Thursday, December 2, 2010

oh, yeah, answer to Phriday photo quiz(es)... =)


So, the birds with the long beaks curving slightly upward, and pink at the base, are marbled godwits, Limosa fedoa. The birdies with the cool dark stripes across their eyes, head, and downward pointing bill ("decurved") are one of my favorites, whimbrels, Numenius phaeopus. LOVE these guys, and seeing them last week brought me back to my shorebird monitoring days.

And love the pretty black sand that La Jolla Shores has, making the coolest patterns. Yum.

These are the marvelous birds called black skimmers, Rynchops niger. A long-time huge favorite of mine. I've read that they are the only bird species with a longer lower bill than upper (mandible, really), but I thought I'd learned a while back that it was hinged differently than all other birds.

From the folks at cornell: "Uniquely shaped bill long and laterally compressed (knife-like), with the lower mandible extending 2–3 cm beyond the upper, which is hinged and can be freely elevated and clamped shut."

Reading further, this another unusual feature (apparently unique among birds, AGAIN), is their eyes. "Relatively large pupil which constricts to a narrow vertical slit, a unique feature among birds; possibly an adaptation to protect the retina from bright light or to enhance vision for nocturnal feeding."

And their wings are so dark and long and sleek. AWEsome.

Regardless, if you see them hunting, it's tooo cool. They fly low over the water, their lower mandible in the water, and they use their sense of touch to detect when a fish is hit, then WHAM, the upper bill slams down, and a meal is had. Apparently they can fish at any time, including dawn, dusk, and at night, 'cause of their use of touch vs. mostly visual cues to find food. AWEsome birds.

And they, like terns, almost always sit so everyone is facing the same direction. Adorable. Super social, chatty creatures, and I didn't get to see them every day in SD, so it was always a treat.

So, there ya have it, the answers.

THANKS TO EVERYONE for your guesses! Nice work!!

xo biobabbler


  1. I love skimmers, such fascinating birds, although I've never seen one in the wild. I think it's neat that the lower mandible starts out being equal in length to the upper as chicks, but gradually grows out as the bird grows.

  2. I remember godwits as "god-what-a-bill" because it is so long, curved upwards (most are downwards) and 2-toned. Can't remember what book that was from but they mnemonic stuck.

  3. Skimmmmmmers! Man i love these birds. It's been a while since I've seen them, but when i worked on the Outer Banks I loved watching them. Cool guys! Hope you have fun in New Orleans!


Cool people write inside rectangles....