The Behavior of Texas Birds

University of Texas Press
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Whether it's the sudden, plunging dives of Brown Pelicans, the singing and aerial displays of Northern Mockingbirds, or the communal nesting of Purple Martins, innate and learned behaviors are some of the most fascinating things to observe in Texas birds. Even casual birdwatchers eventually ask, "why do they do that?" while serious birders and ornithologists seek to understand all the behaviors involved in feeding, flying, mating, and rearing young. But until now, it has been hard to find this information in one handy source.

In this comprehensive, yet easy-to-use book, Kent Rylander distills data from many sources to provide an authoritative guide to the behavior of Texas birds. He begins by explaining the principles of animal behavior and illustrating how they can be applied to interpreting bird behaviors in the field. The majority of the book is devoted to accounts of more than 400 species of birds that are most likely to be encountered by Texas birdwatchers. Each account describes such behaviors as feeding, courtship, parenting, and other behaviors that are significant for that species. References to interesting and important articles from scientific journals are incorporated in the species accounts where appropriate, and line drawings illustrate some of the behaviors described.

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About the author

Kent Rylander is Professor of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Texas Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2010
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Pages
443
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ISBN
9780292774728
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Birdwatching Guides
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Available on Android devices
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In any other context, saying that someone was “for the birds” would hardly be polite. But applied to Connie Hagar, it would be high praise. The diminutive birdwatcher nicknamed Connie was reared as Martha Conger Neblett in early twentieth-century Texas, where she led a genteel life of tea parties and music lessons. But at middle age she became fascinated with birds and resolved to learn everything she could about them. In 1935, she and her husband, Jack, moved to Rockport, on the Coastal Bend of Texas, to be at the center of one of the most abundant areas of bird life in the country. Her diligence in observation soon had her setting elite East Coast ornithologists on their ears, as she sighted more and more species the experts claimed she could not possibly have seen. (Repeatedly she proved them wrong.) She ultimately earned the respect and love of birders from the shores of New Jersey to the islands of the Pacific. Life Magazine pictured her in a tribute to the country’s premier amateur naturalists, and she received many awards from nature and birding societies.

Connie Hagar’s life history is more than just a bird book. Hers is a story of dedication to nature and the role she could play in promoting it to others, despite recurring threats of blindness and other health problems. The hundreds of species of birds that visited Rockport each year brought thousands of other birders, and Connie patiently hosted and assisted both the greenest beginners and the most magisterial experts. It was she, more than any other person, who made coastal Texas—and especially Rockport—a mecca for all serious birders.

Karen Harden McCracken and Connie Hagar’s Boswellian-Johnsonian relationship in the 1960s, Connie’s own “Nature Calendars” containing thirty-five years of observations, and interviews with those who knew the “birdwoman of Rockport” provide the basis for this simple but exhilarating narrative.
On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you."

What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex's case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous—two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.

The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, "I love you."

Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin—despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one univer­sity to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.

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