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"'" CARD 161 I


Crus grus
The common crane is a tall, elegant bird that breeds in secluded
wetland areas of northern Europe. It is well known for its graceful
dancing displays, which are often performed by whole flocks.
Length: ft .
Wingspan: ft.
Weight: 10-15 lb.
Sexual maturity: Thought to be
5 years.
Breeding season: April to June.
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: 2.
Incubation: About 1 month.
Fledging period: months.
Breedi ng areas of the common crane. Wintering areas.
Call: Male's call is long and low.
Female's is short and high-pitched.
Habit: Gathers in flocks outside the
breeding season.
Diet: Plants, insects, reptiles.
lifespan: May be up to 70 years.
Breeds in Scandinavia, northern Germany, Turkey, and from
eastern Europe to eastern Asia. Winters in southern Spain,
North Africa, Iraq, Iran, India, and eastern Asia.
The closest relative is the hooded
crane, Crus monacha, which breeds
in Siberia, Mongolia, Korea, and
Although the common crane is protected by law in Scandinavia
and Finland, the population is declining in most areas due to
the loss of its wetland habitat.

Flight: Flies with neck outstretched
and legs extended backward. Slow,
strong wing beats. Flies high and
sometimes soars.
Bill: Long and
pOinted, ideal
for probing the
ground in
search of food.
Long and thin W;din,g ,
through shallow w,atetf.
Plumage: Both sexes have gray
plumage with dark wingtips and
throat, white patches on cheeks and
neck, and red crown. Tail feathers are
dark, long, and bushy. Feathers are
molted (shed) annually.
Eggs: 2 per
clutch. Pale
and spotted
with darker
0160200491 PACKET 49
The common crane nests in secluded sites away
from other birds. During migration cranes form
large flocks that fly in a V formation. The birds travel
day and night, uttering loud calls to keep the flock
together. They use as little energy as possible
on their long journey, soaring high in the air
on rising currents of warm air.
~ H A B I T S
The common crane lives in wet-
lands but is also found in grass-
lands. Although it is an aquatic
bird, the common crane does
not have webbed feet and it
stays in shallow water. Outside
the breeding season, cranes
form flocks of up to 400 birds.
The crane flies with its neck
outstretched, beating its wings
in slow, strong movements. Its
feet usually extend backward in
flight, but they may be tucked
under the breast feathers in
cold weather. In summer the
crane molts, or sheds, its feath-
ers. Every few years, it loses all
its flight feathers and cannot fly
for five or six weeks.
The crane's well-known danc-
ing display may be performed
by a single pair of birds, but
often a whole flock takes part.
During this display, the bird fans
its wings and leaps into the air,
then bows its neck almost to
the ground. Stamping its feet, it
picks up objects such as feathers
or stones and tosses them into
the air. The dancing was once
thought to be a courtship dis-
play, but it also occurs when an
intruder appears. The birds also
seem to dance just for pleasure.
The crane pairs for at least a
few years and often for life.
Newly paired birds may per-
form the dancing ceremony
prior to mating, but older birds
rarely display in this way.
The pair establishes its breed-
ing territory in a secluded wet-
land and returns there every
year. Using dry vegetation, they
build a platformlike nest in shal-
low water. The female usually
lays two eggs, which both par-
ents incubate for 28 to 30 days.
Left: A shy, wary bird, the com-
mon crane is constantly on the
lookout for predators.
A nesting crane may cover
itself with mud or vegetation
for camouflage.
A pair of calling cranes can
be heard for several miles.
Their coiled windpipes act
like trumpets and amplify
the sound.
Migrating cranes can fly
two miles above the ground.
Because incubation starts
as soon as an egg is laid, the
chicks may hatch a day or two
apart. The first chick may have
left the nest by the time the
second chick hatches. This
ensures that there is enough
food for each chick.
The newly hatched chicks are
helpless, but within hours they
can crawl out of the nest. After
nine weeks they can fly, even
though their flight feathers are
not yet fully developed.
Right: A young crane is able to
swim and run only 24 hours after
If suitable roosting sites are
unavailable, common cranes
may gather in large num-
bers. One site in the U.S.S.R.
contained 3,500 birds at
one time.
In Japanese mythology,
the crane signifies long life.
It was believed to live for a
thousand years.
At the end of summer, the
common crane moves to a
flooded or swampy area to
molt its feathers . Then it mi-
grates south with its flock to
a warmer climate. Depending
on the location of their breed-
ing ground, cranes winter in
Spain, North Africa, Iraq, Iran,
India, eastern Asia, or China.
The crane eats almost anything
that is available. Its main food is
plant material such as grasses,
crops, and herbs. In summer the
crane eats frogs, slowvvorms,
lizards, snakes, and even small
mammals such as rodents. It
also consumes earthworms, spi-
ders, snails, and wood lice. Once
in a while the crane eats fish or
the eggs and young of small
birds. In fall and winter it eats
grains and nuts.
The crane often travels long
Left: Although the crane usually
feeds on riverbanks, it can badly
damage crops.
Migrating cranes use the
same stopover points each
year, often before crossing a
large stretch of water such as
the Mediterranean. Here they
forage for food and wait for
suitable weather before contin-
uing their journey. Immature
birds migrate with their par-
ents to learn the route.
distances in search of TOod. It
leaves its roost about half an
hour before sunrise to spend
the day feeding. It may return
to the roost at midday to rest,
then continue to feed until just
after sunset.
Standing in shallow water,
the crane forages on the bank,
either picking food from the
surface or probing the soil with
its bill. When one bird finds a
good food supply, others join it,
but they do not go near enough
to bother one another. A few
individuals always stand aside
to act as lookouts.
Falconiformes Accipitridae
CARD 162 1
Gypaetus barbatus
The lammergeier is a magnificent sight as it soars over a cliff or
perches on a high ledge. This vulture searches for carcasses or
bones that have been picked clean by other scavengers.
Length: 4 ft.
Wingspan: 9 ft.
Weight: 10-15 lb.
Sexual maturity: 5 years.
Breeding season: January to July.
Eggs: 1 or 2; pale buff.
No. of broods: 1 .
Incubation: About 2 months.
Fledging period: 3 - 3 ~ months.
Habit: Usually solitary.
Diet: Carrion and bones. Also tor-
toises, birds, and mammals.
Call: Usually silent. A shrill whistle
in display.
lifespan: Unknown.
There are more than 217 species in
the family Accipitridae, including
the Egyptian vulture, Neophron
Range of the lammergeier.
Found in mountainous areas in southern Europe; northern,
eastern, and southern Africa; the Middle East; and central Asia.
The lammergeier is very rare and threatened by hunting, acci-
dental poisoning, and habitat disturbance. Preservation efforts
include artificial feeding, protection of nests, and the release of
birds into areas where the wild population has died out.
Plumage: Front and belly are usually
a light creamy buff. Darker wings and
tail. Black beardlike mask around
eyes and bill . Juvenile has a
darker head and breast.
Feet: Strong legs but relatively weak
talons. Better adapted for moving on
the ground than for catching prey.
Used to pick meat and mar-
row from bones. Also used to
carry bones and live prey in
the air before dropping them
on rocky ground.
Wings: Long, narrow; and
curved slightly forward. An
important feature for identi-
fying the bird in flight.
Eggs: 1 or 2; laid in
late winter or spring
in a large nest. In-
cubated mainly by
the female.
016020061 1 PACKET 61
The lammergeier is known in Spain as the "bone breaker"
because it drops large bones onto rocks to split them
into manageable pieces. In this way it exposes the
nutritious marrow inside the bones. A special digestive
system allows the lammergeier to consume bone and
gristle, which are inedible to most predators.
The lammergeier lives in the
more remote parts of the high
mountain ranges of Europe,
Africa, and Asia. In the Pyre-
nees it nests on cliffs and soars
above the highest peaks. It can
also be seen flying over the
hotter, more arid foothills. In
the Himalayas it may reach alti-
tudes of 15,000 feet.
When the lammergeier flies
at lower altitudes, it is lifted by
thermals (warm air currents) ris-
ing from ridges and valleys. In
these conditions it can spend
hours soaring because it uses
little energy to remain in the
air. When flying higher up, it
rides on the strong winds
above cliffs and peaks.
The lammergeier builds its nest
on a deep ledge underneath an
overhang or locates it inside a
small cave high on a cliff face.
It has up to five alternate nests,
but it may use the same one
for years. The nest is a pile of
sticks, rags, paper, and other
trash about three feet high
and six feet wide. The nest
becomes larger each year as
new sticks and linings of wool
Left: The lammergeier can spot
food on the ground from a height
of several hundred feet.
In Asia the lammergeier of-
ten visits dumps, farms, and
slaughterhouses to feed on
discarded meat and bones.
According to legend, the
ancient Greek dramatist Aes-
chylus was killed by a tortoise
dropped by a lammergeier.
and manure are added to it.
One or two large spotted
buff eggs are laid in late win-
ter. They are incubated most-
ly by the female and hatch in
about two months. The chicks
are fed by both parents, but
only one chick reaches maturi-
ty. Even after 10 weeks in the
nest, the chick is still fed by its
parents four times a day. It can
fly after about three months.
Right: The lammergeier is among
the most solitary members of the
vulture family.
The lammergeier is the rar-
est vulture in Europe, but 40
pairs live in the Pyrenees.
The lammergeier is also
known as the "bearded vul-
ture" because it has a black
mask and bristles drooping
from its bill.
The lammergeier usually eats
the remains of dead animals.
After other vultures finish eat-
ing, it tackles what they leave
behind-the tougher meat and
skeletons of goats, sheep, and
deer. The bird breaks big bones
into manageable pieces but
swallows small bones whole.
After a good feed, the lammer-
geier takes a rest to digest its
meal, perching for hours on a
cliff ledge or on top of a large
tree on a rocky slope. It can easi-
ly take flight from such points.
In the air, the lammergeier is
a splendid sight. Its long slotted
wings and large wedge-shaped
tail are ideally suited to soaring
on thermal air currents, and it
needs only one or two power-
ful wingbeats to take off.
The lammergeier is usually
shy, and it is easily disturbed. It
rarely lets humans come close
while it is on the ground, but
Left: The-Iammergeier perches on
high cliffs, from which it can easily
take to the air.
The lammergeier may kill
partridges and other birds. In
Africa it carries small rodents
into the air, drops them from
a great height, and then eats
them. It also picks up tortoises
and drops them onto rocks to
shatter their shells and expose
the flesh.
it may circle low overhead.
The lammergeier generally
searches for food alone, but a
pair roosts and occasionally
feeds together. In winter and
early spring, male and female
adults display near the nesting
site. The birds slowly circle to a
great height, then roll over, in-
terlock their talons, and tumble
earthward together in a cart-
wheeling dive.
The lammergeier usually re-
mains in its large territory all
year. It has been seen migrat-
ing only rarely. Although it oc-
casionally flies from Turkey to
Cyprus over the sea, it tends
not to because there are no
thermals above the water.
'" CARD 163 I
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~ Psittaciformes
~ P/atycercus e/egans
The crimson rosella is one of the most brilliantly colored and
popular members of the parrot family. This bird inhabits eastern
Australia, where it is becoming common in suburban gardens.
KEYFACTS _____________________________ ~
Length: 13-15 in.
Weight: 2-2)1,; oz.
Sexual maturity: 1-2 years.
Breeding season: September to
early February.
No. of broods: 1-2.
Eggs: 5-8; white, rounded.
Incubation: About 3 weeks.
Habit: Mostly sedentary. Lives in
pairs or small groups.
Diet: Seeds, fruits, blossoms, in-
sects and their larvae.
Range of the crimson rosella.
lifespan: About 10 years in the
wild; longer in captivity.
The crimson rosella is closely re-
lated to the Adelaide rosella and
yellow rosella. There are 3 sub-
species of crimson rosella and 8
species of rosella.
Found in eastern and southeastern Australia, mainly in wooded
coastal regions and adjacent mountain rainforests. The bird was
successfully introduced to New Zealand and Norfolk Island.
Habitat destruction is reducing the crimson rosella's range. How-
ever, the bird seems to be adapting to suburban areas, and its
numbers are generally stable.
Juvenile: Plumage is mainly
green with red patches. This
coloring lets the bird blend in
with its dimly lit forest habitat.
Poorly fed young may be mainly
red throughout
their lives.
Upperparts: Black with red margins that
give characteristic scalelike markings.
Adult: Plumage is mainly red with
blue cheeks, wing margins, and tail
feathers. The wings are broad and
rounded. The sexes look similar,
but the female is slightly smaller
than the male.
Eggs: 5 to 8
rounded white
eggs per clutch.
Eggs hatch in
about 3 weeks.
In good condi-
tions, the female
may move to
another nest
and lay a second
clutch before
the chicks from
the first brood
have flown.
0160200661 PACKET 66
Most members of the parrot family are quite
aggressive, but the crimson rosella is not as noisy and
combative as its relatives. This bird brightens suburban
gardens in Australia with its vivid plumage, but it is not
welcome in orchards because it feeds on fruit. By also
eating insect pests, however, the crimson rosella
offsets the damage that it does to crops.
