2birdfeature #3

20130627-DSCN0769 Great Blue Herons have pink feathers on their throats for no other purpose (that we know of) than to be sexy to each other. "Sexy" is a funny word for ornithologists because while it does still bear the implication of one bird appealing to another, it is more technical than that. We use the word "sexy" to describe physical features on birds that often cannot be explained by any other purpose than mating. So again, why do these herons have baby pink feathers on their necks? Do these feathers detract predators, ward off parasites, or make the birds more agile for hunting? We don't think so. We think they're sexy. They're bright and it is possible that they look even more brilliant in the UV spectrum, which other birds can see while we cannot.

I saw just one Great Blue Heron while on Protection Island.

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The second bird today will be the American Goldfinch. This is one of those birds that I know is quite common in North America, almost everywhere you go, but certainly never feels common when you actually see it. There's something about the bright yellow feathers and striking wing bars that seem more special and less Plebeian.

Sorry about the photos of the male, he was moving a lot and I don't own a tripod.

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The females (and juveniles) are a touch more drab but retain the cool pattern and yellow swatches. A particularly aggressive male was chasing the females below. This chasing is a mating dance and I have to say, I hope he had to work his tail off because the female has the job of building a perfect cup nest made from plant fibers and cobwebs with no help at all.

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American Goldfinch (female)

That puts us halfway through the 2birdfeature series with 3 still to come! This weekend: finally, I will highlight a funny little auk that is one of two of my study species.