Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

These iconic falcons have slowly re-established in Virginia after their decimation decades ago from pesticides. This pair of young adults considered nesting under the Chickahominy river bridge, close to the James River. Inge suspects that too much human attention frightened them off. Hopefully, they found a more secluded location to breed.

Despite much persecution in the past, Peregrine Falcons find human constructions make fine nesting places. In the breeding season you can watch a pair raising chicks via a camera link on the top of a high rise building in downtown Richmond, VA.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork
Photo: Inge Curtis

Compared to the handsome storks of Europe in Hans Christian Andersen’s story and those that carried us in a natal cradle, American Wood Storks look like old countrymen with bald, wrinkly heads exposed to too much sun. A featherless head is more hygienic for dipping into muddy wetlands, the same as for vultures bobbing in rotting carcasses. Storks and vultures are far more graceful in the air than on the ground, often circling in the same thermal.

Wood Storks are rarities in Virginia, but found year-round in Florida and other south-eastern states during migration. Inge saw this one in Texas.

Songbirds Taste Sweet

Hummingbird feeder

Hummingbirds don’t visit feeders to quench a thirst. They have a taste for sweetness, like us, although different receptors on their tongues (T1R1 + T1R3).

Now, we learn that songbirds taste it too. Several avian ancestors emerging in Australia 30 million years ago evolved it independently (convergent evolution) and kept it as they radiated across the world. The receptor is a modification of the savory receptor (umami), not so surprising considering dinosaur ancestry. Sugar packs calories. That songbirds represent 40% of all birds today suggests the adaptation contributed to their success. That’s a sweet excuse for us to cover embarrassment at a sweet tooth.