Ordinary or Extraordinary? Interesting Facts About Common Birds

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

For many of us, there are at least a hand full of birds that we come across regularly. Although some of them are still highly regarded for their beauty, and well loved, they also have distinct life history traits that make them unique. If you spend time watching birds (we hope you do), you may have picked up on some of their behaviours. 

We're going to break down what makes these 'ordinary' everyday birds, extraordinary. 

American Robins 

American Robin. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

Although they are regarded by many as the 'first sign of spring', there are actually a lot of robins that stay in southern Ontario throughout winter months. How? They change their diet and switch from insect (worm) heavy diets to berry heavy diets. If they eat exclusively honeysuckle berries, they can actually become intoxicated. 

Common Raven

Common Raven. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

Ravens are known to be highly intelligent, but did you know that they have also been observed playing? Alike other intelligent animals such as dolphins and apes, Ravens have been observed engaging in what can only be categorized as play. Rolling down hillsides, using snow covered roofs as slides, playing 'keep away' with other animals, and even making their OWN toys with sticks, pinecones and rocks. 

Blue Jays 

Blue Jay. Photo by Shayna Hartley. 

Blue Jays are....not blue. Most of the blue that we see or perceive, such as that of Blue Jays, is actually due to feather structure and the way that light reflects on them. When light shines on a Blue Jay all other wavelengths of the colour spectrum (a rainbow) are absorbed, and the colour we see, in this case, blue, is reflected back to our eyes! 

They will also 'weigh' food such as in-shell peanuts to determine which peanut is highest value - the heaviest! You can test this yourself by tossing 10-15 onto your deck or grass and watch the Jays come and weigh each peanut. They will pick them up in their beak to check the weight and then make decisions accordingly. 


Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Kristen Martyn.

Small but mighty! Chickadees will hide (cache) food items for later - with every seed occupying a new space. Even with a brain this tiny they can remember thousands of different locations. To aid in all this information storing they must do, each fall they have a 'death' of neurons to make room for new ones, creating space for new information. 

Northern Cardinal 

Northern Cardinal. Photo by Heather Kerrison. 

Northern Cardinals can recognize other cardinals in a reflection, but lack self awareness, as in -- they don't know it's them! A select number of people experience this each spring - if a cardinal spots themselves in a reflection such as a window or mirror, they may spend HOURS attacking the potential intruder (their own reflection). It is both males AND females that will exhibit this behaviour. 

Do you see the extraordinary in these everyday birds? 



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