The crimson rosella inhabits the
coastal regions of eastern and
southeastern Australia. It pre-
fers heavily wooded areas and
mountain rainforests at altitudes
ranging from sea level to 6,500
feet. This bird is also becoming
common in suburban gardens
near large cities and towns.
The crimson rosella moves to
more open countryside during
fall and winter. It is comfortable
around humans and will take
bread and fruit from picnic sites.
The adult birds tend to live in
pairs or small groups, while the
young form flocks.
There are three subspecies of
crimson rosella. The smallest
and darkest subspecies-Platy-
cercus elegans
only in northeastern Queens-
land in Australia. The largest
and brightest subspecies-Po e.
melanoptera--is found only on
Kangaroo Island. The third sub-
species-Po e. elegans--is the
most common and widespread.
This subspecies has been suc-
cessfully introduced to parts of
New Zealand.
Right: The crimson rosel/a is unusu-
al because the juvenile's plumage
differs from that of the adult.
The crimson rosella's feeding
habits are typical of a member
of the parrot family. It eats fruits,
seeds, blossoms, insects, and in-
sect larvae. The bird usually feeds
on the forest floor. It picks seeds
from grasses and plucks flowers
from eucalyptus shrubs as well
as other plants. It also takes ber-
ries and fruits from bushes and
the undergrowth.
The crimson rosella is an ex-
pert at shelling seeds. With its
thick tongue, it holds the seed
Left: The crimson rosel/a's beauti-
ful plumage makes the bird desir-
able for aviaries.
The crimson rose II a is also
called Pennant's parakeet.
The proportion of red and
yellow in a crimson rosella's
plumage depends on the cli-
mate of its habitat. A very hu-
mid climate promotes darker
pigmentation. Low humidity
helps to produce yellowish
brown pigments.
steady under the upper part of
its bill. It uses the cutting edge
at the front of its lower bill to
chip away at the seed. In this
way, the bird peels off the husk
and extracts the kernel inside.
The crimson rosella can be a
nuisance to farmers who grow
corn and fruit. But its reputation
for destroying crops is probably
exaggerated. Any damage this
bird does is balanced by its hab-
it of eating insect pests that are
harmful to crops.
Right: The crimson rosel/a uses
both its beak and claws to crack
open seeds.
Some young crimson rosel-
las already have adult plum-
age when they leave the nest.
The plumage of other juve-
niles may take as long as 16
months to turn from green to
red. Young birds that are well
fed start off with green plum-
age. Poorly fed birds are red
as juveniles and adults.

Male and female crimson rosel-
las form pairs quickly at the on-
set of the breeding season. The
male displays by drooping his
wings, squaring his shoulders,
fluffing up his breast feathers,
and fanning his tail from side to
side. He either holds his head
high and tilts it back, or he bows
slightly forward. While chatter-
ing, he feeds the female, who
acts shy at first.
The male searches for a nest
site that will provide adequate
protection for such a brilliantly
colored bird. He chooses a hol-
low tree trunk or a branch with
Left: The crim-
son rosel/a is
sedentary bird.
It feeds on the
ground and
rarely flies far
from the safety
of its woodland
home. It is of-
ten found in
shady areas,
which it favors.
an entry hole three to six feet
above the ground. The female
joins the male at the nest site,
which may be selected some
time before the first egg is laid.
The female lays five to eight
eggs on a bed of wood debris.
She begins incubating after lay-
ing her second egg. The male
feeds her and tends the nest.
The eggs hatch in about three
weeks. The naked young are
blind for their first two weeks.
The chicks fly at five weeks old
but stay near their parents for
another month. They then join
a small flock of other juveniles.
""CARD 164 I
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Nectarinia senegalensis
The scarlet-chested sunbird lives in a variety of habitats in tropical
Africa. It is often seen in parks and gardens, probing
flowers for nectar with its long, curved bill.
Length: 6 in.
Wingspan: 12 in.
Weight: About 1h oz.
Nest: Built on tip of branch. Pear-
shaped with roofed entrance.
Breeding season: From August
to March.
Clutch size: 2.
Broods: 1.
Incubation: 14-15 days.
Fledging: 1 6-19 days.
Range of the scarlet-chested sunbird.
DISTRIBUTION Diet: Nectar, small insects, and
Call: Sharp, metallic notes.
Lifespan: Probably 3-4 years.
Found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, from Senegal in the
west to Kenya in the east, and excluding most of South Africa
and Namibia.
There are 107 species of sunbird in
Africa, Asia, and Australasia. The
closest relative is the black, or
amethyst, sunbird.
There are no apparent threats to this adaptable and common
species of sunbird. It is flourishing throughout its range in Africa.
Male: Colorful, iridescent
plumage during breeding
season. Glossy black overall
except for bright red breast
and green crown and throat.
Plumage is duller outside
the breeding season.
Bill: Long and downward-
curving for probing
small flowers for
nectar. Pointed tip
for piercing base of
larger flowers. Long,
tubular tongue for
sucking up nectar.
Eggs: 2; oval.
White or cream
Female: Duller
plumage than male.
Dark brown upper-
parts. Mottled, lighter
brown underparts.
0160200601 PACKET 60
The scarlet-chested sunbird is a lively bird that moves
constantly when feeding. It flits busily among strongly
scented flowers, probing blossoms for the nectar that
makes up a large part of its diet. The sunbird also feeds
on the many insects that are attracted to the flowers. The
brightly colored male is more aggressive than the female
and often chases away other sunbirds when feeding.

The scarlet-chested sunbird lives
in the moister regions of tropical
Africa south of the Sahara. It is
not found in the dry semidesert
areas of northern and southwest-
ern Africa.
The bird favors sunny open
areas of savanna woodland. It
also likes heavily wooded areas
that have small clearings beside
streams. In addition, it frequents
ornamental gardens and city
parks, where it finds nectar-rich
exotic flowers as well as blossom-
ing native bushes and trees. It is
as comfortable in treetops as it
is in bushes near the ground.
Right: The female scarlet-chested
sunbird builds an elaborate nest
covered with dead vegetation.
The lively scarlet-chested sun-
bird is constantly on the move
when feeding. It searches for
flowers in the treetops as well
as in small bushes that are close
to the ground.
The male sunbird tends to
be more aggressive than the
female. He often stops feeding
to chase away another male,
Left: The scarlet-chested sunbird
has strong legs and feet for perch-
ing while feeding.
To keep predators away, the
scarlet-chested sunbird often
makes its nest near a hornet's
nest or inside a thick, sticky
network of cobwebs.
