A cat without a tail?

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting a  Manx?  Manx cats are naturally tail-challenged, and are a bit different from your ordinary cat…

This is my current cat boss, China Belle.

Manx are originally from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, and they can have no tail at all, like China here, or a stubby tail.  Manx with no tail at all are most valued for showing.  

The “taillessness” is classified as a spinal defect, but in no way should you consider a Manx cat “handicapped”!  Manx tails come in varying lengths, from the “Rumpy” like my China (zero tail) to “Rumpy Risers” (a knob of tail) to the “Stumpy” (a short tail that’s ofter curved or kinked).  “Longies” have a long tail, but still shorter than most other cats.  

Manx can have short hair, long hair, or even in-between.  The longhaired variety is called the Cymric, and Manx or Cymric may both appear in the same litter.

Photo by seven song via Unsplash

Manx typically are rounded all over. Round-faced, round-bodied, and round-eyed, they’re just round all over! It makes the silhouette quite distinctive, even without the “missing” tail.

Manx have longer back legs, and this makes them very agile jumpers. You shouldn’t be surprised to see them at the top of your bookcase, snoozing contentedly. This also makes them walk with a bit of a ‘hop’.

Snoozing on the couch back.

I’ve read that Manx are lap cats, and I have to say that’s a bit misleading. My Manx insists on sleeping behind my legs at night, sitting next to me on the couch, and will only grudgingly take up position on the couch back is anyone else wants to sit on the seat.

Some authorities state that Manx love water, and this may be true of pure Manx, but my mix doesn’t share this trait. She will touch water if there’s a fish swimming under the surface, but that’s the extent of her interest.

Manx are very intelligent, and VERY handy with their paws. They are frequently able to turn on water faucets, open cabinet drawers and doors, and pick up toys from the floor.

They also tend to get the “galloping ???” racing around the house, sliding around corners and generally being fast. When China gets done with her lap running, she’ll slip up next to me on the loveseat and take a nap.

Photo by max sandelin via Unsplash

One last thing about Manx – every one I’ve ever had was just as vocal as a Siamese! China will talk to me whenever her food or water dishes are empty, whenever she feels that it’s time to go out on the porch, or when she feels her litterbox is not clean enough!

As always, questions, comments, corrections or criticisms are welcome at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com. I love to hear from YOU!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

The Redbuds, they are a-blooming!

Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

This week in Eastern Kentucky, the Redbuds are putting on their spring finery, gaining a fuchsia pink glow all around the edges of each tree.  It’s a very distinctive color, and right now when most of the trees and shrubs are still debating whether spring is truly here or not, the Redbuds are a truehighlight in the woods.


Redbud flowers are edible!  I found this.out while doing a spring bird watching your at Carter Caves State Park, down the road near Olive Hill, Kentucky.  The tree is classified in the family that includes sweet peas, so it’s actually a legume like a pea.  “Cercis canadensis” may or may not have the ability to fix nitrogen into the soil like most plants in this family,  I found that different sources disagree.

 

Image by Jing from Pixabay

Another fun fact about the Redbud is that the flowers actually form on the branches and the trunks of the trees!  Scientists call it “cauliflory”, and the Latin term translates as “stem-flower”.  Each flower leaves a tiny bump behind it on the trunk or branch, and the older the tree gets, the bumper its stems will become.  Few plants use this strategy in the temperate zones – most of the “stem-flowering” plants are found in tropical forests.

The Redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma, they only get between 15 and 30 feet tall, and they make a lovely background counterpoint above a bed of flowering bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinth, or tulips.

When the flowers begin to fade, the beautiful heart-shaped leaves take over, and they’re quite pretty as well! They start out pinkish red, turn green, then fade into soft golden yellow in fall. Here’s a photo of a newer leaf:

Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay

If you have some room in your yard for a small tree, I’d suggest the Redbud as a great addition. They’re tough, always love pretty, and will reward you with years of blooms and a little shade too! In the fall, they’ll reward you with a golden glow that will have your neighbors asking “What IS that tree?”

Image by Deedster from Pixabay

I hope you enjoyed this post about the Redbud. As always, feel free to comment, criticize, or question me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com

Have a lovely day!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

Meadowlarks trilling!

