Monday, August 10, 2015

The Summer of Hummers and Other Bird News

As you read this, I'm probably on the plane with Leena, heading to see my sister, 2000 miles away, but I am getting seriously behind on my blogging, so I am pre loading a few posts for you.

Last summer, Mxyl got a hummingbird feeder and we saw a few hummingbirds- maybe 2 or 3 that summer.

This year we moved the feeder to the front porch and we started seeing 2 hummers every morning and evening.

We added another feeder and now have seen seven of them at once! Obviously we need more feeders.

Not only that, we can sit on the front porch and watch them feed about 3 feet from our faces!!

If you look carefully, you can see two hummingbirds fight over the top feeder in the video.  Watch for the sparrow and the squirrel photobombs, and you will see how fast the hummers are moving!  I had filmed this in "slo-mo" mode on my phone, but I can't figure out how to post it except at full speed.

I will also admit that I didn't see the second hummer while I was taking the video!

In other bird news, Choclo, Oob, and I dissected a pigeon!

What we found most interesting was the bird digestive arrangement: crop (undigested food), then stomach (chemical digestion), then gizzard (mechanical digestion, grinding the seeds with small stones), and then the intestines. I had always thought the gizzard was before the stomach, since we do our mechanical digestion (chewing) first, in order to give more surface area for the chemical digestion to work. I have no idea why the birds have the reverse arrangement!

I was also interested in the respiratory system and the large (for it's size) heart, all of which allow it to get enough energy to fly.  Choclo and Oob were quite fascinated by the bird's scaly feet.  We talked about feathers being specialized scales (like a flower's petals are specialized leaves), and about the dinosaur-bird connection.

 Did you know that many large dinosaurs also had gizzards?  They found the smoothly worn stones (gastroliths) the animals had swallowed in the right part of the skeleton.  And, of course, many of them had feathers (including the velociraptors!).

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