The scarlet-chested sunbird
is often quite fearless. It will
even continue feeding when
pursuing the latter for hundreds
of feet in a quick, agile flight.
When calling, the male sun-
bird whistles a loud, musical
four-note tune. The second
note is a lower, more piping
sound than the others. When
he calls, the male sunbird can
be heard every few seconds for
an hour or more.
Right: Outside the breeding sea-
son, the male has duller plumage
that looks like the female's.
it is less than three feet away
from a human observer.
The structure of a sunbird's
feathers makes them reflect
certain wavelengths of light
in vivid shades. This produces
the shiny, iridescent colors of
the bird's plumage.
Like hummingbirds, sunbirds
are specially adapted for feeding
on nectar. But unlike humming-
birds, sunbirds rarely hover
when feeding. Instead, they
perch beside flowers to feed.
The scarlet-chested sunbird
uses its long bill to probe small
flowers for nectar. Sometimes it
pecks through the base of larger

The female scarlet-chested sun-
bird builds her nest in three to
five days and reuses it for several
years. The pear-shaped nest is
suspended from a branch high
above the ground. It is made
from grass, lichen, dead leaves,
and cobwebs and covered with
decayed leaves. Over the en-
trance hole at one side of the
blossoms to reach the nectar
inside. It sucks up the liquid
with its long, tubular tongue.
The sunbird favors Leonotis,
Erythrino, and Aloe flowers.
The sunbird also eats insects.
In addition to crickets, ants, and
caterpillars, it eats the spiders
that live around the heads of its
favorite flowers.
nest is a small, porch like roof.
The female lays two oval eggs
that are white or cream-colored
with gray or olive flecks. The eggs
hatch in about two weeks, and
the young can fly in 16 to 19
days. The young bird resembles
the female but has a black chin
that is darker than the adult's.
Males later develop red breasts.
SaxicoJa torquato
The stonechat perches on bushes, diving from time to time to catch
a moth or another insect. Cold winters kill off its prey, causing
it to suffer from severe shortages of food.
Length: 5 in.
Wingspan: 7-8 in.
Weight: About Yz oz.
Breeding season: April to August.
No. of broods: 2-3.
Eggs: 5 or 6.
Fledging period: 14-16 days.
Habit: Day-active; solitary or lives
in pairs.
Diet: Insects, plus other inverte-
brates and some seeds.
Call: "Tchack" and softer "whit."
Lifespan: 6 years.
A small thrush, the stonechat is
most closely related to the Canary
Islands chat, SaxicoJa dacotiae, and
the whinchat, S. rubetra. There are
7 other species of SaxicoJa in Asia.
Resident range
of the stonechat.
Winter range. Summer range.
Found throughout much of Europe and Asia, as well as north-
west Africa, parts of Africa south of the Sahara, and Madagas-
car. It is not found in parts of northern and eastern Europe or in
western Asia.
The stonechat is still widespread, although habitat loss and se-
vere winters have reduced numbers in parts of western Europe.
head and tail ,
chestnut breast.
white patch on
neck. white rump
and wi ng mark-
ings. The male's
plumage is less
vivid outside the
breeding season.
Flight: During the breeding season,
the male may make a hovering song
flight. He rises and falls as much as
80 feet above the ground.
Female: Beige-streaked upper parts,
dull chestnut breast, white throat
patch. The streaked pl umage provides
camouf lage that protects the bird
while on the nest.
Eggs: 5 or 6, pale blue with
rust-brown speckles. Incu-
bated by the female. There
are up to 3 broods a year
The male stonechat is a restless little bird whose
striking breeding plumage matches his bold behavior.
He flies from perch to perch within his territorYt scolding
any intruder. The stonechat gets its name from the
sound of its "tchack" call, which is very similar to
the sound of two stones being struck together.
The stonechat breeds in a wide
range of heathland and grass-
land habitats, as well as aban-
doned or marginal farmland.
In some areas it is found in for-
est clearings, scrubby moun-
tain slopes, and sand dunes.
The habitat must provide low
vegetation for nests, perches
The stonechat is easy to spot
on its perch, flicking its wings
and tail and making "whit-
tchack-tchack" calls. The male
has vivid breeding plumage,
a large black head, a white
patch on the neck, a chestnut
from which prey can be seen,
and taller perches from which
the bird can guard its territory
and launch into song flights.
In Great Britain the stone-
chat is found mainly on rough
coastal grassland. The stone-
chat has also colonized farms
of young conifers.
breast, and white wing mark-
ings and rump. The female is
much duller and paler, with a
streaked upper body and no
white on the rump. Young
birds are even paler, with
streaked upper parts.
The stonechat feeds mainly on
insects: beetles, flies and their
larvae, ants, caterpillars, butter-
flies, and moths. It also eats
spiders and worms.
The stonechat watches for
prey from a low perch like a
bush, then swoops down on it.
In spring the perches are about
a yard above the ground. But
when vegetation is taller in
summer, the bird moves to a
higher perch. It often hovers
left: The stonechat eats mostly
insects, which it plucks from either
the air or the ground.
near the ground looking for
prey, and it may grab insects
from the air.
The young are fed on moths,
butterflies, and caterpillars, as
well as the larvae of glowworms
and other beetles. Adult stone-
chats first break up large prey
such as a caterpillar by pulling
it through their bills or beating
it to a pulp on a rock. Then they
feed the food to their chicks or
eat it themselves.
Right: Unlike the male's bold color-
ing, the female's plumage blends
with the undergrowth.
left: During
the breeding
season, the
male finds a
perch from
which he sings
to attract the
female. The
song perch is
higher than the
bird's feeding
Stonechats have been seen
hovering above water and
plucking young fish from
the surface.
Most male stonechats have
a single mate for at least one
season. But some breed with
more than one female. Since a
Many stonechats live in pairs
year-round. But others, especial-
ly those that migrate, separate
after breeding.
In spring the male drives off
rivals with an aggressive display.
To attract a female, he utters a
high-pitched song, usually from
a spot higher than his feeding
perches. The male may display
in a brief song flight, rising and
falling 30 to 80 feet above the
ground. The male may also hov-
er above his intended mate or
display on the ground.
The female builds a nest at the
left: Many stonechats die in win-
ter, so a high rate of reproduction
is necessary.
female can have three broods,
each with five to six young,
the male can father an exten-
sive family.
In Great Britain the stone-
chat is called the furze chat,
vuzzy napper, black head of
gorse, and stone chucker.
base of a bush, in a clump of
grass, or in other dense vegeta-
tion. It is an untidy cup of dry
grass and leaves lined with hair,
feathers, or sheep's wool. Often
a short tunnel runs through the
vegetation to the nest.
