“D” is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers: “D” Birds, Part 1

“D” is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers:  “D” Birds”,  Part  1

James J. S. Johnson

Mallard-mam-with-ducklings

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Mother & ucklings ©Fair Use Credit – Backyardduck

 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1st CORINTHIANS 11:1)

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (PHILIPPIANS 3:12)

D” is for as Doves, Dippers, and Ducks (some being dabblers, some being divers)  —  plus other birds with names that begin with the letter D.

Regarding doves, see, e.g., Lee’s Birdwatching “Bible Birds:  Doves and Pigeons” and “Bible Birds: Doves and Pigeons” plus “Columbidae: Pigeons, Doves”, etc.; regarding dippers, see, e.g., my “European Dipper, Norway’s National Bird”.

RuddyDuck.male-and-female

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis): male (R) & female (L) ©Fair Use Credit – Northrup

This present study will focus on ducksOf the birds we call “ducks” there are two major categories, “divers” (which use their broad feet to propel themselves underwater) and “dabblers” (which typically tip forward to submerge their heads into the water), and these categories are due to those respective ducks’ eating habits (as will be explained below).  Of course, to confuse matters a bit, ducks that dive for their food sometimes dabble too!

NorthernShoveler.male-and-female

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male (R) & female (L) ©Fair Use Credit

But first, because this blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, it will look at Psalm 119:25-32, before providing an introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “D”, In particular, those four “D” birds are various DUCKS, both “divers”, the Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis),  —  and “dabblers”, the American Wigeon (Anas americana) and the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). Also, some mention will be given to “stiff-tailed divers” (e.g., Ruddy Duck) and “sea ducks” that dive (e.g., eiders, mergansers, oldsquaw, etc.).

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THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH

As noted in three earlier articles on “alphabet birds”, i.e., on “A birds”, on “B birds” and “C birds” – using the alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent. The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which psalm has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and to Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  In this serial study’s lesson, the fourth octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:25-32), each sentence starts with DALETH, the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English “D”.

DALETH.Hebrew-letter-pictograph-door

DALETH.Hebrew-letter-pictograph-door  Fair Use image credit:

The noun based upon this letter is DELETH, which is routinely translated as a “door” (or “gate”) in the Old Testament (see YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, Index-Lexicon to the Old Testament, page 14, column 1.)   Doors are very important.  In fact, JESUS Himself is the “door” to eternal life (compare John 10:7-9 with John 14:6 & Matthew 7:13-14).  Some of the earliest “doors” of the ancient Hebrews were tent-flaps, hanging animal skins that covered an opening in a tent.  This type of “door” appears to be illustrated by the hanging tent-flap (or “gate”) in the Mosaic Law’s blueprint for the Tabernacle (see Exodus 27:16).  To enter into the Tabernacle the hanging tent-flap “door” needed to be pulled back.  (The action of pulling also appears in what may be etymologically related Hebrew words: “bucket” [deli/dali in Isaiah 40:15 & Numbers 24:7] and “draw” [dalah in Exodus 2:16 & Exodus 2:19].)

But it is the usage of the doorway that is of amazing importance to the Christian, because doors provide ingress (entering) and egress (exiting).

Although space here prohibits a detailed analysis, it seems that the Scripture’s usage of DALETH emphasizes more the process of exiting through a doorway, i.e., moving from where one is already, out into something farther, toward a destination.

So, because DALETH is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:25-32) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

25 Cleaves [dâbqâh] my soul unto the dust; quicken Thou me according to Thy Word.

26 My ways [derek] have I documented, and Thou heard me; teach me Thy statutes.

27 The way [derek] of Thy precepts make me to understand, so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works.

28 Melts [dâlpâh] my soul, for heaviness; strengthen Thou me according unto Thy Word.

29 The way [derek] of falsity remove from me, and grant me Thy law graciously.

30 The way [derek] of truth have I chosen; Thy judgments have I laid before me.

31 I have stuck [dâbaqtî] unto Thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame.

32 The way [derek] of Thy commandments will I run, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Psalm119.25-cartoon-pic

Fair Use image Credit: http://markmcmillion.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/quicken-me-flat.jpg

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using terms like “the law of the LORD” (and “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.).  In Psalm 119:9-16 these terms are used, to denote God’s revealed truth to mankind: “Thy Word” (3x), “Thy commandments”, “Thy statutes”, ”Thy precepts”, Thy “judgments”, and “Thy testimonies”.

DALETH.flashcard.letters

Fair Use image credit: http://fce-study.netdna-ssl.com/images/upload-flashcards/back/7/3/58537864_m.jpg

Notice how the Hebrew noun derek appears frequently in this section of Psalm 119 – because when you take a “door” of providential opportunity, to walk life’s journey according to God’s directions, you travel a pathway that leads to your God-designed destiny. Accordingly, the Hebrew letter DALETH refers to a “door” (or doorway, such as a tent-flap), which leads to a destination, after a “journey” (derek – see Genesis 24:21, Joshua 9:11, 1st Kings 19:4 & 19:7, etc.), such as where one is supposed to arrive after traveling a “highway” (derek – see Deuteronomy 2:27).

Accordingly, Psalm 119:25-32 illustrates how God’s Word serves as a “doorway” of opportunity (which requires us to leave our self-anchored selves and our humanistic self-confidences), to facilitate our passage into the spiritual journey that God has providentially predestined for us (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In Verse 25 (of Psalm 119), King David recognizes that his soul’s natural inclination, as a sinner, is to live an earthly life that tends and trends toward “dust” – a sad reminder that we are tragically dead in Adam (Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12-21). Yet happily, by God’s gracious providence in Christ, God’s Word can reverse the death-sentence and provided David (and us) with life, because the Scripture is the written Word of God that tells us of the living Word of God, JESUS, through Whom we can have life (John 10:10 & 14:6).  In other words, we use God’s written Word to leave our sinful selves, to obtain redemption in Christ, and thereby we leave our mortality for life eternal (1st Corinthians chapter 15).

In Verse 26, the psalmist reports his own “ways” to God, i.e., David was truthful in measuring his own life – this honesty pleases God, Who defines and gives truth (John 14:6 & John 17:17), and it is being truthful with God that keeps open the “door” of access to His forgiveness and cleansing (1st John 1:9).

