Unknown Biology of Birds
'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, December 2016
Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado
English Translation: Asia Club, a WBSJ Volunteer Group (UENO Naohiro and KASE Tomoko)
Just a year ago I visited Poland. I will introduce here three photos of birds I took on that occasion. The photographed site was Wilanow Palace which was built in the 17th century as a summer palace of King Jan III Sobieski. It has a beautiful garden like that of the Palace of Versailles and nowadays it is open to the public.
I make it a rule to photograph birds in the morning, but that day it was rainy and the state of the light was unfavorable. Besides, the first bird species I saw was the Mallard which is one of the most common duck species even in Japan in winter, therefore, I was rather unmotivated for taking photos. When I happened to see my surroundings, however, the view of the palace with majestic dignity and the magnificent garden came into my sight. I pulled myself together thinking that I would be able to take photos representing the national character of Poland and decided to take my time to look around the gorgeous garden putting a raincoat on my camera.
In a little while I encountered the birds of Paridae family which moved from a tree to another. The Great Tit can be seen even in my home garden, but fortunately, a great tit there perched on a tree with red berries many times. Even raindrops can be effective to the photos. While I released the shutter with high spirits, an idea occurred to my mind that the great tit I was looking at might be a different sub-species from the Japanese Tit. Its body size was a little bigger and the breast was yellow. After returning home I checked and found that the tit was certainly a different sub-species. I hear that some ornithologists say these sub-species should be classified into different species.
I could successfully take the only one photo of the Blue Tit which does not occur in Japan. From this experience I have realized that I should not give up taking bird photos even on a rainy day..
Now, this time I would like to introduce ‘the surprising discoveries’ about these three species which I felt interesting. First is the mallards. Landing from the river, they were eagerly eating acorns at the base of trees. I was very surprised to know that mallards eat acorns because I had assumed that among duck species only the Mandarin Duck eats them as a favorite diet. After I returned home, I learned that even in Japan there are reports of sightings that duck species including the mallard eat acorns.
Next is the Great Tit. In 2009, a research was released that great tits in a certain place in Hungary attacked wintering bats in a cave and killed and ate them. Although the bats are the smallest species in Europe, they are nothing but mammals. I was astonished at the fact that great tits eat mammals, as I have seen them eating only nuts and insects. It is said that such a behavior is observed only when no other diets are available and that is a pattern of behavior developed to survive and is passed down for generations.
The last is the Blue Tit. A bird can see the ultraviolet ray in addition to three primary colors, red, green and blue, which are visible to human eyes. A few years ago, it was announced that blue tits have blue feathers on the head which reflect the ultraviolet ray and that birds recognize it differently from humans who see it as the same to 3-colors. It is said that the volume of reflecting ultraviolet ray shows the health condition and the strength of gene of an individual bird which is a very important factor to appeal its charm especially in courtship period. Furthermore, when the volume of ultraviolet ray reflection on the head of a female bird in a chick-rearing pair is experimentally decreased, the frequency of feedings by her counterpart is said to be significantly decreased.
Even if I believe myself that I am in camouflaged-color clothes when I go into a forest, I may be extremely remarkable in clothes with rich reflection of ultraviolet fiber.
I am sorry for the rambling story, but I hoped to share ‘the surprising discoveries’ about some birds in autumn in Poland which I thought interesting. I will be happy if you also think them interesting.