Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Utensil Birds #2

Back by popular demand, it's the second installment of Utensil Birds.

Today's Utensil Bird is PAIL-billed woodpecker....

Pail/pale-billed woodpecker photographed at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala in February 2007.


My producer is speaking to me over my headset and telling me that it's P-A-L-E -billed woodpecker. Not P-A-I-L. How awkward...

OK. How about roseate SPOONbill?

Dig the crazy spoon-shaped bill on this flying spoonbill.

Here are two images I took in Florida in January at Merritt Island NWR. When you're a new bird watcher, flipping through the field guide, the roseate spoonbill is one of those species that makes you gasp and wonder. Is there REALLY a bird like that?

Well they're even better in real life. One of my most-wanted-to-photograph-well birds is the roseate spoonbill. Not much of a chance here in SE Ohio. Though with global warming it might just be a matter of waiting.... Sorry, bad joke.

The spoon-shaped bill is wide and flat. Perfect for straining yummy aquatic life out of swamp water but probably not very good for eating soup.

I'd love to get a photo of a roseate spoonbill perched next to a fork-tailed flycatcher, but what are the chances of that?

Worry not! I'll serve up another Utensil Bird soon.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Utensil Birds: Species #1

I hereby announce the start of a new series of (irregular) posts here at Bill of the Birds. The subject is: Utensil Birds. These are species whose names contain the name of a utensil or tool.

Today's featured Utensil Bird is the scissor-tailed flycatcher.

I LOVE scissor-tailed flycatchers for a variety of reasons.

1.) They are undeniably beautiful. Long tail streamers, pink wing pits, classic gray plumage, and acrobatic aerial maneuvers.

2.) I only get to see them once or twice a year. The nearest breeding scissortails to my SE Ohio home are in southwestern Missouri.

3.) It's one of the only vagrant birds I've ever spotted myself. One flew into view of our Big Sit team at the World Series of Birding at Cape May Point, NJ, on May 15, 2004. Late in the afternoon, the scissor-tailed flycatcher flew off the ocean and into a nearby marshy field, causing me to blurt out its name, followed by a somewhat inappropriate profanity. We'd just finished an issue of BWD with this species on the cover, so it was almost as if I conjured this vagrant bug eater. Hundreds of birders converged on our Big Sit circle atop the hawk watching platform that afternoon to see the bird. It was a great feeling to have been the one to spot it. Scissor-tailed flycatchers are regular vagrants in many places.

4.) I was once asked by a non-bird watcher why scissor-tailed flycatchers were so cruel to other birds. When I asked what he meant, the old fella replied: "Well they use them scissory tails to cut the heads off their victims don't they?"

I dialed 911.

I took some fairly awful images of a lovely scissortail at Santa Ana NWR last Friday. Since you can't stop me from doing so, I'm going to share the least awful ones with you right now.

Here's to you, Special Utensil Bird #1! Don't be a stranger!

Classic scissortail pose: on a wire, facing into the wind, tail streaming out behind.

Landing just after a hunting sortie, this scissortail is turning to face into the strong Texas wind.

Insect gulped down, it's bill-cleaning time. Two quick wipes on the wire and he's good to go.