In Verse 27, the psalmist meditates on God’s Word. This reverent Bible study is the “way” to understanding God’s precepts – it is the “way” to find real knowledge and understanding.  As we soak in the holy Scriptures (which is our true “daily bread” – Matthew 4:4), we leave the finiteness and fallibility of our own minds and memories, to access God’s mind, God’s meanings, God’s morals.

In Verse 28, the psalmist acknowledges that his own soul is weak, losing strength in sorrows. However, thankfully, that sad situation is overcome by the strengthening that God’s Word provides to the reverent and trusting worshipper of God.  This means leaving our own self-sufficiency to appropriate God’s ever-sufficient grace (2nd Corinthians 12:9) – and that is only accomplishes as we apply God’s Word to our own human weakness.

In Verse 29, the psalmist recognizes that he cannot access God’s kindness if he allows the way of falsity to distract him form God’s law.  In other words, the books of Moses – which will one day judge us (see John 5:44-47) – are our foundation for understanding life (and death, and God, and ourselves, etc., etc.), so we must avoid all false distractions that would pull us away (sidetrack, derail, etc.) from that truth.

In Verse 30, the psalmist recognizes that choosing the faithful path is a choice; having made that choice life becomes many opportunities, moment by moment, to apply that choice to the decisions of life. This is the Bible-based spiritual journey – and it is this kind of “walking by faith” that pleases God (see Romans chapter 4 & Hebrews chapter 11).

Verse 31 contrast with Psalm 119:25, where the verb “cleave” was used in a negative way. In Verse 31 David is “cleaving” to God’s testimonies (which hare found in God’s Word); the result is that David will not be ashamed of how his life-journey ends, so long as he is “cleaving” to God’s testimonies along the way (Romans 8:28).

Verse 32, likewise, portrays the psalmist’s movement toward God’s Word. David is now running to God’s commandments, away from the curse of sin-and-death he alludes to in Verse 25 – because David knows that God’s Word enlarges David’s heart – and thus his (redeemed) life.

In sum, Scripture-based living is the way to leave your selfish “self” behind, as you take your godly (i.e., redeemed-in-Christ – Philippians 1:21) “self” closer to God (and toward what He wants for your life)!

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of DALETH verses (Psalm 119:25-32), that we are designed to rely upon the truth and values of the holy Scriptures, as we journey through life, as if God’s Word was our “door” of opportunity (as it informs us of the living “Door”, the Lord Jesus Christ –  compare John 10:7-9 & John 14:6), to leave our selfish selves – and through which we journey toward God, Who Himself is our ultimate home and destination (Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.) – see “Why We Want to Go Home” [posted at http://www.icr.org/article/why-we-want-go-home/ ].

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Now back to the ducks. First, let’s consider some “dabbling” ducks, starting with one whose unusually broad shovel-shaped bill gives it its name.

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male ©WikiC

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male ©WikiC

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Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): female ©WikiC

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): female ©WikiC

The Northern Shoveler is a dabbler, ranging much of the Northern Hemisphere.  Its habits are described by ornithologist Steve Madge:  “Sociable duck of shallow freshwater lakes [including “prairie potholes”] and marshes.  Usually found in pairs or small parties, but large concentrations form at migratory stop-over waters [such as Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Texas]. Indirectly mixes with other dabbling ducks [such as Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, and American Wigeon], but generally keeps apart in discrete gatherings. … Nests on ground among waterside vegetation, often several nests in close proximity.  Feeds by dabbling and sifting in shallow water, swinging bill from side to side over surface, often immersing head and neck and sometimes up-ending; feeds chiefly while swimming, but also while wading.  Loafing birds gather on banks and shores close to feeding waters.  Swims buoyantly, with rear end high and fore parts low, the heavy bill often touching surface of water.  Walks awkwardly.  Flight fast and agile, rising suddenly from surface with whirring wings.  Most populations highly migratory, arriving on breeding grounds from mid March onwards and departing again in August.”  [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL:  AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 236.]

NorthernShoveler-male-closeup

Northern Shoveler (male closeup) ©WikiC

The male shoveler has an iridescent green head (like a Mallard), rusty sides (like a Ruddy Duck), a white breast, and a shovel-like (or spoon-like) bill. These ducks feed mostly “by filtering tiny aquatic insects and plants from the water’s surface with its bill.”  [Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 332-333.

Mallard.male-and-female-shore

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): male (R) & female (L)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mallard#/media/File:Anas_platyrhynchos_male_female_quadrat.jpg

The Mallard (alias “Greenhead”) is another dabbling duck, the most common duck in the world!  (Oops!  — once, at a Tampa church, I erred and said it was the most common “bird” in the world – but I meant to say it was the most common “duck” in the world.)  The Mallard has been reported repeatedly — on www.leesbird.com — so it will not receive detailed treatment here.  (See, e.g., ornithologist Lee Dusing’s “The Mallard Duck: Birds, Volume 2, #1” [at https://leesbird.com/2012/07/16/birds-vol-2-1-the-mallard-duck/ ], as well as  my “Pondside Birdwatching in Florida, from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard, Part 1” [at https://leesbird.com/2015/02/18/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-i/ ].  See also, e.g., the report on mallards within my “Birdwatching in Iceland” [at https://leesbird.com/2014/12/08/birdwatching-in-iceland-part-i/ ] and also within my “Bird Brains: Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius” [at https://leesbird.com/2013/03/07/48484/ ].)

AmericanWigeon.male

American Wigeon (Anas Americana): male

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wigeon#/media/File:Anas_americana_-_drake.jpg

AmericanWigeon.female 

American Wigeon (Anas Americana): female

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wigeon#/media/File:Anas-americana-004.jpg

The American Wigeon (also spelled “widgeon”, alias “Baldpate”) is another dabbling duck.  This wigeon resembles its Eurasian cousin (Eurasian Wigeon) except the American Wigeon has a curved green side-stripe on its head – unlike the rut-colored head of the Eurasian variety.  (Both have a white “racing stripe” from the bill’s top past the pate.)

American Wigeons are plentiful in America’s Great West; they are also growing numerically East of the Mississippi River. Winter grain fields and saltmarsh habitats serve as homes for this migratory duck. When wigeon flocks fly they do so noisily, bunched together, with obvious agility.  For repeated years this writer observed wigeon flocks sharing a Denton County (Texas) pond with mallards and lesser scaups, during the winter.  Generally speaking, he mallards grouped together, the wigeons grouped together, and the scaups grouped together.

