DSC_0216A Gray Catbird sings one song or another. Catbirds are not named for their striking resemblance to cats, but instead, I think, for the striking resemblance their mewing call has to the meow of their feline foe. Catbirds are also in the family Mimidae, which is comprised of vocal mimics. Birds in this family, such as catbirds and mockingbirds, mimic the songs of other species and develop extensive, and confusing, vocal repertoires. 

 

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Greater Shearwaters. These birds are part of the order Procellariiformes, which is distinguished by the nasal salt glands on top of the birds’ bills. Colloquially dubbed tube noses, Procellariiformes drink salt water at sea and then excrete excess salt through their glands. To get these two pictures, we chummed with herring on a whale watching trip, which caused every gull in the Bay of Fundy, along with a couple shearwaters, to pay us a visit.

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DSC_0001Red-necked Phalaropes. These sandpipers spend most of their time feeding at sea, but travel to the arctic to breed. Interestingly, the normal bird reproductive roles are reversed in this species. Females, which have brighter plumage, arrive at the breeding grounds first, fight each other to establish territories, and subsequently fight over males. Once the eggs are laid, the females leave the males to incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.

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DSC_0233The island isn’t just a breeding ground for puffins, though. Razorbills and Common Murres also colonize Machias Seal Island in the hundreds, or even thousands, depending on the year. All three of these birds are in the family Alcidae, which is characterized by, among other traits, nests on rocky ledges and a diet of fish. Diving under the surface for their meals, murres can reach depths of up to 90 meters.

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DSC_0091Atlantic Puffins like this one aren’t quite as rare in the area. A couple thousand inhabit the island during the breeding season and can be seen flying in clouds of over one hundred birds, their red feet trailing like rocket flames as they zoom at speeds up to 50 mph.

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