THREE ‘HALLOWEEN-COLOURED’ BIRDS ON ABACO, BAHAMAS


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THREE ‘HALLOWEEN-COLOURED’ BIRDS ON ABACO

Black and orange seem to have become – perhaps always have been – the colours most associated with Halloween. At one time in its history this annual fright-fest was simply ‘Holy Evening’, the one that preceded All Saints’ Day. It was once one of the most significant festivals in the religious calendar. Now it is all broomsticks, spiders, cobwebs, huge grinning fruit, and tiny sweets for small children.

As for the colour-scheme, I suppose black is for the witches, their cats, bats and the night; and orange for fire and pumpkins. Ghosts, being invisible, are beyond the scope of this post. In nature, surprisingly few creatures and plants have a predominantly black and orange livery. Some birds. A salamander of two. A few flowers.  The odd fish. And of course the monarch butterfly.

I spent a small amount of time checking which birds found on Abaco are true Halloween species, though obviously none of my go-to bird books had a ‘scare factor 50’ species entry in the index. I had to allow for some white markings, reasoning that white is not a colour but rather an absence of colour… That left 3 qualifying species (and even then some troublemakers might argue that the precise borderline between orange and yellow is debatable…) and one failed candidate, included only because of the spectacular photograph.

AMERICAN REDSTART

The Redstart Setophaga ruticilla is a species of warbler and a common winter resident on Abaco. They are mostly seen in the coppice and in gardens. They’ll be around right now – watch out for them fanning their tails. The males are black with orange markings; the females have yellow markings instead of orange and are therefore ineligible for this post. Sorry.

American Redstart (m) Abaco (Craig Nash) American Redstart (m) Abaco (Gerlinde Taurer) American Redstart (m) Abaco (Tom Sheley)

BALTIMORE ORIOLE

These Orioles Icterus galbula are rather less common winter visitors. A few are reported most years, but you’d probably only come across one by accident. Many are completely black and orange apart from white wing bars. However, there’s no doubt that others are more of a yellowy-orange.

Baltimore Oriole (pinterest) copyBaltimore Oriole (mdf-wiki)Baltimore Oriole (Brezinski-wiki)

WESTERN SPINDALIS

The handsome, colourful Spindalis zena is one of my favourite birds. Top five. The spindalis is a common permanent resident, and I am determined to make it qualify as a Halloween bird even though (arguably) plenty of its surface area is neither black nor orange. Apologies to purists.

Western Spindalis, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Western Spindalis (m) Abaco (Craig Nash) Western Spindalis (m) Abaco (Gerlinde Taurer)

BOBOLINK (disallowed)

A possible Halloween candidate is the bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus. which is a transient species found from time to time on Abaco as they migrate from north to south (fall) and back again (spring).  Disqualified because it spends so little time in Abaco; and because even my rather lax approach to categorisation recognises that the ‘orange’ is not very orange; and there’s not a great deal of it. Special credit mention, however, to Jim Carroll / Cornell Lab / Macaulay Library for this outstanding image)

No birds were hexed, vexed, tricked or even treated in the making of this post 

Credits: Craig Nash (1, 5), Gerlinde Taurer (2, 6), Tom Sheley (3), Keith Salvesen (4), pinterest, wiki (MDF, Brezinski), Jim Carroll / Cornell / Macaulay, Charmaine Albury (monarch butterfly), Birdorable (cartoon) & an unknown Angry Bird pumpkin carver

BOBOLINKS: MIGRATORY SONGBIRDS OF ABACO & THE BAHAMAS


BOBOLINKS: MIGRATORY SONGBIRDS OF ABACO & THE BAHAMAS

Occasionally vacation plans disrupt the flow in the smoothest of operations. A smear of suntan cream in the well-oiled machinery of a blog. Or a well-oiled operator over-sampling the local produce – wine, in these parts. So it pays to follow the Blue Peter principle of ‘Here’s one I prepared earlier’. Except regrettably I didn’t do it properly and have been struggling to unpick some html on an iPhone. Don’t ever try it. Luckily the ever-resourceful Mrs RH brought an iPad along. Much less fiddly. So I am now able to feature the BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), a small New World blackbird

14 ESSENTIAL BOBOLINK FACTS TO ENTERTAIN YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS

  • Adults weigh about 1 ounce (28 g)
  • The collective name for a group of Bobolinks is a ‘chain’
  • One bird was tracked flying 12,000 miles (19,000 km) in one year
  • A bobolink has been tracked covering 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in one day
  • The birds migrate in flocks, feeding on cultivated grains and rice, which may annoy farmers
  • Despite their flying stamina Bobolinks have rarely been sighted in Europe

  • In South American they are known as “ricebirds”
  • In Jamaica they are sometimes eaten and are called “butterbirds”
  • Bobolinks forage on or near the ground eating seeds and insects.
  • Their breeding habitats are open grassy fields across North America
  • Males are often polygynous, and take their vows shamefully lightly
  • Females lay 5 to 6 eggs in a cup-shaped nest on the ground, hidden in dense vegetation
  • Both parents feed the young, except when the male has some important singing to do (often)
  • Although currently rated “of least concern” their numbers are declining due to loss of habitat

WAYS IN WHICH THE BOBOLINK HAS INSPIRED ARTISTS (despite its unpromising name)

Emily Dickinson wrote several poems about the bird, including “The nicest bird, I always think / Is the tiny Bobolink / To me, it never had occurred / Thus to name a songstrel bird” *

The Bobolink is also mentioned in a song called Evelina, from a musical called “Bloomer Girl” (me neither): “Evelina, won’t ya ever take a shine to that moon? / Evelina, ain’t ya bothered by the Bobolink’s tune?”**

The Bobolink is name-checked by Nabokov; in a poem by Sophia Jewett, An Exile’s Garden (1910); and it has a fly-on part in a film “The Mouse on the Moon”

Finally, a wonderful video showcasing the bubbling song of the bobolink (Credit: Themusicofnature)

* and ** I can’t be sure which of these is made up. Maybe neither. Or both.