Birds by Dr. Tom:
Flowering plants and birds began at approximately the same time: 160 mya. Both took off after an event in the late Cretaceous that happened near Yucatan. Insects and plants, probably wasps fertilizing figs, were the start of the botanical property of attracting creatures. Bees, the descendants of wasps, took over first then dinosaurs became involved when fruits began to attract them. Jack Horner speculates that seed spreading by dinosaurs was very important in the propagation of fruiting plants. The most recent theory of flight evolution involves bipedal creatures running on their hind limbs and flapping the feathered forelimbs to either entrap prey or to increase their speed for capture. After the k/t event (meteor strike off Yucatan) birds, flowering plants and mammals headed toward the present. Birds developed into 10,000 species of which more than 1000 are in Mexico. Our gardens attract about 30 and morning is our best time to observe them.
Here are some tips to make identifying birds easier. First ask "How big is the bird?" Is it as big as a sparrow, a robin, a pigeon or an ostrich? Surprisingly, the size of a bird will often help in identifying a new bird even more than color. Comparing an unknown bird to another bird we are all familiar with is easy and remarkably accurate.
After you do all this, and then notice the main colors of the bird. This sounds crazy, but it works. The colors of a bird can play tricks on you. A bird's colors look different when the bird is at the top of a tree at sunset than it does at noon. Check the color of each major body part. Sometimes just the color of a bird's legs can help you tell one species from another. Also check to see if the bird has wing bars or an eye-ring, a patch of color on its rump or white outer tail feathers.
Most garden birds are between hummingbird and robin size. Next we look at their plumage, beaks, size, shape and silhouette then after the bird flies away, only then, get a book and begin to thumb through it. Taxonomy has been touched on when mentioning plumage and beaks, so next I hope you will also be able to notice the shape and shading patterns of the head. Is the beak thin, pointed or triangular? Most books begin illustrations with water birds then larger birds so you can skip toward the middle. Pointy beaks [insect and general feeding] precede the conical ones [seed eating]. After the size is chosen, you can search for the color. Birds most seen in gardens are sparrows, finches, warblers, vireos, flycatchers, orioles and ground doves. You may want a book for differentiating the individuals of the groups.
As to a field guide, choose one with drawings (artistic interpretations) of the birds. It is likely to include more of the features you noticed than a book with photos. Peterson, Sibley, Van Perlo [most birders in Mexico carry this book], Edwards produce illustration books. Kaufman and even Google provide photos. Type in 'How to ID birds' or see Cornell Ornithology for pictures and sounds. Grouping in the books will have warblers-vireos, and sparrows-finches, arranged near one another. Flycatchers will be separate.
You may have noticed some helpful bits of behavior that will differentiate the suggested groupings:
Vireos vs. Warblers [thin pointed beaks]: Vireos tend to be more purposeful in their movements. They fly to a branch and feed there a few moments and then fly to another branch and feed there (fly and land). Most warblers are constantly moving when they are feeding (fly and feed). These two species are a similar size and shape, but all vireos have a slightly hooked tip to the bill. Warblers are usually more colorful.
Sparrows vs. Finches [conical beaks]: Among finches the male is more brightly colored and the female duller. Typically, sparrows are less colorful and they feed mostly on the ground, scratching under the litter for seeds or insects, while finches are more arboreal, searching for food on the seed heads of grasses, thistles, etc. If both are in a group feeding on the ground, when alarmed, the sparrows will move to low brush and the finches will go higher.
Colorful flycatchers tend to feed by parking on a perch, dart out ('sally forth') for a mid-air insect snack and return to the same place several times before moving to a new site.
Here is list of the birds you are most likely to see:
Hummingbirds: They weigh 2 - 4 grams, may consume 2 x their weight of nectar daily and excrete 70-85% of their wt. each day. Equal to us voiding 20 gallons! See many varieties at Flossie's. Across from Barbara's Bazaar a lady has about 15 feeders and has even posted the names of hummers likely to be at which feeder! She welcomes anyone most any morning – take sugar or 10 pesos to help her. For the next few weeks there is a very special hummer, The Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird that is only here about five weeks a year. Worth a trip.
Red around head and throat:
Black & White Birds:
If you are interested in attracting them see the hints at: 'ehow.com/how_4423601_' You will find info on Water, Food, Cover and Nesting areas.
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