The female alone incubates
the eggs and tends the young
for the first few days. Then both
parents care for the chicks until
four to five days after they have
fledged. The female then leaves
to build a nest for her second
brood. The male remains to
feed their first family for anoth-
er five to ten days. This proce-
dure may be repeated with a
third brood.


"11IIIIIIII Pernis apivorus
The honey buzzard is a bird of prey that eats mainly wasps.
It will even follow an unsuspecting insect to its nest in
order to find and feed on the protein-rich larvae.

Length: 1 ft. Female slightly
larger than male .
Wingspan: 4-5 ft.
Weight: 1 -2 lb.
Breeding season: Mid-April to
No. of broods: 1 .
Eggs: 1 or 2, occasionally 3.
Incubation: 4-5 weeks.
Fledging period: About 6 weeks.
Habit: Solitary.
Diet: Mainly wasps and their lar-
vae. Also hornets, bees, and small
Lifespan: Oldest recorded, 28
years, 10 months.
The only related species are the
barred honey buzzard, Pernis
celebensis, and the Oriental honey
buzzard, P. ptilorhynchus.
Breeding range of the honey buzzard. Winter range.
Breeds throughout most of Europe, to Norway in the north,
east to the Soviet Union, and south to the Caspian and
Mediterranean coasts. Winters in western and central Africa.
The honey buzzard is still numerous, but its numbers have
declined in the last 50 years due to the slaughter of birds as
they migrate over countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Flight: Soars
on updrafts of
warm air, reveal-
ing barred under-
parts and slotted
wingtip feathers.
Head: Ash gray. Crown is covered
with small , dense feathers for pro-
tection from wasp stings. Nostrils
are like slits, so they are protected
when the bird
Plumage: Eggs: Usually 1
Dark brown or 2 per clutch.
with pale tips Brown with dark
on upper blotches of
feathers. purple-red or
Pale under- reddish brown.
parts with
Feet: Large and powerful with sharp
talons. Help the buzzard tear open
insect nests.
0160200501 PACKET 50
The honey buzzard is a widespread woodland bird that
is specially adapted to its diet of wasps/ hornets/ and
occasionally bees. It has tiny, densely packed feathers
that protect its forehead from stings and powerful feet
that it uses to rip open nests. Its nostrils are like slits
so dirt cannot get inside when the bird scoops out
earth with its bill in order to get at prey.
The honey buzzard prefers to
live in warm, moist, wooded
areas with open spaces, where it
can easily find wasps-its main
food source. It may also inhabit
meadows, thickets, and small
wetlands, but it stays away from
cultivated and populated areas.
The honey buzzard summers
in Europe and winters in west-
ern and central Africa. From Au-
gust to mid-September, after the
breeding season, large flocks
gather before heading for the
wintering grounds. The birds
begin to return to Europe from
mid-April to May. The honey
buzzard prefers to fly on rising
air currents, so it avoids long
sea crossings and follows routes
over narrow channels such as
the Straits of Gibraltar.
The honey buzzard spends
less time in the air than many
other birds of prey, and it regu-
larly searches for its food on the
ground. It usually roosts high in
the branches of broad-leaved
trees such as beech, but it also
nests in pine and spruce trees in
some parts of its range.
Right: The down-covered fledgling
is confined to the nest for about six
weeks after birth.
The honey buzzard's favorite
foods are the pupae, larvae, and
adults of wasps, hornets, and
occasionally bees. It also eats
other insects, spiders, worms,
frogs, snakes, small mammals,
nestlings of other birds, fruit,
and berries.
The honey buzzard may walk
through the forest searching for
food. Or it may sit on a perch
and watch a stretch of open
ground, swooping down to
catch prey in its bill.
left: The pattern of the honey
buzzard's plumage varies widely
between individuals.
Every year, up to 120,000
honey buzzards cross the
Mediterranean Sea via the
Straits of Gibraltar, and about
25,000 make the crossing via
the Bosphorus in Turkey.
In its wintering grounds, the
honey buzzard tries to find
surroundings that are similar
Sometimes the honey buzzard
follows a wasp to its underground
nest. The bird digs into the nest
with its strong feet, scooping
out earth with its bill. It swallows
both the adults and the larvae
whole, first removing the adults'
stingers by nipping them off with
its bill. During the breeding sea-
son, the honey buzzard feeds the
protein-rich larvae to its chicks.
The chicks may also get rough-
age by eating the cell walls in
which the larvae develop.
Right: Built high in a tall tree, the
buzzard's nest is often hard to see
from the ground.
to its breeding site in Europe.
It is thought that there are
only 20 nesting pairs of honey
buzzards left in the British Isles.
The honey buzzard is an
elusive bird in its African win-
tering quarters, and very little
is known about its behavior
in that area.

The honey buzzard mates al-
most as soon as it returns from
its wintering grounds in Africa.
The male puts on an aerial dis-
play, repeating the same perfor-
mance several times. He flies
upward in a steeply curving arc,
then hangs in the air with wings
extended. Before he plummets
back to earth, he beats his wings
three or four times, touching
the tips behind his back.
Honey buzzards usually pair
for life. Both birds build the nest
in a tall tree, using twigs for the
basic structure and green vege-
tation for the lining. This well-
left: The honey
buzzard is well
adapted for
feeding from
wasps' nests. Its
curved bill is
ideal for dig-
ging, and its
short, dense
feathers protect
it from wasp
camouflaged nest provides a
soft bed for the chicks and hides
them from predators.
The female lays one to three
eggs at two-day intervals, and
they are incubated by both par-
ents for about five weeks. After
hatching, the chicks are fed by
their parents for up to 18 days.
Then they begin to feed them-
selves with food brought to the
nest by the adults. The young
birds leave the nest after about
six weeks, but they often return
to be fed. They are independent
by the end of the summer, when
it is time to migrate.
""CARD 167J . __ ~
, , ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
~ Caprimulgiformes
Caprimulgus europaeus
The European night jar is a graceful aerial hunter that preys on
insects during the night. It can scoop up more than a dozen
insects at a time while flying through the air.
length: 11 in., including tail.
Wingspan: About 2 ft.
Breeding season: May to August.
Eggs: 2, creamy white, mottled
with brown or gray.
Broods: Usually 2.
Incubation: 18 days.
Fledging period: 1 7 days.
Habit: Forms pairs that are re-
newed each breeding season; oth-
erwise solitary. Active at night.
Diet: Flying insects captured dur-
ing flight.
lifespan: Up to 8 years.
There are 44 species in the genus
Caprimulgus worldwide, including
the whip-poor-will, C. vociferus, of
North American woodlands.
Breeding range of
European night jar.
