Young Birds Learn Fast—or Perish

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Categories: Stories


Pelican chicks fly from the nest at 11 or 12 weeks of age. Once fledged, they are on their own; rarely have I seen an adult feeding a young bird away from the nest. The young­sters, however, frequently join the flights of their elders and learn—by imitation and by the lessons of trial and error—those things a pelican has to know.


A young bird must quickly become adept at fishing in order to survive. To catch fish, pelicans dive headfirst into the water, usually from an elevation of 10 to 35 feet, though oc­casionally from as high as 75 feet. Preying upon a tight school of fish swimming near the surface, a pelican will scud along barely rising off the water.


Most prey—menhaden, pinfish, thread her­ring—are caught in the pouch a foot or two below the surface (pages 116-17). The pelican then sits on the water with bill closed and pointing down, allowing the water to drain out of the pouch. Finally, with a toss of his head, he swallows the fish.


A pelican never stores fish in the pouch, Dixon Merritt’s unforgettable limerick not­withstanding:

A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill will hold more than his belican.

He can take in his beak .A pelican never stores fish in the pouch


Food enough for a week, But I’m damned if I see how the helican. Each summer since 1969 I have joined other biologists in South Carolina and Flori­da in banding and color-marking nestling pelicans to learn more about their migration  and movements during the post-breeding dis­persal. We leg-band them with numbered U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum markers and attach plastic streamers on a leg or wing, a different color for each nesting area, for ease in identifying a bird’s origin. Newspaper alerts and posters on fishing piers elicited more than 1,500 reports of color-marked birds sighted between 1969 and 1973.


Pelicans in South Carolina move south dur­ing the fall and spend the winter and spring months on the east coast of Florida and in the keys. Birds I banded in Tampa Bay have been sighted primarily south along the Flori­da west coast and in the keys.


Recovery of banded birds allows us to check off milestones of their life span. We don’t yet know how long a brown pelican can live, but one bird was recovered at age 25. Most banded birds found dead are less than a year old. Recoveries of birds between 5 and 20 years old are numerous.




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Categories: Travel


OVER the years I have come to identify the springtime with one of Britain’s strangest birds: it is also one of the most beautiful. I first saw a woodcock many years ago, when as a boy I went “beating” in the Breckland, the largest area of woodland in England.

Each year my two uncles would o shooting there, as part of syndicate. To earn money, and as day out, I would go too, with various friends and associates, to drive the pheasants towards the guns. Strung out in a long line we would beat the ground, shrubs and tree trunks with sticks to disturb e game and hope that it would or fly towards the guns.

33. British bird


It was in those woods that I saw y first woodcock. It was a bird of yestery and beauty, flying from

keep within the trees with a fast, thinking, silent flight. It was considered a great feat for a gun of shoot a woodcock, and any successful shot could claim £1 am each of his fellow guns.

But even at that age I could not understand why anybody should ant to shoot a bird of such eauty. Its feathers were the same, check for more.

Colours, with identical mixes and lends, as fallen autumn leaves. eeing such remarkable birds shot as one of the reasons why, in my id-teens, I stopped beating and ever took up shooting. I preferred to watch wildlife, rather than to hoot it. However, I am grateful to those days for giving me glimpses of the secret life of a forest — roe deer, red squirrels, a stoat in the white of true ermine and woodcock. I also have to admit that although I do not shoot, I do like eating pheasant, which I regard as my favourite Sunday dinner. They are free-range, often organic birds, that have short, but free and happy lives. Find the most beautiful nature cheking at compare lille  hotels website.

Since those days I have seen many woodcock, and if anything they have become more common. In February this year I was walking at dusk from my house to the farm when one suddenly flew over the road in front of me and dropped down in a neighbour’s garden. With its fast, jerky flight it was unmistakable and as it passed it turned its head to look at me through its large brown eyes. They eat worms and other delicacies of mud, mire and soil; it is amazing that such an unattractive menu can produce such an attractive bird.Do you want to see more attractive birds visiting France? – check this compare lille hotels website to find the best place to stay.

Fortunately, I do not have to go far to see a woodcock for they breed in a nearby wood every year, and each spring, when the wood anemones and oxlips are in full bloom, I sit in a treetop hide waiting for the light to fade.

Then, with the western sky pink, I will hear it — a frog-like croak, not on the ground where it ought to be, but up in the air, moving. It is the male woodcock “roding”: it is his territorial flight and call, and presumably, to the female sitting on eggs below, it is both melodic and reassuring. What it sounds like to a mystified frog is anybody’s guess!