Here in Kentucky, our Eastern Meadowlarks have returned and are perching on fenceposts all over. These birds sound to me a lot like the ones I got used to back home in Arizona, but according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Easterns have 50 to 100 different variations of their song, where the Westerns only have around 10 to 12 variations!

The Eastern Meadowlark is scientifically named “Sturnella magna”, and they’re actually classed as a blackbird, not a lark at all. Whatever class they’re in, they are a delight to the eyes and ears. If you have pet birds, you may enjoy looking up the different songs and playing them for your house birds – mine get very excited to hear wild birds singing in the house early in the morning!

With that bright yellow breast and black necklace, Easterns are a very distinctive sight in the country here in Kentucky. We have a couple of pairs along the little creek below our house, and the males keep really close tabs on each other, constantly singing back and forth to make sure no-one is invading!

Apparently, the two species can be found in the same habitats in places such as Texas. Researchers from Texas A & M found that the two do not interbreed (other research has shown that they do on occasion), and I think that’s because the females know perfectly well which kinds of songs they like better! The two are pretty hard to tell apart in the field, though, for us humans. Males of the two species will defend their territory against each other, too.

Western Meadowlarks (“Sturnella neglecta”) aren’t seen much in the low deserts in Arizona, (except in artificial grasslands like golf courses), but in the high desert the habitat is a lot more like the grasslands that they favor.

Meadowlarks are really easy to spot, even if they flying away from you! They’ve got a distinctive flight pattern, and a very short, broad tail compared to the other songbirds I can see at this time of year. They’re so lovely to have around, always seeming cheerful and always ready to sing.

Both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks feed on grains, seeds and insects. They often feed by inserting their bill into the soil and then pushing it open (gaping) to reach seeds and insects that are beneath the surface.

They both build nests on the ground, in a small depression, lined with grass and bark. Some Meadowlarks even make little canopies and tunnel entrances by weaving grass stems together.

Meadowlarks lay from 2 to 7 eggs incubated by the female for 13 to 16 days. The babies stay in the nest for 10 to 12 days, and the parents feed them for another couple of weeks until they can fly well. They’ll raise one or two clutches each year, but if you’re out looking for nesting birds, be careful! A female Meadowlark will abandon her nest if she’s forced away from it!

And then there’s the Horned Lark – who is actually a lark! Back home in the high desert, we had literally CLOUDS of them! They’d come to water in a huge flock, dipping and diving, taking turns flying, foraging and drinking at least twice a day.

Horned Larks are really cool, about half the size of the Meadowlarks, and with a nifty black and white mask that stands out in the crowd. The “horns” are just little tufts of feathers, and in my experience are not that easily seen. The big giveaway here was the mask, and the size, and the fact that I nearly always saw them in a group.

This photo (above) is really cool because it shows the pale yellow throat, which you may not be able to spot outside without binoculars. “Eremophila alpestris” will nest on the ground very early and usually next to a grass clump or rock. The female builds her nest with grass and weeds and lines it with fine grass or plant down like thistle seed down.

Horned Larks usually lay from 2 to 5 eggs which are incubated by the hen for around 10 to 12 days. Both parents feed the babies in the nest for 9 to 12 days, but the young won’t be able to fly for another weeks or so. In the north, Horned larks only get to raise one brood, but farther south, they may raise as many as three.

A few farmers in the Midwest are starting the practice of leaving “Prairie Strips” in their fields among the corn and soybeans. In Iowa, the tallgrass prairie covered about 85 percent of the land in the 1830’s. Now, less than one-tenth of one percent of Iowa still holds the original prairie ecosystem. These “Prairie Strips” offer habitat for an incredible number of plant and animal species, and farmers employing them are finding them valuable to catch and filter run-off during heavy rains.

The Iowa State researchers who spearheaded this practice in 2007 are hopeful that it will spread to neighboring farms, and their research results after ten years showed that a ten percent conversion to “Prairie Strips” actually gave a high return on the farmer’s investment! Soil loss by erosion was reduced by 95 percent, and loss of phosphorus and nitrogen from the soil dropped by 77 percent and 70 percent. When you realize that the soil lost to erosion takes years to re-build, and that the farmer is having to pay for all that fertilizer, that’s a really significant number!

