark streaks instead
of spots .
Right: The flycatcher prefers to
watch for prey from a perch rath-
er than to hover overhead.
takes insects from the ground
and from foliage. Before eating
a bee or wasp, it removes the
stinger by beating the victim
against the perch.
Right: Extremely agile in flight, the
spotted flycatcher can pluck insects
(rom the air.
DID YOU KNOW?
When it is too rainy for large
insects to fly, the spotted fly-
catcher moves into the upper
tree canopy, where it feeds on
small aphids.
The spotted flycatcher is not
normally aggressive, but dur-
ing the breeding season it be-
~ BREEDING
The spotted flycatcher arrives at
its breeding grounds in Europe
and Asia in May, exhausted after
migrating from Africa. It rests for
a few days before mating.
A breeding pair engages in a
simple but beautiful courtship
flight, flying together or chasing
each other. The male occasion-
ally lifts his wings over his back
and rapidly vibrates them. He
Left: The young flycatcher loses its
distinctive thrushlike markings as it
grows older.
comes increasingly territorial.
During the period prior to
egg laying, the female spotted
flycatcher seeks out calcium-
rich foods such as snails and
wood lice. This feeding habit
probably ensures the develop-
ment of healthy eggshells. I
may also offer food to his mate.
The pair then finds a hidden
nest site, usually in a wall or tree
crevice. Built from moss, lichen,
and plant fibers, the nest is lined
with feathers and is reinforced
with cobwebs and hair.
Both sexes incubate the four
or five eggs, which hatch in ap-
proximately two weeks. The
male feeds aphids to the brood.
The young are fledged after two
weeks but rely on their parents
for another two to three weeks.
RINGED PLOVER
ORDER FAMILY
Charadriiformes Charadriidae
GROUP 2: BIRDS
GENUS &: SPECIES
Charadrius hiaticula
The ringed plover usually nests in sites that seem very exposed
to danger. Yet the eggs, chicks, and adults are so well
camouflaged that they blend into the background.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: 8 in.
Wingspan: 19-22 in.
Weight: 2-3 oz.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: March to August.
No. of broods: 1 or 2, rarely 3.
Eggs: Usually 4; grayish or buff and
heavily speckled.
Incubation: 3-4 weeks.
Fledging: Almost 4 weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Sociable, flocking to feed,
roost, and migrate.
Diet: Marine worms, crustaceans,
mollusks, insects, some plants.
Call: Various piping or fluting calls,
especially when courting.
RELATED SPECIES
Worldwide there are 58 plover spe-
cies, including the semipalmated
plover, Charadrius semipalmatus.
Resident range of
the ringed plover.
DISTRIBUTION
Winter range. Breeding range.
Breeds in Europe, Asia, and Arctic North America. Many birds
winter farther south. Resident in western Europe.
CONSERVATION
The ringed plover is generally increasing its numbers. However,
the species does suffer from human disturbance of much of its
coastal nesting sites.
FEATURES OF THE RINGED PLOVER
Summer plumage (below): Medium brown upperparts.
Black bands through eyes and over forehead. Black
breast band, which narrows as it extends around
neck. White underparts,
2 white patches
on face, white
neck band and
wing bars.
Winter plumage: Duller coloring
overall , with duskier brown neck,
crown, and cheeks.
White head
markings are
more buff.
Bill: Orange with a black tip in summer.
Black in winter. Short and finely tapering,
ideal for feeding on small marine prey.
Eggs: GrayiSh or buff and heavily
s'peckled with lavender and brown
or black. They are barely visible on ..-
a sandy or rocky beach.
(C) MCMXCII IMP BV/ IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM PRINTED IN U.S.A. 0160200861 PACKET 86
The ringed plover is a plump, little bird that is constantly on
the move. It makes a short run and then stops to snatch at
a small invertebrate. Its bold head patterning and brown
upper parts give the bird excellent camouflage when it is
nesting on a rocky beach. This plover is known for its
melodious song, made up of piping or fluting notes.
