In the 2012 President's Budget Request, the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) is terminated. As a result, all resources, databases, tools, and applications within this web site will be removed on January 15, 2012. For more information, please refer to the NBII Program Termination page.
Description:Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds at 4 inches long. The back and head are iridescent green, the underparts are white. Males have a brilliant red metallic throat and a forked tail. Females have a dull grayish throat, white tips on their wings and a square-tipped tail.
Life History:Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary. Adults only come into contact for the purpose of mating. The primary food sources of ruby-throated hummingbirds are floral nectar and small insects. They consume twice their body weight in food each day. Adult ruby-throated hummingbirds are vulnerable to predation by raptors, while blue jays predate nestlings. However, the most common predator of ruby-throated hummingbirds is probably house cats.
Habitat:The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found in deciduous and pine forests and forest edges, orchards, and gardens. During the winter, ruby-throated hummingbirds live in tropical deciduous forests, citrus groves, forest edges, hedgerows, along rivers and marshes, and in old fields.
Distribution:Ruby-throated hummingbirds are found in North and Central America. They breed throughout the eastern United States and in southern Canada where there is eastern and mixed deciduous forest. They winter in southern Mexico, Central America (as far south as Costa Rica), and in the West Indies.
Status:The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is not threatened and has not been given a special status. However, it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, and like all hummingbirds, is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Ecological Importance of Birds Birds play several important roles in ecosystems. As consumers, they help regulate populations of smaller animals they prey upon, disperse plant seeds, and pollinate flowering plants. As prey items, birds and bird eggs are consumed by a variety of larger predators.
Birds of the Southeastern United States Bird populations in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee vary seasonally because some birds are permanent residents while others are merely passing through during their seasonal migrations. Birds which migrate south of the U.S. are neotropical migratory birds, overwintering predominantly in Mexico and Central America. Endemic species, those that are found nowhere else in the world, are rare in the United States. In the Southeast, only the Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is an endemic species.
In Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee, bird inhabitants (both seasonal and year-round) number as follows: in Alabama, there are 345 species; in Mississippi, there are 303 species; in Tennessee, there are 292 species; in Kentucky, there are 287 species (Stein, Kutner & Adams, 2000).
For more about birds, refer to the "Bird Web Resources" page listed on the navigation menu at left.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System [on-line database]. Available http://www.itis.gov. (Accessed May 2008).
NatureServe. 2008. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: May, 2008).
Birds provide important ecological services that contribute to maintaining ecosystem processes and some of the necessary conditions on which humans and other organisms depend. These services range from food provisioning to modification of habitats and resource flows in biological communities. Bird declines can have negative impacts on ecosystems, and their sensitivity to environmental change often lends them as useful indicators of environmental quality.
The NBII Bird Conservation Node provides electronic access to North American bird population and habitat data maintained by a broad coalition of federal, state, and non-governmental partners. These data resources are vital to the planning and evaluation of science-based bird conservation strategies. Assembling these resources is an important step toward coordination of bird conservation.
Description:One of the seven species of white herons, the Great Egret is tall, extremely slender, and long-necked with white plumage, black legs and feet, and a yellow bill. It is larger than any other heron except the Great Blue.
Life History:During the breeding season, both males and females exhibit long black plumes. Not all young that hatch survive the nestling period as aggression among nestlings is common, and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings. The Great Heron feeds alone and hunts fish, frogs, snakes, and crayfish in shallow water. The longevity record for a wild Great Egret is nearly 23 years.
Habitat:The Great Egret is found in tropical and temperate wetlands. As wetlands are destroyed, the Great Egret becomes threatened.
Distribution:The Great Egret is found on every continent except Antarctica. In the Americas, it breeds from Canada to Argentina and Chile. Wintering populations can be found as far north as waters remain ice-free in North America. Generally this ranges from Oregon south along the West Coast, and along Mexico down to Panama, as well as throughout much of the southern United States, and up the Eastern Seaboard, sometimes into New York and Massachusetts during warmer years.
Status:Although the Great Egret is not currently threatened, it is listed as a "Species of Concern" in Florida due to its vulnerability to wetland destruction and the possible loss of habitat and natural watercourses.
Photo courtesy of Rochester Institute of Technology
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Description:The Brown Pelican is dark and bulky with a wingspan of 6.5 feet. The throat pouch suspends from the lower half of the hooked bill and can hold 3 gallons of water and fish.
Life History:The Brown Pelican lives in flocks and flies in groups. Unlike most birds, which warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet, essentially standing on the eggs to warm them. This incubation method made them vulnerable to the effects of the pesticide DDT, because the DDT made the eggshells thin, and the incubating parents frequently cracked their eggs. Brown Pelicans dive from the air for fish. They also eat crustaceans.
Habitat:The Brown Pelican is found along ocean shores and bays. They are rarely seen inland
Distribution:The Brown Pelican is a permanent resident of the coastal marine environment from central North America southward to northern South America. It breeds in scattered locations along the Atlantic coast from Maryland southward around Florida, and westward to southern Texas and Mexico; and on the Pacific Coast from southern California down to South America. The largest U.S. colony is on California's West Anacapa Island.
Status:The Brown Pelican is listed as endangered, except on the Atlantic coast, Florida, and Alabama. Pesticide poisoning, especially by DDT, caused huge declines in Brown Pelican status. After the ban on DDT, the Brown Pelican population recovered. The total population in the United States now exceeds historical figures.