[Mystery bird] Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus, photographed in a Houston backyard in Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 21 April 2010 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/250s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.
- Based on this bird’s beak shape, what sort of diet would you expect it to have?
- What are those long, stiff hair-like feathers growing at the gape next to its beak known as?
- What additional information about this bird’s diet does the presence of those modified feathers suggest?
This bird primarily eats seeds, as indicated by the heavy beak and the angulated commissure (that sharp angle at the point where the cutting edge of the bill (tomium) meets the corner of the mouth (rictus).
Unknown. The precise function of rictal bristles is not known with certainty, but this might be because these modified feathers perform different functions in different species. But currently, it is thought that rictal bristles provide tactile information to birds — similar to the whiskers in cats.