under the impression that
the Florida birds were ringed
turtle-doves, and I confessed
to Tony that I knew nothing
of Eurasian collared-doves. He
told me about the population
of Eurasian collared-doves in
the Bahamas and theorized
that this was the species that
was expanding across Florida.
He explained the differences
between the two species, with
the calls being an important
clue: The two species sound
very different. We arrived in
Miami, rented a car, and drove
directly to Florida City, where
we stopped for a late lunch. As
we opened the car doors in the
parking lot of a fast food res-
taurant, we heard birds calling.
They were Eurasian collared-
doves. I felt privileged to wit-
ness the conclusion of a great
ornithological mystery. Tony
wasn’t the only birder to make
this discovery; others were sort-
ing it out at the same time, but
the episode taught me a lot
about making careful observa-
tions and realizing that the nat-
ural world still holds surprises.
Fresh Water for Ocean Birds.
Q: I know that birds like albatrosses can spend
months at a time out over the
ocean. Where do they get fresh
water? —Paul G.
A: Seabirds have adaptations that allow them to drink
saltwater and then rid themselves of the excess salt. They
have glands (known variously as
salt glands, supraorbital glands,
or nasal glands) near their eyes
that extract salt from the bloodstream, and the super-salty liquid exits through grooves in the
skull that lead to their nostrils.
Like all nightjars, the lesser nighthawk
has a large mouth, well adapted for
catching large flying insects.