The creative study of birds through art, photography, and writing

Orange-breasted Falcon Plucking Prey

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

For the Orange-breasted Falcon whose diet consists primarily of avian prey, to eat requires a great deal of work. First, the birds must capture a food item. They specialize in above canopy surprise and pursuit capture, a technique that blends a bit of skill and luck. When the two align and the bird finally captures a meal, they then must prepare it. Falcons prefer to ingest little amounts of feather from their prey items, and thus need to efficiently remove the extraneous feathers to access the muscle. To remove these feathers, they pluck their prey nearly clean. Plucking can be beautiful, as I found with the Orange-breasted Falcon in the video above as it prepared a Great-tailed Grackle. Perched on a limb high overlooking a deep river valley, the bird plucks. The observer can easily recognize the bird’s technique of rip and flick, as it efficiently carries out its daily ritual and feathers calmly drift away in the hot Central American air.

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American x Eurasian Wigeon Hybrid

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

The phenotypic expression that results from hybridization is fascinating, especially in colorful birds such as the male ducks. One duck hybridization I enjoy is the American x Eurasian Wigeon. The subtle combination between the traits of the two species is pleasing to the eye, but also presents a fun and satisfying ID challenge.

I found a drake American x Eurasian Wigeon the other day in a large group of American Wigeon feeding on a grass field at a large sports park in Boise, ID. The winter group that frequents this field every year generally holds a drake Eurasian Wigeon. This year no Eurasian, but a hybrid.

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Note the retention of the American Wigeon head pattern. The Eurasian has a beautiful red-orange head with a golden fore-crown. The neck and auriculars do not differ in color than the superciliary and hind-neck as in the American. This hybrid holds the American pattern, but with strong Eurasian coloring throughout the head. The other most obvious quality on this bird is the gray flanks unlike the American Wigeon which have rufous flanks. Thus, the combination of American head pattern with reddish hints and the gray flanks are enough to confidently call this bird an American x Eurasian Hybrid.

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Eurasian Wigeon sure show up regularly each winter in N. America. I’d love to know if the regularity of Eurasian in N. America mirrors the regularity of American in Asia. It’s fun to wonder, but with the growing popularity of eBird, answering these types of questions are beginning to seem more and more possible.