Make way for ducklings

Wood Ducks

Adult Wood Ducks

One of my favorite neighbors has four little girls that are close in age. When they were little, they followed her around the yard like baby ducks following their mother. I still call them the Little Ducks. I was surprised to learn that there was more to babies following their mothers than I thought.


The phenomenon of following the mother is called “imprinting,” a specialized learning experience that plays an important part in the survival of young ducklings and other birds.

There is more to imprinting than I thought.

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A Lesson on Birds of a Feather

Single black and white feather

Black and white feather

Feathers are most important parts of a bird. Only birds have them and although us humans notice them mainly for their beauty, feathers are a marvel of nature. Many scientists would have you believe that they evolved from reptilian scales over millions of years, but I think if you will check out the intricate design and uniqueness of the feather you will have as much trouble swallowing that theory as I do.

What is a feather made of and what does it do for the bird?

Biologically speaking, a feather is an outgrowth of the skin, much like hair in mammals. Like the scales and claws on their feet, and the sheath of the bill, feathers are keratinous or composed mostly of fibrous protein.

They act as insulation for the owner, assist in flying, provide camouflage, help secure a mate, protect against injury and are usually waterproof. There are at least five or six kinds of feathers that have been classified by ornithologists.

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Bubble Bird, Rain Crow or Yellow-billed Cuckoo?

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I have to write to you about the Bubble Bird. I began hearing him and his companions last fall and then around November they disappeared. What drove me to distraction about this bird was that he “sang” at night. The only daytime bird I knew of that sang at night was the Northern Mockingbird. And this song did not come from a Northern Mockingbird or from any of the owls or night birds.

The song reminds me of a slow drip from a faucet in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep. It’s a sort of “bup (silence), bup (silence), bup (silence), lower tone bup, lower tone bup, and one last bup” or a multisyllable cross between a squawk and a definable trill.

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Listen to the Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) in th...

Northern Mockingbird


I have been hearing the beautiful song of our state bird, the Northern Mockingbird lately.  I looked up information on mockingbirds in The Behavior of Texas Birds by Kent Rylander, a person I heard at one of the conferences I attended.

Kent said that the male is the one who sings.  The male’s tireless outpouring of trills, warbles, squawks and scolds recalls the verve of a Rossini overture.  I can’t say I know what a Rossini overture sounds like, but I’m sure it’s classy like the song of the mockingbird.

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