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Mute Swan pair 4/5/18

New England has no native swans, though occasionally a handful of Tundra Swans are sighted during the fall migration. Mute Swans however, have been introduced from Europe to decorate parks and posh estates and then have become naturalized, in recent decades becoming fairly common—wintering in the tidal waters of our many creeks and bays. Adults have orange bills with black face masks and snow white plumage, the cob or male of this pair is out front, if you look close you’ll see the black nob at the base of his bill not seen in the smaller female. Juveniles have varying amount of dirty gray and white with either gray, tan, or pink bills.

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Mourning Dove 1/31/17

Mourning Doves—also known as Rain Doves or Carolina Turtle Doves—are abundant and year-round across the continental US. They are the closest living relative to the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon, and are in fact one of our most prolific birds, the US population alone is estimated at over 350 million. Like their exterminated cousins they are a game bird, indeed the most hunted of all game birds with 20-70 million harvested every year.

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Bufflehead female 1/22/17

Hen Buffleheads are even smaller than the shiny-headed drakes, with a dusky gray body and a white cheek patch. First year birds of both sexes look much like her, except the cheek patch is slightly larger in the immature males. In the breeding season, territorial disputes between females with young sometimes results with the winning female keeping most or all the young. I love how Buffleheads ski in for a long landing, but when taking off they’ll jump straight into the air.

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White-throated Sparrow 1/8/17

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Possibly my favorite of all sparrows, White-throateds sing a plaintive slow whistle, usually paraphrased Oh-sweet-canada or Old Sam Peabody. But what’s really interesting about them is that half their population comes with tan and brown stripes on the head while the other half has crispier white and black stripes like the bird in the photo, but both forms have the white throat and the yellow lores. Each form is roughly half male and half female. So what’s the big deal? Many birds come in different color morphs (eg: the gray and red morphs of Eastern Screech Owls), but what’s really peculiar about these birds is that one morph always mates with the other morph.

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Evening Grosbeak 6/3/16

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Pine Grosbeak female 3/8/15

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Pine Grosbeaks are irruptive frugivores. They search for fruit in winter, but supply varies widely from year to year making their migrations unpredictable. These are large true finches, breeding in the boreal forests across Canada and coming south into the states during the winter. Males have rosy heads, breasts, backs and rumps, females have greenish gold heads and rumps.

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