I have had several non-birding days in the field as Christmas is here, the New Years, trying to re-find the gym etc., so in these days I have managed to just do some 'bird pondering'. This state of mind is one where I am sitting on the couch and thinking of what it is like to be a bird. I figure this can't be this odd considering I am a birder. Admittedly if I 'bird pondered' in front of non-birders, I would most likely be suggested to visit a mental ward for help but I know I can blog here 'pondering' as I am amongst other mentals.
First ponder....how does a bird fly in amongst leaves and branches and twigs and find that perfect spot to perch within the tree? I mean....I was just trying to hang a bird feeder the other day and managed to scrape my face up with a branch, let along fly into the tree. What special powers do they possess? We know from research that some birds possess the sense of sound related to echolocation such as a bat has. These birds, such as the oilbirds of South America where I have visited or several swift swallows emit a 'click' in flight so they know if they are getting too close to a wall or tree etc. But not so with Warblers, or Crows or the like. So how do they do it? Do they have the sense of sound that allows for echolocation to a minor degree? Or do they rely solely on the sense of vision and not sound? Not sure..... I suppose I will ask an expert at Cape May one of these days.
Pondering some more....I was thinking of ducks. Now these guys will nestle their head into their wings and sleep but depending on where they are in the floating flock, they might sleep with one eye open. How strange...one eye open. As humans, we can be in a state of lazy sleep where we awaken easily but surely I have never seen a person sleep with one eye open, even if that person is upset with me and wants to see what I am up to. But ducks do...why? Grabbing a good bit of research during my pondering phase is not unheard of, so I did just that. Turns out that we humans essentially see with a pair of eyes but we see thru a pair as 'one'. On other wards, you can't turn your right eye and focus on one item while your left is focused on another. But birds on the other hand do that to some degree. Ducks have two eyes and while they cannot see the front of their beak, since the eyes are situated on the side of their head, they can see backwards in some sense and to both sides .....allowing them to be aware of predators. Turns out they can also get some shut-eye but essentially closing down one of their eyes and allowing the other eye to remain open. So they sleep with one eye open. Ducks can also view 'upclose' out of one eye and 'zoom' with the other eye. Wow, ...what pondering that allows me to think of. I can be Steve Austin of the Six Million Dollar Man if I had those powers. So a duck in flight might actually sleep with one eye closed and concentrate either on their 'upclose' eye to stay even with the flight flock, or their 'zoom' eye to concentrate on distance.
Other senses such as Touch, Taste, Smell.....birds have em...and we don't have what they have. So finding food underground, distinguishing what is a pebble and what is an edible seed etc...all things bird do pretty well. They can also separate the wheat from the shaft in their mouth, sort of speaking as all non food is discarded while food is swelled. Hey, you want a good book? Try one that my daughters gave me for Christmas entitled Bird Sense, What is it Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead a British Ornithologist, a fascinating read which will only cause you to become an equally fascinating ponderer.