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Common Raven Display
Category: Birding at the Chico

Common Ravens are one of the most intelligent birds.  Their wingspan is slightly wider than a Red-tailed Hawks so they are big birds.  Today, about 8 ravens were flying around south of HQ Pond and more than one seemed paired.  This one put on an acrobatic show, something I was surprised a bird this size could do.

Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2014

Western Meadowlarks - A Few Return And Sing
Category: Birding at the Chico
Six western states (Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas chose Western Meadowlark for their state bird.  No state chose Eastern Meadowlark.  Although the two cryptic species look almost identical, Western Meadowlark's song is much more melodic than its close relative, Eastern Meadowlark.  Because songs are learned, not inherited in passerine birds, poplulations of Western Meadowlarks breeding adjacent to Eastern Meadowlarks (like in central Kansas) occasionally learn their neighbors' songs.  Howerver, call notes are hard wired so a Western Meadowlark singing an Eastern song can be idenified for certain if the call notes are heard.   

This flying Western Meadowlark from the Chico has two sets of outer tail feathers showing white. An Eastern Meadowlark flying in this same postion would show more white in its tail.
Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2014

Landbird Migration Is Finally Underway
Category: Birding at the Chico

My first flock of bluebirds of this year was a about 12 Mountain Bluebirds.  The colors in bird feathers are formed two different ways, either from light refracition from the structure of the feather or from pigments.  In bird feathers there is no blue pigment.  Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum discovered that in blue feathers, inside their cells are keratin molecules separate from water molecules. When these cell die, water evaporated and it is replaced by air, leaving a structure of keratin interwoven with pockets of air. When light strkes a blue feather, the keratin pattern causes red and yellow wavelengths to cancel but wavelengths of light reinforce and amplify one another and reflect back to our eyes with the result being the blues we see, a product of light refraction.

Posted by Bill M. on 02/23/2014

   
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