A small bird slightly larger than a starling, preferring to hide in thickets and be nocturnal, is a water shepherd from the shepherd family. It is not in vain that the bird prefers not to show itself - after all, at the moment it is more realistic to see it in the Red Book than in nature.
In terms of body structure, shepherdesses resemble quails or partridges - not a large, neat bird about 26 cm long and weighing a little less than 200 grams. Its disproportionate and laterally flattened body resembles a corncrake - however, unlike it, the shepherd has a long and curved beak.
This bird has a special cry, clearly distinguishable from any other waterfowl, - a rather characteristic likeness of a pig's squeal. Voice activity, like the life cycle, is mainly associated with the night time.
The plumage of the shepherdess does not differ in brightness, but attracts attention with its variegation. The main role in the appearance of the bird is played by the beak: thin, long, almost the same size as the head - usually it is brightly colored with a red or orange tone. The rest of the plumage is steel-gray, and narrow light gray stripes stand out on the sides. Olive brown feathers with wide dark stripes can be seen on the back and wings. The tail of the bird is short, softened - and does not stop wiggling when moving. Red-brown legs, too thin in relation to the body, complement the dandy appearance of the shepherdess.
It is interesting that the main and practically the only difference between females and males of this species is that the males are slightly larger than their partners.
The average lifespan of these birds is impressive for this size - they live on average up to nine years. Moreover, the fertility of this species allows you to create several clutches per season.
White-breasted little shepherd
White-chested Lesser Shepherd, White-chested Chalice (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
Bird class (Aves)
Order Cranes (Gruiformes)
Family Shepherd (Rallidae)
Genus Small shepherdesses (Amaurornis)
A family of such birds was observed in the Maldives. In general, it is found throughout Asia, and even reaches Kamchatka.
A pair, male and female, and three chicks covered with dark gray down. The chicks were almost the same size as the adult birds.
As a rule, they walk together, but quite freely - whoever wanted to go there and went. I have not seen them fly, but the wings are quite developed. But I saw how they jump on branches a meter from the ground, helping themselves with their wings. Also, we flew in and jumped onto the table without any problems. In short, if desired, they can fly, apparently. But rarely and badly.
But they have large developed legs with long toes, which allows them to walk calmly on any, even the most loose soil (in our case, on fine sand)
When walking, they wag their tail in a funny way, possibly to indicate to chicks (under the tail, the ass is bright red).
Lost chicks, like chicken chicks, loudly call their parents.
If an adult bird finds food, it grabs with its beak and runs towards the chicks. But then it bounces off the chicks, which in the end only the most agile chicks (or the hungry) can pick up food. Well, like that there is no freebie, they show the chicks :).
Apparently eating insects and fallen fruits. In my opinion, they are omnivorous. We fed them with bread - older birds can take crumbs from tourists' hands, although the bird is still shy. By the way, they dipped the hard peaks into the water to make them softer.
I will assume that the white-breasted little shepherdesses are "territorial" animals. Only this family always walked near our house, and when a stranger single shepherd wandered in, they knocked him on the kumpol and drove him away.
In general, funny cute and stupid Maldivian chickens, which for some reason we called "gopniks"
And they are very vociferous - they shout loudly so that it is hard to believe that such a small carcass can make such strong sounds.
The shepherd lives on almost all continents - in Europe, and in Asia, and in the Americas, and in Africa - in a wide variety of regions, but in very small quantities. Until now, scientists argue about the presence of this bird species in India - the data on its distribution there are contradictory.
Regarding habitats, the shepherd prefers to settle along the banks of water bodies, choosing the most stagnant, flooded and even swamps: thanks to this, they get access to reeds, reeds and other vegetation. It is the presence of near-water greenery as the main material for nesting and just shallow water for getting food that can be called the main criteria for choosing a habitat for a bird.
And the most interesting thing is that even if the territory ideally meets all the needs, this does not mean at all that it is here that the population will settle - and scientists do not find an explanation for this.
