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04 February 2006
Loose feather and other birdy news

White mystery featherLet me just say straight away that I realize I'm stealing John's catchy title - but it befits my needs momentarily. (I'll give it right back, John.) I want to update my 'mystery feather' identification assistance request that I posted a few days ago.

B found this completely white 5 1/2" tail feather (I think) in our field and it's a bit of a mystery who it might belong to. We have no obvious white birds around and other potential culprits are not especially likely, but I can rule nothing out yet.

Today however, B pointed out a strange guest at our bird feeder. I headed for the window to see a bunch of 4 or 5 mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) bobbing around under the feeder, poking around for intact seeds. Nothing unusual about mourning doves under the feeder, but one of them had a distinctly bright white set of long tail feathers. His appearance otherwise was that of a normal adult mourning dove. His covert feathers over the top of the tail were normal gray-brown, but the long underneath feathers were white, white, white. I'm not sure if this makes him the likely source of the mystery feather though. The mystery feather seems almost too wide and big to be of mourning dove origin, but I'm not sure how feather shape, size or appearance might change a bit from detachment. Who knows for sure - anyone?

I tried to capture a picture of the white-tailed mourning dove, but failed as my CF card was full and by the time I cleared away some space, something flushed all the birds away from the feeder. I'll keep an eye out for him now though...


On an mostly unrelated note, my friend Lisa alerted me to this news of another Columbidae species in the news this week: a UC-Irvine professor and her students have set up a smog-detection and -reporting project employing pigeons, lots of high-tech electronic gadgetry and a blog.

Pigeons to set up a smog blog

[...] Later this year 20 [pigeons] will take to the skies above San Jose, California, each carrying a GPS receiver, air pollution sensors and a basic cellphone. They will measure levels of pollutants they encounter, and beam back their findings as text messages to a blog in real time.


The data they send back will be displayed on the blog in the form of an interactive map. As well as providing local residents with real-time data on air quality, da Costa hopes the pigeon blog will inspire people to come up with new ways to monitor the environment. The pigeons will also carry cameras around their necks and post aerial photos to the blog.


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