Wintering range of
European night jar.
Breeds throughout Europe, southern Scandinavia, and western
and central Asia. Winters in Africa south of the Sahara.
The European night jar is threatened by insecticides, which poi-
son its food. It has suffered a serious decline in Great Britain,
where there are now only 2,000 breeding pairs.
Hunting: The Eu-
ropean night jar
uses its large,
owl-like eyes to
locate prey. It
swoops forward
silently to trap its
Roosting: The European
night jar is active at night
and often spends the day
sleeping on a branch.
Bristles: Stiff bristles on both sides of
the mouth protect the eyes.
Tail: Flashes of
white on the
wingtips identify
the male bird.
Eggs: Two creamy
white eggs, mottled
with brown or gray.
0160200551 PACKET 55
The European night jar hunts at night and spends the day
resting. Its brownish gray plumage provides excellent
camouflage in its woodland habitat, making the bird
almost invisible to predators. The sound of its trilling
song is often the only sign that a night jar is in the area.
~ H A B I T S
The European night jar is active
only at night. It spends the day
roosting on the ground or on a
branch. Because its downy gray-
brown plumage offers excellent
camouflage, the bird makes lit-
tle attempt to conceal itself. A
roosting night jar looks like a
heap of dead leaves or a strip
of bark. It completes its disguise
by lying motionless with its big
black eyes narrowed to slits. It
is not asleep, however, and will
fly off with a sharp cry when
an intruder comes too close.
The night jar has a variety of
calls and cries, but its song is
unique. A prolonged low trill
that sounds like a small motor,
the song may last up to five
minutes, rising and falling in
pitch as the bird turns its head.
The night jar also has a short,
soft flight call. There is some
evidence that the night jar uses
the echoes from such calls to
locate obstacles in the dark, the
way a bat uses echolocation.
A pair of European night jars may
return to the same nesting area
for years, usually arriving in mid-
May. To impress his mate, the
male soars above her, fanning
his feathers and showing off the
white flashes on his wingtips
and tail. He also raises his wings
in flight and flicks them down to
produce a sharp noise like the
crack of a whip.
The eggs are laid on a bare
scrape on the ground in late
May. At night both birds incu-
Far right: The night jar's eggs are
incubated by both parents for
about 78 days.
Right: The down-covered chicks
leave the nest within a week, but
they remain close to the nest.
Left: The night jar's long tail and
very large wings make it an ex-
tremely agile flier.
The European night jar is also
called a "goatsucker" because
it was thought that the bird
took milk from goats' teats.
Night jars and owls both
have soft feathers for the
bate the eggs, taking turns so
that each has a chance to hunt.
During the day only the female
incubates. The male takes over
at dawn and dusk, so she can
leave the nest to feed.
The eggs hatch after 1 8 days,
and the chicks are fed insects by
both parents. If his mate pro-
duces a second clutch, the male
may take charge of feeding. The
chicks leave the nest a week af-
ter hatching and can fly within
1 7 or 18 days.
same reason: they are silent in
flight, enabling the birds to
surprise their victims.
Night jars have big appetites.
One bird had 500 mosquitoes
in its stomach when examined.
Left: The
night jar's
brownish gray
plumage pro-
vides perfect
against tree
The European night jar is usu-
ally found in heaths, open
scrubland, and pinewood
glades. It appears in spring
and migrates to Africa at the
The European night jar is ana-
tomically very similar to a swift
or a swallow. Like those birds, it
pursues insects through the air,
scooping them up in flight. The
night jar always preys at night,
Left: The night-
jar's small beak
opens wide to
trap flying
end of summer. It can be
seen at night, twisting and
swooping through the air in
pursuit of insects. Its long
vibrant trill is a distinctive call .
on all kinds of insects. It may
dive through a cloud of mos-
quitoes, engulfing a dozen at a
time. Or it may chase a night-
flying beetle or hawk-moth.
The night jar probably uses its
large owl-like eyes to locate its
prey as it flies silently through
the sky on its soft-feathered
wings. With its beak open, the
night jar traps insects in its huge
gape, or mouth opening, which
extends all the way back, right
under its eyes.
'" CARD 168 I
, , ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ Speotyto cuniculorio
The burrowing owl is a bird of prey that is found on the plains of
both North and South America. In this open, treeless terrain it
finds shelter in the abandoned burrows of small rodents.
Length: 8-10 in.
Wingspan: About 2 ft.
Sexual maturity: 1 year.
Breeding season: Spring.
Eggs: 5-9, depending on avail-
ability of food. Round, white,
and glossy.
Incubation: 3 weeks.
Habit: Active during the day, but
hunts mainly at dusk. Nests in
abandoned burrows. Pairs for life.
Diet: Insects, small mammals, rep-
tiles; occasionally scorpions and
Range of the burrowing owl.
Found on the open prairies of North and South America.
CONSERVATION Call: "Cack, cack" when alarmed.
Cooing sound in mating season.
Closely related to the owls of the
genus Athene, including the little
owl, Athene noctuo, and the spot-
ted owlet, A. bromo.
The burrowing owl population has been declining in recent
years as burrowing animals like prairie dogs become rarer.
Since burrowing animals ruin farmland, farmers poison and
seal off their burrows. This deprives the owl of its nesting and
roosting sites.
Young: Grayish,
Leaves the nest
before it can fly
but stays close
to the burrow.
Eggs: 5 to 9. Round and glossy
white. Laid in underground nest.
Plumage: Upper parts are brown with
white spots and white streaks on the
crown. White face. Cream-colored
underparts with dark brown collar.
Male and female have the same
plumage, but the coloring varies within
the owl's range. Those in semidesert
areas are a light, sandy brown.
Head: Rounded. Sharp, short,
bulbous beak, used in catching prey
and digging burrows. Large, yellow,
forward-facing eyes provide good
vision for hunting.
;Legs: Covered
with short, hair-
like feathers. Very
"'long, enabling the
owl to walk and
burrow easily.
0160200551 PACKET 55
The burrowing owl is active mainly at night.
But it can also be seen during the day, sitting on
the ground or perching on a fencepost as it watches
for prey. It is closely related to the little owl of Europe
and shares that birds characteristic reaction to danger.
When it is threatened, the burrowing owl bobs up and
down in place by bending its long legs repeatedly.
The burrowing owl is found in
open country and on the prairie
in North and South America. It
lives in the abandoned burrows
of animals such as small rodents.
It may also take over the lair of
a large reptile.
The most popular burrows
are those of prairie dogs, small
mammals that live in huge bur-
row colonies known as towns.
The owl frequently makes its
home alongside such a colony.
