Bird Families

Eastern white-eyed fledgling

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In the photo, the female of the purple sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) drinks almond nectar. It's October outside, which means almonds are blooming in the Himalayas in northern India.

Trees in spring pale pink foam are familiar to someone from the Caucasus, someone from the Crimea or the Mediterranean countries. “Almond decorated with Easter folly. ", As Mandelstam wrote about him in one of his most terrible poems. The fact that almonds do not bloom in April or February, but in the midst of autumn, is surprising in itself. Most of the local Himalayan trees stand in fruit, attracting a variety of birds - and nuthatches, stocking up for the winter, and jays, pulling acorns, and parrots, and woodpeckers. Autumn and fall in India. But almonds not only still bloom, but also find ways to attract the attention of birds.

In winter and early spring, both in India and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, many flowers appear, designed for pollination by birds. These are representatives of the local flora, as well as various exotics brought by man - for example, from Australia, like callistemon (Callistemon sp.) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.). About feeding wintering starlings and other birds with bombax nectar (Bombax ceiba) I told in the picture of the day "Indian fresco". Ornithophilia allows plants to find pollinators during the cold season when many insects are inactive. In addition, birds are able to carry pollen over a greater distance than insects can, which leads to the exchange of genetic material between plants from different islands or from neighboring mountain valleys. Ornithophilous plants do not bloom all year round. But birds who are accustomed to feeding on nectar do not completely switch to other feeds.

In October 2017, I observed birds in India, in the state of Uttarakhand - in the vicinity of the city of Haridwara, at sea level, and also at an altitude of 2000 m in the city of Massouri. Plants that traditionally attract birds did not bloom, and purple sunbirds extracted nectar from the tiny but numerous flowers of some weed of the family Labiatae, which grew on abandoned wastelands on the outskirts of the city.

In the mountains, the situation turned out to be more curious: there local birds in search of tasty nectar visited exactly almond flowers. In the crowns, boiling with pink foam, in addition to the sunbirds, barnacle bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenis) and oriental white-eyed (Zosterops palpebrosus). All of them plunged their beaks into the core of a delicate corolla, so there was no doubt that it was the sweet liquid that attracted them, and not the insects or buds that bloom.

Eastern white-eyed (Zosterops palpebrosus) reaches for the nectar on the almond branch. Photo by Pavel Kvartalnov, Massouri, India, October 2017

Among these nectar lovers, a red-headed mug (Aegithalos iredalei), who was also interested in the free treat. Bulbul and white-eyed women were especially numerous, they visited the crowns with whole companies.

The barnacle bulbul feeds on almond nectar. Photo by Pavel Kvartalnov, Massouri, India, October 2017

There are few data on visits of flowering almond trees by birds from other regions, however, according to observations in Malta, almond nectar there is of interest to songbirds of at least four species: the black-chested sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Mediterranean warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), black-headed warbler (Sylvia atricapilla) and chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). The author of these observations notes that almonds attract birds both by the amount of nectar and its availability. Not only warblers with their thin beaks, but also sparrows are able to drink almond nectar without destroying the ovary. Moreover, many sterile flowers can be found on trees - they do not form fruit, but they restore nectar reserves even after they have been damaged by sparrows.

White-cheeked bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenis) in the crown of almonds after feeding: it can be seen that the base of the beak is stained with pollen. Photo by Pavel Kvartalnov, Massouri, India, October 2017

A widespread but little-known phenomenon is behind the sightings in India and Malta. Special studies show that the flowers of many plants of the northern flora also attract the attention of birds. Maple, different types of willow, and even oak and birch are also noted for providing birds with nectar or pollen. Another thing is that in these cases the role of birds in pollination has not yet been proven. Are birds just stealing nectar and pollen for other pollinators without giving anything in return? There is no answer to this question yet.

Photo © Pavel Kvartalnov, Massouri, India, October 2017.

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Eastern White-Eye / Zosterops palpebrosus

White eyes
(Zosteropidae)

White-eyed - a family of birds of the order of passerines. It includes about 12 genera and 85 species of very similar birds, and only narrow specialists can distinguish many of them. In Russia, in the Far East, there are two species: brown-eyed and Japanese white-eyed.

White-eyed are small birds (from 10 to 15 cm). They are characterized by white plumage around the eyes, which is reflected in their name. White-eyed moths have rounded wings, short legs and a short sharp beak. The tail is straight or slightly notched. Most species have olive or gray-brown plumage on the upper side. On the underside, they are yellow, white or gray. Some species are smaller and larger. Males and females practically do not differ in appearance from each other.

Representatives of this family are distributed in Indonesia, New Zealand, Japan, Africa and some islands in the Pacific Ocean. Their biosphere is primarily forest areas and gardens. In tropical forests, white-eyed beetles occupy the same ecological niche that in forests of temperate latitudes belongs to warblers. These are the most numerous small arboreal insectivorous birds of the Old World. Unlike warblers, which often make nests on the ground, white-eyed moths have completely moved into tree crowns and build nests in the forks of branches. White-eyed animals feed on insects, nectar, berries and fruits. With their forked tongues, they suck the nectar from the flowers. At the same time, they stick their short beak deep into the flower or drill it from the side. In some countries, they are considered dangerous for the harvest of berries and fruits and are persecuted in every possible way. The Australian white-eye was especially unlucky - at the beginning of the 20th century, 20 thousand birds were exterminated in the vicinity of the city of Perth. However, the overwhelming majority of species do not stray into large flocks, they prefer to stay alone or in pairs, and therefore birds cannot cause serious damage to gardens.

Nests are built on forks of branches or in bushes, the tray is lined with fluff and animal hair. In clutch there are 2-4 pale blue or greenish eggs. Incubation lasts 11-12 days. Both the male and the female participate in the construction of the nest, incubation and feeding of chicks. Singing is very pronounced in males and it is easy to distinguish them from females during mating periods.

White-eyed song is melodic and pleasant. They easily take root in captivity, and often keep birds at home. Feeding is not difficult: white-eyed women gladly accept mealworms, grated carrots and fruits.

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