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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

3/13/2014 10:22:00 AM
Birds as Logos-
Black-Capped Chickadee - Photos by Don Reimer
Black-Capped Chickadee - Photos by Don Reimer
Great Egret (top) and Red-Breasted Merganser
Great Egret (top) and Red-Breasted Merganser
by Don Reimer

From avian depictions on ancient cave walls, we know that birds have influenced man's thinking and given expression to cultural themes down through the ages. In the modern period, birds continue to exert an active cultural role. These days, birds are widely featured in art and photography, sports team logos, commercial advertising and social and environmental enterprises. Let's look at three species that are used in logos that we commonly see. Each of the three species has different seasonal connections to Maine.

Every U.S. state has a designated state bird. For Mainers, it's the energetic, charismatic Black-Capped Chickadee. Truthfully, I've never met a chickadee that I didn't instantly like. The perky chickadee is an ecological anchor species for guilds of similar small birds that keep company during the winter. Chickadees join with roving troupes of nuthatches, creepers, kinglets, downy woodpeckers and goldfinches to patrol the woodlands together. As springtime approaches, migrating birds may also link up with chickadees, possibly because chickadees hold local knowledge of reliable food sources.

Chickadees survive icy winter nights by huddling inside protective tree cavities and temporarily lowering their body temperature by 12 to 15 degrees in a state of controlled hypothermia. Their brain size increases during the winter period, adding more memory capacity to help remember locations where food is cached. Winter chickadee flocks numbering four to 12 birds eventually disperse in spring to form separate breeding pairs.

Another well-known logo bird is the Great Egret, the majestic flying symbol of the National Audubon Society. In the late nineteenth century Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their lacey breeding plumes, sparking conservation movements and some of the first protection laws. The species has recovered substantially since then. They nest as far north as Stratton Island near Scarborough, where they typically build stick nests high in trees to avoid mammalian predators.

Great Egrets arrive in Maine by mid-April, and a few individuals usually overshoot their mark to make cameo appearances at coastal sites such as Weskeag Marsh. They are readily distinguished from the smaller Snowy Egrets by their long, bright-yellow bill and totally black legs. To ancient Greeks, a double-headed heron icon was a symbol of prosperity.

Serving as Mid-Coast Audubon Society's logo bird, the shaggy-naped Red-Breasted Merganser winters along Maine rivers, bays and stretches of deep open ocean, where it dives for fish and occasional crabs and shrimp. Its bright red eyes and feet, the male's handsome red-orange bill, ruddy chest and white neck ring make this bird one of our most picturesque ducks.

Like all three North American merganser species, the Red-Breasted's narrow bill is edged with serrated tooth-like projections to prevent slippery fish from escaping.

The Red-Breasted Merganser breeds farther north and winters farther south than the other two American mergansers. By mid-April they will abandon Maine waters for breeding grounds in Alaska, northern Canada to Newfoundland and south to the Great Lakes. It is an exceedingly swift flier.

Keep an eye open for logo birds in your daily ventures. You may be surprised at how many you find.

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