I hope I didn’t get too far off track today, and as always, invite you to send comments, complaints, or criticism to me: FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com Thanks for reading!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

2 Mockingbirds (Are One Too Many)!

Mockingbirds are very intelligent, and if you know that they’re close relatives of the crows, you already knew that! But here are some fun facts about Mockingbirds that you may NOT have known…

The Northern Mockingbird is nearly as popular as the Cardinal as a State bird! Five states have the mockingbird as their very own state bird: Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida.

Both male and female Mockingbirds sing, although the hen does tend to be quieter. They both look pretty much the same, with the female being slightly smaller. Males migrate in first and set about claiming a territory by flying up and flashing their white wing patches. When the females arrive a few weeks later, males will continue to display to entice a hen to check him out.

Both parents build the nest, then the hen will lay her 2 to 6 eggs and incubate them for about two weeks. After hatching, both parents feed the baby birds for (according to the books) about 10 days, then the fledglings are considered to be independent.

Mom and Dad will generally raise at least two and sometimes three clutches of babies in a single summer.

Mockingbirds in the wild generally live about eight years, and in captivity they can live to 20 years old!

Male mockingbirds sings different songs in the spring than in the fall, and mockingbirds are well known to sing through the night. If you’re lucky enough to have a pair at your house like we do, it’s pretty amazing to wake up in the night to birdsong! They can learn up to 200 different songs, so they don’t have a lot of “repeats”.

Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird! It was named “Dick”.

And, mockingbirds are extremely territorial and protective- they’ve been caught on camera attacking cats or dogs, as well as people who got too close to their nest!

Mockingbirds live throughout North America- in parts of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. They’re easy to find in trees or on posts overlooking fields, pastures, and backyards, singing loudly and flying down to catch a tasty insect or eat a berry or two.

Mockingbirds eat mostly insects through the summer, then switch to friuts and berries in the fall as these foods become more available. My local mockingbirds have eaten dried fruit in our feeder in the early spring when the other birds ignore it.

You can find more Northern Mockingbird information at https://forum.americanexpedition.us/northern-mockingbird, and there are lots more sites like All About Birds and the Audubon Society’s page if you’re interested.

Keep your bird feeder filled and see if you can attract your own mockingbird songster!

As always,
feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments,
corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne
Hasty

 

Mynah birds: Master Mimics

Have you ever heard a Mynah bird mimic human speech? They’re one of the bird world’s outstanding mimics, and make a really interesting pet, too!

Common mynah by smarko on Pixabay

Mynah birds have been kept as pets for centuries, and they fascinated early explorers who’d never heard of animals that could “talk back”. Wealthy folk in Ancient Greece commonly had Mynahs, and in India they were revered as sacred birds and so were always treated respectfully.

Young Mynah birds that have been hand-raised make the best pets, and everything that I found about them seems to concur that they’ll learn all their sounds, voices and calls before they’re two years old. So you’d want to know a bit more about an adult bird before you bring it home!

The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) is now established in South Florida, as escapees have flourished in the tropical climate there. It’s sometimes called the “House Myna”, and has been a popular cage bird for many years.

This Great Mynah pictured above is one you’ll have to go to a zoo or aviary to see. Acridotheres grandis is a native of NorthEastern India to SouthEast Asia, where they’re common in grassland and pastures. According to BirdLife.org, there are also naturalized populations of these birds in Tiawan and Japan.

The Bali Myna shown here is also known as the Bali Starling (Leucospar rothschildi), Bali Mynah, or Rothschild’s Myna, and is locally called “jalak Bali”. They are the Island of Bali’s official bird, and are only found in one small area of the island. They’re on the endangered list, and they’re SO strikingly different and beautiful! I was privileged to see a pair at the Phoenix Zoo’s walk-in aviary, and they are truly stunning!

Mynah birds may not be the birdy genius that you expect of, say, a parrot, but they’re well worth studying! If you’d like to learn more, please take a look at “My Mynah Journal” at https://amzn.to/2VbKXUX , where you can learn and journal about your prospective (or actual) pet Myna.

Happy Birding!

As always,feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments, corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

 

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Pressed Flowers – Day Two

Love this idea! Will try this myself this year!

Kinkajou who?

Kinkajous are a little weird if you ask me! They’re sort of like a Raccoon, sort of like a Coatimundi, and sort of like a Ferret or Weasel, too. They’ve got a cute, expressive face, “hands” like a Coati or Raccoon, and a long tail like both. Never heard of one? Read on!

Kinkajous (Potos flavus), sometimes called Honey Bears, are friendly, sociable creatures who love to play with their owners. They belong to the same family as Raccoons, but have a prehensile tail like a monkey! They have a really long tongue which they use to reach nectar deep inside flowers, and to get the last bit of goodness from fruit.

They’re nocturnal in the wild, and live in the tree canopy where they can easily get to the fruits they love, and where they’re safe from ground predators like Jaguars.

They’re pretty long-lived, averaging 20 to 25 years, so they’re not a pet you want to get on an impulse! They’re also VERY good with those little hands, and keeping one contained is quite challenging. A minimum size cage for a Kinkajou is 4 feet wide by 6 by 6 feet, and so they’re not exactly an apartment pet!

Your pet will need lots of perches, hanging bags or hammocks, and fun toys like the ones you can find for parrots. They need lots of time out of their cage to climb and explore, too. They’ll groom your hair, and lick your fingers, and climb on you if you stand still. For some of us, these aren’t bad things, but many people don’t care for the ‘close contact’ sort of pets!

A Kinkajou could be a really fun pet, but the sad part of the story is that the illegal pet trade is most responsible for their declining numbers in the wild. There are reputable breeders who hand-raise the babies that they sell, and if you’re dead-set on having one, that’s definitely the way to go.

They are messy (about like a parrot) because they do tend to toss food around, and they don’t potty-train to one spot, and these are important considerations to any home-owner. Their diet in captivity is monkey chow or biscuits, along with a lot of fresh, tropical fruits. Avoid strawberries, though, and citrus fruits!

We are Siamese if you please…

Have you ever had the privilege of knowing a Siamese cat? I’ve been lucky enough to know several in my life, and the first one was a tomcat I’ll never forget!

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

His name was Bourbon, and he looked a lot like the cat in this photo. He was the neighborhood tomcat, back when we only had about five neighbors in a square mile, and he would saunter into the yard looking for pets and possibly a handout. Of course, we always obliged, and he’d wander off when he’d had his fill.

My Grammy lived about half an hours’ drive away, and so was frequently over for supper, holidays, and so on. She had her own cat, a fluffy black beauty named Twinkletoes. Now, this was quite a while ago, and the prevailing wisdom at the time was that cats made better pets if they’d had one litter of kittens before they were spayed. We know now that this is baloney, but like I said, it was quite a few years ago. I remember her looking like this picture:

Image by Paul C Lee from Pixabay

When Twinkletoes was old enough, Grammy brought her out to the house to see if Bourbon would help out with the process of getting some kittens, and boy was he smitten!

That cat was in LOVE! He came by the house every day. He talked to her through the screen door. He sang love songs to her, day and night. And, finally, she was convinced that this was, in fact, the tomcat for her.

Whew! We were SO glad the singing was over. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a tomcat singing out his wants, but they’re LOUD! And, they’re persistent. Oh, yes, and they’re not very musical (at least by my standards)!

Image by rihaij from Pixabay

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Twinkletoes stayed with us while she was expecting, and after 8 weeks, she produced 4 kittens. Two were black and fluffy, and looked just like their mom. But two were white! All the kittens had blue eyes when they opened them, as all kittens do. But, in the meantime…

Bourbon had become Twinks’ constant companion. Unlike most tomcats, he came and visited every day. All the time she was expecting! And, when the kittens came, he started to babysit!! He’d lay down in the basket with them, clean their ears, groom them, and play with them as they got older.

My parents, and Grammy, had never heard of such a thing, so we were all pretty impressed!

Image by liliy2025 from Pixabay

As the kittens got a little older, the black ones’ eyes turned yellow, but the white ones started getting color on their noses, ears, feet and tails, and their eyes stayed blue. They were SO adorable! Even when they were old enough to get out of the basket and play, Bourbon would let them attack his tail, jump on him, wrestle with him, and generally indulge them like any fond dad.

We had no trouble finding homes for the kittens, and when they were old enough, three of them went to live at friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My Mom fell completely in love with one of the Siamese, and she named him Bandit, for his mask.