HABITAT
The ringed plover lives on sandy
and muddy shores, as well as
on salt marshes, estuaries, and
rocky beaches. Its habitat must
be open, without vegetation to
hamper the bird when it runs
after prey. It must also be iso-
lated because the ground nests
are easily trampled.
This bird breeds as far north
as the Arctic tundra, and it mi-
grates to beaches in southern
Europe and Africa for the win-
ter. In western Europe it is most-
ly resident, and numbers swell
in the fall when migrants arrive.
Ringed plovers often rest at
ponds and inland lakes when
migrating. The resident birds are
also beginning to move inland,
frequenting mud flats around
ponds, grassy areas around res-
ervoirs, and gravel pits.
With its black-and-white head
markings, the ringed plover is
well camouflaged as it sits on
its exposed nest on a pebbly
beach. But it is clearly visible
when it nests on mud or grass.
Right: Plovers are protective par-
ents. They utter alarm calls to alert
their chicks to danger.
FOOD & FEEDING
Ringed plovers forage in flocks,
but sometimes an individual de-
fends a particular area while
feeding. The birds walk along
the shore or wade in the shal-
lows, picking mollusks, worms,
and small crustaceans from the
eddies. This plover uses the ta-
pering tip of its short, sharp bill
to extract the flesh from shells.
Higher up on the beach, the
bird catches insects and their
larvae. It also feeds on some
plant matter.
Left: The plumage of the young
ringed plover is not as boldly pat-
terned as the adult's.
Right: Although camouflaged by
its down, the chick leaves the ex-
posed nest as soon as it can.
DID YOU KNOW?
The ringed plover chick has
a broad white collar as well as
a black band above a white
nape. If its parent sounds an
alarm, the chick crouches mo-
tionless and draws back its
head to hide these markings.
The chick does not move un-
The ringed plover relies on
sight to find food. Its large eyes
enable it to feed at dusk or by
night. When foraging, the bird
runs a few steps, pauses with
head cocked, then suddenly
tilts its head and body in order
to snatch prey. While swallow-
ing, it keeps its head up, watch-
ing for danger.
Right: The bold head and neck pat-
tern of the full-grown ringed plover
breaks up its outline.
til the parent signals it is safe.
This plover lures predators
away from its eggs or chicks
by faking injury. It flaps about,
trailing a "broken" wing until
it has led a fox or weasel far
from the nest. Then it flies off,
returning to its nest later.
MI BIRDWATCH
A small and plump bird, the
ringed plover can be seen on
open shores all year, but par-
ticularly in late fall and winter.
Its white breast and face are
banded with black, and its
legs are orange.

By March, migrating ringed plo-
vers have begun arriving at the
breeding grounds. To attract a
female, the male scratches in
the sand or gravel, sometimes
letting pebbles trickle down his
breast. He crouches or stands
erect to show off his bold pat-
terning, then swoops around
the female while piping loudly.
He warns off other males by
lowering his head, trailing his
wings, and fluffing his feathers.
Paired birds claim a nesting
territory, often from the prior
year. The male makes several
On land the bird resembles
the little ringed plover. How-
ever, in flight the ringed plo-
ver shows its distinctive white
wing bar. Its fluting call rises
in pitch, while that of the lit-
tle ringed plover falls in pitch.
ground scrapes, and his mate
selects one. The nest is usually
close to the high tidemark. It is
concealed in the sand or among
pebbles and lined with grass,
wood, stones, and bits of shell.
The female generally lays four
eggs and then arranges them in
a four-leaf clover plttern. Both
parents take turns incubating
the eggs for three to four weeks.
The hatchlings leave the nest
as soon as their down has dried.
They can feed themselves, but
both parents sound alarm calls
to alert them to danger.
RED GROUSE
~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
... ORDER ...