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Now let’s consider some “diving” ducks, sometimes called scaups or pochards.  Despite having the overall outward morphology of dabbling ducks, these diving ducks have some anatomical traits (e.g., trachea structure) differing from those of the dabbling ducks, as well as some noticeable distinctions in their genetics (e.g., mitochondrial BNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence).

LesserScaup.male

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis):  male (L)

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_scaup#/media/File:Lesser_scaup_-_Aythya_affinis.jpg

LesserScaup.female

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis):  female

Fair Use photo credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_scaup#/media/File:Aythya_affinis.JPG

The Lesser Scaup (a/k/a “Little Bluebill”) is a diving duck.  This scaup is differentiated from the Greater Scaup in a previous report, “Pondside Birdwatching in Florida, from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard, Part 2” [at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/02/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-2-2/ ], q.v. – noting its gregarious nature, range, and other habits.

The typical habitat preferred by Lesser Scaup ducks is described by Steve Madge: “Breeds by freshwater ponds and lakes in open country, especially prairie marshes [i.e., prairie potholes].  In winter on lowland lakes, coastal lagoons, and estuaries and sheltered coastal bays, but chiefly in latter haunts after cold weather has frozen freshwater lakes.”  [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL:  AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 258.]

RingneckedDuck.male

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris):  male

http://www.audubon.org/sites/default/files/styles/hero_cover_bird_page/public/Ringnecked_Duck_%20mark%20eden_FL_2011_KK_GBBC.jpg?itok=Qf8g5Vvu (Fair Use photo credit)

RingneckedDuck.female

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris):  female

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring-necked_duck#/media/File:Ring-necked_Duck1.jpg (Fair Use photo credit)

The Ring-necked Duck is a diving duck, usually migratory in its range.  (However, as the range map below shows, there are some areas in America’s West where the Ring-necked Duck resides year-round.).

RingneckedDuck.range-map

Ring-necked Duck range

map credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring-necked_duck#/media/File:Aythya_collaris_range_map.png

[Orange = breeding range;   yellow = year-round range;   mustard = wintering range]

The male’s cinnamon-hued collar “ring” is often not visible, due to lighting and angle of observation – but it’s there, somewhere! One good place for viewing Ring-necked Ducks (as well as Ruddy Ducks) is Lake Morton (in Polk, Florida), the place where I first saw that particular duck in the wild — see Lee Dusing’s “Fantastic Weekend” [at https://leesbird.com/2014/11/10/fantastic-week-end/ ].

Ironically, the white stripe-like band on its dark bill is usually observable, on both the male and female, so this duck is sometimes called the “Ring-billed Duck”. [See Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 64-65 & 202-203.  For photographs of the Ring-necked Duck, both male and female, taken by Lee Dusing at Lake Morton, see her report titled “Birdwatching at Lake Morton 11/22/13” [at https://leesbird.com/2013/11/22/birdwatching-at-lake-morton-112213/ ].

Ornithologist Steve Madge describes the Ring-necked Duck’s phenology-keyed habitat preferences: “Breeds in freshwater lakes and ponds in open lowland country, often by quite small pools in marshes. In winter, in larger freshwater lakes and locally on tidal bays and coastal brackish lagoons.” [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL: AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 250.]

RUddyDuck.both-FederalDuckStamp-pic

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis): male (L) & female (R)

Fair Use image credit (Jennifer Miller, Federal Duck Stamp competition winner for AD2014-AD2015): http://media.jsonline.com/images/39528847_Ruddy%20ducks%20by%20Jennifer%20Miller%202015-‘16%20Federal%20Duck%20Stamp%20winner%20.jpg

The Ruddy Duck exemplifies a type of duck called a “stiff-tailed diver”.  Like other “stiff-tailed” ducks, the Ruddy Duck has lengthy and stiff tail feathers, which stick up prominently when the duck is resting (somewhat like the upturned tail that wrens sport).  These ducks prefer to dive in freshwater, such as freshwater ponds or lakes.

Like other diving ducks their legs are located near the back of their bodies (with large paddle-like feet), equipping them for propelled paddling under water, as they dive for food. Underwater propulsion depends upon such legs and feet, but this anatomy is not inefficient for walking on land, so Ruddy Ducks tend to minimize their time doing “shore duty”.

RuddyDuck.female

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) female, displaying “stiff tail”

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruddy_duck#/media/File:Ruddy_Duck_(Oxyura_jamaicensis)_RWD3.jpg

The range of the Ruddy Duck is almost all of the “lower 48” of the United States, wherever they can find available marshy ponds or lakes, especially places having fairly dense vegetation along the shoreline – optimal for their preferred diet: aquatic plant seeds and roots, as well as aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Sea ducks” – such as mergansers, oldsquaw (a/k/a “long-tailed duck”), bufflehead, goldeneyes, and eiders – will be examined (hopefully, D.v.) in later articles of this series – because this article, albeit “ducky”, is already long enough.

Oldsquaw.male-afloat

Oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis)  male

Fair use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-tailed_duck#/media/File:Long-tailed-duck.jpg

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “D“ birds – perhaps a couple of these: Dippers, Doves, Dunlin, Dickcissel, Dusky Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, or the “snowbird” known nowadays as the Dark-eyed Junco!  (Meanwhile, use God’s Word as you out into life, daily, with its opportunities to follow Christ!)

Ducks.Belarus-postage-stamps-sheet

[Public Domain images:  Belarus postage stamps]

So stay tuned!   ><> JJSJ

“C” is for Coot and Corvids: “C” Birds”, Part 2

“C”  is  for  Coot  and  Corvids:   “C”  Birds”,  Part  2

By James J. S. Johnson

Coots on Ice ©FWS

Coots on Ice ©FWS

 For Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?  Psalm 56:13

As the following study of the American Coot shows (which begins our review of birds having names that begin with “C”), God has employed creatively clever bioengineering into the form and function of American Coot feet.  How much moreso, as creatures made in His image, should we appreciate His design-and-construction engineering genius, as it is displayed in our own feet and toes!

rican Coot (Fulica americana) © SDbirds-Terry Sohl

rican Coot (Fulica americana) © SDbirds-Terry Sohl

American Coot (Fulica americana)

As noted in the preceding “Part 1” of this series [see ], “C” is for as Cardinal, Chicken [regarding which fowl, see Flag That Bird – Part 1 ], Coot, Cormorant, Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow and Chough) — plus many other birds with names that begin with the letter C!

In this “Part 2” review of “C” birds, however, the red-eyed American Coot (a/k/a marsh hen, mud hen, water hen, and poule d’eau, i.e., “water chicken”), as well as the crow-like birds that we collectively label as Corvids, will be featured.

