May 19, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Friday, 04 June 2010 09:50
Wendy Quaranta’s photo of a leucistic robin offers an opportunity to bring up again this odd “defect” in animal coloration.
Leucistic creatures lack all kinds of pigment in part or all of the surface of their bodies which, in birds, is reflected in the feathers. That’s different from albino creatures, which lack only one pigment — melanin — but it’s missing not only in their skin, feathers and — in mammals — hair, but also in their eyes. Thus, an albino has pinkish eyes, and a leucistic bird or mammal does not.
For some reason, the American Robin seems to be among the most often seen species exhibiting leucism. That may be simply because robins are so common.However, one of the more unusual statistics reported by the American Birding Association some years ago is that some areas of the continent seem more likely to have albino specimens of birds than others and that the area around Vancouver, British Columbia, is said to have a higher percentage of American Robins that are albino than other parts of North America. No one knows why.
Bill Rossiter of Redding reports, “An unexpected reason for our bird feeders to be so inactive recently was a Saw-whet Owl my wife saw chasing a female cardinal as she sat on the feeder just before sunset. The owl was about her size!
The cardinal escaped, thankfully, to return to her nearby nest. For several nights we’d heard plaintive calls in the woods, unlike anything we had heard before. The night after the attack, following the sound, we spotlighted two Saw-whet Owls preening each other on a branch close to the house, with another calling close by. One bobbed and stretched as we tried to take pictures far outside the range of the camera. They looked like cute little puffs of feathers with fierce eyes, and we’re hoping they don’t raise their brood nearby.”
June Launiere of Weston saw the column on House Wrens. “I have supported House Wrens for years, but not anymore. Last year they had eight broods out of four birdhouses. I gave all birdhouses away except for my three bluebird boxes. By the way I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Sherman: They are nasty little birds — even the hummingbirds chase them.
“This year when one showed up the first week in May, he had quite a surprise. My yard is now bluebird turf. I had my boxes up over the winter like you’re supposed to, and the bluebirds started showing more interest in February and March. By the first week in April, the nest was built and five beautiful blue eggs hatched on April 29. I did help the parents out with offering mealworms in the bluebird feeder, which they gladly accepted and brought to their brood. All five babies fledged at 18 days old May 16. I had expected them to be on the ground or lower branches, but to my amazement, all of them were in the upper canopy of the trees. I was quite surprised to see how strong they were. Oh, by the way, the House Wren didn’t stick around!”
Jackie Sullivan of Greenwich also has House Wrens. “Last year for the first time they decided to make a nest in bird house hanging by front door. I could hear them singing all over my house. I had a problem with ants in the house and they had to spray ... outside a few feet away from the wrens and the wrens decided to move and make a new nest in a bluebird house. I have no blue birds.
“Well, mother wren was bossing father wren all over about what he was doing — never shut up, would fly wherever he went. She was in the butterfly bush, watching every stick being put in the bluebird house.”
Jackie wondered whether she should remove the old nest at the end of the season. I would, in the hope that, like June, bluebirds would successfully occupy the box next season.
Annual Summer Bird Count, a two-day survey to help determine what birds are living and nesting in this area at this time of the year; June 12 and 13, free for young and old, sign up with Ted at 203-869-5272 x230, by June 11, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich.audubon.org.
Bird Observation Hike, with Milan Bull of Connecticut Audubon, Saturday, June 26, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Aspetuck Land Trust at Stonebridge Preserve parking lot, Newtown Turnpike, near Stonebridge Rd., Weston (on Wilton line), reserve via David Brant, dbrant @ aspetucklandtrust.org.
Hummingbirds: Feathered Gems, Gina Nichol, former Audubon staff member, illustrates the amazing adaptations of these birds and describes their fascinating life histories, Saturday, July 17, 3:30-4:30 pm, $5, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich.audubon.org.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, 203-637-9822.
Copyright 2010 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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