Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cranes and Their Relatives

Cranes, coots, rails, crakes, bustards, and trumpeters—about 200 species in all—make up the bird group. The members of this group vary widely in size and appearance but are generally characterized by their short tails, long necks, and rounded wings.

Cranes, with their long legs and long necks, are the largest members of the Gruiformes; the sarus crane stands over five feet tall and has a wingspan of up to seven feet. Most cranes are pale grey or white in color, with accents of red and black feathers on their faces. The black-crowned crane is the most ornate member of the breed, with a tuft of golden plumes atop its head.

Rails are smaller than cranes, and include crakes, coots, and gallinules. Although some rails engage in seasonal migrations, most are weak fliers and prefer to run along the ground. Some of the rails that colonized islands with few or no predators have lost their ability to fly, which makes them vulnerable to invasive predators like snakes, rats, and feral cats.

Did you know?
Cranes are opportunistic feeders. That means that they will eat whatever they can find in their habitat. Amphibians, fish, insects and small rodents, along with seed, berries and different plants, are often on their menu.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cuckoos and Turacos

This group of birds include turacos, cuckoos, coucals, anis and the hoatzin. There are about 160 species in all.

Cuckoos are medium-sized, slender-bodied birds that live in forests and savannas and feed primarily on insects and insect larvae. Some cuckoo species are notorious for engaging in "brood parasitism"—the females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and the baby cuckoo, when it hatches, will sometimes push the fledglings out of the nest! Anis, also known as New World cuckoos, inhabit the southernmost stretches of Texas, Mexico, Central America and South America; these law-abiding, black-plumed birds are not brood parasites.

The hoatzin is indigenous to the swamps, mangroves and wetlands of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins of South America. Hoatzins have small heads, spiky crests and long necks, and are mostly brown, with lighter feathers along their bellies and throats.

Did you know?
Cuckoo feeds on insects and its favorite food is hairy caterpillar.
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