Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020, below follows the fourth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful — and Some Are a Little Weird“*). The letter J is illustrated by Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw. The letter K illustrated by Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise. The letter L illustrated by Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, and Little Spider-Hunter.
“J” BIRDS: Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw.
“K” BIRDS: Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise.
“L” BIRDS: Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, Little Spider-Hunter.
Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise, are a little bit extravagant-looking, if not also weird! (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)
* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson [used here by permission].
Now here’s a combination for you. We finished up that large five family Galliformes Order last Sunday, and today we have two Orders with only one family each. Both of those families are small in number. The Loons and Penguins are not related, but they do both have the same Great Creator. They just happen to be next to each other in the Taxonomy List. I mentioned that they are not related, but looking at these two photos, you can see why their Orders are next to one another.
Loons are in the Gaviiformes Order which only has one family, the Gaviidae, containing only five members of that family.
The loon, the size of a large duck or small goose, resembles these birds in shape when swimming. Like ducks and geese but unlike coots (which are Rallidae) and grebes (Podicipedidae), the loon’s toes are connected by webbing. The bird may be confused with cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae), which are not too distant relatives of divers and like them are heavy set birds whose bellies – unlike those of ducks and geese – are submerged when swimming. Flying loons resemble plump geese with seagulls’ wings that are relatively small in proportion to the bulky body. The bird points its head slightly upwards during swimming, but less so than cormorants. In flight the head droops more than in similar aquatic birds.
Common Loon (Gavia immer) by J Fenton
Male and female loons have identical plumage. Plumage is largely patterned black-and-white in summer, with grey on the head and neck in some species. All have a white belly. This resembles many sea-ducks (Merginae) – notably the smaller goldeneyes (Bucephala) – but is distinct from most cormorants which rarely have white feathers, and if so usually as large rounded patches rather than delicate patterns. All species of divers have a spear-shaped bill.
Males are larger on average, but relative size is only apparent when the male and female are together.
In winter plumage is dark grey above, with some indistinct lighter mottling on the wings, and a white chin, throat and underside. The species can then be distinguished by certain features, such as size and colour of head, neck, back and bill, but often reliable identification of wintering divers is difficult even for experts – particularly as the smaller immature birds look similar to winter-plumage adults, making size an unreliable means of identification.
King Penguins – head on her shoulder
Penguins, which belong to the Spheniscidae Family and Sphenisciformes. Their family has eighteen (18) species to adore. We, Dan and I, have been able to see penguins at various zoo, but many of those have them displayed in a way that is difficult to get good photos. Ian and these other photographer are able to travel to where penguins live and are able to see and take their pictures in the wild.
Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds. They live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, with only one species, the Galapagos penguin, found north of the equator. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings function as flippers. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater. They spend about half of their lives on land and half in the oceans.
Although almost all penguin species are native to the Southern Hemisphere, they are not found only in cold climates, such as Antarctica. In fact, only a few species of penguin live so far south. Several species are found in the temperate zone, and one species, the Galápagos penguin, lives near the equator.
The largest living species is the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri): on average adults are about 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 35 kg (77 lb) or more. The smallest penguin species is the little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor), also known as the fairy penguin, which stands around 40 cm (16 in) tall and weighs 1 kg (2.2 lb). Among extant penguins, larger penguins inhabit colder regions, while smaller penguins are generally found in temperate or even tropical climates (see also Bergmann’s rule). Some prehistoric species attained enormous sizes, becoming as tall or as heavy as an adult human. These were not restricted to Antarctic regions; on the contrary, subantarctic regions harboured high diversity, and at least one giant penguin occurred in a region around 2,000 km south of the equator, in a climate decidedly warmer than today. [Wikipedia, with editing]
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19 KJV)
This week’s choice was based on (a) the fact that I promised an American this week and (b) because I ended up travelling a day late on Air Pacific via Fiji as my V Australia flight was cancelled, and wanted to make a horrible pun along the lines of loons and choice of airline and the ‘meals’ that they provide. I’ve decided to spare you that, as we all know that airline food is terrible and I shouldn’t be surprised when it plumbs new depths.
Anyway, it’s lovely to be back in California and I spent some time this morning trying to photograph the Anna’s Hummingbirds in the backyard. They need to be photographed at exactly the right angle to the light to show the magenta on the head. I haven’t yet done that to my satisfaction, so I’ll keep that for another day.
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) by Ian - from his Website
This Pacific Loon I photographed in Barrow in northern Alaska on my last trip 2 years ago when it was swimming among the ice-floes along the beach where there was some open water in the otherwise frozen sea. ‘Loons’ to Americans and ‘Divers’ to the British form a small northern hemisphere family of 5 species – http://www.birdway.com.au/gaviidae/index.htm – all of which are mostly marine fish-eaters except when breeding when they nest beside freshwater lakes, often far inland. They are brilliantly adapted to an aquatic life and prefer to dive than fly. How sensible.
