THREE (3) BASIC STEPS & (7) QUESTIONS FOR BEGINNERS, TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY YOUR BIRD CORRECTLY.
When you see unfamiliar birds in your yard how do you go about identifying them?
STEP #1) Use Your Binoculars Correctly
Using binoculars and using them correctly is essential. Even within 10 yards birds may be difficult to identify. Key I.D. features may be missed with the naked eye. Binoculars are a tool (of your trade), so the more you practice with them the better you will be.
Immediately bringing the binoculars to your eyes, then looking for the bird is a common mistake. The magnification and field of view can easily disorient you to your surroundings. While your eyes are locked on the bird raise the binoculars to your eyes and then focus on the bird. This method will immediately improve your binocular skills.
Also, check to make sure the binoculars are fitted to the distance between your eyes to avoid the dark areas that may appear. All too often, people will not get the most out of their binoculars because they haven’t adjusted the diopter, making the image always a little blurry.
Every decent binocular, will have a diopter which can be found, typically, on the right ocular, or eyepiece. By following these two steps you can successfully “balance” the binoculars to your eyes.
STEP #2) SPEND TIME WATCHING YOUR BIRD
Don't be quick to take your eyes off your bird, to look at your field guide. Instead of looking at the bird briefly then quickly opening your field guide, spend more time observing your bird. While staring at your bird, ask yourself a series of questions. After you feel confident that you have successfully answered these questions, refer to your field book for help in identifying your bird.
When you first get started watching birds at home, keep your binoculars next to a pad of paper and a pen. You'll want to jot down the answers to a few questions, to help you remember a few identifying characteristics of your bird. After the bird has moved on is when you will want to open your field guide and look at your notes. Try to narrow down your search by answering the following questions.
QUESTION #1) WHAT IS THE SIZE OF MY BIRD?
Ask yourself what size is your bird? Is my bird small, medium or large? If I were to look at a silhouette of my bird, what features stand out? Is it small & tiny? Is it large and bulky? Is there a crest? How long is the tail? Are the legs long or short?
QUESTION #2) WHAT MAIN COLORS ARE IN MY BIRD?
Try to identify (3) main colors that your bird has in it. Note primary colors and their respective location. Patterns might include vertical or horizontal stripes, streaks, or a patch. Some birds will have specific colors in certain areas of their body.
QUESTION #3) WHAT COLOR IS MY BIRDS EYES?
Different species of birds, will have different colors for the eyes. This is a useful notation, when trying to identify your bird.
QUESTION #4) WHAT KIND OF FEET DOES MY BIRD HAVE?
Different species of birds, will have different types of feet. This is a useful notation, when trying to identify your bird.
QUESTION #5) WHAT KIND OF BEAK DOES MY BIRD HAVE?
Different species of birds, will have different kinds of beaks. You can often tell what a bird eats, by looking at the beak. This is a useful notation, when trying to identify your bird.
QUESTION #6) WHAT IS MY BIRD'S BEHAVIOR?
Behavior is often overlooked but it's also very important. Ask yourself what is my bird doing? Is my bird eating at a feeder, hopping along the ground, perched on telephone wires, flying in the open, or trying to conceal itself in a hedge? Is my bird flying in a group or is my bird flying alone? What is my bird trying to eat? Berries from a tree, insects from a bush, bugs off the ground, worms from plants, seeds from a feeder, or fruit from a tree?
QUESTION #7) WHAT IS MY BIRD'S HABITAT?
You should already know your habitat (it's your backyard and/or neighborhood). But it's important to note, because habitat will help you identify your bird. So ask yourself, is my yard wooded, is it coastal, does it border along broadleaf forested areas, is it located along side a busy road with ditches, are their parks nearby, swamps, marshes or shrimp farms? Does your yard have alot of diciduous trees, mangroves, lakes, ponds or streams? Is your yard located in a suburban area or the city? Keying in on the habitat of your yard, can possibly verify or deny certain species. For example, you’re not likely going to see a Great Blue Heron or a Pelican in a densely wooded area.
After you have firmly answered all these questions in your mind, go to your field book. By now your bird may have probably flown away, look for birds in your book that match the answers to your questions. There are many points to consider, when properly identifying a bird. As your experience and knowledge grow, this process will become second nature to you. Experienced birdwatchers can identify many species from just a quick look, by using these basic steps to visual identification.
STEP #3) CHECK YOUR FIELD GUIDE FOR HELP
It's important to get a good field guide for your area. This will help you identify the birds found in your immediate vicinity. A good field guide, will typically have pictures and information about birds broken down by habitats or species. Spend some time getting acquainted with your book, so that you know where to go for information quickly.
Antheraea Polyphemus Moth
A member of the Saturniidae family, the giant silk moths. It is a tan-colored moth, with an average wingspan of 6 inches. The most notable feature of the moth is its large, purplish eyespots on its two hindwings. The caterpillar can eat 86,000 times its weight at emergence in a little less than two months.
Moths are closely related to butterflies. Most species of moths are active only at night. They can be told apart from butterflies in several ways. Moth antenna look like little feathers, and their wings are held flat on their backs when they are not flying. There are thought to be about 160,000 species of moths (nearly ten times the number of species of butterflies). Most species of moths are nocturnal, but not all, some are diurnal.
