by Bryce W. Robinson
I’m currently working in the Alaskan boreal forest outside of Anchorage. The focus of the work is on boreal wetland species such as Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Rusty Blackbird to name a few. The time I’ve spent in the field has been rewarding on many levels, mostly because I’ve never worked in this system and I’m exposed to behaviors I’ve never seen.
Today I was in a canoe on my way to find some Rusty Blackbird nests. While slowly making my way, watching what I passed, I noticed a Lesser Yellowlegs perched on a log in the water. At the shoreline, I got out of the canoe and crept on the yellowlegs, laying down and turning on my camera. I’ve never had the chance to get great yellowlegs photos, so I took the opportunity. Meanwhile I recognized the opportunity to take some video, and as I switched over and began recording the yellowlegs expelled a pellet. This video alone, though it could be better quality, is worth an entire summer spent in the boreal. These seldom seen instances that speak to the life histories of birdlife are what I value.
Owls and raptors often get the attention when speaking about pellets in birds. In fact, many people don’t realize that most birds expel pellets. As recently as 1979, many species weren’t known to expel pellets (Below 1979). Now we understand that most species that consume insects and vertebrates cast pellets to reject indigestible material.
More description of the excellent boreal birdlife to come. I’m in heaven.
Below, T. H. 1979. First Reports of Pellet Ejection in 11 Species. Wilson Bulletin 91(4) pp. 626-628