Tag Archives: Birds

Mixed flock feeding

I’ve seen mixed flocks of passerines bouncing through a forest, feeding on different vertical levels and plants, but hadn’t really ever noticed it among these waders and swimmers. There were probably over 15 Double-Crested Cormorants, a few Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets, about six Brown Pelicans, and a handful of passing Royal Terns, all cruising a small marsh creek entrance as the tide approached the morning high.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

A first spot for me (although I’ve probably seen them before and had misidentified them as red- or white-breasted nuthatches because I learned the nuthatches of Ohio, not Georgia), the brown-headed nuthatch is markedly smaller than other nuthatches, and a few of them hang out near the entrance to the trails at Skidaway Island State Park—they’re an easy bird to watch and their behavioral quirks make them fun too; hanging out upside-down, diving, pecking, all kinds of cools stuff.

Diving cormorant

A Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocoracidae: Phalacrocorax auritus) quickly swam by a few times while we were snorkeling at Three Sisters Springs.

While in a different family (Anhingidae), Anhinga appear similar and are behaviorally similar to cormorants, and the easiest means to telling the two apart, in my experience, is to look for the more robust, curved bill in the cormorant.

Investigating animal decomposition in a tropical wet forest and agricultural lands

Michael, an undergraduate researcher out of Stanford, is working at Las Cruces on animal decomposition.  Briefly, he’s set out freshly-killed adult chickens and chicks in forests and agricultural lands (i.e., pasture and coffee plantation) and monitors what happens…

He’s got camera traps trained on the adult chickens, and uses transects through both habitat types to pair replicate locations with both major habitats.  It’s interesting (and rather smelly) work: there are a number of specialist scavengers that feed on animal matter, and the roles animal detritus (feces + dead animal) play in communities is often overlooked in light of the overwhelming biomass that plants input into detrital pools in ecosystems.  Michael has already found some exciting facilitation effects within the scavenger community.

Michael was kind enough to take me along on one of his sampling dates.