It’s hard to believe in the middle of this polar vortex weather that the birds think spring is coming. I heard the Mr. Cardinal warming up his vocal cords the other day, and a chickadee “fee-bee” duet breaks the morning quiet every now and then. A neighbor told me she heard a woodpecker drumming to attract his mate’s attention the other day. While we alternate almost daily between sub-zero cold and 6-8 inch snow storms, the sun climbs higher in the sky and stays out longer each day, so some message is getting through to the birds’ brains telling them to get ready for their spring fling.
Since it’s too early for animals here to start showing off to each other, I’ll go back to some photos from our visit to Safari West wildlife reserve in early January to illustrate.
What can a male bird do to attract his lady love? Why show off his fancy feathers and dancing feet, like the Demoiselle Cranes.
Demoiselles are the smallest of the crane species and are notable for their migration in huge flocks of thousands of birds over the Himalayas from their breeding grounds in Mongolia to their wintering areas in India. Unfortunately for them, Golden Eagles have keyed in on this abundance of prey and attack them just as they clear the thin air of the tops of the Himalayas, as explained in this video from Planet Earth.
Why fly over the tallest mountains on earth instead of around them or through lower passes? Migratory routes are hard-wired in bird brains, just as the sequence of dance steps in a courtship ritual is, and this crane species is older than the Himalayas are. A few minor evolutionary tweaks to their already superior respiratory system, and cranes became adapted to soar above 30,000 feet.