June 8, 2012
170 and Counting... Late last week, Kimball Garrett, NHMLA's Ornithology Collections Manager, spotted a new species for our Exposition Park bird list...drum roll please! It was an Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea. Although Kimball had his camera with him, he was unfortunatley unable to snap a picture. Here is an image of a male Indigo Bunting, so you can at least get a sense of what they look like.
Wow, those are some seriously blue feathers! You can also check out what they sound like from the Fish and Wildlife Service. If your browser does not support HTML5 audio, you should upgrade. In the meantime, you could listen to it here instead. Here's what Kimball has to say about these birds: The Indigo Bunting is a migratory songbird that breeds commonly in the Central and Eastern United States and adjacent Canada, and in small numbers west to Arizona. A few have summered and bred in Southern California, but the handful of Indigos that turn up annually in Los Angeles County are presumed to be off-course migrants. A male seen in the xeric garden south of the California Science Center on June 1, 2012 was the first to be found in Exposition Park; the Indigo’s close relative, the Lazuli Bunting (P. amoena), is occasionally noted as a migrant in the park, mainly in August and September (as can be seen from the seasonal bar charts based on data from the eBird website). A third member of the genus Passerina, the Blue Grosbeak (P. caerulea) has been recorded only once, in May.
Seasonal bar charts from eBird In addition to the brilliant blue plumage of the male, Indigo Buntings gained fame as the subject of pioneering studies of celestial navigation by night-migrating songbirds by Stephen Emlen in the late 1960s . Emlen placed caged buntings in a planetarium setting to study the directionality of their migratory responses when exposed to both accurate and manipulated celestial cues. Although we now know that star patterns are important in the navigation of such migrants, the occasional appearance of an individual well away from its normal geographical range shows that such navigation is not without errors! Thanks Kimball, that was fascinating!
February 17, 2012
American Goldfinches, Spinus tristis, have found our bird feeders! Flocks of them have been visiting the nyger seed feeders that the Museum's live animal caretakers fill on an almost daily basis.
American Goldfinch (upper left) and Lesser Goldfinch (lower right) feeding on nyger seedLike most finches, American Goldfinches are primarily seed eaters, making them some of the most readily-attracted birds to feeding stations. They are fond of the small seeds of grasses and annual plants, especially a type of thistle seed called nyger. Within 24 hours of putting up our first nyger feeders, we recorded both American Goldfinches and the very closely related Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria. Of the two species, Americans are slightly larger and more numerous, but are usually only present in Exposition Park from October to April. Thanks to Museum ornithologist, Kimball Garrett's hard work (uploading his regular Exposition Park bird lists), you can explore the seasonality of birds around the Museum. Check out the seasonal abundance charts in eBird; you'll find the goldfinches at the very bottom of the chart.In the spring when American Goldfinches leave the park, they often head over to nearby streambottoms to nest. Some do travel a bit further afield, heading all the way to northern California or beyond. In contrast the Lesser Goldfinches can be found hanging around the park year-round. We haven't yet documented any nesting here, but now we have planted the North Campus, we hope to observe some soon. In an effort to record the birds at our feeders and in the newly planted areas of the North Campus, this year we are participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). So this morning at 10 am Kimball tromped around the Museum's grounds and counted all the birds he could find. This is what he recorded:1 Western Gull 1 Rock Pigeon1 Mourning Dove3 Yellow-chevroned Parakeet4 Allen's Hummingbird (one female nest building)1 Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker2 Black Phoebe3 American Crow10 Bushtit6 Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler20 House Finch13 American Goldfinch15 House Sparrow
Kimball Garrett and Briana Burrows checking out the finches
Kimball Garrett is one diligent bird list maker!Feeders and seed are generously donated to us by Wildbirds Unlimited in Torrance, CA