BIRDS

Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

A group of male (blue black) and female (brown grey) Brewer's blackbird's bathing in a shallow stream in Big Sur, California, August 2015. The Brewer’s Blackbird is named after American ornithologist and naturalist Thomas Mayo Brewer. A colony may change its nest preference from year to year, building all nests in small bushes one year and in tall trees the next. A group of brewer's blackbirds are collectively known as a "keg" of blackbirds.

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer)

The Marabou Stork is a very large and tall bird with a 2.6 metre wing span, said to be the largest of any living bird. It is so large and heavy that its leg and toe bones are hollow to reduce weight during flight. It has a long, dangling throat sac which is not associated with the ingestion of food; instead it is air-filled and probably used for courtship or breathing at higher altitudes while flying. The naked 18-inch inflatable pink sac is particularly conspicuous during the breeding season.

A voracious appetite means this bird will eat almost anything from carrion, to termites, snakes, adult flamingo and baby crocodiles. This is the only species of stork to eat carrion and will often gather with vultures at a carcass, where it rules the roost, with even the largest vultures giving way to the bad-tempered Marabou Stork. They thrust their heads deep inside carcasses and are very aggressive when feeding. In the Northern Serengheti their diet consists almost exclusively of carrion. Can frequently be found feeding from rubbish dumps near villages. They also gather near grass fires where they can easily catch animals fleeing from the flames.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Herons are small stocky and short-legged compared to other herons. They are handsomely attired in a tri-colour plumage of black, grey and white, with two long plumes on the nape.

Night Herons are unpopular with other herons, which attack the Night Herons on sight. This is because Night Herons are very aggressive and steal eggs and young of other heron colonies. Perhaps it is the harassment from other birds that force Night Herons to come out mainly at night. Slow patient stalkers, they may remain motionless for long periods, standing with their neck tucked in, giving their typical hunched posture.

juvenile Black crowned night Heron waiting for parents to return for feeding, note the speckled brown adolescent plummage.

juvenile night heron being fed by adult, note the two white plumes on the back of the adult's neck

Prey is shaken vigorously until stunned or killed and then juggled about in the beak and swallowed head first. They have strong digestive acids that can dissolve even bones. Their faeces are white and limey because of the dissolved calcium.