Image by Richard Revel from Pixabay

Twinkletoes returned to Grammy’s apartment, had her surgery, and lived happily for many years. Bourbon stopped the daily visits when Twink left, but still came by fairly regularly, just like before. He’d visit with Bandit, and they were always friendly. We had the pleasure of his company for several years.

I’ll always remember Bourbon as the exceptional cat that he was, and be thankful that I had the pleasure of knowing him. I’ve had several Siamese of my own over the years, but he was the first, and you can tell that he left a mark on me!

Image by liliy2025 from Pixabay

If you love Siamese cats as much as I do, please check out “My Siamese Cat Journal”, available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2pyRjjh and learn more about where they’re from, what they’re like, and why they’re so different!

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Quail in different sizes!

Above is a really good photo of a California Quail (Callipepla californica). That “scaled” belly pattern is the giveaway as to which type of quail you’re looking at! Their facial mask, topknot, and striped flanks all make them look similar to my personal favorite, the Gambel’s Quail ( Callipepla gambelii) but the Gambel’s has a solid black patch on it’s belly. There’s a photo of a Gambel’s male just below.

You can see that they must be closely related, and their behavior, diet, and preferred habitat are all very similar. These are definitely dryland birds, and they are found in the SouthWest deserts and drier areas of the US. I grew up hearing the Gambel’s call, and it’s one of the things I miss from home…

This little Northern Bobwhite hen is probably hoping to escape detection by opossums, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes, as well as the odd kestrel that would easily steal a chick. Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) are common in grasslands and pastures here in the US, although they’ve become pretty uncommon where I’m located now in the Appalachian foothills. The literature I found cites human intervention in wildfires and the introduced fire ant as important factors in their decline.

We’re looking forward to raising some Bobwhites this year and having extras to be able to release once they’re grown…

And then there are the Button Quail (Coturnix chinensis) that live in the house with the rest of the “tame birds”. They’re called Buttons for good reason! They are so tiny that the eggs are smaller than a nickel, and the babies hatch out as small as my thumbnail! This years we’re starting with about a dozen adult birds, in three different colors. We’ll see how many babies we get grown – they’re very delicate as you’d probably guess.

They have a whole series of names: Chinese Painted Quail, Blue-Breasted Quail, Asian Blue Quail, King Quail and Chung-Chi. They’re the smallest “true quail”, and now come in a wide variety of colors to fascinate the bird breeder and fancier. They’re lively little birds that happily live in the bottoms of the finch and budgie cages, picking up the leftovers and generally minding their own business!

If you love birds, and you’ve got room in an aviary or even an indoor flight cage, I highly recommend Button Quail as a cleanup crew! This time of year they are starting to call, and their BIG “crow” sounds like it should belong to a much bigger bird!

 

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Happy Birding!

As always, feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments, corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

 

 

Red-Winged Blackbirds Singin’ in the Rain…

Our Red Winged Blackbirds started singing about a month ago, and now that the weather has turned mild, they’re really filling the “air-waves”. We have a tiny little creek below our house, and a line of trees between us, so the Red Wings are pretty happy to perch in the treetops and shout it out.

As he sings, he makes sure to show off those bright red epaulets, erecting the feathers so they catch the light and any females’ eye. After all, what’s the point if no-one is looking?

And if you should actually enter the territory he’s so vigorously claiming, you may be subject to attack! Red Wings have been known to swoop on humans who get too close, and commonly attack much larger birds in defense of nest and nestlings.

She’s much less visible, a lot less bold, and generally busy minding her own business of building the nest, laying the 2 to 6 eggs, and being the primary caretaker of the nestlings. The babies fledge at between 11 to 14 days old, and start learning how to fend for themselves very quickly.

Agelaius phoeniceus is generally found near water, whether actively running like our little creek, or a slough, pond or lake. They’re especially happy, when they have pasture or fields nearby, as they will forage for food among the grass or hay. They eat mostly seeds, with insects making up the rest of their diet, so having one foraging in your garden is probably a good thing.

Red Winged Blackbirds are different from most birds in their mating behavior: One male will defend a good territory, and several females will mate with him and nest in that same area. He’s been known to defend his harem and is one of few birds that does!

Red Wings are not uncommon, and are very striking and obvious when they’re near you. Enjoy them, and remember to spread some seed beneath your feeder for them, as they prefer to forage on the ground!

Happy Birding!

As always, feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments, corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

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