Posts Tagged: bird behavior

Mute Swan

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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite birding spots.  I was visiting this Delaware wildlife refuge this spring and saw this Mute Swan in the sunset light.  I photographed the Swan as it started flapping it’s wings and then started running along the water surface and took off in flight. Mute Swans are beautiful and graceful and very exotic looking. They are also HUGE with a wing span up to 94 inches and weighing up to 30 pounds.

Mute Swans take off from the water by running really fast and flapping their wings until they build up enough speed to take off. They can fly up to 50 miles per hour! I had no idea until I read about Mute Swans that they are not native to the United States. They were all imported from Europe in the 19th century to “adorn” parks and large estates.  The Mute Swan has flourished in the wild and are seen as “invasive” in some areas because they are very aggressive and also because they eat as much as 8 pounds of aquatic vegetation per day.  Some references state that they can displace native bird species and can also be  a danger to humans because of their fierce defense of their nests.

It is hard to believe that this beautiful, graceful Swan can be a hazard. I’ll be sure to always observe from a safe distance!

Atlantic Puffin

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Atlantic Puffins are pelagic for most of the year, spending their time alone in the cold open northern ocean a long way off shore.  They dig a burrow or tunnel on an island to lay their one solitary egg. Puffins only  come onto land to breed in colonies, usually with the same partner  in the same burrow, every spring and summer.  They bring fish back to the burrows to feed the little “puffling”.  The Atlantic Puffin are brightly colored only during breeding season and since breeding season is the only time they are visible it works out perfectly for photographers!

Arctic Tern Adults

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The adult Arctic Tern breed and nest mostly in the Arctic but fortunately a few breed and nest on Machias Seal Island. They have beautiful breeding colors with bright red beaks and feet. These Terns mate for life and have the longest migrations of any animal, sometimes with a round trip of 40-50,000 miles. They nest on the ground and are fiercely defensive of their nests and chicks. These two were aggressively defending their chicks and will peck you on the head if they think you are too close to their nest or chicks!

The Elusive Wood Duck

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A pair of Wood Ducks swimming in natural habitat side by side (SANDRA CALDERBANK, sandra calderbank)
Male Wood Duck swimming in river in woods (SANDRA CALDERBANK, sandra calderbank)
I have admired the colorful Wood Duck from pictures …..OTHER people’s pictures….for many years. I have frequented areas that were supposedly replete with Wood Ducks and have NEVER seen one.

Last spring I was driving around Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and out of the corner of my eye, way back in the dark marshy woods, I saw a pair of Wood Ducks. Of course when I stopped to try and photograph the pair of Wood Ducks, they immediately flew away. I trudged through the marshy swamp trying to find them without success. Over the next few days I went back to that same spot multiple times and waited and waited and waited and finally was rewarded with some images of Wood Ducks. They seem to frequent dark areas that are very difficult to photograph and are very shy.

The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly beautiful birds ever created and I feel fortunate to finally have seen and photographed these colorful waterfowl.

Purple Martins

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Male Purple Martin in flight with dragonfly in beak (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)Female Purple Martin hovering in flight against cloudy sky (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)

I have always thought Purple Martins (you know the birds that live in the hollowed out gourds) ate tons of mosquitos! Recently on a trip to Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge I spotted someone carefully cleaning the Purple Martin nests. After asking her multiple questions, I learned a lot about these beautiful birds. They DO eat mosquitoes but that is only about 1-2% of their diet. Purple Martins feed mostly on dragonflies! They feed on the fly, meaning they eat and catch food while flying.   Mosquitos  typically live close to the ground. The Purple Martins  don’t fly at night which is when mosquitos are active. I was certainly surprised to learn this fact.  They are extremely acrobatic, beautiful birds and I have come to appreciate them much more even though they don’t really eat mosquitos.