~ Galliformes ~
FAMILY
Tetraonidae
GENUS & SPECIES
Lagopus lagopus scoticus
~ C A R D 269
The red grouse was once thought to be a species unique to
Great Britain. But it is now considered a subspecies of the willow
ptarmigan, found in northern Eurasia and North America.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: 15-17 in.
Wingspan: About 2 ft .
Weight: 1 ~ - 1 ~ lb.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: April to June.
Eggs: 6-9; cream-colored with
brown blotches.
Incubation period: About 3 weeks.
Fledging period: 2 weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: In pairs during the breeding
season. In flocks at other times.
Diet: Mainly heather. Also other
plants and sometimes insects.
Calls: A variety of croaking, barking,
and crowing notes.
lifespan: Up to 8 years.
RELATED SPECIES
The only other species in the genus
are the rock ptarmigan, Lagopus
mutus, and the white-tailed ptarmi-
gan, L. leucurus.
Range of the red grouse.
DISTRIBUTION
The red grouse is found in upland moors, heaths, and bogs
across much of Great Britain and Ireland.
CONSERVATION
Numbers have declined in recent years for many reasons: dis-
ease, reforestation, overgrazing, the conversion of moorland to
grassland, and the poor management of many moors due to
the rising cost of labor.
FEATURES OF THE RED GROUSE
Plumage: Male (shown) is dark red-
dish brown mottled with black. White
feathers on legs extend onto feet.
Female is a much paler buff color.
Mr.MXCII IMP BVIIMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILE'M
Head: Relatively
small, with a
short bill. Both
sexes have bare
red combs above
the eyes, but the
male's are larger.
Flight: Reveals rounded wings with
white undersides. The bird often
bursts from cover, flying low over the
heather with whirring wing beats.
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
Eggs: 6 to 9;
cream-colored
covered with
dark brown
markings. Laid
in a scrape
hidden among
the heather.
0160200821 PACKET 82
The red grouse inhabits the heather moorlands of
Ireland and much of Great Britain. In many places the
survival of this bird depends upon the management of
the moors by humans. Gamekeepers practice controlled
burning of specific areas to encourage the growth of
heather, whose nutritious, succulent young shoots
make up the major portion of the red grouse's diet.
~ CHARACTERISTICS
A ground-dwelling game bird,
the red grouse is about the size
and shape of a chicken. It has a
short, stubby bill and short legs.
It is well equipped for surviving
cold weather, with feathers that
extend onto its nostrils, its legs,
and even its toes in the winter.
Its mottled plumage provides
good camouflage among the
vegetation, hiding the grouse
from such predators as birds of
prey or its greatest enemy-
people with guns.
The red grouse lives mainly on
heather moorlands at elevations
of 1,000 to 2,000 feet. Smaller
numbers are also found in areas
of rough grassland and on peat
bogs. Some birds live at eleva-
tions of up to 3,000 feet, but
others are found at sea level.
The red grouse rarely roams
more than a few miles in its life.
But in especially severe winters,
younger birds may leave the
high moors for lower ground
or even for farmland.
~ BREEDING
To proclaim ownership of a ter-
ritory and attract females, the
male red grouse performs a dis-
play flight in spring. He flies to
the boundary of his territory and
climbs steeply. He then sweeps
down on rapidly beating wings.
With his head extended and tail
fanned, he utters harsh, cackling
calls as he flies. He may also pro-
claim his presence from a look-
out such as a mound.
After mating, the female digs
a scrape in the ground and lines
it with grass, moss, and heather
stems. The site is usually well hid-
den among dense vegetation.
Left: The red grouse is a hardy bird,
well suited to the harsh winters in
northern Britain.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fossilized remains of the red
grouse that date back about
half a million years have been
found in Ice Age deposits in
Somerset, England.
Red grouse have long been
valued as game birds. In the
15th century laws were passed
to protect them during their
breeding season.
She then lays six to nine eggs
at intervals of 36 to 48 hours.
