Common Birds of Louisiana


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Laughing Gull LAUGHING GULL

Larus atricilla

Laughing Gull: Common along the Gulf Coast.

The Laughing Gull, the only gull found here in the summer, has a black mantle and white on the back edge of the wings.

In fall it moults, that is, it sheds its feathers, not all at once, but a few at a time. At this time the black color of the head changes to a grayish-white. When it is this color, it is said to be in winter plum- age.

The gulls differ from the terns, by their stouter bodies, square tail, and stout bills.

These birds nest in great flocks along the coast. The nest is made on the ground of rough sticks. Two to three eggs are laid.

The food consists of fish, dead or alive, and other water animals. In the nesting season many eggs and young of other shore-nesting birds are eaten. Often they have been seen to take food out of a Pelican's mouth before the slow creature realizes what has happened.

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MOURNING DOVE Mourning Dove

Zenaidura macroura

Mourning Dove: Notice the characteristic shape of the head.

The Mourning Dove, often but incorrectly spoken of as the Turtle Dove, is the commonest one in Louisiana. It nests and winters here. It is a little larger than a Robin, brownish-gray in color and has a cooing song, which has attracted attention for a long time.

It is found in open country and in open woods, but is seldom seen in dense forests. Perhaps this is because the food consists of seeds and berries of different kinds. In one stomach 9,200 seeds of weeds were found. Once the doves are mated, they stay together even though more than one brood is raised. The male works with the female in building the nest, sitting on the eggs, and feeding the young.

The nest is made of rough sticks, so loosely put together that it would seem that the two white eggs would roll out or fall through.

The adults feed the young at first on pre-digested food. This milk-like substance, produced in the crop, gives rise to the name of pigeon's milk.

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YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Coccyzus americanus

Yellow-billed Cuckoo: Mysterious and secretive in habits, but highly useful.

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, sometimes called Rain-Crow, is a common summer resident of the state. It is colored brown on the back and white underneath. The wings are rufous. The dark colored tail is white at the tips. At close range the yellow on the lower mandible can be seen.

The nest is very poorly constructed. Often the eggs are destroyed by rolling out or falling through the nest. It is made of rough sticks and placed four to eight feet from the ground.

This is a very helpful bird to the farmer, since much of its food consists of harmful caterpillars. Several hundreds of them have been found in the stomach of a single bird. Most birds do not touch the hairy creatures because of the painful injury they are capable of giving. The Cuckoo, however, does not seem to mind. Sometimes the stomach-lining has so many hairs stuck to it that it resembles fur. These birds are certainly deserving of all the protection we can give them.

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Screech Owl SCREECH OWL

Otus asio

Screech Owl: In the South this bird is better known as the Shivering Owl.

The Screech Owl, a permanent resident of Louisiana, is one of our most interesting birds. The color is either gray or red without regard to sex, age, or season. The ear-tufts are very conspicuous. Like most other owls the Screech Owl is most active at night and sleeps or sits quietly during the day. The nest is made in a hole in a tree, sometimes an old woodpecker's hole, a crevice in a building or even in a bird house. Usually four or five round white eggs are laid, which hatch in about twenty-six days. The female does most of the incubating. Usually then, mate for life. This is different, however, from most birds which have a new mate every year or sometimes oftener. The food consists of mice, rats, fish, frogs, lizards, crawfish and sometimes birds. It hardly ever disturbs chickens. These birds make good pets provided they are kept away from other birds, even from other Screech Owls.

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