The shepherd boy feeds mostly on small insects, larvae, molluscs and other invertebrates. He does not neglect aquatic vegetation, as well as small amphibians and fish. The prey is usually found in a reservoir: on the surface, at the bottom, on the coastline.
Since the shepherd boy in the daytime is in dense grass and rarely appears in open spaces, he practically does not fly - he runs more, is quite agile and fast.
Moreover, a bird rises into the air only in case of extreme danger - and even then not higher than a meter (of course, not taking into account the moment of migration). In especially acute cases, he knows how to swim and even dive.
For the most part, water shepherdesses live alone, maximum in pairs. This is due to their aggressive nature, however, sometimes there are cases when birds form impressive groups of up to thirty individuals: but such groups disintegrate very quickly.
The habitat of shepherds
This bird is widespread almost everywhere in Eurasia and North America. The exception is the cold northern regions of the continents, where these birds do not fly at all. Widely distributed in Asia and the Middle East. If we talk about Russia, then the habitat of shepherds is limited to the Karelian Isthmus, Lake Ladoga, then to the south of the Kirov region, Bashkiria and the Chelyabinsk region. In Eastern Siberia, it is often found in Transbaikalia and the Irkutsk region, as well as on the Vitim plateau and on the Lena River. Representatives of the species were also noted on Sakhalin and the Southern Kuriles.
If birds live in a temperate climate, they do not fly away for wintering, but if in winter the air temperature drops significantly below zero, shepherds migrate to warm southern regions where there is no lack of food.
The shepherd's cry is special, not comparable with other birds within the range.
Cowgirl lifestyle and nutrition
Due to their small size and inability to resist predators, shepherdesses lead a rather secretive lifestyle. The presence of a bird can sometimes be judged only by its singing, distributed nearby.
During the day, these birds hide in dense grass, but if the situation is calm, then they can go out into the open.
With the onset of dusk, and then darkness, the shepherdesses become much more active.
When danger threatens him, it takes off to a height of about a meter, and flies off to the side. In other circumstances, excluding migration, it practically does not fly, and moves at a brisk pace. In shallow water and in swamps, it deftly and quickly minces over flooded plants, which gives the impression that the bird is running on the water. It swims well in open water, and dives when needed.
Listen to the voice of the water shepherdess
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The water shepherd leads an isolated lifestyle, rarely uniting in groups of 25-30 individuals. But due to increased aggression, such associations quickly disintegrate. In nature, shepherds live up to 8-9 years.
As for nutrition, these birds eat a variety of worms, insects, as well as small aquatic invertebrates and mollusks. In the absence of animal food, they gladly eat the seeds of aquatic plants, but they are not able to constantly eat them. A special delicacy for the shepherdess is carrion and fish, which sometimes the bird catches with enthusiasm.
Water shepherds become sexually mature by the age of 2, but often the majority begin to reproduce only in the third year of life.
Water shepherdesses are monogamous birds, and keep mating all year round.
During seasonal migration, they arrive at nesting sites in already established pairs, and immediately begin to build a nest. During the nesting period, shepherds become territorial, and aggressively drive out any birds from their territory.
The diameter of the nest of these birds is 12-16 centimeters, the height is about 14-18. The nest is set up on last year's reeds, in a quiet place protected from the wind.
The nest is located above the water itself, or at an elevation of no more than 15 cm above the surface.
For the construction of birds, they use all kinds of dry herbs and twigs, and for camouflage they use exactly those plants, among which they decided to equip their home.
When the nest is built, the female lays the first clutch of eggs in the season (usually several clutches occur per season).
From 5 to 16 eggs of gray or red color are placed in the nest and incubated by both parents alternately.
After 20-22 days, chicks hatch, in which a white beak is clearly visible and the whole body is covered with black fluff. The young grows very quickly - after 5 days the chicks are able to peck food themselves, and after 14 days they can get it for themselves.
After 20-30 days, the brood becomes completely independent, and rises on the wing already in about 2 months after birth.
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