Incubation begins only when
almost all the eggs are laid, so
the chicks hatch together.
The hatchlings are born with
excellent camouflage coloring.
They are able to find their own
food within an hour, but they
are brooded (covered with a par-
ent's wings) at night and in bad
weather. Both parents care for
the chicks, which grow quickly
and can fly after just two weeks.
The family stays together until
fall and then joins other families
to form a winter flock.
Right: Both parents must guard
the eggs against predators such
as the hooded crow.
August 12, the beginning
of the grouse-shooting sea-
son in Great Britain, is known
as the Glorious Twelfth. Red
grouse can legally be shot un-
til December 10.
Red grouse regularly feed on
gravel from rocky areas in or-
der to help them digest heath-
er, which is their main food.
~
~ BIRDWATCH
The red grouse is a plump,
reddish brown bird. Its heavi-
ly barred plumage is mottled
with black. The male is much
darker than the female and
has a larger red comb above
each eye.
A flock is easy t o recognize
~ FOOD &: FEEDING
The moors in which most red
grouse make their home are
managed by gamekeepers to
guarantee that there are large
numbers of birds for the hunt-
ing season. By burning heath-
er, they provide woody stems
that offer the red grouse shel-
ter and nesting cover, as well
as fresh, young shoots to eat.
The red grouse's diet is dom-
Left: For his courtship display, the
male raises his tail, drops his wings,
and hangs his head.
when the birds spring up out
of a patch of heather, flying
off with noisy, whi rring beats
of their rounded wings.
The birds' cackl ing, crowing
calls are distinctive, especially
those uttered by the male dur-
ing his territorial displays. -.J
inated by heather shoots. By
choosing shoots according to
height, age, and position on
a plant, the bird can eat those
that are richest in nutrients like
nitrogen and phosphorus.
The red grouse supplements
its diet with other foods that
vary seasonally. In spring and
summer it feeds on flowering
plants and grass seeds. In the
fall it eats berries. Hatchlings
feed mainly on insects, which
adults may also eat in summer.
PURPLE HERON
ORDER
Ciconiiformes
FAMILY
Ardeidae

GROUP 2: BIRDS
GENUS &: SPECIES
Ardea purpurea
The purple heron is one of the most colorful of all the herons.
A solitary and wary bird, it is difficult to spot away from the
cover of the dense reed beds where it usually makes its nest.
KEY FACTS
SIZES
Length: ft.
Wingspan: 4-5 ft.
Weight: lb.
BREEDING
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: April to May
in Europe and Africa; June to July
in Asia.
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: 3-6, usually 4-5.
Incubation: Almost 1 month.
Fledging period: 6-7 weeks.
LIFESTYLE
Habit: Mainly solitary.
Diet: Fish, amphibians, reptiles,
invertebrates, and mammals.
Call: Various hoarse croaks.
lifespan: Oldest banded bird,
23 years and 2 months.
RELATED SPECIES
Herons, bitterns, and egrets are
all in the family Ardeidae.
Range of the purple heron.
DISTRIBUTION
The purple heron breeds in isolated populations in Europe as
far north as the Netherlands, across India and Southeast Asia,
and in sub-Saharan Africa. It winters mainly in central and east-
ern Africa and Madagascar.
CONSERVATION
The purple heron has declined in Europe since the 1970s due
to habitat loss. It is vulnerable to land drainage.
FEATURES OF THE PURPLE HERON
Head: Thin, with two long head
plumes. Sharp, stabbing bill for
catching aquatic prey.
Plumage: Body is chestnut and pur-
plish gray. Primary wing feathers are
slate gray.
TOQS: Very long.
Help the heron
walk on floating
vegetation.
Neck: Long,
narrow, and
flexible. Rusty
brown with
black stripes.
Off-white on
the underside.
MCMXCII IMP BV/ IMP INC WILDLIFE FACT FILETM PRINTED IN U.SA
Flight (juvenile shown): Wings arch
noticeably. Long, thin legs and large
feet trail far behind the tail feathers.