Because the American Coot is a wetland “rail” (i.e., classified with the mostly-wetland-or-forest-associated birds, such as gallinules and crakes, that are “ground-living” – as opposed to dwelling in trees), it is often seen and appreciated by birdwatchers (like Chaplain Bob Webel, of St. Petersburg, and his wife, Marcia) who live at the vegetated edge of a freshwater lake or pond, or by brackish estuarial marshland or swampland.

AMERICAN COOT (12 in. [or larger, with their plumage being mostly black or dark grey, depending upon lighting, and with white under-coverts and secondary wing feather-tips]) nests in marsh vegetation, but often winters in open water.  It is the only ducklike bird with a chalky white bill [and that bill is triangular in shape, somewhat like that of a chicken’s beak].  When disturbed it either dives or skits over the water [like flapping, fluttering hovercraft!] with feet and wings.  The closely related Common Moorhen (or Florida Gallinule, 10½ in. [what ornithologist Lee Dusing has nicknamed the “candy-corn bird”]) has a red bill and forehead and a white stripe under the wing.  Both pump the neck when swimming.”

[Quoting Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), page 34.]   As the youtube video-clip (below) shows, American Coots can skim and scoot across the surface of a lake or pond, flapping just over the water surface, when they want to move quickly.

Unlike ducks, however, the coot has no webbed feet.

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes ©i.ytimg

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes

Rather, coots have long toes that sport broad lobes of skin, designed for kicking through the water, almost like synchronized mini-paddles.  These conspicuously broad foot-lobes fold backward, when a coot walks on dry land, so the foot-lobes don’t interfere with the ground surface contact – yet the foot-lobes can be used to partially support the weight of the coot (by spreading body weight over a larger surface area, like snow-shoes) when the “mud hen” travels across mucky mud (or even on thin ice!).

American Coot on Ice ©Graham Catley

American Coot on Ice ©Graham Catley

American Coot on ice!

In other words, God designed coot feet to fit the wet habitats that they fill.

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes ©Johnrakestraw

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes ©Johnrakestraw

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes

Coots are gregarious, “socializing” with themselves and with other waterfowl.  IN particular, coots are share space, as they “fill” a wetland or aquatic habitat.  Families of coots — or even larger groups of coots — often mixed with other waterfowl (like ducks) may compose a “raft” of hundreds or even thousands!  [See, accord, American Coot entry at CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY, “All About Birds”, with Herbert K. Job, BIRDS OF AMERICA (Doubleday, 1936), pages 214-215, both cited within Steve Bryant, “American Coot”, in OUTDOOR ALABAMA.

American Coot flock “rafting” (©Jack Dermid)

American Coot flock “rafting” ©ARKive-Jack Dermid

American Coot  flock “rafting”

For a video clip featuring American Coots in action (in Florida), sometimes interacting quite boisterously, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5dPaWH785w .  (Notice:  this youtube footage also includes brief footage of a few other birds, so don’t be surprised when the first bird shown is a Florida Gallinule!)

American Coot  in water

It is interesting to note that the American Coot has a migratory range that covers almost all of North America, from Panama (in the south) through the more temperate zones of Canada (in the north).  As is often the case, a helpful range map has been prepared by Terry Sohl, Research Physical Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, frequently publishing on topics of land usage, ecology, cartography, climatology, and geography, including biogeography.  As Terry Sohl’s range map shows, this wetland bird is a permanent resident of America’s West and Southwest (west of the Mississippi River), a breeding resident of America’s northern prairie states, a nonbreeding resident of America’s Southeast and East Coast states, and a migrant in some parts of Appalachian Mountain range zones.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant ©Oiseaux-Tom Grey

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant ©Oiseaux-Tom Grey

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant.

So what do American Coots like to eat?

Mostly duckweeds and other wetland emergent plants (especially seeds and roots), lacustrine algae, small mollusks (like snails), little fish, tadpoles, and wee crustaceans, as well as a mix of aquatic bugs.  [See, accord, Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), pages 134-135.]

American Coot ©iytimg

American Coot ©iytimg

But American Coots are not the only common bird dominated by black plumage. Consider the common crow, or the raven  —  both of which belong to another group of “C birds”:  CORVIDS, an amazingly intelligent group of crow-like songbirds, including the likes of crows, ravens, jackdaws, rooks, choughs, jays, treepies, magpies, and nutcrackers.

For  a few examples, consider that Lars Jonsson’s BIRDS OF EUROPE (Princeton University Press, 1993), pages 487-495, includes the following corvids of Europe:  Siberian Jay, Eurasian Jay, Spotted Nutcracker, Eurasian Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Alpine Chough, Red-billed Chough, Jackdaw, Common Raven, Brown-necked Raven, Fan-tailed Raven Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, and Rook.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) pair perching on wooden fence ©BBCI Mike Wilkes

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) ©BBCI Mike Wilkes

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) pair, perching on wooden fence

In North America we can expect to find corvids quite terrific, ranging from the Atlantic to the Pacific:  American crow, Northwestern Crow, Common Raven (including the subspecies “Western Raven”), Green Jay, Blue Jay, Steller’s jay, various scrub jays, Grey Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Yellow-billed Magpie, Yucatan Jay, Pinyon Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, and more!

For general information on corvids, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles: “Corvidae — Crows, Jay”, listing more corvids that you or I will ever witness in this lifetime!  —  as well as Lee’s Birds of the Bible – Raven I, Lee’s Birds of the Bible – Raven II, and Lee’s  Birds of the Bible – Raven III.

Corvid Chart - Differences Between Types of Corvids ©Autodidactintheattic

Corvid Chart – Differences Between Types of Corvids ©Autodidactintheattic

For some world history-linked appreciation of corvids (such as ravens, jackdaws, and magpies), see also 5 of my earlier articles:

A Diet of Jackdaws and Ravens” [posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/09/16/a-diet-of-jackdaws-and-ravens/ ]; and

Northern Raven and Peregrine Falcon: Two Birds Supporting the Manx Coat of Arms; and

Steller’s Jay:  A Lesson in Choosing What is Valuable; and

Flag That Bird Part 5, featuring the Australian Magpie; and

Providential Planting:  The Pinyon Jay”, CREATION EX NIHILO, 19(3):24-25, summer AD1997.

Of course, many books could be  —  and, in fact, have been  —  written about  corvid birds.  But this article is already long enough.

