David Sibley on Being a Bird A Way to Garden With Margaret Roach May 25, 2020
Style their their diet right Yeah yeah the creepers. Bill is like a some curved forceps that adopted used to a surgeon with us to do some very very fine work and the gross spill is more like a pair of pliers. He's used to crush something. And then you know talking about looking at the face and that this has these distinctive characteristics even within a group of birds like the thrashes and every spring. I have such trouble remembering. Who's WHO and I have to go to your books. Your Eastern and I have to remember now who has the Pale colored sort of spectacle around? Swanson's verse who has the a white eye ring versus a WHO has more anyway right around. The face are so many and I have to try not to get too distracted onto trying to see the whole bird because then we run the risk of going back and forth to the book and trying to match it and we get we don't we don't look at the bird long enough. Do you know what I mean. We're yeah yeah. Yeah and that's I mean. That's one of the tricky things about bird education. Is You really have to look at all of those things? It's important to know and you'll learn with experience. O- that's a thrash. I have to study the face and I also have to look at the color of the tail. Those those kinds of things you learn with experience but it's important to get an overall sense of the size and shape and and what the bird is doing and then but we'll along with that focus on the face. Yes okay good I. I remember years ago having one of those odd moments of identification or connection with birds. You know it wasn't really a big. Aha at all because it's so obvious I'm embarrassed almost to say it yet. It felt like an a hot and it was when I realized that they share a trait that we have which is that they stand on two legs. You know generally and so I don't know bipeds would you say bipeds so so And I love to watch their moves. I love to watch a son. Has I recognize bird because of some distinctive motion that it has Louisiana water. Thrush loves my water garden in the back and and comes in the garden. This bird has this little sort of bouncing rear. End Thing that it does this little dance so motion and it's hilarious because its species name. I think I don't know how you pronounce it but Motta Silla Shimoda. Silla modell the specific epithet of its Latin name means tail WAG or so. I'm not the only person who noticed that. Do you know what I love that stuff or read start who fans its tail to flush out insects so I wanted to talk about some. Have you tell us about some of the the moves because you observe pigeons? Why do they bob their heads? Why December Bob? Their heads birds the kick for since walk. You know regular yeah yeah birds. They've got all kinds of different movements for different different purposes Some for foraging some for Well the the pigeons Bob their heads as a way of keeping their their vision. Steady So we say pigeons Bob their heads but they're actually holding their head perfectly still as they walk well. Their body moves forward steadily the head snaps into position and stays there fixed in space while the body moves forward underneath that and when they take their next step the head snaps forward again and stops at a fixed position so in between each head movement. They're getting an absolutely stable clear view of everything around them. And that's why pigeons Bob their heads and chickens and oven birds other birds do the same thing But the funny Thing I learned in my my reading as I was researching for this book Scientists researchers who are studying this put pigeons on treadmills so that well the pigeons walked. Their surroundings didn't change and when their surroundings didn't change They didn't Bob their heads so pigeons on a treadmill just walk without moving their head if they're blindfolded they walk without moving their head because it's all stimulated visually and that's what they that's what the head bobbing is all about. But yeah it's fascinating to try to figure out what all these things mean. Or what their what their purposes like kicking in the leaf litter you know the SP like the toe. He and the sparrows and I mean I guess that's to get some food out of there isn't it to find they're trying to uncover To scratch through the leaf litter and the dirt and and look for insects or larvae or other food. That's in there. Yeah the funny thing I find. I find it funny things about that. Is that those birds and quail our chickens. Do the same thing but they scratch with one foot at a time but the birds when they're doing that they can't see what's going on underneath them. They're just kicking around in the dirt and then they have to stop and step back and look at the whole. They just made to see if they've uncovered anything like scratching behind your back and then turning around to see a few if you found anything good. That's funny we have maybe three or four minutes last night just there's so many miscellaneous kind of a. Ha's in the book. Like why is the chicken was the first one to find the feeder when you put my goodness or or what signals to birds to feed like mad before a storm? I loved that when something about air pressure or something. Yeah Yeah Birds. They can sense air pressure and It's probably a really useful skill for you. Know for monitoring their their their altitude while they're flying as well as sensing oncoming storm. So and the pressure starts to drop with an approaching storm I guess the research shows that the the only thing that birds really do to react to that is they start eating a lot presumably. They they know they have a place in mind where they're going to shelter during the storm and what they need to do stock up on supplies which means just eating and eating and eating so and you'll notice that if you have a bird feeder When there's a snowstorm coming or a rainstorm The you'll get a lot more at the bird feeder in the hours just before it starts snowing. That's usually the busiest time at a bird feeder. And that's the birds sensing the the dropping pressure and knowing that they're in for a storm may just want to stock up on food and and get enough reserves in their body so that they can sit tight for a day or two well. The storm blows through in the last minute or two. I just wanted something from the very end of the book that I've read on your blog over the years and elsewhere that you've written Just a couple of things sort of urging about helping keep songbirds especially safe and the two subjects of window strikes and cats. I wonder if you could just briefly. Tell us a little urging bound those two things. Yeah they're both they're both really serious problems But so dis- diffused each. Everyone has windows on their house and they probably have a couple of birds a year that hit the house. Hit the windows on the House and and sometimes die The birds see a reflection in the window and they think they can fly through it And they can't But it happens infrequently enough at each house that it's No it doesn't seem like an urgent issue to each individual but when in in aggregate it is a serious issue and there's lots of resources the American Bird. Conservancy has really good resources. Online about that links the transcript thank you. Yes and cats are even more. They're the most serious human direct human related Threat to birds even even house cats. That are fed if they're allowed outside their instinct is to kill birds and mice and They kill hundreds of millions of birds. Every year are killed by cats. Yeah better to keep. It's better for the cats and it's better for the birds Keep cats indoors and and There shouldn't be Colonies of feral cats Allowed to live in the wild parks or refugees. It's they're not native in. It's just bad for it's bad for a while. Well I love the book what it's like to be a bird and I'm so glad that it came out just at this very unusual moment in our lives because I've as I said in the beginning been spending a lot of time with it so thank you. David civilian thanks for making time again..