Saturday, October 18, 2008
Nothing makes me more angry than humans knowingly subjecting animals to pain, suffering and/or an agonising death. This week someone took it upon themselves to poison the pigeons in our local park. As the museum where I work is located in the park and I am the Manager of Vertebrate Collections, if there is ever an animal emergency I am the person who is called. Yesterday there were five separate pigeons bought into the Museum by concerned people who had found them writhing and flailing around on the ground. Most of them were too far gone to be able to help and died within a few minutes of them arriving. A couple of them were taken to the local bird rescue to have their systems flushed through with a charcoal solution in an attempt to remove some of the toxins.
We all have our own opinions about city pigeons and I am not about to get into that but whoever did this surely must have failed to see the bigger picture. The Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus is a state listed endangered species that was at one point extirpated from the region. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a few people it has been successfully reintroduced and there is now a healthy population living and breeding in the city of Chicago, their primary food source being - pigeons! We also have Swanson's Hawks Buteo swainsoni, another state listed endangered species, living in the neighbourhood, feeding largely on pigeons, and several Coopers Hawks Accipiter cooperii that hunt birds in the park too. If any of these raptors were to pick up a poisoned pigeon it would doubtless poison them too. Not to mention any other scavengers or even someones dog.
Irresponsible behavior like this just makes my blood boil. The pigeon may not be the most glamorous bird out there but surely it has as much right to live and breath on this planet as we do. In my mind they rank up there with the likes of the Grey Squirrel or the Canada Goose, they have learnt to survive and be successful in spite of what humans do!!
Anyway, my rant is now over so on a lighter note, I saw this charming little fellow when I was walking in the park this morning.
He is a Hooded Merganser Lophdytes cucullatus and he is a sure sign that the seasons are changing as we only see these delightful little characters during the fall and early winter. Although they are listed as year round residents for this area, they seem to find our close proximity to Lake Michigan a little too chilly in the depths of winter and so head further inland. The Hooded Merganser finds its prey underwater by sight. The merganser can actually change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. In addition, the nictating membrane (third eyelid) is very transparent and probably acts to protect the eye during swimming, just like a pair of goggles.
The male Wood Ducks Aix sponsa are also looking very handsome at the moment in their full breeding plumage.
Sorry, these aren't the best of shots but being city ducks, whenever I tried to take a photo they swam towards me into the shade of the trees at the waters edge! Eventually they realised that I wasn't going to feed them and then became totally disinterested!
Wood Ducks nest in trees and will also readily use nest boxes, so if you are fortunate enough to have land that these charming ducks inhabit, do a bit of research and put up some nesting boxes. There is nothing more appealing than watching a female Wood Duck with her flock of tiny ducklings in tow.
Photo Credits - CJT
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