Alpine Chough, in snowy French Alps ©Static1-Philip Braude

Alpine Chough  ©Static1-Philip Braude

Alpine Chough, in snowy French Alps

So, God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “D“ birds – such as Dippers, Doves, and Ducks (including Dabblers and Divers).  So stay tuned!    ><> JJSJ

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Lee’s Addition:

American Coot showing feet by Lee LPkr

American Coot showing feet by Lee Lake Parker

Like Dr. Jim’s article above, I have also been fascinated by the feet of the American Coot. See Birdwatching Term – Lobed Feet and  Birdwatching – American Coot where I have a video of one walking down to the shore. He almost steps on his own feet.

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“C” is for Cardinal and Cormorant: “C” Birds, Part 1

“C” is for Cardinal and Cormorant: “C” Birds, Part 1

By James J. S. Johnson

Northern Cardinal M-F ©Billraker

Northern Cardinal M-F ©Billraker

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) male & female

C” is for as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow) — plus many other birds with names that begin with the letter C !

This blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “C”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited by Psalm 119:17-24)   –   then followed by specific information on Cardinals, Cormorant, and Cranes..  In particular, this article will feature the Northern Cardinal, also known as the Redbird (Cardinalis cardinalis), and the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

DC Cormoraant w fish

Double-crested Cormorant with Fish ©R. Curtis

THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH

As noted in the earlier article on “A birds” – titled “A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1” and “A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2” “B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1” and “B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 2” – using the alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  In this serial study’s lesson, the third octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:17-24), each sentence starts with GIMEL, the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English “G”.

GIMEL ©I.Ytimg

GIMEL ©I.Ytimg

So, because GIMEL is the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:7-24) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

17Transact/bear up [gemōl] with thy servant, that I may live, and keep Thy word.

18 Roll back Thou [gal] mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.

19 A stranger [gêr], I am, in the earth; hide not Thy commandments from me.

20 Has been broken [gârsâh], my soul, for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times.

21 Thou hast rebuked [gâ‘artâ] the proud, who are cursed, who do err from Thy commandments.

22 Roll back [gal], from me, reproach and contempt, for I have kept Thy testimonies.

23 Also [gam], princes did sit and speak against me, but Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes.

24 Also [gam], Thy testimonies are my delight and my counselors.

Open Bible with Pen for Studying ©WikiC

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using terms like “the law of the LORD” (and “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.).  In Psalm 119:9-16 these terms are used, to denote God’s revealed truth to mankind: “Thy Word” (3x), “Thy commandments”, “Thy statutes”, ”Thy precepts”, Thy “judgments”, and “Thy testimonies”.

Journeying with God's Word ©slideplayer_com

Journeying with God’s Word ©slideplayer_com

The Hebrew letter GIMEL means “camel” (primarily as a vehicle for transport, such as for travel, i.e., bearing a rider and/or providing a transfer, from one place to another – so a secondary connotation is that which results from a transfer, such as the outcome of a transaction or some kind of personal dealings.  Accordingly, Psalm 119:17-24 illustrates how God’s Word is the facilitating vehicle that carries God’s servant unto God’s intended outcomes in life (and to God Himself), somewhat like the way that John the Baptist (who wore camel-hair garments) pointed people to the Lord Jesus Christ, informationally conveying them to Jesus as the true Lamb of God Who came to remove our sin (John 1:29).

In Verse 17 (of Psalm 119), God’s Word is recognized as facilitating the psalmist’s goals of living and keeping God’s Word (Psalm 119:105 & 119:129).

In Verse 18, the psalmist recognizes that God Himself must enable our “eyes” to see, with comprehension, the truths that are contained within God’s Word – because different parts of God’s Word are required in order to provide enlightenment about the meaning and value of other parts of God’s Word (1st Corinthians 2:13; John 17:17).

In Verse 19, the psalmist understands that, in this earthly life, he sojourns as a pilgrim-like stranger “passing through”, so He needs to use God’s Word as the authority for what to do during this journey (as the psalmist treks through a strange land where he does not permanently belong), because this temporal world and its institutions are not the ultimate affiliation or fealty that defines the psalmist’s allegiance or belonging (Philippians 3:20).

In Verse 20, the psalmist’s soul is broken in its effort to be attached to God’s great doings, yet only God’s Word can equip us for appreciating and comprehending God’s providential program and judgments in the world.

In Verse 21, the psalmist reflects on how God rebukes the proud, who are cursed by and for their refusal to respect God’s Word – in effect, God has provided His Word in such a way that it delivers judgments for rejecting its truth (Romans 1:18-28).

In Verse 22, the psalmist appreciates his need for God to secure his ability to keep and care for God’s testimonies, and it is the Scriptures that enable us to break out of the world’s opposition, so that a worthwhile life of honoring God (and His Word) can be accomplished (Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 101:3).

Verse 23, extends the thought of the previous verse, using political powerfully foes as examples of how the psalmist needs protection from the world’s opposition, and how immersing one’s thoughts and attitudes with Scripture’s truth is the proper “logistic” for avoiding failure amidst such opposition (Joshua 1:7-9).

Verse 24, likewise, extends the thought of the previous verse, noting that meditating upon God’s Word is the best counsel for living.  In other words, living life according to God’s Word is like taking a reliable camel ride that transmits us unto a desirable destination – the journey is a good ride and the outcome is a happy ending.  In sum, Scripture-facilitated living is the best way to go through life!

Camel Riders ©Travelnt.com

Camel Riders ©Travelnt.com

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of GIMEL verses (Psalm 119:17-24), that we are designed to rely upon the truth and values of the holy Scriptures, as we journey through life, as if God’s Word was a transportation vehicle (or camel) that bears us up and delivers us to a good and proper outcome in life. Ultimately, of course, God’s Word transports, in our thinking unto God Himself, Who is our ultimate destination, our everlasting Home – see “Why We Want to Go Home”, as we learn from Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.

ethiorthodoxyouth.files.wordpress.com-bible

Bible ©Ethiorthodoxyouth

Now back to the “C” birds, beginning with cardinals.  These birds are visually distinctive, the male of which is almost entirely crimson-red, accented by a black “face-mask” contrasting with a thick reddish bill.

