Posts Tagged ‘avian keratin disorder’

I have been meaning to do another bird post for some time now. This has been the Year of the Back Yard Bird for us and I find it a bit of a victory. When we purchased this house, the yard was devoid of animal and insect life. I remember sitting in a lawn chair and bemoaning the fact that there were no bees, butterflies, or even neighborhood birds in the yard.

We began planting bird- and insect- friendly flowers. We put out the bird feeders. We added bird feeders, bird baths, and hummingbird stations.

It worked!

Not all of the birds we see are visitors to our yard, however. Some of them are mere fly-bys, like the Osprey.


He never came close enough for a good photo, but I could hear him calling as he circled in the up-drafts above the cliffs below us. A bigger zoom lens and I might have been able to capture him, but I will settle for this.

I have seen osprey much closer. I used to watch them fish the ponds below our rural home, before we moved into town. Once, I witnessed a young osprey catch a big Kamloops Rainbow Trout – the fish was nearly as big as the bird and the bird scarcely made it to the top of a fir tree to eat his prize.


From March – October, the Turkey Vultures catch thermals above the cliffs. They migrate south in October and return in March.


They came closer than the osprey did, but they were still pretty far away, circling over the edge of the cliffs.


I think they are beautiful birds, even if they are quite ungainly on the ground. And they poop on my house.


The hummingbirds have filled us with so much joy and laughter this summer. I need to refill all of the hummingbird feeders tomorrow because these little insectivores really suck up the energy drinks!

If you’re curious (and I know you are): boil 2 cups water for 2 minutes. Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar into the water. Cool and pour into a feeder. I actually boil 8 cups of water – that’s how many hummingbird feeders I have added to my yard.


We have had a trio of Scrub Jays and a single Stellar’s Jay hanging out in the yard. The Stellar’s spends most of its time in the hazelnut with the neighboring Eastern Fox Squirrel, trying to open unripened filberts. I caught this Scrub Jay enjoying the evening’s last rays.


This girl flew through our backyard, just feet from where I was sitting on the lawn chair, taking a breather from yard work. She kept peeking around the tree to see if I was going to come any closer.


Convinced I was harmless, she came out into the open and feasted. She’s a she: no red moustache.

The real reason I wanted to do a bird post was this guy.


He was hanging out with his two siblings, trying to rob the suet feeder and eating seeds knocked out of the feeder. There’s something terribly odd about him and I grabbed my camera to capture some images.


This is one of the siblings, a normal looking Western Scrub Jay.


And my bird. The lower part of his beak is twice as long as the upper half!

I did some research on deformed bird beaks and came up with some studies in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska – and in the United Kingdom – of a sudden rise in birds with deformed beaks. There’s no explanation for the sudden increase: they’ve studied environmental causes and come up dry. I couldn’t find a lot of information after 2010 and most of it was tied to studies by the USGS in Alaska. (that’s my link, not an advertisement)

I researched avian keratin disorder and came up with the same links and some research papers, but it’s pretty boring reading. Something is causing birds to grow abnormally long, twisted, or curled beaks. The studies seem to concentrate on chickadees, but jays are certainly among the birds affected. They don’t live long, lacking the ability to properly preen and care for their feathers.

British Trust for Ornithology

Wired Science

You can do your own search if you are interested. I am keeping an eye on my Scrub Jay friend. So far, he is still around.

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