SCIENTIFIC NAME:Steatornis caripensis POPULATION: >10,000 TREND: Decreasing HABITAT: Breeds and roosts in caves sometimes roosts in trees.
The Oilbird is an oddity. It’s a nocturnal, fruit-eating bird that uses echolocation, much like a bat, to navigate. It nests inside caves in noisy colonies, where its raspy wails give it the Spanish nickname guácharo, “one who whines or laments.” Oilbirds are in their own family but are part of a larger group of night birds includingEastern Whip-poor-will,Chuck-will’s-widow, andCommon Potoo.
Oilbirds spend their days in darkness, resting deep inside caves and sometimes within thick tree canopies. They awake just before dusk and leave their roosts to feed, using keen nocturnal vision and sense of smell to locate fruit, which they pluck from trees while hovering.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Dumetella carolinensis POPULATION: 29 million TREND: Slight increase HABITAT: Dense thickets, brushy suburban areas, and gardens.
The Gray Catbird is a familiar member of the Mimidae (mimic) family, a group of birds that includes noted songsters such as Northern Mockingbird andSage Thrasher. Like its relatives, the Gray Catbird mimics a variety of sounds, but this bird is best known for the cat-like mewing calls that give the species its common name.
Gray Catbirds often sing from a high perch while displaying; this behavior gave rise to an idiom heard in the southern United States, “sitting in the catbird seat,” which refers to someone in an advantageous position.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Pterodroma phaeopygia POPULATION: 6,000-15,000 IUCN STATUS: Critically Endangered TREND: Declining HABITAT: Breeds on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador; otherwise at sea.
The swift-flying Galápagos Petrel is known by locals as patapegada, or “web-footed one.” Once lumped withHawaiian Petrelas a species known as the Dark-Rumped Petrel, this seabird was split into a unique species in 2002 by the American Ornithologist’s Union on the basis of genetic and morphologic distinctions.
With long wings and a unique flight pattern, this petrel is part of a larger group of seabirds known as “gadfly” petrels.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Bombycilla cedrorum POPULATION: 57 million TREND: Increasing HABITAT: Open woodlands, farms, orchards, and suburban gardens, especially with fruiting trees and shrubs.
The Cedar Waxwing’s genus name, Bombycilla, means “silk-tail” and refers to its dapper-looking plumage. The species name, cedrorum, is Latin for “of the cedars” and reflects its fondness for the small cones of the eastern red cedar.
The “wax” tipping the Cedar Waxwing’s secondary wing feathers is actually an accumulation of the organic pigment astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives red fruits their color. The tips increase in number and size with an individual’s age, and immature birds may show no red wingtips at all. Some scientists speculate that waxwings evolved these waxy tips to signal important information — such as age and social status — to other birds within the flock.