“The [male] cardinal (7¾ in. [in length]) is the only eastern red bird with a crest.  The heavy red bill, with black at its base, is a good field [identification] mark.  The light brown [sometimes tinted a golden mustard shade of tan] female has the [red-tinged] crest and red bill, but little red on the body [with most of her red feathers highlighting her wings and tail plumage].  Young [cardinals] have dusky bills.  Cardinals are common in shrubbery, hedgerows, and wood margins [i.e., forest edges].  In recent years [as of AD1987] the cardinal has gradually spread [its residential range] northward.  The [somewhat similar-looking] Pyrrhuloxia (7½ in.) of the Southwest [a/k/a “desert cardinal”] is mostly gray with red face, crest, breast, and tail, and the general cardinal shape [and is also distinguishable by its golden-yellow bill].”

[Quoting Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), page 104.]

Northern Cardinal Male ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Male ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Female ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Female ©WikiC

In particular, this article looks at the Northern Cardinal, which was previously known as the Virginia Cardinal (Cardinalis virginianus), a fitting name for the state bird of Virginia.  (In fact, the Redbird is also the official state bird of North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia – making the redbird the official bird of 7 states, more than any other American bird.)

Cardinal Country Stamps

[government-issues postage stamp images are public domain]

The cardinal is also appreciated outside of America, as is demonstrated by postage stamps of other countries, such as Belize (f/k/a British Honduras), Bermuda, and Mexico.

In a previous article, about a year ago (March 12th of AD2015), an artificial “cardinal” was featured, in  lesson about what it means to make “selections”   —   see “How Can a Mechanical ‘Cardinal’ Make ‘Selections’?.  As that article demonstrated, the notion of so-called “natural selection” is an example of bait-and-switch terminology, serving as a cloak for science fiction (1st Timothy 6:20).

Now, however, a few real facts  —  about real cardinals  —  will be reviewed.

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is widely spread, range-wise, across most of North America, covering the eastern half of America, into Texas, plus most of Mexico.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the Northern Cardinal is a permanent resident in the wide range cardinals inhabits, so green fields during spring and summer, as well as snow-covered fields (during winter), seasonally serve as a contrasting backdrop for the bright red hue of male cardinals.  Earth-toned females too are often seen, year-round, where they live.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

“The Cardinal is a favorite bird of many people and it’s easy to see why.  The brilliant scarlet plumage of the male and the subtle [earth-tone] shades of the female, combined with their clear melodic song, make them enjoyable to watch in any season.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Media-cache

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Media-cache

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Photoshelter

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Photoshelter

So what do Northern Cardinals like to eat?  Mostly seeds (including grains, such as corn, oats, and sunflower seeds) and fruits (especially berries). The seeds of what humans call “weeds” are a delightful contribution to a cardinal’s diet. Also, cardinals will eat many kinds of insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and cicada “locusts”.  Even snails are sometimes eaten by redbirds.

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Firstlighttours

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Firstlighttours

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Wunderground

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Wunderground

Socially speaking, cardinals are monogamous – they mate for life, living together year-round.

“At your [bird] feeder you may see mate-feeding, a highlight of the relationship between the pair.  In this the male picks up a bit of food, hops over to the female, and the two momentarily touch beaks as she takes the food.  If you have a pair mate-feeding at your feeder, they are likely to nest in the area.  The nest is not hard to find …and once you know where it is, you will be able to watch mate-feeding continue at the nest through the incubation phase.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Sometimes they sing together, as they prepare for life in a new nest!  The male finds and delivers ingredients for the new nest; the female does most of the nest assembly work.  Most incubation of their eggs is done by the mother cardinal, yet sometimes the father will incubate the eggs while Mama takes an off-the-nest break.

“Male and female Cardinals sing equally well, a fact not generally known by those used to the widespread assumption that only male birds sing.  Song is an important coordinating behavior in the life of the Cardinal.  Cardinal song consists of many different phrases.  In countersinging, one bird will sing one phrase several times and then the other will match it.  Then the leader will sing a new phrase and the other will again match it.  This type of countersinging that involves copying phrases functions to synchronize and unify members of a pair; and when given between males, helps settle territorial disputes.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Northern_cardinal M-F in winter storm ©

Northern_cardinal M-F in winter storm ©

Now for another “C bird”:  Cormorants, a group of coast-water birds, typically black (or greyish-black), and known for catching and eating fish – and sometimes even for being trained by innovative humans, to catch fish for human masters!

Chinese man with 2 cormorant trained to catch and deliver fish

[ see also youtube of Cormorant Fishing in China,

For general information on cormorants, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles: “Birds of the Bible — Cormorants”, as well as Birds of the Bible – Cormorant, as well as Birds of the Bible – Cormorant II.

Double-crested Cormorants are sometimes called “white-crested cormorants”, due to the white plumage they acquire during breeding season (see below).

Double-crested Cormorant ©WikiC

Double-crested Cormorant – During Breeding Season ©WikiC

As Lee Dusing has already observed, cormorants and shags are really part of the same avian kind, some of which have crests and some of which don’t   —  so, does that mean the latter category of cormorants are “crestfallen”? :)

Cormorants are social creatures – they congregate together.  Regarding the Double-crested Cormorant in particular, see the group photo (from Danspix), shown below  —  perhaps it was a family reunion?

Cormorants (and “shags”) are variously distributed, around the world, yet their ranges usually concentrate at or near coastal seawaters, or sometimes near freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, and rivers). They usually fly close to the water’s surface, using steady wingbeats.  After plunging (diving) into seawater, while fishing, they protect their feathers by spreading out their wings, while resting, to accelerate air-drying.  In this article, however, the piscivorous “family” of cormorants is represented by the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).  Besdies fish, cormorants eat amphibians and crustaceans, underwater.  A mated pair work together to build their nest, incubate eggs, and raise their hatching young. [See Oliver L. Austin, Jr. & Arthur Singer, Families of Birds (Racine, Western Publishing Company, 1971), page 31.]

The Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is widely spread, range-wise, across North America.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the Double-crested Cormorant is a migratory bird, so its range differs depending upon the season of the year.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his range maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

Of course, other birds (such as the American Coot!) have names that start with “C” – but this article is already long enough.  God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “C“ birds – perhaps a couple of these: Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, or Corvids (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!    ><> JJSJ

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“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2

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“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part 2

“B” is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part  2

James J. S. Johnson

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) ©StateSymbols

BOBWHITE QUAIL (Colinus virginianus)

In this series the “B” birds began (in Part 1) with Bluebird and Bittern. 

In this Part 2 the “B” birds will continue with Bobwhite Quail and Buteo Hawks.

