61 votes
Accepted

I just saw this bird outside my apartment. Anyone know what it is? (Texas, US)

It is American Woodcock, Scolopax minor. Superbly camouflaged against the leaf litter, the brown-mottled American Woodcock walks slowly along the forest floor, probing the soil with its long bill ...
  • 8,754
40 votes
Accepted

How long before robin no longer needs the nest on my porch?

According to Cornell's All About Birds website, you will have to wait about a month for the nest to be cleared. The egg incubation period is 12–14 days. Following hatching, the nestlings will remain ...
39 votes

I just saw this bird outside my apartment. Anyone know what it is? (Texas, US)

I've found whatbird.com to be pretty good for identifying American birds. Asking it for grey and brown medium-sized birds that are commonly found in Texas gives 14 options, of which the best match is ...
38 votes
Accepted

Do homing pigeons fly straight home or follow certain "highways"?

They have mental maps of landmarks, which they use as well as "compass" cues: ... experienced birds can accurately complete their memorized routes by using landmarks alone. Nevertheless, we also ...
  • 14.1k
36 votes
Accepted

If dinosaurs could have feathers, would they still be reptiles?

Source of information on Biology.SE This answer offers an introduction to phylogeny on the case study of dinosaurs and birds. If you are not at ease with the concept of monophyletic group, you should ...
  • 67.7k
28 votes
Accepted

What is this little owl-like bird?

This looks a lot like a double-barred finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii). Your note about this being an "owl-like" bird is supported by it's less common name, the "owl finch", so named for the dark ring ...
27 votes
Accepted

How can birds disperse seeds when they are able to digest them?

Birds may indeed digest seeds under conditions of rest. It has been postulated that almost all current knowledge on mechanisms of internal seed dispersal has been obtained from experiments with ...
  • 51.5k
26 votes

What kind of skull is this?

It's definitely a bird pelvis (synsacrum). Based on the size (~30 cm), it came from a very large bird. Unfortunately, comparative images of bird pelves are rare on the internet. Some possibilities (...
  • 12.1k
26 votes
Accepted

Are there birds with knees instead of elbows?

The joint you are thinking of is not a knee, nor is it an elbow, instead it is an ankle which is bending the same way as us humans. You can see from the below diagram that the knee - the joint between ...
  • 16k
21 votes
Accepted

How do birds deal with their eyes drying out at high speeds?

Birds have a body part known as the nicitating membrane otherwise known as the "third eyelid". This part has become vestigial in humans, where it remains as the plica semilunaris. This image of a ...
  • 9,364
20 votes
Accepted

Do mantises stalk cicadas?

Yes, mantises hunt cicadas... Mantis eating cicada. Source: Dreamstime. ...and yes, orioles hunt cicadas too... Oriole eating cicada. Source: Bird Ecology Study Group. .., and what may be more ...
  • 51.5k
19 votes
Accepted

Do birds emit infra-red radiation?

Short answer Birds emit infrared. Background Objects with a temperature higher than the background emit detectable infrared (IR). Endothermic (warmblooded) animals keep their body temperatures at ...
  • 51.5k
19 votes

What species of duck is this?

Probably a domestic hybrid of a mallard. From Cornell: If your duck has large patches of white where you didn’t expect it, think domestic duck. Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), which have the ...
18 votes
Accepted

What is the mass of a pigeon tail feather?

I just weighed a pigeon tail feather (~10 cm) long. The mass was 0.05 g. Although all tail feathers are not equal in length (and all pigeons are not equal in size), this is probably a good ...
  • 12.1k
18 votes
Accepted

Is it painful for the hen to lay eggs?

We really don't know - we can't really ask the chicken. At least, it's unlikely it's as painful as it can be with humans. The reason human birth is (or can be) very painful is that the human baby's ...
  • 2,228
18 votes
Accepted

What species is this black, blue and white bird?

That bird is commonly called a magpie. The only species found in Alberta is Pica hudsonia. You can see a reference image on the left and their distribution throughout Canada on the right: [source] ...
  • 17.5k
17 votes

Can anyone identify this bird?

This looks pretty much like a female zebra finch to me (the male have a more prominent feather pattern). See this picture: These birds are not native in Europe, this is correct. But it is always ...
  • 49.4k
17 votes
Accepted

What is this raptor on a building in California?

It is a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). Its breeding range spans eastern North America and along the coast of California and northern to northeastern-central Mexico. Identifying features: ...
  • 8,754
17 votes

What is this feather like bug with no legs?

It is a specialized feather called "down" (like in down pillows, etc.) Down feathers have a rachis that is shorter than their longest barb. They are completely plumulaceous and have a fluffy ...
17 votes

What species is this black, blue and white bird?

It's clearly a magpie, a member of the crow family (Corvidae). There are many magpie species throughout the world, but since you say it's native to Canada, it must be the black-billed magpie (Pica ...
  • 2,068
17 votes
Accepted

What is this bird similar to a seagull but with a forked swift-like tail?

This is one of the numerous species of tern. They are common birds of the seashore and rivers world-wide. The characteristic forked tail and the black cap on the head is what gives it away. It is hard ...
  • 8,063
16 votes
Accepted

The evolutionary process in bird wings, especially with regard to winglets

I looked up winglets so I had context for this answer. I'm interpreting winglets as the vertical tips at the end of airplane wings. If so, then you are correct. The spread primary feathers of soaring ...
16 votes
Accepted

What is this bird called?

It is White breasted Kingfisher also called White throated Kingfisher. Halcyon smyrnensis. Why this is Halcyon smyrnensis? Halcyon kingfishers are mostly large kingfishers with heavy bills. ...
  • 8,754
16 votes
Accepted

What kind of crow is this?

I'd say you guessed correctly. This does appear to be the hooded crow (Corvus cornix). In German, it's called Nebelkrähe (meaning "mist crow"). A Hooded Crow Corvus cornix in the garden of ...
15 votes
Accepted

Can you identify this bird?

This is a Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), which is a heron in its breeding plumage. When not breeding, the bird is white. See the images for comparision: Breeding cattle egret with colored feathers. ...
  • 49.4k
15 votes
Accepted

Why do birds move their heads abruptly?

Most species of birds have 2 foveas, the temporal fovea and the central fovea. temporal fovea, which is like ours in the sense that it looks straight ahead and offers binocular vision (i.e. the ...
15 votes

Can someone identify this bird? It looks like it has a few deformities

It's an anhinga, as@kmm commented. There's nothing wrong with it; it's not deformed in any visible (to me) way. They spread their wings to dry, as they are darting birds that do not float on the ...
15 votes
Accepted

What bird is this?

That is a red whiskered bulbul. (image from the Wikipedia article) The crest isn't as prominent in your pictures - maybe it has just been to the barbers.
15 votes
Accepted

Where do birds and squirrels go to die?

A major cause of squirrel death is predation: Survival and mortality of the Arizona gray squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis) Causes of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) mortality in England You won't see ...
  • 14.1k
15 votes
Accepted

Owl identification. Winter in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada

That is a nice picture of a Barred Owl. The heavy well-separated streaks on the breast and eye color (dark vs. yellow) are both distinctly different from that of the Great Gray. The markings in the ...
  • 5,502

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible