The Mysterious Night Parrot

When we think about parrots, we usually imagine a loud, adorably obnoxious bird that is capable of mimicking human speech. Regardless of how we feel about them, it is easy to see how common parrots do not mind being the center of attention. Apparently this is not always the case, as not too long ago a species of parrot thought to have been extinct has been rediscovered.

Scattered all over in different parts of Australia, the Night Parrot is actually a very endangered species. There were no confirmed sightings of this particular bird between the years 1912 and 1979, which led to the speculation that it actually gone extinct. Its secretive habits and the fact that it has only been found within the remote country of Australia has made it notorious for being one of the most difficult birds to find in the wild.

Living in semi-arid grasslands, the Night Parrot prefers to stay low and traverse on foot. It would only take flight if something frightened it or there is a need to reach higher ground. This bird is of a medium size, and the only real way to identify it as not part of a similar looking species is the fact that the Night Parrot has a shorter tail length. Sticking to its strange nocturnal behavior, this bird eats spinifex seeds fallen on the ground at night. Even though the area that they were recently discovered in is now under protection and not disclosed to the public, their future may continue to be tumultuous over the next few years as an endangered species.

Everybody Loves the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

For those living in the United States and Mexico, I believe that one of the most recognizable birds we encounter are hummingbirds. These little balls of energy are actually divided into several subspecies, and all subspecies carry their own unique traits. For now however, we will be focusing on one particular hummingbird known as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is known to wander around some parts of Canada, Eastern United States, and all of Mexico. As the name implies, these humming birds are easily recognizable by their emerald green backsides and their ruby red patch of feathers around their throats; however, only the male hummingbirds have the red patches. What makes this bird really impressive is their ability to fly at very high speeds. They are also able to stop, hover, and completely change directions while maintain their speed and being fully in control of their momentum.

When it comes to migratory patterns, this species of hummingbirds would fly South into Mexico at the early signs of the cold Winter winds approaching. Most hummingbirds actually do migrate to avoid having to deal with colder climate, but it is important to note that there are actually a few types of hummingbirds that actually do stick it out and hibernate through the Winter.

Their diet is mainly comprised of nectar from flowers and small insects. Something that is interesting about how they feed is that they are known to try defending their food source from other hummingbirds trying to find something to eat as well. This leads to the potential for two of them fighting over a common bird feeder hung in a persons backyard.

Lyrebirds, the Shy Performers

When trying to attract a mate, some birds try to compete with one another by building the most impressive nest or set of feathers. Other birds do perform elaborate dances with their flying capabilities or stretch their vocal ability. The lyrebird on the other hand puts a totally unique twist to the art of singing.

Found in several parts of Eastern Australia and divided into two subspecies, the lyrebird is actually a very shy bird, so they are difficult to approach up close. They are capable of living up to roughly thirty years, and their breeding cycles do not begin until between their sixth and eighth year. Since they primarily live and feed on the ground, their flight abilities are rather poor. They make up for this shortcoming by having long legs adapted for walking and being able to feed on many invertebrate species on the ground.

Lyrebirds sing all throughout the year, but the peak of their activity is during the breeding season in the Summer time. During the peak seasons, they would sing on average for four hours straight! Their complex syrinx, the vocal organ of birds located at the base of their trachea, is what allows them to not only create unique patterns, but also mimic the sounds they hear around them. This causes them to mimic the calls of entirely different bird species well enough that even the original birds are fooled. Although it is unusual for them to mimic human vocals, they are well known for perfectly capturing how a chainsaw revving up to cut a tree would sound, or even alarms and rifle shots. Be sure to watch the video posted above if you find this hard to believe!

Lets Talk About Migrations

Aside from the common knowledge that birds fly south for the winter, how much do we actually know about what goes on during huge migrations? As a child, I used to always get chills down my spine watching massive v-shaped formations of birds heading South as the weather got colder. How do they know where they are supposed to go? What kinds of things do they have to look out for during a massive migration to warmer climates? Have migrations ever changed due to the Earth’s weather patterns changing? Lets dive in from the very basics.

First off, there are three different ways in which birds can maintain a sense of direction during a migration. In some birds’ nostrils, there is a substance called magnetite. This allows them to use the Earth’s magnetic field to guide their path. Other species use the Earth’s landscape- such as coastlines and mountains- to navigate. There are even a few birds out there who are able to use the positioning of the sun and the stars to figure out where they are! Most species tend to have one solid method for guiding their migrations, but others may use a mix of all three methods to ensure they are ending up in the right place. So much for us calling them bird brains.

In regards to the Earth’s climate changing, there is actually a mix of responses to how migration patterns are affected. While some species have do in fact exhibit some change to their normal flight patterns, there are others who have actually shown no change at all. It comes down to the individual species and how keen are they to being able to adapt to changes.