Saturday, August 24, 2013


There's a lot of fluff in birding at this time of year - the fluff that makes up a soft bird's nest, the fluff of gentle down on a baby bird, the fluff of summer seed pods that birds may munch or gather for late season nesting. The cutest fluff I've seen in a long time is Floyd Jr., a baby Chilean flamingo at Tracy Aviary. He is one of two chicks to successfully hatch this year and is a resident in the public exhibit, slowly learning how to be a flamingo from the adults of the flock - balancing on one leg (only for a short time - it's tiring!), poking at water to sample algae (but right now his diet is crop milk), and standing tall (also tiring).

Mortality is always high for baby birds, and it's a rare treat to see one so unique. Tracy Aviary has had a great baby boom this year, with many other young birds gracing the grounds, both from their captive birds as well as wild residents who appreciate the bird-friendly landscaping.

There have been baby birds around the neighborhood as well - young barn swallows perching on wires, teenage American robins foraging in the lawn, juvenile European starlings demanding attention, immature rufous hummingbirds learning which feeders are theirs. I have seen ducklings and goslings at local ponds, and young hawks perched on poles along the highway. It always amazes me that there are so many more birds around this time of year, a buildup just before so many leave for warmer regions. But while they're here, they're welcome, and I'll enjoy their company.

Have some fun with these 20 Fun Facts About Flamingos!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Crazy About Captivity

Captivity is the name of the game this summer. A lot of different factors have kept me captive for the past few weeks - work, deadlines, scheduling, health matters, heat waves - and my best birding for some time has been with birds just as captive as myself. On a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, I had the cutest of captive moments: my first encounter with a piping plover.

It was a smaller bird than I'd expected, despite my familiarity with it through a range of field guides, news stories, and other resources. But it was fierce, chasing around its exhibit to discourage any other birds from usurping its space, and diligently guarding the space it had decreed as its own. Just like the black-capped chickadee that boldly guards its tree in my backyard and loudly warns off all intruders, or the rufous hummingbird that aggressively chases away all interlopers near any of the hummingbird feeders, it seems the smaller the bird, the bigger the attitude, and the bigger the impression it can make on any birder. I won't soon forget this little plover, and I look forward to the day - whenever it may be - that I can add it to my life list.

Do you know where to see captive birds to enjoy more exotic species?