Home » 2011 » January

Urban Peacocks

Free-ranging peacocks are established in several communities in the United States, including including Arcadia and Palos Verdes, California, the foothills of the Toquima mountains in central Nevada, parts of Florida including Coconut Grove and Longboat Key, and on Oahu, Hawaii. Escaped or roaming peacocks are frequently reported and are likely to turn up almost anywhere. While some people appreciate these large attractive birds, they can become a nuisance when they roost in trees or eat landscaping plants. For more information on how to deter roaming peacocks, check out my Prowling Peacocks post over at AbsoluteBirdControl.com.

Dutch Urban Bird Conference

Holland in June. The Dutch Urban Bird Conference (Stadsvogelconferentie). That’s where you should be if you are interested in the best urban bird conservation projects in Europe.

Bringing Nature Home

I am currently teaching an Urban Ecology course at Rosemont College in Philadelphia. One of the texts I selected for my students is Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press, 2007). I really enjoyed this book, and so did my students–who were non-science majors most of which didn’t know anything about native plants, insects, or birds–the starring attractions of Bringing Nature Home.

Tallamay, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, has written Bringing Nature Home as both a unique book that is both manifesto as well as celebration and review of the role that native and invasive plants play in our backyards and neighborhoods. By showing the relationship between plants, bugs, and birds, Tallamay really does bring nature home in very specific and compelling ways. It is one thing to know theoretically that birds depend on bugs that depend on native plants. It is another thing to show us these links over and over with specific, sparkling and lucid writing as well as fantastic color photos of exotic-looking but very much native bugs chomping down on native plants.

I’m usually not a big caterpillar fan. In fact, I most like watching caterpillars when they are getting slammed against a limb by a migratory songbird. But I was so engaged by Bringing Nature Home that I wanted to head out immediately to my backyard to see if I could find these critters crawling around in my own yard. But since it is the middle of winter, all I could do was start scheming about what additional native plants I needed to pick up at a nursery this spring to attract these bizarre-looking critters to the yard.

Fortunately, Tallamy makes this easy as well, by providing lists of readily accessible native plants that serve as bug (and eventually, bird) food for each region of the country, as well as a list of the butterflies and other insects that depend on each tree, shrub, or flower.

For those curious about all of these bugs, Bringing Nature Home includes a section on each order of insects commonly found munching on native plants that includes amazing color photos as well as a summary of relevant life history information.

Bringing Nature Home will rock your world. Or rather, it will whisk you away into worlds you didn’t know even exist. Worlds that you can create in your own yard, and worlds that will help maintain the traditional cycles of nature that need our help to persist in a world dominated more and more by people and our less-than wildlife-friendly urban landscapes. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. A must read for anyone interested in nature, large or small, wild or tame!

(Review based on complimentary review copy obtained from Timber Press)

Parrots of the World

January is the World Parrot Count. So what do you use to identify the wild exotic parrots flying around your city? One place to turn might be the new Parrots of the World field guide by Joseph M. Forshaw (Princeton, 2010).

Parrots of the World is an attractive guide to all 356 macaw, cockatoo, parrot, and parakeet species of the world. It features:
–146 color plates depicting all species and well-differentiated subspecies
–Detailed facing-page species accounts that describe key identification features, similar species, distribution, –subspeciation, habitat, and status
–Color distribution maps
–Notes on where to observe each species in the wild

The species accounts are organized by geographic region–Australasia, Afro-Asia, and the Americas. While this might be useful in the field, it might lead to confusion in identifying exotic urban parrots–especially for urban birders unfamiliar with all the various types of parrots or what part of the world they might be from. Hopefully birders will become more familiar with the diversity and distribution of various types of parrots.

This book is most useful as a concise reference to all of the world’s parrots. Flipping through the guide is a visual treat that can lead to wander- and bird-lust. As a field guide, I’m not sure how useful it will be. If I am going to travel to an area where there are lots of parrots, I’m not sure I would bother packing this with a more standard field guide–which would probably do as good if not a better job at helping me identify unknown parrots.

Finally, birders should know that the English names in this book may not match the names in their other field guides or bird references–due to uneven usage around the world and differences between names found in the ornithological and avicultural literature. For instance, Amazona parrots are called Amazons. So one might expect that the Red-crowned Parrots that you are searching for in South Texas or Southern California urban roosts would be indexed as Red-crowned Amazon. But due to its name in the avicultural trade, it is listed here as Green-cheeked Amazon instead! So pay attention to scientific names in case you can’t find the parrot you are looking for by the expected English name.

(Review based on review copy provided by Princeton University Press)

Let the Parrot Counting Begin!

OK, it is January–which means this is the month to head out and count birds at your local urban parrot roost! I’m helping to coordinate the first World Parrot Count. If you have parrots or parakeets in your area, check out the count page and let us know how many of each species you have. I’ll be doing more reporting on the count here as the month progresses, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we need folks to count Monk Parakeet nests in NJ, NY, CT and elsewhere in the Northeast. Also need lots of people to help out across Florida with the widespread exotic avian zoo down there! But no matter where you are, please help us start keeping track of these exotic birds that are becoming a larger part of our urban birdscapes!