Now for Bobwhite, i.e., the Bobwhite Quail — and the relevance of 1st Samuel 26:20 will be noted below.

Bobwhite is the name of a bird belonging to the New World quail family.  Other members of that quail family include the Yucatan (Black-throated) Bobwhite, the Crested Bobwhite, and the Spot-bellied Bobwhite.

Northern Bobwhite

The Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus), a/k/a Northern Bobwhite and Virginia Quail, is a “New World quail”, meaning that it belongs to the group of pheasant/grouse/partridge/quail-like ground-fowl that habituate parts of North America.  In particular, the Northern Bobwhite is the only small native galliform (i.e., chicken-like ground-fowl) in the eastern region of North America.

The name “bobwhite” is supposed to represent this quail’s terse two-syllable whistle-call.  The Bobwhite’s call has a lower (and slower) first syllable, followed by a sharply projected (and quicker) “whhht”.  One variety of the Northern Bobwhite, known for habituating Virginia, was formerly called the “Virginia Partridge” (e.g., by ornithologist John James Audubon) – that local variety now being called Colinus virginianus virginianus (identified by Linnaeus in AD1758).

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Virginia Partridge (under attack by diving hawk) depicted by John James Audubon (Public Domain)

Bobwhite Quail, a/k/a Virginia Quail (and a/k/a Northern Bobwhite), are quail.  Accordingly, it is unsurprising to learn that they hybridize with other quail – reports indicate successful hybridizations with Blue Quail (Coturnix adansonii), Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii), California Quail (Callipepla californica), and Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus).

The ground-fowl lifestyle of this grouse-like ground-fowl is comparable to the Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca) of which Israel’s king David once wrote:

Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.  (1st Samuel 26:20).

(See “Rock Partridges: Lessons about Hunting and Hatching”, citing 1st Samuel 26:20).

Now for the last category of “B” birds, the Buteo hawks. 

So what are the most prominent characteristics of buteo hawks?  Describing the birds of prey we call Buteo Hawks (a/k/a “buzzard hawks”), Roger Tory Peterson says:  “Large, thick-set hawks, with broad wings and wide, rounded tails.  Buteos habitually soar high in wide circles”, taking advantage of thermal air currents to lift their heavy bodies. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), page 174.]  The different sexes often look similar, yet the female buteo is typically larger than her male counterpart.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Buteo hawks, as a category or raptors, are routinely contrasted with the Accipiter hawks (a/k/a “bird hawks”) that were described in the previous article on A” birds (see “A” for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2, featuring Cooper’s hawk as the representative accipiter).  Hawk-like raptor birds include kites, falcons (including kestrels), harriers, eagles, Old World buzzards, vultures, osprey, and the exotic Secretary Bird.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) ©WikiC

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo, of Eurasia)

The paradigmatic buteo, in Europe, would be the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo).  However, that hawk has non-artificial range in the Western Hemisphere, so the Common Buzzard is not “common” to American birders.  Besides the Common Buzzard, there are many buteo hawks around the world, such as the Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), Grey Hawk (Buteo plagiatus), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicas), Himalayan Buzzard (Buteo burmanicus), Cape Verde Buzzard (Buteo bannermani), Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus), and many more. For this article, however, to represent the entire group of buteos, one buteo will be reviewed, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) of North America.

RED-TAILED HAWK  (Buteo jamaicensis).

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ©WikiC

The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is described by ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray as follows: “The most abundant, widespread, and familiar hawk of he West, the Red-tailed Hawk resides year-round in Colorado [and elsewhere].  Adult birds are readily identified by their rusty-red tail[s].  Dark bars along the undersides of the leading edge of the outstretched wings, near the shoulder, are also characteristic.  We often see redtails perched on power [utility] poles or soaring in the air on broad wings, carving slow, wide arcs.  The redtail’s dramatic call fits its image as a western icon.  The down-slurred scream—Keeeer!—is often heard as a background sound in movies and television shows.”  [Quoting Mary Taylor Gray, THE GUIDE TO COLORADO BIRDS (Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers, 1998), page 66.]

Gray’s observation – that the Red-tailed Hawk is the common buteo of America’s Great West – is illustrated by my own birding experience, even 20 years ago! – having seen redtails during AD1996 in places as divergent as Montana (eastern side of Glacier National Park, July 2nd AD1996) and South Texas (Rockport-Fulton shoreline, Aransas Bay region, March 10th AD1996).

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Bee-eaters From Pinterest

Of course, other “B” birds (such as the colorful and gregarious bee-eaters, shown above – photograph taken from Lee Dusing’s “Fellowship”,  exhibit our alphabet’s second letter – but this article is already long enough.  God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “C“ birds – such as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!    > JJSJ

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“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Birds, Part 2

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“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

“B” is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

James J. S. Johnson

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) ©Elaine R Wilson WikiC

“B” is for Bluebird, Bittern, Bobwhite Quail, and Buteo hawks (which include Old World “buzzards”, a/k/a “buzzard hawks”) – plus Buffleheads, Babblers, Barbets, Becards, Bowerbirds, Bulbuls, Bullfinches, Berrypeckers, Brushturkeys, Birds-of-paradise, Bushshrikes, Bustards, Bushtits, Broadbills, Boobies, Bee-eaters, Buttonquail, Buntings (including Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Snow Bunting, Lark Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, etc.), and various Blackbirds (including Bobolink and Brewer’s Blackbird, all of which blackbirds this series will treat as “icterids”), and a few other birds.

This blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “B”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited by Psalm 119:9-16)   –   then followed by specific information on Bluebirds, Bitterns, Bobwhite Quail, and Buteo hawks.  In particular, this article will feature the Mountain Bluebird (Sialis currucoides) as a representative bluebird; the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) as a representative bittern; the Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus); and the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as a representative buteo hawk.

In this Part 1, of the “B” birds, the Bluebird and Bittern are reviewed.  (Part 2, God willing, will continue with Bobwhite and Buteo.)

THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH

As noted in the earlier article on “A birds” – titled “A” is for Avocet, Albatross, Accipiter, and Alcid” [posted at leesbird.com ,  Deo volente] – using the alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  Here are the second 8 verses in Psalm 119, each sentence of which starts with BETH  [a consonant like our “B”, whenever it does to immediately follow a vowel sound, otherwise its consonantal sound is like our “V”, where it is sometimes transliterated as “bh”].

So, because BETH is the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:9-16) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

With-what [bammeh] shall a young man cleanse his way? — by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.