The Pacific Loon is very closely related and similar in appearance to the Arctic Loon/Diver of Eurasia. The bird in the photo is in breeding plumage (it was mid-summer’s day) and all the loons/divers then have strikingly patterns, while the non-breeding plumage is a rather drab grey and white. They’re big birds, with the Pacific having a length of 64cm/25in.
The enforced leisure of my journey gave me ample opportunities to work on the website, and I have made some additions http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates and finally updated Ian’s Picks:
Earlier this year, I provided many photos for a new Brandt guide to Australian Wildlife by Stella Martin and received my copy shortly before I left Australia. I think Stella has done a wonderful job in producing a comprehensive but concise introduction across a broad field which is eminently readable. Being a paperback it’s ideal for the visitor to Australia and great value. Amazon now have it in stock: Australian Wildlife and it is becoming available in book stores. I’ve attached a copy of the cover to whet your appetite!
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since Ian is traveling, I went to his website and got the second photo of the Pacific Loon swimming towards the camera. I am sure Ian won’t mind. As Ian said, the Loons are in the Gaviidae Family which is in the Gaviiformes Order. In other words, they are the only family in that Order.
Their sounds are sad and remind me of wailing.
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:7-8 KJV)
The loon is designed quite differently than almost all other birds. While the bodies of most birds are designed as light and aerodynamic as possible, the loon’s body is heavier, allowing it to sink until only its head is above water. It controls its ability to float by inflating or deflating tiny air sacs under its skin. When flying at high altitude, where the air is thin, the loon can conserve oxygen by limiting the flow of blood to its massive leg muscles.
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) by Daves BirdingPix
The loon also has a perfectly developed reflex which limits the flow of blood to its wings and digestive tract during underwater dives. This allows the loon to hold its breath for long periods of time. Although an average dive lasts about 40 seconds, three-minute dives that cover 300-400 yards are quite common. Astounding dives have been documented where loons have held their breath for as long as 15 minutes while swimming underwater for over 2 miles.
Both common sense and the laws of probability tell us that these many unique abilities could not have evolved by chance processes such as random mutations. The loon could not have developed its unique diving ability in some step-at-a-time manner. It would have starved to death long before it caught its first fish. The system had to work perfectly from the beginning.”
Great Northern Loon (Gavia immer) by J Fenton
Character Sketches, Vol III. p.49
For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. (Psalms 86:10 KJV)
From September 18, A Closer Look at the Evidence, by Richard and Tina Kleiss
More – “When I Consider!”
“any of five species of diving birds constituting the genus Gavia, family Gaviidae. Loons were formerly included, along with the grebes, to which they bear a superficial resemblance, in the order Colymbiformes, but they are considered to constitute their own separate order. Loons range in length from 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3 feet). Characteristics include a strong tapered bill, small pointed wings, webs between the front three toes, and legs placed far back on the body, which makes walking awkward. Loons have thick plumage that is mainly black or gray above and white below. During the breeding season the dorsal plumage is patterned with white markings, except in the red-throated loon (Gavia stellata), which during the summer is distinguished by a reddish brown throat patch. In winter the red-throated loon develops white speckling on the back, while the other species lose these markings.” (Britannica Online)
“Loons are excellent swimmers, using their feet to propel themselves above and under water and their wings for assistance. Because their feet are far back on the body, loons are poorly adapted to moving on land. They usually avoid going onto land, except when nesting.
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) by Ian
All loons are decent fliers, though the larger species have some difficulty taking off and thus must swim into the wind to pick up enough velocity to become airborne. Only the Red-throated Diver (G. stellata) can take off from land. Once airborne, their considerable stamina allows them to migrate long distances southwards in winter, where they reside in coastal waters. Loons can live as long as 30 years.”
“The loons are the size of a large duck or small goose, which they somewhat resemble in shape when swimming. Like in these but unlike in coots (which are Rallidae) and grebes (Colymbiformes), their toes are connected by webbing. They may be confused even more readily with cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae), which are not too distant relatives of divers and like them are heaviset birds whose bellies – unlike those of ducks and geese – are submerged when swimming. Flying loons resemble a plump goose with a seagull’s wings, which seem quite small in proportion to the bulky body. They hold their head slightly pointing upwards during swimming, less so than cormorants do, and in flight they let the head decidedly droop down compared to all other aquatic birds of comparable habitus.
Males and females do not differ in plumage. Males are a bit larger on average, but usually this is only conspicuous when directly comparing the two parents. Their plumage is largely patterned black-and-white in summer, with grey on the head and neck in some species, and a white belly in all of them. This resembles many sea-ducks (Merginae) a lot – notably the smaller goldeneyes (Bucephala) – but is distinct from most cormorants which rarely have white feathers, and if so usually as large rounded patches rather than delicate patterns. All species of divers have a spear-shaped bill.”(Wikipedia)