It is this time now, when warm sunny days change with wet and stormy ones. First signs of Georgian spring. On sunny days, we love to be embraced by the warms. We see first fruit trees blooming. On a walk in the hills we see the first spring flowers. Cyclamen and Hellebore in the woods, sometimes a Primrose already. Crocuses and Siberian Squill on meadows and even the first small Irisis.
Now it wont take long until the first spring birds return. When do you hear or see the first Hoopoe, the first Cuckoo, the first Swift, the first Bee-eater?
Let us know!
The Hoopoe and Cuckoo will soon be here. While the Hoopoe is often easy to see, the Cuckoo is sneaky in most areas. We will rather hear his typical call.
When we hear the Swifts and the Bee-eater here in the Caucasus, we know that the warm days really have arrived.
Which bird will be seen or heard first in Georgia?
Where will they be seen or heard first? And how do they spread over Georgia? We want to know. Let us know!
The Hoopoe is easily recognized because of its colorful feathers. It has a prominent, upright crest on its head, which consist of exactly 28 feathers. The long and strong black beak is curved and adapted for the feeding on the ground. It is very muscular so it can be opened while stuck in the ground when the bird is looking for food. This strong beak is also used to topple and search under large stones, strong tree barks and to probe through piles of dead leaves. Larger prey will usually be bashed against the ground or stones to kill them before ingestion.
The hoopoe eats mainly insects, but sometimes also small reptiles, amphibians or berries.
The hoopoe flies in smooth wave-like motion by moving its wings similar to that of a butterfly.
Hoopoes are often found on the ground with their wings spread out and their tail spread on the ground, and their heads tilted back. This is a stance of sunbathing, which is often accompanied by dust or mud baths.
The hoopoe prefers to live in areas with sparse vegetation, where it searches for food, and vertical surfaces such as cliffs, walls, etc., which it uses for building its nests.
During mating it is also quite common to be seen in yards.
The bird got its name from its primary call, ‘oop-oop-oop’.
Birds from the hoopoe family have existed since prehistoric times. The oldest hoopoe fossil has been dated to the Eocene epoch (56-33 million years ago) along with the first ancestors of modern mammals such as horses, deer, rhinoceroses, etc.
The cuckoo is one of the most widespread breeding birds in Europe, and is only absent from Iceland. Nevertheless, it is hard to see, but easy to hear. The cuckoo also got its name from the way it calls. But, actually only the male of the common cuckoo calls ‘cuckoo’. The female’s bubbling call is often compared resembling the sound of bath water running out when the plug is pulled.
In flight, a cuckoo can often be confused with a sparrow-hawk with its long, pointed wings and grey-flecked under parts. It is thought that this mimicry may be a deliberate ruse to frighten a smaller bird off its nest, enabling the female to lay her own egg there. And this is, what the cuckoo is actually famous for. Each season the cuckoo places between 12 and 22 eggs, each in different nests. Generally the eggs are placed in a nest belonging to the same species of bird that reared her. Unlike most birds, female cuckoos lay their eggs in the afternoon rather than the morning. Though cuckoo eggs usually resemble those of their host, around 20% are rejected so never hatch. After a cuckoo has hatched, it will not tolerate other eggs or chicks in the nest. They remove them from the nest.
The cuckoo’s favourite diet are hairy caterpillars.
Cuckoos tend to avoid towns and cities, but inhabit various types of countryside, including woodland margins, open farmland, hedgerows and marshes.
The Swift is an excellent flier, spending almost its entire life in the sky. It sleeps, eats, drinks and mates in the air. It only lands to breed. It is one of the fastest birds. It can reach a speed over 200 km/h.
They hunt for food higher than swallows for example and migrate at an elevation of 3.000 km. The highest recorded swift was determined on 10.300 m. These birds are able to fly during the night and adjust speed and direction of the flight using only half of the brain while the other half is sleeping.
Swifts have very small, weak feet. They use their feet to hold on to vertical places, for example, the wall of a house, or a cliff. They avoid landing on the ground.
Swifts usually build nests on two connected walls in buildings, towers and other tall man-made structures. It uses saliva and mud for nest building. The female usually lays 2 or 3 white eggs. Unlike other species of birds, newborn swifts are able to decrease body temperature and slow down metabolism to survive scarcity of food. When food becomes available, youngsters grow and develop as quickly as possible. Both parents take care of the chicks. They bring balls of food composed of 300 to 1000 insects.
Swifts and Swallows are often mistaken, as they look a little bit alike. But, they are not relatives. The forked tail of the swift is much shorter than of a Swallow. And Swifts will not build their nests on the outside of a building.
photo by Christian Gönner
Bee-eaters are one of the most colorful birds in Europe. Bee-eaters eat flying insects, especially bees and wasps. They catch them in the air by darting from a perch.They only catch insects which are flying. As soon as the insect lands, it will be ignored by the Bee-eater. Before eating a wasp or bee, the Bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting and rubbing the insect on a hard surface. The bird squeezes out most of the venom.
Bee-eaters live together. They form colonies by nesting in burrows tunnelled into the side of sandy banks, such as those that have collapsed on the edges of rivers. Many of these holes occur together.
Most of the species in the family are monogamous. Both parents care for the young, sometimes even with the assistance of other birds in the colony, a behaviour rather unusual for birds.
Their call, is a pleasant trill.
European Bee-Eaters are found in open country, woodland and farmland. During the day they can often be see perched on telegraph wire, fences or branches.