For the Birds Radio Program: Pot Pourri

Original Air Date: Sept. 16, 1987

Laura has spotted a few little items in the news this week. (3:52) Date verified.

Audio missing


(Recording of a Sandhill Crane)

Every now and then I like to do a program about short items that alone don’t fill out a whole three minutes. Last week I found a note in the newsletter for the International Crane Foundation, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. It seems a woman who lives on Fenner’s Lake in Adams County, Wisconsin, noticed that an adult Sandhill Crane which has been visiting her yard since June has developed a romantic attachment to two windsocks–a goose and a loon.

Hunters use goose windsocks to lure Geese down to fields, but loon windsocks serve no function except to decorate the yards of people who don’t realize that real loons can’t sit on land–their legs are set too far back for them to walk at all. A loon gets around by flying or swimming. Maybe the Adams Co. crane is just trying to commiserate with some fallen comrades.

In an unrelated matter, roadkills of birds and other animals are up nationwide this summer–in part due to the raising of the speed limit in several states. And autumn is the worst time of year for accidents. Young, inexperienced animals are all around, and many look for food on gravel roadsides. It’s dangerous to swerve when you approach an animal–you might end up killing yourself or someone in another lane as well as the bird. If you see any animal on or near the road at a distance, the best thing to do is sound your horn lightly once or twice and slow down–just don’t panic and brake hard. Letting up on the gas pedal helps when anything flies or runs across the road, though squirrels are pretty careless and slow in fall when they’re collecting food for winter.

Most people get a sad, sick feeling when they hit anything, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll minimize the danger both for wildlife and yourself. By the way, the American Automobile Association advertises a device that attaches to a car to alert animals of your approach. The manufacturer claims it works and yet is inaudible to humans. If any listeners have tried one, let us know if it works.

Finally, some researchers in Milwaukee have figured out the meaning of the Black-capped Chickadee’s “gargle” call, which they reported in the journal of the Cooper Ornithological Society. Ornithologists already know that the chickadee’s song

(Recording of a Chickadee song) is a declaration of territory and an enticement to a mate. The Chickadee dee dee dee dee call

(Recording of a Chickadee dee dee dee dee call) probably serves to keep the flock together.

But the gargle call (Recording of a Gargle), given mostly by males, apparently helps chickadees to minimize fighting by spacing flocking birds at a tolerable distance and advertising the social status of each one. The gargle warns an opponent to give him some space or the gargler will get mighty angry. Birds are more innately civilized than humans, so the warning virtually always suffices, and the chickadees go on with their busy lives, clobbering insect larvae instead of each other.

(Recording of a Black-capped Chickadee) This is Laura Erickson and this program has been “For the Birds.”