As long-time readers of this blog probably know, I am fond of photographing birds, and getting close enough for real bird portraits is easier in the zoo than just about anywhere. The great thing about being first in line when the zoo opens is that the birds are still singing, and there is a complete absence of any noise from human crowds. A couple of exotic species sang their trills withing 20 feet of me.
If you thought this looked like a type of oriole with its sharp, Blackbird-type beak, you would be right. The Black-naped Oriole is native to parts of Asia, frequents gardens and plantations, and sings a sweet three-note song.
Not at all shy about singing quite close to me.
Laughingthrush — all one word — species have earned their own family distinction, but are related to Babblers from Africa and parts of Asia. This is the appropriately named White-crested Laughingthrush, a high vocal and energetic little bird.
Pairs mate for life and communicate with each other via combinations of whistles and trills frequently as they move through dense forests in Southeast Asia.
Snowy Owls visit us occasionally in the winter, but I have never managed to get closer than a 1/4 mile away. Getting this close one can appreciate the dense plumage that protects this bird from extreme winter weather.
Largest owl in the world, the Eurasian Eagle Owl, dwarfs our native Great-horned Owl. This one flew within an inch of the top of my head in the bird show at the MN Zoo. Frayed feathers on the leading edges of their wings make their flight completely silent.
Owls have such beautiful eyes, but they are rarely open in the daytime.
Kookaburras are the largest member of the kingfisher family and show some similarities in behavior and habits to our native Belted Kingfisher. But their “song” is a combination of kingfisher-type rattles, hoots, chirps, etc. and continues for lengthy periods. In fact, you might wonder how the bird can hold its breath for as long as it calls.
Click here to see a great video illustrating the variety of calls made by Kookaburras. They respond not only to each other, with recognition calls and to establish feeding territories, but to human imitations of kookaburra sounds.