Monday, June 21, 2010

Long Tailed Meadowlark or Military Starling

The one thing John and I have noticed living in the Falklands is the lack of birdsong in our gardens. We do have birds, Meadowlarks, thrushes, sparrows and finches, plus the giant turkey vultures and caracaras and yet there is very little sound from them. Now it could be that the wind takes the noise away before we hear it which is likely but telephone calls back home reinforce the lack of sound here as I can so clearly hear the birds in my parents garden singing their hearts out. Yesterday I put out some left over porridge that we had for breakfast and the garden was soon alive with the Meadowlark above. From behind this bird looks fairly dull and traditional, but as it turns around you are bombarded with its bright almost fluorescent chest.

These pictures have not been enhanced other than lightening the odd picture. Their chests really are that bright orange red colour.

Euan helped me to clean the dining room window and spread out some bread in the back garden so I could try to take some photos of them. All of these pictures have been taken through a pane of glass so please excuse the slightly fuzzy edges to some of them.

We probably had over a dozen birds in the garden within seconds of us coming in and shutting the back door. With several inches of snow on the ground I suspect they are fairly hungry.

According to my wildlife book, the Meadowlark is restricted to the Falkland Islands, although there is another race found in Southern South America. They stand about 4-5 inches tall and measure around 9.6-10 inches long. The male has a deep vermilion breast and throat and red lores extending into an off white eye stripe. The bill is heavy and pointed, appearing oversized in relation to head. The female in comparison have a much paler red breast, generally lighter plumage and is slightly smaller than the male. Juveniles are ghost images of the female. They take a variety of food, including earthworms, caterpillars, larvae, pupae and marine invertebrates such as amphipods. The females are soley responsible for collecting and feeding the young, often stockpiling food before taking it to the nest. The most the male does apparently is to visit the nest to remove droppings!! They are supposed to be very territorial and isolated during breeding season but become one happy family through the winter.

This bird, a Falkland Thrush was rather stroppy and spent most of its time chasing away
the military starlings. It would have been better off just eating the bread as it seemed to waste so much energy chasing everyone around.

Most of the birds just waited till it hopped over the fence chasing someone and then went back to eating the bread. I think the one below was either a female or a juvenile as it was alot paler than the rest.

As we sat and watched we were treated to the beautiful rainbow below. We have had a lot of rainbows over the last week. They seem to start of very faded, ramp it up to full brightness and then disappear in around five minutes.

Somebody else enjoyed watching the birds in the garden too even if it did mean I had to clean my window of nose prints once I was done!

There was lots of squeaking and excited yips from my boy. There is nothing wrong with his eye sight even though his hearing has gone.

So another bird to add to our Falkland Island collection. I still need to get a really descent picture of the very ugly turkey vultures. They have taken to sitting on the house roofs recently to try and get some warmth off the tiles. I cannot seem to find any love for the creatures and find them rather threatening at times, especially when they gather in groups.
Hope everyone is well, stay safe love Helen

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