Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hummingbirds Don't Treat Geese as Public Transport and Other Important Facts

Photo from
Today, while researching something entirely unrelated, I happened upon the myth that hummingbirds migrate by hitching rides on the backs of geese. I had never heard this particular folk tale before, but apparently it started with the pilgrims who didn't believe that such little birds could cover large distances on their own. And so a legend was born.

The truth about hummingbirds is far weirder than any fiction. Even when I dealt with them on a daily basis as a wildlife vet tech I was constantly amazed. So, without further fanfare, I present you with a random collection of seven hummingbird facts to enliven your evening.

*Hummingbirds are very ferocious and territorial. Males will claim areas of up to 1/4 acre. They have been known to attack not only other hummingbirds but also images of hummingbirds, jays, crows, and even birds of prey. 

*Hummingbirds do everything fast. Even mating only takes about 4 seconds.

*Hummingbirds do migrate, but they do it under their own power, not with the help of any waterfowl. They can cover about 25 miles a day, and can even cross open ocean and desert, a surprising sight for oil rig workers who have been buzzed by the tiny birds miles off the coast.

*Hummingbirds have the highest brain to body size ratio of any bird in the world

*Dinosaurs are not extinct. Hummingbirds are one of the most highly specialized modern forms.

*Hummingbirds are the smallest type of bird in the world. The bee hummingbird is the tiniest and weighs only 2g.

*Hummingbirds can enter a state called torpor that resembles a miniature hibernation period but can be mistaken for death. Occasionally they will hang upside down during this time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Stuff! Lots and Lots of New Stuff!

August is flying by! Wasn't it just last week that I was at SDCC? Yeah, I know... Comic-Con International: San Diego should be called CCI:SD but that's a bit too much trouble to type.

Anyway, the end of August brings with it several new books that I'd like to tell you about.

First up is Station to Station, written by Gabriel Hardman and me with art by Gabriel. It's a one-shot from Dark Horse Comics:

Something terrible has happened to the Bay Area. A pipeline explosion has totaled Treasure Island and destroyed the Bay Bridge. At least, that’s the official story . . .
An interdimensional monster has been brought to San Francisco, and only the men responsible can fight it off, but can they resist its brainwashing? From the pages of Dark Horse Presents!

Dropping the very same day is Star Wars: Legacy #6, the first issue of a whole new arc! Written by Gabriel and me with beautiful art by Brian Thies, this is a great jumping on point if you're new to the series and were thinking about checking it out. Want to know more?

When word comes that Sith are being sought out and murdered by another Sith, Ania Solo and Imperial Knight Jao want to find out why.
The only things standing in their way are the Empire, the Jedi, the Galactic Alliance, and the Imperial Knights!
* Artist Brian Thies (Marvel’s Winter Soldier) joins the team!
"Star Wars: Legacy is a worthy follow-up to the old one and a solid debut for Hardman and Bechko." — IGN

And one week later, Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen will be out as a hardcover from Marvel Comics. Dan Thompson and I co-wrote it, and there is lovely art by Mike Henderson, Mike Del Mundo, Stephanie Hans, and Vasilis Lolos. Here's the low-down: 

The Evil Queen has, quite literally, captured the Huntsman's heart -- and now he's her slave. Based on the world of ABC's hit primetime series ONCE UPON A TIME, this is the never-before-told tale behind their twisted relationship -- and what happens when a good man is forced to do bad. When Regina cooks up yet another devious plan to capture Snow White -- this time by allying with a pack of power-hungry werewolves -- the Huntsman comes face-to-face with his past...and an independent spirit in Red Riding Hood that just may match his own. Can these two break free of the forces that bind them and save Snow White? When put to the test, where will the Huntsman's loyalties lie? Has the Evil Queen stolen his heart in more ways than one?
Whew! Sorry for the shameless plug but I'm really proud of these three titles and hope you'll check one of them out. Next post I'll get back to weird birds and cute cats, promise. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Los Angeles - Paradise for Weird Birds

Los Angeles is a city of odd immigrants. Yes, people move here from all over, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Look around SoCal and you'll see that almost every living thing evolved somewhere else. That lawn? Probably European. Those eucalyptus trees? Australian. The neighborhood pigeons? North Africa. With all these transplants it's easy to become blase about unusual flora and fauna. Even wild parrots don't cause most people to look up anymore. Go shopping in Old Town Pasadena and you're almost guaranteed to see a flock of them eating, nesting, or playing with the local crows.

Magpie-jay enjoying the sun - photo by Gabriel Hardman
That said, there are still a few visitors who can turn heads. And one of them has taken up residence at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

Pictured here is a beautiful black-throated magpie-jay, a native of Mexico that normally ranges from southern Sonora to northern Colima. The first report that I could find about this particular bird indicated that he's been living near the studio at least since 2010. Given his striking colors and big personality, it's a safe bet that he was an aviary resident before that or he would have been noticed sooner. Or he may have traveled up from southern San Diego county, where a flock of magpie-jays have become established after apparently escaping from wildlife smugglers in Tijuana.

Either way, it's not too surprising that a magpie-jay would do well at a studio. They're omnivorous, like the crows they are closely related to, and smart. Studios are a lot like big campuses, filled with people constantly dropping food, so there's plenty to eat. Lots of big trees help too. Corvids of all types love to play and are very curious, so it's common to see them carrying sticks and bright objects. This guy is no exception, as he was brought to my attention when my husband Gabriel was working on the lot recently and spotted him lugging twigs around.
Carrying a stick - photo by Gabriel Hardman

Black-throated magpie-jays are fairly common in their native territory, but recent reports have seemed to point to a drop in their population. It's unknown if there is only one magpie-jay at Warner Bros. or perhaps a couple, which could lead to a breeding community. Chances are that this guy is all alone, but clearly he's doing okay. As a member of such a long-lived and intelligent species, hopefully he'll grace the studio with his colorful plumage and shrill voice for many years to come.
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