Eggs: Pale blue-
green. 3 to 6
laid in reed
nest among
dense rushes.
0160200821 PACKET 82
The purple heron is smaller and shier than its more familiar
relative the gray heron, and its numbers are distributed
over a smaller range. The bird matches its cousin, however,
in the precision of its hunting and the complexity of its
courtship displays. The purple heron pairs up in its winter
quarters after a ritual in which each partner stretches,
crouches, sways, bobs its head, and claps its bill.
~ HABITS
The purple heron lives in reed
beds on marshes, swamps, and
riverbanks. When an intruder
comes near, the bird adopts a
defensive posture, crouching
with feathers ruffled, bill raised,
and wings outstretched. It may
then rise to its full height, curve
its head and neck back over its
body, and stretch its neck up so
that its bill points skyward and
blends in with the reeds.
When not breeding, the bird
spends most of the day alone,
but it gathers in a communal
roost at night. After sunrise, the
birds spread out to feed alone.
The purple heron is usually
sedentary in Africa, but Europe-
an populations migrate. Flying
alone or in groups of up to a
hundred, the young birds leave
for Africa in August. The adults
follow in September. In its win-
ter quarters, the purple heron
may frequent more open habi-
tats than the thick cover it fa-
vors in its breeding areas.
~ BREEDING
The purple heron breeds from
April to May in Africa and Eu-
rope and from June to July in
Asia. The bird's complicated
courtship display is sometimes
preceded by aerial chases and
circling flights. After courting
and pairing in their winter quar-
ters, the birds fly to their breed-
ing grounds, where they search
for well-concealed nest sites. A
pair usually nests alone or with
one or two other pairs but oc-
casionally nests in big colonies.
The male and female build
the nest together, flattening an
area among reeds and placing
broken stems on the top. The
left: The purple heron often stands
on one leg, watching for prey.
female usually lays four or five
eggs at three-day intervals, and
the male helps her to incubate
them. When one bird relieves
the other at the nest, both dis-
play in a manner that is similar
to the courtship ritual-stretch-
ing, crouching, bobbing their
heads, and raising their feath-
ers. The bird at the nest is often
unwilling to leave until its part-
ner gently pecks it.
Incubation takes about one
month. The parents feed the
chicks regurgitated food at first
and then whole fish. The chicks
can fly by seven weeks and are
independent two weeks later.
Right: The chicks can leave the nest
about a week after hatching.
DID YOU KNOW?
The purple heron is found
in Great Britain with increas-
ing regularity. The visitors are
juveniles that are making their
first flight from Africa to Euro-
pean breeding grounds. They
overshoot their target, arriv-
ing in Britain between April
and September.
It is hard to distinguish the
~ FOOD & HUNTING
A patient and skillful hunter, the
purple heron stalks fish stealthily
in the shallows or waits motion-
less in ambush. Standing in wa-
ter, it looks downward, watching
for the slightest movement. If a
fish swims by, the bird strikes its
victim crossways, using its long,
sharp bill. It then raises its head,
turning the fish around to swal-
low it headfirst. The purple her-
Left: The young bird is mottled
with sandy brown. It becomes sex-
ually mature at around a year old.
heron's threat postures from
its greeting postures. In friend-
ly situations, however, herons
avoid confronting each other
face-to-face.
Many heron species engage
in similar displays, but the pur-
ple heron's habit of puffing up
its neck feathers when it is an-
gry is unique.
on preys on sticklebacks, carp,
eels, bream, perch, and pikes.
Although the bird feeds pri-
marily on fish, it also eats other
small animals such as mollusks,
frogs, snakes, lizards, water bee-
tles, spiders, and crustaceans. It
even preys on small mammals
such as mice and water voles.
The purple heron feeds mainly
in the early morning and eve-
ning. When it is providing food
for its chicks, however, it also
hunts by day.