MTPR

birds

A few young birds walk among the carcasses of pelicans and double-crested cormorants killed by two-inch hail and 70 mph wind Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, at Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt.
Monana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

More than 11,000 waterfowl and wetland birds were killed by hail Sunday at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Billings.

Loon Calls: From Inquisitive To Bone-Chilling

Jul 29, 2019
When a boat steers too close to a nest, the owner loon will snap its bill open and closed, transforming air into wavy notes that writer John McPhee described: “If he were human, it would be the laugh of the deeply insane.”
(PD)

Loon calls flow through our veins, seep into our bones and sinew. For a moment, we become the wild flute music that curls into every recess of the lake. The echo pulses within us long after the stillness returns.

Loons call in four ways, each carrying a meaning that, at some level, humans have come to understand.

Viktoriia Radchuk, an evolutionary ecologist at Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, wanted to know how animals were responding to climate change.

So she scoured the results of more than 10,000 animal studies — on species from frogs to snakes, from insects to birds to mammals — looking for information on how changing environments were affecting animal behavior. Based on the available data, she decided to focus on birds in the Northern Hemisphere.

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together ... To Bathe In Ants?

Jul 7, 2019
A blackbird sunning ... or is it anting?
Hornbeam Arts (CC-BY-NC-2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/hornbeam/9272137714

Anting is a bizarre form of bird behavior that has often been observed but is not well understood. It typically involves a bird picking up ants and rubbing or jabbing them into the feathers, especially under the wings and tail. The action is so rapid and vigorous that the bird will often knock itself over onto the ground.

Clark's Nutcracker
Ryan Mitchell (CC-BY-2.0)

As a bird biologist who studies bird songs, I immediately recognize most sounds I come across in nature: the winnowing of a Wilson’s Snipe, the smack of a Dark-eyed Junco, the zee-chubbity-chub of a Rufous Hummingbird, just to name a few. For me it is a matrix of sound, as diverse and varied as the surrounding landscape. When I hear a strange sound in nature, I can’t give up until I determine its source.

Western meadowlark.
Kevin Cole (CC-BY-2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

It’s spring in the Rocky Mountains, the air is filled with birdsong and my feathered neighbors are back again. Recently, a pair of American robins arrived and set up housekeeping in the neighbor’s maple tree, just as a pair did last year. There’s a song sparrow in residence again in the lilacs near the creek, belting out its bubbling song. Riding my bike to work takes me past a small field, and sure enough, there’s a western meadowlark back again singing from the same telephone pole and claiming that field for his own.

Flickr user, Ingrid Taylar (CC-BY-2.0)

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been on a river, at any time of year, and not seen a Great Blue Heron. They seem to stand as solitary sentries on the rivers of Montana, but also on rivers from Canada to South America.

Burnt snags in western Montana
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-NC-2)

One of my favorite places to look in the forest is up. I love the way trees frame patches of sky, and how rays of sun slide over the branches and slant into pockets of darkness. On a recent stroll through the woods near Echo lake, I found myself, as usual, looking up. I saw mostly fir and birch trees, and I took their narrow trunks and modest heights as signs of a young forest. But it was a much older tree that caught my eye.

'Field Notes' Investigates Gizzard Grit

Jan 14, 2019
Ruffed Grouse
Flickr user tuchodi (CC-BY-2)

Afternoon sunshine was softening into twilight on a recent fall day as I drove with my family down a forest road in the mountains north of Missoula. We were heading home after a day of hiking and grouse hunting—and we had a blue grouse to roast for dinner. We rounded a bend to find a covey of seven ruffed grouse, milling about in the road and pecking at the gravelly surface. What were they doing?

A group of birders try to identify a group of birds perched in a tree at Council Grove State Park during the Christmas Bird Count.
Rosie Costain


Lou Bruno likes to watch birds, but he calls himself a lazy birder. Especially when he’s at his home in East Glacier during the summers, looking out over a beaver pond.

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