Although I have studied wildlife my entire life, I find that my thirst for knowledge regarding these fascinating animals is far from being slaked. In fact, I honestly believe it has increased. One reason for this is that the nuggets of information I uncover constantly amaze me. For example, I recently stumbled across a fact concerning the ruby-crowned kinglet that is nothing short of unbelievable.
The ruby-crowned kinglet is a winter resident in Georgia. However, due to the habitat it occupies while it is spending the winter here, unless you went out looking for the bird, you might not realize that it is one of your backyard neighbors.
The ruby-crowned kinglet spends its time foraging for food among the limbs, branches, and foliage found from the tops of trees to thick shrubs looking for its favorite winter foods such as tiny insects and other invertebrates as well as their eggs. They also dine small berries and seeds. These tiny birds seem to be full of energy, constantly flitting about from spot to spot on their endless quest for food. As such, you would think that they are constantly burning up huge amounts of energy.
According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, such is not the case. Studies of the ruby-crowned kinglet’s metabolism have revealed these remarkable birds suggest that it may only use approximately 10 calories a day. This is unbelievable! I do not know of any other backyard bird that burns up so few calories per day.
I am now determined to learn more about this astounding claim.
One of the joys of eating is that we can taste our food. As such, it is one of the reasons why we prefer some foods to others. In the not too distant past, few folks held the belief that birds also have a sense of taste. We now know this is not the case.
Whereas we have about 9,000 taste buds, the birds that visit our feeders possess only 50. Consequently, they must rely heavily on sight and touch to select foods. Instead of being located on its tongue, a bird’s taste buds are located near the tip of its bill as well as the floor and roof of its mouth.
Blue jays are currently busy hoarding acorns. Whereas some birds and mammals store acorns in a single spot, such is not the case with blue jays. These handsome birds hide each acorn they gather in a separate spot throughout the territory they will occupy throughout the winter. It is hard to believe that a blue jay might bury an acorn it plucked from your lawn at a spot more than a mile away.
Since a single blue jay can hoard up to 107 acorns per day, you might wonder how in the world it remembers every spot where it has buried an acorn. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t. Studies have found that a blue jay only retrieves roughly a quarter of the acorns it stashes away each fall.
In other words, each day that a blue jay is collecting and hiding acorns it is potentially planting 75 acorns. Obviously, some of these acorns will rot; other critters will consume some of them. The rest could potentially germinate and develop into new oak trees.
One might say that blue jays are playing a key role in replanting our precious forests. Looking at it another way, a single blue jay plants vastly more trees than any of us in a week than most of us do in a lifetime.
It has been estimated male American goldfinches outnumber females. The ratio of this imbalance is three males to every two females.
Researchers have not determined why this is the case. One theory is it is due to the fact males live longer than females.
Do you see more male American goldfinches than females in your yard? I am certain I do not know if the ratio holds true in my backyard. However, I am going to find out.
It is hard to believe that the colorful insects that are often called flying flowers possess wings that are actually transparent. Let me explain.
It seems that butterfly wings are composed of a rugged material called chitin. This same substance comprises the exoskeletons of all butterflies. The thin layers of chitin found in a butterfly wing is actually transparent. The colors seen in a butterfly’s wings stem from literally thousands of loosely attached tiny scales covering each wing. Some 600 scales/sq. millimeter blanket the surfaces of the wings of some butterflies. These scales contain pigments that reflect light. The colors we see on the wings of the butterflies we spot flitting around our yards are the result of the types of scales and the amount and kinds of pigments they possess.
Butterflies constantly lose scales as they age. Consequently, some of the individuals of the same species we spot are less colorful than others. When we see pale versions of species, we know these individuals are much older than those that display more iridescence and color. In some cases, butterflies lose so many scales it is difficult or even impossible to identify them.