10 In-all [becâl] my heart have I sought thee; O, let me not wander from Thy commandments.

11 In-my-heart [belibbî] Thy Word have I hid, that I might not sin against thee.

12 Blessed [berûk] art Thou, O Lord; teach me Thy statutes.

13 In-my-lips [bisephâtêi] have I declared all the judgments of Thy mouth.

14 In-the-way [bederek] of Thy testimonies I have rejoiced, as much as in all riches.

15 In-Thy-precepts [bephiqqūdekâ] I will meditate, and have respect unto thy ways.

16 In-Thy-statutes [bechūqqōtkâ] I will delight myself; I will not forget Thy Word.

 

Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using terms like “the law of the LORD” (and “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.).  In Psalm 119:9-16 these terms are used, to denote God’s revealed truth to mankind: “Thy Word” (3x), “Thy commandments”, “Thy statutes”, ”Thy precepts”, Thy “judgments”, and “Thy testimonies”.

The Hebrew letter BETH means “house” (primarily as a building, such as a physical home, yet secondarily as a household, i.e., that family who lives within a house).  Accordingly, we see in Psalm 119:9-16 that God’s Word is the protective framework within which we should live our lives.  In particular, it is within God’s Word where we clean ourselves (verse 9); it is God’s Word wherefrom we should not wander (verse 10); it is in God’s Word, better than any physical shelter, wherein we take refuge from sin (verse 11); it is in God’s laws that we need to live and learn in (verse 12); because our lips are like the “gates” of our lives, it is God’s judgments that outline the gatekeeping boundaries for “where” we live our lives (verse 13); it is God’s testimonies, of which the Scripture is the great treasure-room, that we should rejoice in (verse 14); and better, than any mansion’s relaxing reading-room is God’s Word, with its laws as a restorative “room” for delightfully meditating “in” (verses 15 & 16).

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of BETH verses (Psalm 119:9-16), that we are designed to live in God’s truth (which we know best form God’s written Word), as if it was a “house”.  In other words, God’s truth should dwell in us (Psalm 119:11), just as we should dwell in God’s truth (John 4:21-24 & 14:17; 2nd John 1:2).  This complements the prior octet – the ALEPH verses (Psalm 119:1-8), which emphasized that God’s truth is mighty (Hebrews 4:12) as a powerful “ox”.

Ultimately, of course, God’s Word draws us (through the Lord Jesus Christ – see John 14:2-6) unto God Himself, Who should be our everlasting Home – see “Why We Want to Go Home”, as we learn from Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.

Open Bible with Pen for Studying ©WikiC

Now back to the “B” birds, beginning with bluebirds.

In a previous article, late last year, the Bluebird was featured, after it was observed during a trip to attend a Christmas lutefisk banquet   —   see “Bluebirds of Happiness, Plus Enjoying a Lutefisk Banquet”.

Since attention has, thus, already been given to the Eastern Bluebird (with brief mention of how to distinguish it from the similar-yet-not-identical-looking Western Bluebird), this review will feature the Mountain Bluebird, a bluebird often seen in the forests and fields of Colorado, as well as in other parts of America’s Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

The male of the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucides), unlike the Eastern Bluebird and the Western Bluebird, has feathers of bright blue (peacock-to-turquoise blue) above and light-blue-fading-to-white beneath.  The female has less conspicuous coloring; her plumage is a blend of blue and Confederate grey (sometimes with brownish-grey blended in), atop, with a whitish underside. This bluebird ranges almost entirely in and west of the Rocky Mountains. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), pages 278-279 & Map 303.  See also Tom J. Ulrich, BIRDS OF THE NORTHERN ROCKIES (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing, 1994), pages 122-123; Mary Taylor Gray, WATCHABLE BIRDS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing, 1992), page 138-139.]

Mountain Bluebird, male (R) & female (L) ©Mickey Barnes / from Birds & Blooms

Mountain Bluebird, male (R) & female (L) ©Mickey Barnes / from Birds & Blooms

Says ornithologist Mary Taylor Gray, “As soon as the young [Mountain Bluebirds] are able to leave the nest, [they] flock together and head for the high mountains, fluttering in waves of blue up mountain slopes and onto the alpine tundra.  Mountain bluebirds differ from other bluebirds by their preference for more open habitat.  Mountain blue birds nest in holes in trees or other structures, using either natural cavities or nests excavated by woodpeckers.  Removal of dead timber in forests and replacement of wood fence posts with metal has reduced the nesting sites for [these] bluebirds, who must compete with other bird species—sparrows, flickers, starlings—for nest cavities. …  Primarily an insect-eater, the mountain bluebird may launch suddenly from its perch to pluck a flying insect from the air, or hunt by watching for prey on the ground as it flies, hovering when it spots something, then dropping down to grab a meal.”  [Quoting Gray, WATCHABLE BIRDS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS, page 138.]

Now for another “B bird:  Bitterns, a group of mostly piscivorous (fish-eating) heron-like wading birds of wetland habitats.

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris, a/k/a Great Bittern) ©WikiC

Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris, a/k/a Great Bittern) ©WikiC

For general information on bitterns, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles:  “Bird of the Bible – Bittern” —  and “Birds of the Bible – Bitterns II”.  Regarding the American Bittern in particular, see Lee’s “Birds of the Bible – American Bittern”, including close-up photographs of the American Bittern, taken by Lee at the Circle B Bar Ranch Reserve (n/k/a Circle B Bar Reserve), an amazing venue for birdwatching in Lakeland, Florida.  To learn about this birding resource, see Southwest Florida Water Management  District’s website.

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Jim Fenton

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) by Jim Fenton / from Leesbird.com

There are several bitterns – such as the Least Bittern shown above, as well as the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus), Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), Black-backed Bittern (Ixobrychus dubius), Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus), and others.  In this article, however, this “family” of wetland waders will be represented by the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).

In addition to what Lee Dusing has already reported (see links shown above) the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) has been the subject of many (other) ornithological studies.

The American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) is widely spread, range-wise, across North America.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the American Bittern is a migratory bird, so its range differs depending upon the season of the year.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his range maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

So watch carefully, in wetland habitats, for bitterns – but you are more likely to hear one!

Meanwhile, in Part 2 of (of the “B” birds), God willing, the Bobwhite and Buteo hawks will be reviewed.  Thereafter, D.v., this alphabetic series will continue with some “C“ birds – such as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!

<> JJSJ

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“A” is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2