Although the owl occasional-
ly preys on the young, prairie
dogs tolerate its presence. The
viscacha, a large South Amer-
ican rodent, even lets the owl
share its burrow.
If there is no suitable burrow
available, the owl may enlarge
one that is too small . Some-
times it digs its own burrow
with its beak and powerful feet.
Inside its burrow, the owl is
safe from most predators. But it
is still preyed upon by skunks,
opossums, and rattlesnakes.
When threatened, it bobs up
and down. If it is close to its
burrow, the owl retreats under-
ground with an alarm call and
a menacing hiss that sounds
like the hiss of a rattlesnake.
The burrowing owl feeds on
insects, small mammals, frogs,
snakes, lizards, and sometimes
scorpions and centipedes. It
usually watches for prey from
an observation point, often a
"lookout" mound built by a
prairie dog. The burrowing
owl may also keep watch from
the branches of a bush or the
top of a rqck pile. It mainly
hunts on the ground but oc-
casionally hovers in the air or
catches insects in flight.
left: The burrowing owl's long legs
evolved as a result of spending so
much time on the ground.
The site of a breeding pair
of burrowing owls is often
marked by huge piles of left-
over food outside the bur-
row entrance.
Two races of burrowing owl
in the West Indies became ex-
tinct by the late 19th century.
The mongoose, a predator
introduced to control snakes,
Although the burrowing owl
has keen vision, it usually lo-
cates its prey by sound. Mov-
able ear flaps and the ability
to turn its head make the owl
a proficient hunter. It can pin-
point the location of a sound
by calculating the difference
in the time it takes to reach
each ear. When it is sure of its
prey's location, the owl flies
from its perch straight to the
animal and snatches it in its
claws or beak.
Right: Around dusk, the burrowing
owl hunts for food such as insects
and larvae.
was easily able to gain access
to the owls' burrows, and it
wiped out the birds.
The burrowing owl can of-
ten be found living on golf
courses, roadside embank-
ments, and airfields.
In winter, burrowing owls
that live north of Oregon and
Kansas migrate farther south.
Burrowing owls nest in small
colonies with about 12 breed-
ing pairs in the same group of
burrows. In spring the male and
female look for a nesting site.
They enlarge the hole if neces-
sary and line the nest chamber
with grass and twigs.
The female lays five to nine
white eggs, which both adults
incubate for three weeks. The
newly hatched owlets are blind
and deaf, and they are covered
with whitish down. Their eyes
left: After fledging, a young owl
stays with its parents to perfect its
hunting skills.
left: The bur-
row offers pro-
tection from
predators and
the heat of the
sun. The nest
site may be
three feet below
the ground, at
tunnel up to
ten feet long.
and ears open within a week.
The parents bring food to the
nest and regurgitate it into the
gaping mouths of the young.
The owlet's beak is lined with
sensitive hairs. When touched,
these hairs stimulate the owlet
to open its mouth and take the
food. As they get older, the
young wait at the burrow en-
trance to take food from the
adults when they return from
hunting. The owlets explore
the terrain around the nest be-
fore they can fly. They do not
stray far and retreat into the
burrow at any sign of danger.

" CARD 169 I

Threskiornis aethiopicus
The sacred ibis of Africa is a curious-looking bird. Its body
and tail are covered with abundant black and white feathers,
but its head and neck are completely bald.
length: ft.
Weight: lb.
Wingspan: ft.
Breeding season: March to August.
Number of broods: 1.
Eggs: 1-5, usually 2-4. Greenish
white with brown spots.
Incubation period: 4 weeks.
Fledging period: 5-6 weeks.
Range of the sacred ibis.
Habit: Sociable; feeds by day.
Diet: Invertebrates, reptiles, fish,
eggs and nestlings, carrion, offal.
Call: Guttural, wheezing grunt.
lifespan: Oldest recorded bird,
more than 21 years.
Found mainly inland and close to water, in tropical and sub-
tropical areas throughout most of Africa south of the Sahara
Desert. Also breeds in Iraq.
The ibis and spoonbill family
includes the glossy ibis, Plegadis
falcinellus, found in both the Old
World and the Americas.
The sacred ibis became extinct in Egypt during the 19th centu-
ry. It survived elsewhere by adapting to a variety of habitats and
today is common within its range.
Fli ght: Reveals scarlet breeding
plumage under wings. Neck and legs
are held outstretched. The long,
broad wings are
. beaten stiffly but
...... fairly rapidly.
Bill : Long, heavy,
and curved. Ideal
for probing soft
mud for prey.
Juvenile: Mostly plumage is
mottled and streaked with black.
Neck and head are covered with
feathers for the first 2 years but
naked in adulthood.
Neck: Long,
slender, and
naked. Like the
head, it has dull ,
charcoal gray
Eggs: Usually 2 to 4 laid in a nest of
grass and rushes. The roughly
textured shell is greenish white
with brown spots.
Plumage: Sexes are similar.
Wings and body are mostly white
outside the breeding season.
Wings have black tips.
Tail plumage:
Blue-black with metallic
sheen. The long feathers
fall over the closed wing.
Although the sacred ibis is now extinct in Egypt, it was
once a seasonal visitor to the banks of the Nile River.
The bird was worshiped by the ancient Egyptians,
who believed that it was a symbol of their god Thoth.
Archaeologists have discovered paintings of the
sacred ibis inside tombs. They have also found
large numbers of its mummified remains.
The sacred ibis has adapted to
tropical and subtropical habi-
tats throughout Africa south
of the Sahara Desert. Usually
found inland, this bird favors
the muddy shores of lakes, riv-
ers, and swamps-areas where
food is plentiful. When it is not
feeding, it rests on sandbanks
or perches in trees.
A sociable bird, the sacred
ibis gathers in flocks when
searching for food by day and
when roosting at night. It often
mingles with other species. It
also breeds in large colonies,
with up to 200 birds in one
small breeding area.
The sacred ibis is not a regu-
lar migrant. But it often makes
seasonal journeys to look for
food or to avoid the rainy sea-
son. Flocks tend to scatter
more widely at the end of the
breeding season.
Right: Long legs enable the sacred
ibis to wade through shallow lake
water in search of prey.
The sacred ibis nests in a col-
ony that may also include
herons, storks, egrets, and
cormorants. The male is the
first to arrive at the breeding
site, and the female follows
two days later.
The male displays to a female
by extending his neck forward
and jerking it downward with
his bill open. Both birds then
stretch their necks up and flick
their heads back. They bow
and intertwine their necks as
they preen and call out. The
pair bond lasts only for the
breeding season.
left: The sacred ibis usually rests
in trees after feeding and may nest
in the branches.
