Birding

Birding

Birds like to celebrate Christmas too.

Now that temperatures are dropping below zero, it's time to spread some extra food throughout the garden for these little ones. The food consists of a mix of various seeds, some sunflower hearts, bird peanuts & fat balls.

 

Periparus ater

The coal tit is 10–11.5 cm in length, and has a distinctive large white nape spot on its black head. The head, throat and neck of the adult are glossy blue-black, setting off the off-white sides of the face (tinged grey to yellow depending on subspecies) and the brilliant white nape; the white tips of the wing coverts appear as two wingbars. The underparts are whitish shading through buff to rufous on the flanks. The bill is black, the legs lead-coloured, and irides dark brown.

The young birds are duller than the adults, lacking gloss on the black head, and with the white of nape and cheeks tinged with yellow.

While searching for food, coal tit flocks keep contact with incessant short dee or see-see calls. The species' song – if "song" it can be called – is a strident if-he, if-he, if-he, heard most frequently from January to June, but also in autumn. Song resembles Great Tit´s, but much faster and higher in pitch. One variant of this song ends with a sharp ichi. North African birds also have a currr call similar to that of the European crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) which is not found in Africa.

 

Passeridae domesticus

Generally, sparrows are small, plump, brown and grey birds with short tails and stubby, powerful beaks. The differences between sparrow species can be subtle. Members of this family range in size from the chestnut sparrow (Passer eminibey), at 11.4 centimetres (4.5 in) and 13.4 grams (0.47 oz), to the parrot-billed sparrow (Passer gongonensis), at 18 centimetres (7.1 in) and 42 grams (1.5 oz). Sparrows are physically similar to other seed-eating birds, such as finches, but have a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather and an extra bone in the tongue. This bone, the preglossale, helps stiffen the tongue when holding seeds. Other adaptations towards eating seeds are specialised bills and elongated and specialised alimentary canals.

Many species nest on buildings and the house and Eurasian tree sparrows, in particular, inhabit cities in large numbers, so sparrows are among the most familiar of all wild birds. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. Some species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or rock doves will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities.

 

Erithacus rubecula

The European robin (Erithacus rubecula), known simply as the robin or robin redbreast in the British Isles, is a small insectivorous passerine bird, specifically a chat, that was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae) but is now considered to be an Old World flycatcher. About 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 inch) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.

The term robin is also applied to some birds in other families with red or orange breasts. These include the American robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a thrush, and the Australasian robins of the family Petroicidae, the relationships of which are unclear.

The robin is diurnal, although has been reported to be active hunting insects on moonlit nights or near artificial light at night. Well known to British and Irish gardeners, it is relatively unafraid of people and drawn to human activities involving the digging of soil, in order to look out for earthworms and other food freshly turned up. Indeed, the robin is considered to be a gardener's friend and for various folklore reasons the robin would never be harmed. In continental Europe on the other hand, robins were hunted and killed as with most other small birds, and are more wary. Robins also approach large wild animals, such as wild boar and other animals which disturb the ground, to look for any food that might be brought to the surface. In autumn and winter, robins will supplement their usual diet of terrestrial invertebrates, such as spiders, worms and insects, with berries and fruit. They will also eat seed mixtures placed on bird-tables.

Male robins are noted for their highly aggressive territorial behaviour. They will fiercely attack other males and competitors that stray into their territories and have been observed attacking other small birds without apparent provocation. Such attacks sometimes lead to fatalities, accounting for up to 10% of adult robin deaths in some areas.

 

Cyanistes caeruleus

The Eurasian blue tit or Cyanistes caeruleus is usually 12 cm (4.7 in) long with a wingspan of 18 cm (7.1 in) for all genders, and weighs about 11 g (0.39 oz). A typical specimen has an azure blue crown and dark blue line passing through the eye, and encircling the white cheeks to the chin, giving the bird a very distinctive appearance. The forehead and a bar on the wing are white. The nape, wings and tail are blue and the back is yellowish green. The underparts is mostly sulphur-yellow with a dark line down the abdomen—the yellowness is indicative of the number of yellowy-green caterpillars eaten, due to high levels of carotene pigments in the diet. The bill is black, the legs bluish grey, and the irides dark brown. The sexes are similar, but under ultraviolet light, males have a brighter blue crown. Young blue tits are noticeably more yellow.

 

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