Birds and Butterflies

Birds & Butterflies

Plants aren't the only thing living in our gardens - they are also the home of birds, butterflies, and a host of other animals and insects. Learn about our friends and foes that share our yards and neighborhoods.



Birds and Butterflies

05/22/2020 15:09


Eastern Black Swallowtail


The Black Swallowtail likes open habitats. It is found in fields, meadows, deserts, marshes, near lakes and streams, farms, lawns, near cities, near roads, and gardens. It is rarely found in forests or woodlands.
Humans have greatly helped the Black Swallowtail. They brought non-native carrot species from Europe to North America. The Black Swallowtail uses these plants as host plants. Before humans cut down forests, Black Swallowtails were rare. They were only found in small prairies, wetlands, and openings in forests.
The Black Swallowtail flies very fast. Its flight is much quicker than other swallowtails. The Black Swallowtail flies closer to the ground than other swallowtails do. In cold weather, they will hold their abdomens above their wings, this keeps them warm. Usually, Black Swallowtails live about 10 to 12 days. Some however, can live up to 35 to 40 days. Some of the food sources for the Black Swallowtail are milkweed, butterfly weed, thistle, purple coneflower, alfalfa, lilac, ironweed and zinnia. Males will also come to damp soil and mud to feed on minerals and moisture. This is called puddling.
Life cycle
The Black Swallowtail goes through complete metamorphosis. The territory is usually on the top of a hill. The male will sit on high branches or other vegetation on the hill. He will defend his territory from other male Black Swallowtails. If other males come too close, he will chase them away. The female will fly to the top of the hill to look for a mate. A successful courtship lasts for about 40 seconds. Females that do not want to mate will try to escape from males by flying high in the air and then quickly flying downward.
Female Black Swallowtails fly close to the ground to look for host plants. Females lay one egg per host plant. The eggs are laid on the leaves and flowers. The egg is yellow. It later forms a red ring around the center, and then a red top. It will turn dark gray just before hatching. It takes about 10 days to hatch. In a lab test, females laid a total of about 200 to 430 eggs. They laid about 35 to 50 each day.

The caterpillar will eat the leaves and flowers of the host plant. The young caterpillar is black and has a white spot in the middle of its body. This spot is called a saddle. It mimics a bird dropping. The older caterpillar is green and has black bands with orange spots in each of the bands. The caterpillar has a special organ called an osmeterium. It is an orange, bad-smelling organ. It is shaped like a snake's tongue. It is kept behind the inside of the hea The caterpillar releases it to scare predators away. The caterpillar will reach a length of 2 in.
The chrysalis hangs upright. There is a silk thread around the upper part of the chrysalis. This thread is called a girdle. The chrysalis is either brown or green. The Black Swallowtail will hibernate as a chrysalis.
Adult butterfly The Black Swallowtail has a wingspan of 2.7 to 4 in. The upper side of the male's wings is black. There are two rows of yellow spots along the edges of both wings. There is a small area of blue on the bottom wing between the two rows of yellow spots. On the bottom edge of the bottom wing, there is a red spot with a small black dot in the center. The upper side of the female's wings is black. There are two rows of light yellow spots along the edges of both wings. These spots are smaller than the male's. There is a large area of blue on the bottom wing between these two rows. The female also has the same red and black spot on the bottom wing as the male. The underside of
the wings is the same in both sexes with the top wing being black with two rows of yellow-orange spots. The bottom wing has two rows of orange spots with a blue area between them.

Report by Julie Jansen, sources: wiki.kidzsearch

Baltimore Oriole

04/26/2020 20:03

Julie Jansen


The Baltimore Oriole The rich, whistling song of the Baltimore Oriole, echoing from treetops near homes and parks, is a sweet herald of spring in eastern North America. Look way up to find these singers: the male’s brilliant orange plumage blazes from high branches like a torch.
American orioles are in the same family as blackbirds and meadowlarks. Baltimore Orioles got their name from their bold orange-and-black plumage: they sport the same colors as the heraldic crest of England’s Baltimore family (who also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city).
Baltimore Oriole forages by searching for insects among the foliage of trees and shrubs. Sometimes they fly out to catch insects in midair and especially like caterpillars, including hairy types avoided by many birds. They will visits flowers for nectar, and will come to sugar-water feeders as well as come to pieces of fruit put out on feeders. Baltimore Orioles sometimes use their slender beaks to feed in an unusual way, called “gaping”: they stab the closed bill into soft fruits, and then open their mouths to cut a juicy swath from which they drink with their brushy-tipped tongues. They have 4-5, sometimes 3-6 eggs. The eggs are bluish white to pale gray, with brown and black markings concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, for about 12-14 days. Both parents feed the nestlings and the young leave nest about 12-14 days after hatching. A male sings to defend nesting territory. In courtship, a male will face a female and stretch upright, and then bow deeply with tail spread and wings partly open. Nest site is in tall deciduous tree, placed near the end of a slender drooping branch, usually 20-30' above the ground but can be 6-60' up or higher. Nest (built by the female, sometimes with help from the male) is a hanging pouch, with its rim firmly attached to a branch. The nest is tightly woven of plant fibers, strips of bark, grapevines, grass, yarn or string, The inside is lined with fine grass, plant down and hair. (I hope animal hair!) Some orioles will take up to 12 days to construct their pendulous sac-shaped nest. This precarious placement keeps the eggs and babies relatively safe from climbing predators and other nest robbers.
Young male Baltimore Orioles do not molt into bright-orange adult plumage until the fall of their second year. Still, a few first-year males in drab, female-like plumage succeed in attracting a mate and raising young. Females become deeper orange with every molt; some older females are almost as bright orange as males.
Orioles spend their winters in Mexico and Central and South America, where they can find a steady source of insects, fruit and nectar. Then they migrate north to nest in early spring. Your chance to see orioles doesn’t last long, because most start to migrate south in August. It’s a thrill to see these beautiful and sometimes elusive songbirds. Whether you spot them for just a day or are lucky enough to have them visit

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