Agelaioides badius

Physical characteristics: The baywing, sometimes called the bay-winged cowbird, is a small olive-gray bird. Wings are chestnut with black markings, and the bill, feet, and tail are black as well. Average size is about 7 inches (18 centimeters) in length and 1.4 to 1.8 ounces (41 to 50 grams).

Geographic range: A year-round resident of South America, the baywing is found in parts of Bolivia and Argentina, northeastern Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Habitat: Baywings are found at higher altitudes, up to 9,500 feet (2,880 meters), and favor scrub or wooded terrain.

Diet: Baywings eat primarily insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Instead of building their own nests, bay-wings typically take over abandoned nests of other birds (although some will either build their own cup-shaped nests or dwell in woodpecker holes). They are frequent victims of screaming cowbirds, a brood parasite species that lays their eggs in other birds' nests for incubation and fledging. It is thought that baywings lay clutches of four to five eggs.

Baywings and people: Baywings are not considered agricultural pests and enjoy a harmonious relationship with people.

Conservation status: Baywings are not a threatened species. ■

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

George, Phillip Brandt. "Blackbirds, Orioles." In Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America, edited by Mel Baughman. Washington, DC: National Geographic Press, 2003.

Jaramillo, Alvaro, and Peter Burke. New World Blackbirds: The Icterids. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Sibley, David Allen. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Periodicals:

Harrison, George. "The Lord and Master: The Flashy Red-winged Blackbird is a Joyful Songster, a Master Weaver, and One of Our Most Easily Recognized Birds." Birder's World (February 2003): 42-5.

Web sites:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Baltimore Oriole." All About Birds. http:// birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Baltimore_Orile_tl. html (accessed on May 28, 2004).

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Red-winged Blackbird." All About Birds. http://birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Red-winged_ Blackbird.html (accessed on May 28, 2004).

United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services. "Development and Evaluation of Management Techniques for Reducing Blackbird Damage to Ripening Sunflower Crops and to Feedlots." National Wildlife Research Center. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nwrc/research/sunflowers/ (accessed on May 29, 2004).

FINCHES Fringillidae

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Fringillidae

Number of species: 137 species

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The family Fringillidae consists of "true" finches that are small-to moderately large-sized birds with a compact body, a short, conical-shaped bill, strong skull, and a peaked head with large jaw muscles. They have easily seen shoulder patches, a short neck, plumage (feathers) that vary from dull to colorful, nine small outer primary feathers on their wings that are hidden by wing coverts (small feather around quill base), and a long tail with twelve feathers. Finches are 3 to 10 inches (7.6 to 25.4 centimeters) long and weigh between 0.3 and 2.1 ounces (8 and 60 grams).

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Finches range throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

HABITAT

They prefer forests, shrubby areas, savannas (flat grasslands), grasslands, agricultural areas, parks, and gardens.

DIET

Finches eat seeds, grains, and other vegetable matter. They also eat insects and other small invertebrates (animals without a backbone). Many species forage on the ground, while others feed in trees.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Finches are strong fliers, and able to hop and run over short distances. Some species migrate long distances to warmer climates, while others wander constantly in search for food. Finches are mostly quiet birds, but do have short, sharp calls that are used to communicate and to warn of predators. Males use unique songs to defend a large breeding territory and to attract a mate. Because finches are spread out throughout the world, songs vary widely.

Female finches build cup-shaped nests of grasses and other plant fibers. Nests are constructed in trees, shrubs, or rocky crevices. Most species breed as a mating pair, but others form small family groups. Once the male and female bonds, they are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus; one mate) for the breeding season. Females lay two to six eggs, which vary with respect to species as to color and markings. The eggs are incubated (kept warm for hatching) usually by the female, but both parents, which also take care of young.

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