From meeting the Cactus Wren of the desert to the Sooty Terns of the sea, no exploratory category would be complete without including a feathered friend from the tropical climate. Over in Central Australia, (and even introduced in Puerto Rico and Portugal) lives the Zebra finch. Not to be mistaken for the finches studied by Darwin on the Galapagos islands, the Zebra Finch are actually native to Indonesia and East Timor.
Usually sticking close to water, Zebra finches are known to inhabit a wide range of grasslands and forests. Similar to other finches, their diet consists primarily of seeds. This is reflected by the shapes of their beaks being adapted for breaking open the outer shell of seeds to easily get to the inside. They tend to live on low branches of trees, with even their nests being on the ground altogether. After having been around so many human disturbances, these birds have gotten very used to human contact, to the point where they are now an easily domesticated and very popular caged pet. As domesticated birds, Zebra finches are also known to be content with eating fresh foods such as chopped pieces of apples.
Their songs and chirps can vary, but for the most part they are very loud singers for their size. One of the most interesting things about their song patterns is that each male follows its very own unique rhythm. Although Zebra finches from the same bloodline may have similar patterns, its very interesting to see how their unique songs come into play when it comes to finding a mate.
Since the last post was about a peculiar brave bird of the desert, this week we will be taking a look at a feathered friend that prefers to live by the ocean. Initially, it might be the case that only Seagulls and Pelicans came to mind when thinking about a bird that would live by the sea; however, just like the Cactus Wren, there are other kinds of spectacular species that are also part of the mix. Today we take a closer look at the Sooty Tern, a bird that quite literally has well earned the reputation of being a true “sea bird.”
Going by the official species name “Onychoprion fuscatus,” the Sooty Tern actually spends most of its time flying out in the middle of the sea. They typically follow warm currents, and they tend to only nest on small, remote islands away from large populations. Even though they are not endangered in any sort of way, there are actually colonies on Hawaii and other islands that are under very strict protection.
Since they tend to spend most of their time wandering the tropical sea, how this bird gets to eat can seem quite challenging. They rarely would ever actually dive into the water to pursue a meal, so what they do instead is search for small fish that have been driven very close to the surface by other predators or schools of fish.
Regarding their young, both the mother and father take turns feeding and looking after them. During the first eight weeks, the young get to grow and develop the ability to fly, and they also get to feed off of the regurgitated meals given to them from their parents (yum). After growing the ability to fly, the young would still continue to stick close to the nest until it is their time to finally take to the sea themselves.
The harsh, acrid climate of deserts can be very unforgiving to those who attempt to travel through them unprepared. Nevertheless, there are many rather interesting creatures that have adapted to and even make a comfortable living in these environments. One particular creature we will be looking at would be the Cactus Wren.
The Cactus Wren is part of a group of birds that share the name “Wren.” This particular Wren is the largest of the group, and it has a long heavy bill with short, rounded wings. Their color patterns are predominately speckled brown with the rest of their chest being white. Both the males and females tend to look alike in color patterns, but the younger Cactus Wrens tend to appear more pale than mature Wrens.
The Cactus Wren can be found all year-round in the southern parts of the United States and a large portion of northern Mexico. Their nests tend to be the size and shape of footballs, and as the name implies they stick near wild cacti to use as shelter. They primarily eat small insects such as ants, wasps, and small seeds.
Unlike the other Wrens, the Cactus Wren acts a lot more “brave” to the point where they can be somewhat obnoxious to encounter. It is not surprising to find them perched on top of their homes out in the open and they love to announce their arrival before continuing to forage for food. In urban areas, they are also well known for venturing into open garages and doors to quickly search the area for any morsels they can eat.