Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife on and around Union Bay and a higher level of harmony between humanity and nature.

(It is fine for educators and artists to use any of the photos on this blog as long as when publicly displaying the photo or related artwork the following comment is included, "The original photo sourced from http://unionbaywatch.blogspot.com".)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretty Bird Mystery

The Cedar Waxwing's complimentary coloring and sleek elegant shape make it one of the most beautiful birds you are likely to see.
The Cedar Waxwing (CW) can be found in Washington state year round but is rare around Union Bay from December through March. The CW loves fruits and berries. For the last couple of weeks a flock of 40 to 50 birds has been filling up on the ripe hawthorn berries on Foster Island.
When you compare the birds in the previous two photos, Do you notice any differences? They both have black masks and yellow tips at the end of their tails. The big difference is the coloring on their chests. The stripes on the bird with the berry indicate it is a juvenile bird that has not yet reached maturity.

However with an appetite like this, this bird should have a good chance of making it through the winter and reaching maturity.

Even the mature birds are stocking up for winter.


Just like with human teenagers there are times when the behavior of the juvenile birds is a little hard to understand.
For instance it is a mystery what exactly this bird is doing.

Still there is a bigger mystery when it comes to CWs. Do you know why they are called Cedar Waxwings? The answer lies in the red waxy spots at end of the CW's wing tips.
Three of the red-wax spots can been seen in the first photo above, but only two on the second bird. These waxy spots explain the birds name, but these red spots create a larger more enduring mystery. Why do these secretions exist? What does the CW do with wax? The only potential answer found on the internet is, maybe they help attract mates, however there was no science referenced to support this hypothesis.

It is amazing that we can put a people on the moon, decode the human genome and send exploratory machines to Mars, but we do not understand the little red spots on a bird that visits your backyard. 

Sometimes it seems that all the obvious, inexpensive science has been completed. If you want to learn something that no one has discovered it feels like you will need tons of expensive new technology. Here is an opportunity to discover something new. All that is required is a persistent person with an inexpensive set of binoculars. 

Are you the one who will solve the Pretty Bird Mystery?

Good Luck!

Larry

Odds and Ends:

This morning the Waxwings were seen at the southern end of the Arboretum in the Pacific Madrona trees. On Foster Island there were no Waxwings in the Hawthorn trees, however there were dozens of Bushtits and
thousands of berries. 

The Bushtits were not eating the berries they appeared instead to be eating tiny bugs that they found on the hawthorn leaves.









13 comments:

  1. Great, informative write-up. I love the images of the Cedar Waxwings with those hawthorn barries. Well done, Larry.

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    1. Thank you! I am still learning and enjoying the process.

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  2. Larry,
    You are keeping your blog very interesting and informative. Keep up the good work.
    Doug Parrott

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    1. Doug,

      Thank you! I appreciate the support from an excellent photographer.

      Larry

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  3. Enjoyable and informative, as it has been consistently. How close are you to the subject when you get a shot like the last one, of the Bushtit with the leaf?

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    1. I was 15 to 20 feet away with a telephoto lens. The problem at that distance is the speed with which the bird moves and trying to get my focus point on the bird before it is gone. Today I think I got 2 useable photos out of 40 shots, which actually is a big improvement over last year. Persistance pays off.

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  4. one of the cool things about bushtits is that you can sex adults by iris color. males have lightly colored irides while females have dark irides. juveniles have dark irides.

    http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v077n01/p0090-p0091.pdf

    paul moorehead

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    1. whoops...... the girls have lightly colored irides and the boys are dark! kids are all dark. i hate misinformation!!

      paul m.

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    2. Very cool. That makes the bird in the photo a mature female. I had no idea that determination was possible. Thank you for the education.

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  5. Your photos and posts are just wonderful and I have reblogged some of your posts on my Wedgwood neighborhood history site. Everyone in north Seattle should be aware of our amazing natural environment with all that God created for us to enjoy.

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    1. Thank you for all of your reposting. I am still struggling with how to get the word out to all the neighborhoods around Union Bay and to the folks who take 520 across Union Bay on a daily basis. If you, or anyone else, has suggestions I would love to hear them. Thanks again for your support.

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  6. Hello Larry,
    Thank you for the inspiration. I went out to Foster this week and was treated to the Cedar Waxwing, and many other species.
    The other day I was at the "duck pond" and saw a duck that looked like a Mallard variation. I have a picture and would like your opinion. My private email is logan1010@gmail. If u sent me ur email address I can send u the picture, or let me know if I can post it somewhere on ur blog.
    Thank you, again.
    Amy

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    1. Amy,

      For whatever reason I can't get your email address to work. my address is ldhubbell@comcast.net. If you send the photo we will see if I can help. I will do my best.
      Thank you!

      Larry

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