JAYMIN'S BACKYARD HABITAT
Adult polyphemus moths are nocturnal. Adult males can only fly at temperatures above 7˚C. Larvae are solitary and, in captivity, crowding of Saturniids leads to decreased growth and increase likelihood of disease transmittance.
Polythemus moths, as caterpillars, are bright green with a reddish brown head. They have 6 orange tubercles and bristles on each segment of their body. Each abdomen segment has a slanted yellow line that is purple-brown in color. Caterpillars can grow to about 7 cm in length.
Polythemus moths have a hairy body, and adults can vary from red-brown to dark brown in color. Each hind wing has a large yellow “eyespot” lined with blue and black. The center of this eyespot is uniquely transparent. The front wings have a smaller yellow spot. The margin of both the front and hind wings has a black and white stripe. Wingspan ranges from 10 to 15 cm. Whereas adult males have bushy antennae for detecting pheromones, females have slender antennae.
As adults (moths), polyphemus moths live a maximum of only 4 days. Their entire life cycle averages about 3 months in length. This includes about 10 days as eggs, 5 to 6 weeks as larvae, 2 weeks as pupa, and about 4 days as adults. If they overwinter as pupa, this life cycle increases in length.
Differentiating between sexes of this species is very easy. The most obvious difference is the plumose antennae.
MALES-Have very bushy antennae. Male's antennae are used to detect pheromones released by ummated females.
FEMALES-Have moderately less bushy antennae. Female's are slightly larger in the abdonmen due to carrying eggs.
A surprising amount of variation occurs within this species. Color patterns can range from a reddish cinnamon to a dark brown, but are almost always a shade of brown.
Communication & Perception
Polyphemus moths, use their antenaes to communicate. When ready to mate, female polyphemus moths emit pheromones that attract males. One of the reasons why the antenaes are so large on males, is so they can detect this pheromone being emitted by females. Males also use their sense of smell & touch to locate females. Although larvae (caterpillars) have eyes, they are small and primitive, resulting in poor vision.
Mating & Reproduction
Popyphemus moths mate the same day that they emerge from their cocoons, and mating usually occurs during late afternoon. Females emit pheromones, which can be detected up to a mile away, to attract mates. Mating can last from less than an hour to many hours. Females lay their eggs shortly after mating. If unsuccessful in recruiting a male after 2 or 3 days, females stop calling and release their unfertilized eggs.
Female polyphemus moths begin to emerge and mate during early spring. Females lay up to 5 eggs singly or in groups of 2 or 3 on the underside of tree leaves. Eggs are flat and round, cream to light tan in color on top with a brown outline, and are about 1.25 mm thick and 3 mm in diameter. In most regions, 2 broods of polyphemus moths hatch per year; one hatches in early spring and the other in late summer. However, in the northernmost part of their range, only one brood hatches per year. In the southern part of their range, many broods may hatch each year. Female polyphemus moths usually lay their eggs on leaves that are a good food source for the caterpillars. They are not otherwise involved in the rearing of their offspring.
Caterpillars feed on leaves of broad-leaved trees and shrubs. Larvae also eat their egg shells after hatching and their freshly molted skin. A caterpillar eats 86,000 times its body weight. Adult moths have a reduced mouth and do not eat.
After about 10 days, tiny polyphemus moth caterpillars hatch from eggs. Larvae (caterpillars) molt 5 times and grow to their full size in 5 to 6 weeks. When caterpillars are fully grown, they wrap themselves in a leaf and build a cocoon out of silk. Cocoons are oval in shape, 40 mm in length and 22 to 24 mm in diameter. While in a cocoon, a caterpillar develops into a pupa and then emerges as an adult moth in about 2 weeks. Polyphemus moths can also overwinter in their cocoons, which increases time as pupae.
Some moths are farmed. The most important of these is the silkworm. It is farmed for the silk with which it builds its cocoon. The silk industry produces over 130 million kilograms of raw silk, worth about 250 million U.S. dollars, each year.
Yucca flowers are good for moth pollination because they hang upside down.
Moths usually pollinate night-blooming flowers because they are nocturnal (they rest during the day and come out at night). However, moths do not always need to land on the flower to get the nectar: they often hover (near the flower), flapping their wings as they sip the nectar.
Parasitic insects (such as the parasitoid wasp), like to lay their eggs in or on the young caterpillars. When these eggs hatch, they actually consume the insides of the caterpillar (killing the polyphemus pupa). Another preditor is also the compsilura concinnata tachinid fly. Squirrels have also been known to consume the pupae of Polyphemus moths, decreasing their population greatly. Pruning of trees and leaving outdoor lights on at night can also be detrimental to the moths.
Predators & Parasites
Nocturnal insectivores often feed on moths. Many bats, and some species of owls and some other birds eat moths. They can also be preyed upon by yellowjackets and ants. Moths are also a minor part of the diet of some lizards, cats, dogs, rodents, and some bears. Moth larvae are eaten by many birds, wasps, raccoons and squirrels.
There is evidence that ultrasound in the range emitted by bats causes flying moths to make evasive manoeuvers because bats eat moths. Ultrasonic frequencies triggered (by the bat), cause a reflex reaction in moths, this causes them to drop a few inches in flight, thus avoiding an attack by a bat.
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