ABOUT BIRDS - ARTICLES

Published by Ken Dunn - Dunway Enterprises

aboutbirds.dunway.com

The origin of birds has been a contentious topic within evolutionary biology for many years, but more recently a scientific consensus has emerged which holds that birds are a group of theropod dinosaurs that evolved during the Mesozoic Era.

A close relationship between birds and dinosaurs was first proposed in the nineteenth century after the discovery of the primitive bird Archaeopteryx in Germany and has been all but confirmed since the 1960's by comparative anatomy and the cladistic method of analyzing evolutionary relationships.

The ongoing discovery of feathered dinosaur fossils in the Liaoning Province of China has shed new light on the subject for both specialists and the general public. In the phylogenetic sense, birds are dinosaurs.

ALL ABOUT BIRDS - ARTICLES

PHOEBE - DOWNY WOODPECKER - YELLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER
GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER - BLACKPOLL WARBLER - CHIMNEY SWIFT - KINGBIRD
THE CHEWINK - SNOWFLAKE - ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK - BOBOLINK - WOOD PEWEE

BIRD WATCHING - BASIC INFORMATION

All About Birds [Articles] Identify Birds All About Birds [Articles] Bird Watching All About Birds [Articles] Bird Guide All About Birds [Articles] WildBirds

A Guide To Bird Neighbours - Part 3

THE CHEWINK
(Pipilo Erythrophthalmus)
Finch Family

Called also: GROUND ROBIN; TOWHEE; TOWHEE BUNTING; TOWHEE GROUND FINCH; GRASEL; [EASTERN TOWHEE, AOU 1998]

  • Length - 8 to 8.5 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.

  • Male - Upper parts black, sometimes margined with rufous. Breast white; chestnut color on sides and rump. Wings marked with white. Three outer feathers of tail striped with white, conspicuous in flight. Bill black and stout. Red eyes; feet brown.

  • Female - Brownish where the male is black. Abdomen shading from chestnut to white in the centre.

  • Range - From Labrador, on the north, to the Southern States; West to the Rocky Mountains.

  • Migrations - April. September and October. Summer resident. Very rarely a winter resident at the north.

The unobtrusive little chewink is not infrequently mistaken for a robin, because of the reddish chestnut on its under parts. Careful observation, however, shows important distinctions.

It is rather smaller and darker in color; its carriage and form are not those of the robin, but of the finch. The female is smaller still, and has an olive tint in her brown back. Her eggs are inconspicuous in color, dirty white speckled with brown, and laid in a sunken nest on the ground. Dead leaves and twigs abound, and form, as the anxious mother fondly hopes, a safe hiding place for her brood.

So careful concealment, however, brings peril to the fledglings, for the most cautious bird-lover may, and often does, inadvertently set his foot on the hidden nest.

The chewink derives its name from the fancied resemblance of its note to these syllables, while those naming it "towhee" hear the sound to-whick, to-whick, to-whee. Its song is rich, full, and pleasing, and given only when the bird has risen to the branches above its low foraging ground.

It frequents the border of swampy places and bushy fields. It is generally seen in the underbrush, picking about among the dead leaves for its steady diet of earthworms and larvae of insects, occasionally regaling itself with a few dropping berries and fruit.

When startled, the bird rises not more than ten or twelve feet from the earth, and utters its characteristic calls. On account of this habit of flying low and grubbing among the leaves, it is sometimes called the ground robin. In the South our modest and useful little food-gatherer is often called grasel, especially in Louisiana, where it is white-eyed, and is much esteemed, alas! by epicures.

SNOWFLAKE
(Plectrophenax Nivalis)
Finch Family

Called also: SNOW BUNTING [AOU 1998]; WHITEBIRD; SNOWBIRD; SNOW LARK

  • Length - 7 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the robin.

  • Male and Female - Head, neck, and beneath soiled white, with a few reddish-brown feathers on top of head, and suggesting an imperfect collar. Above, grayish brown obsoletely streaked with black, the markings being most conspicuous in a band between shoulders. Lower tail feathers black; others, white and all edged with white. Wings brown, white, and gray. Plumage unusually variable. In summer dress (in arctic regions) the bird is almost white.

  • Range - Circumpolar regions to Kentucky (in winter only).

  • Migrations - Midwinter visitor; rarely, if ever, resident south of arctic regions.

These snowflakes (mentioned collectively, for it is impossible to think of the bird except in great flocks) are the "true spirits of the snowstorm," says Thoreau. They are animated beings that ride upon it, and have their life in it. By comparison with the climate of the arctic regions, no doubt our hardiest winter weather seems luxuriously mild to them.

We associate them only with those wonderful midwinter days when sky, fields, and woods alike are white, and a "hard, dull bitterness of cold" drives every other bird and beast to shelter. It is said they often pass the night buried beneath the snow. They have been seen to dive beneath it to escape a hawk.

About Birds - Site Index

Bird Neighbors - Part 1 - Bird Neighbors - Part 2
Bird Neighbors - Part 3 - Bird Neighbors - Part 4
Bird Neighbors - Part 5 - Bird Neighbors - Part 6
Bird Neighbors - Part 7 - Bird Neighbors - Part 8
Bird Neighbors - Part 9 - Bird Neighbors - Part 10

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