More than a million ibis
mummies were found in one
group of tombs in Egypt.
The sacred ibis sometimes
steals crocodile eggs that are
dug up by monitor lizards.
The sacred ibis is not afraid
of humans. It may breed and
roost near towns.
The female selects a nest site
in a tree, on a flat-topped bush,
or on the ground among rocks.
She builds the nest from twigs
and lines it with grasses and
rushes collected by the male.
The female usually lays two
to four greenish white eggs.
Each parenttakesturnsincu-
bating the eggs for four weeks.
Both birds then feed the young
with partially digested food.
The chicks leave the nest after
five or six weeks. But they rely
on their parents for food for a
few more days until fledging
is completed.
Right: For about five weeks, a chick
takes partially digested food from
its parents.
Up to 100 pairs may gather
on a breeding ground of 100
square feet. Over 25 nests
may be built in an area of 50
square feet.
As it matures, the spoonbill
develops a thin, curved bill
like that of its relative the
sacred ibis.
The sacred ibis feeds by day in
small flocks. It wades through
the shallow edges of rivers and
lakes, probing the soft mud
with its long, curved bill. Or it
takes food from the banks.
The ibis has a mixed diet but
feeds mainly on invertebrates.
Worms, locusts, grasshoppers,
spiders, insect larvae, crusta-
ceans, and mollusks are popu-
lar prey. The ibis also eats small
frogs, reptiles, and the remains
of fish. It will kill smaller birds
left: Like the
other members
of its family, the
sacred ibis has
a very long,
curved bill. This
shape is ideal
for picking prey
out of muddy
riverbanks and
for probing into
such as young cormorants or
chase adult birds from a nest
and steal their eggs. The ibis
also eats carrion, picking at the
remains of a dead bird or an
animal left by vultures. Since its
head and neck are bald, there
are no feathers to become
matted with blood when the
ibis scavenges.
If there is no suitable food
nearby, a flock may fly miles
from its breeding colony to
find a betterfeeding ground.
'(CARD 170 I
, , ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
~ Turdus migrotorius
The American robin is common throughout the United States and
Canada. It is popularly known as "robin redbreast" because
of the color of the plumage that covers its breast.
Length: lOin.
Wingspan: 14-16 in .
Weight: 2 - 3 ~ oz.
Breeding season: Early April in the
south to mid-May in the north.
No. of broods: Up to 3 per year.
Eggs: 3-5, pale blue.
Incubation: 11-14 days.
Fledging period: 14-16 days.
Habit: Forms a pair in summer.
Flocks in winter.
Diet: Mainly insects, earthworms,
small fruits, and berries.
Calls: A variety of sharp notes.
A member of the thrush family, the
American robin is the only species
in the genus Turdus that breeds in
North America.
Resident and
breeding range.
Breeding areas of
the American robin.
Breeds in North America from the northern tree line of Alaska,
the Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland south to Mexico.
Some winter as far south as Cuba and the Bahamas.
Because the American robin flourishes alongside human settle-
ments, its numbers are greater than would be possible in a
totally natural habitat.
Eggs: 3-5, pale blue. They hatch in
11-14 days.
Male: Brownish gray upper parts
with darker head. Orange-red breast
(duller on the female) . White throat
streaked with black, and pale rump
flecked with brown.
Bill: Short and pointed fo,
eating insects and picking
berries from trees. J
Juvenile: Brown upper parts. Pale
breast flecked with darker brown.
0160200491 PACKET 49
In Canada and the northern United States, the
arrival of the American robin signals the beginning
of spring. The robin population is flourishing, thanks
in large part to human activity. Farmland and gardens
provide it with an ideal habitat, where there is a
constant supply of food. Today, there are more robins
living near people than there are in the wild.
The American robin inhabits
most of North America. It can
be found in sparse woodland,
open scrub, and at the edges
of forests. By clearing land for
farming and housing, people
provide an ideal environment
for the robin. It is now more
often found living near people
than in its original wild habitat.
In Canada and the northern
parts of the United States, rob-
ins migrate south for the win-
ter. The distance they travel
depends on the severity of the
weather. Some robins go as far
Right: The robin disperses seeds by
eating them and then depositing
them elsewhere in its droppings.
south as Bermuda and the Ba-
hamas. In warmer parts of the
United States the robin is resi- .
dent year-round.
In winter the American robin
eats mostly fruit crops and wild
berries. Because it eats large
quantities of various berries,
it plays an important role in
spreading the seeds of several
species of trees and shrubs.
The robin also eats insects,
but they make up a smaller pro-
portion of its diet than plant
matter. It prefers beetles and
caterpillars but also eats grass-
Left: The American robin collects
mud in its bill to make a smooth
lining for its nest.
A robin may repair and add
to the same nest year after year.
After six years, one nest had
grown to eight inches high.
The robin may become
drunk after eat ing fruit that
is overripe.
The robin may share a nest
with other species. In one case,
hoppers, flies, spiders, wood
lice, earthworms, wireworms,
millipedes, and snails.
The American robin suffered a
serious decline in the late 1950s
and early 1960s when DDT and
other powerful insecticides were
being sprayed on farmland and
gardens. Earthworms became
contaminated with the chemi-
cals and caused the deaths of
the robins that ate them.
Right: The robin can be a problem
for farmers when it feeds on crops
of soft fruit.
four young robins were discov-
ered in a nest with two young
finches and four finch eggs.
The parents of both species
fed each other's young.
Winter roosts may have large
flocks. A Florida bird-watcher
estimated one flock as having
50,000 birds.
The female robin is quite often
courted by three or four males.
They run around her chattering
loudly with their tails fanned and
wings shaking.
The robin usually builds its
nest in a forked branch of a tree
or shrub. In cities it often uses
building ledges, gateposts, roof
gutters, porches, or drainpipes.
The female builds the nest, and
her mate helps by bringing the
materials. The outer layer of the
nest is made from twigs, stalks,
grass, or even pieces of string or
cloth. The cup-shaped bowl is
Left: In California's warm climate,
the robin may rear up to three
broods a year.
Left: The robin
feeds mainly on
berries, but it
also eats insects
and inverte-
brates. Before
pulling a worm
from the
ground, the
robin pauses
with its head
formed out of a thick, smooth
layer of mud that is lined with
dry grass.
The female lays three to five
pale blue eggs, which she incu-
bates for 11 to 14 days. The
male may take short turns on
the nest toward the end of the
incubation period.
At first, both parents feed the
young and keep the nest clean
by swallowing the tiny feces.
But once the young birds begin
to fly, the male looks after them,
giving the female time to pre-
pare for the next brood. The
robin can rear two to three
broods each year, but in the
north it may rear only one.

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