[Species] | Red-breasted merganser
The red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) is a sawbill and one of the many species first described by Carl Linneaus in 1758. The name of the genus it is placed in, Mergus, is a Latin word referring to an unspecified waterbird, and serrator means sawyer, from Latin serra, “saw”.
Red-breasted mergansers are large and reach lengths of up to 64 centimetres, a wingspan of anything inbetween 66 to 74 centimetres and a weight of about 0.8 to 1.3 kilogram. Breeding males have a cinnamon chest, a white neck band, and a shaggy green head. Females and nonbreeding males are brownish gray overall with a brownish chin, a dingy breast, and a brown shaggy head. In flight both sexes have a prominent white lower wing panel.
The fastest duck ever recored was a red-breasted merganser that reached a speed of 160 kilometres an hour, while being pursued by an airplane. This broke the previous record, held by a canvasback, by almost 50 kilometres.
During breeding season they occur around lakes and rivers for the most part, usually within reach of northern forest and tundra regions. In the winter they mostly live in coastal waters, including bays, estuaries and the open ocean. Small parts of the population also winter on ice-free reservoirs and large rivers.
They forage by diving and swimming below water. Although not exactly common, they also somtimes cooperatively hunt in a group, with several birds lining up and driving schools of small fish into very shallow waters, where they scoop them up without diving.
Red-breasted mergansers, like other diving ducks, mainly feed on small fish, but also crustaceans, aquatic insects and if they get the chance, frogs, tapdoles or various kinds of worms as well. Young ducklings almost only eat insects.
The female can lay up to 13 eggs, which it at times lays into the nests of other females or other entirely different species of duck. It is also the only parent to incubate the eggs, which takes about 29 to 35 days. The young are capable of swimming and feeding themselves within one day after hatching and take about 2 months before being capable of flight.
Although their populations globally are believed to be stable, they could possibly be vulnerable due to the fact that they form extremely dense concentrations at certain times and places during migration, such as late autumn on Lake Erie. The IUCN evaluates red-breasted mergansers to be a species of least cocern.
Photo credits: Denis, Erlig Olafsson, Dominic Sherony
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Let’s talk about pigeons (part 1, ancient history)
The rock pigeon, Columba livia. some people hate em’ some people love em’, I just happen to study em’. I figured y'all would be interested in an informal review of (what I think is) the fascinating history of the species.
(this is the Tumblr version of a lecture series I have been giving, if you need citations, I have them lying around somewhere, just not here at the moment)
it all started about 10,000 years ago, pigeons had been existing for a good while before this, but one day, in the place we now call the fertile crescent, some guy (let’s call him Dave) saw a pigeon.
Lots of people had seen pigeons before, they nested among cliffs and buildings, and stole grains form communal stores. They were a nuisance to Dave, until one day he caught one (perhaps to eat). Maybe a member of his family, perhaps a child, begged him to spare the bird, maybe he alone pitied it’s mournful cooing. Whatever the reason, Dave never let the bird go, but never killed it either. Dave was the first pigeon-keeper. Many others would come after him as society advanced into what we now call the Mesopotamian civilization. We know the Mesopotamians kept pigeons by pictographic depictions of them as well as archeological records of pigeon bones. These birds were a stable food source (being quick at reproduction), good fertilizer producers (with all of the pooping) and were revered as a symbol of the powerful goddess of fertility, war, and sometimes other things, Ishtar.
^(a depiction of Ishtar with avian wings)
As time passed, Pigeons spread across the ancient world as religious icons, meat producers and quite possibly pets. however, humans soon found a new use for pigeons-
Yes, you can actually send messages via pigeon. Pigeons have an uncanny ability to find their way back to a roosting or nesting site wherever they are, even if they have never been there before. So, if you want so send a message to a pigeon keeper, all you need to do is take one of their pigeons, keep it with you, and when you need to send a message to the pigeon’s owner, simply release the pigeon with a message tied to it’s leg. This system was used up until the end of World War One, when other forms of long-distance communication became more viable.
^( two messenger pigeons with scrolls tied to their legs)
As the postal service of the ancient world, pigeons were kept in almost every place where large numbers of humans could be found. pigeons were bred continuously, until something strange happened-
the birds began to change.
New forms of color, red, white and black, never before seen in the wild hatched from pigeon keeper’s eggs
this was the start of classical domestication.
^ (a wild type pigeon (top) with a red-morph pigeon (bottom) in an Egyptian tomb painting)
Contrary to popular belief, domestication isn’t just the taming of a wild animal, but rather physical change over generations of in an animal species caused by humans. This Is known as artificial selection, and will be touched on later.
because pigeons were the first birds that changed under human care, they are usually recognized as the first domesticated bird.
As time marched further on, pigeons became more and more common as domestic animals, and just like today, wherever humans went, pigeons followed.
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