Archive for Backyard Birds

Blue Jay 6/13/18

The word “Jay” was first used to describe loud and garrulous people and flashy dressers, and then later began to be applied to a European bird exhibiting similar characteristics. Today there are close to 60 species of jay worldwide, many of which are found in the American tropics. They are closely related to crows, ravens, and magpies in the Corvid family, all of which are known for their intelligence, and jays in particular for being able to plan ahead as well as their incredible abilities to mimic. The Blue Jay is primarily a year-round forest bird that has adapted well to the park-like habitats of human residential land use in eastern North America. They have one basic plumage of blue, sky-blue, black, white, and pale (sometimes lilac) gray that doesn’t vary year round or between sexes.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5/29/18

Tiny but fierce, this male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds brooks no intruders in his territory. In shadow his ruby gorget looks black or dark red but one little change of angle and its ruby iridescence flashes brilliantly. All day long he cruises the coral bells and solomon’s seal in my garden, occasionally mainlining at the feeder, then dashing out of nowhere in an explosion of twittering squeaks to chase off any hummingbird trespasser. Watering the garden almost always attracts him, he likes to sit just downwind of the mist drifting off the sprinkler, but out of the mainstream.

 

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5/26/18

Gnatcatchers are a group of tiny songbirds found in the Americas, most of them nonmigratory and tropical, but the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher migrates as far as northern California, the Great Lakes, and New England. This one was a blast to watch catching gnats out of the air yesterday, in what can only be described as joyous nonstop acrobatics. While small and insectivorous, these are not wood warblers, but are more closely related to the kinglets and wrens. Both sexes have the white eye-ring and white outer tail feathers, but males like this bird have a blue-ish head with the black eye stripe, while females are a plainer gray.

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American Robin fledgling 5/25/18

This little bird was still less than 100′ away from its nest in the yew bushes up where the cars park when I heard one of it parents clucking loudly and came to investigate. It probably had fledged in the previous 5 or 10 minutes, and still sporting downy fuzz,  but as it moved further way from its nest forever I grabbed my camera and caught a few snaps as it entered the great unknown. American Robins (and Eastern Bluebirds) are arguably spot-breasted thrushes like their close cousins the Wood and Hermit Thrushes, only they lose their spots in adult plumage.

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Great Crested Flycatcher 5/24/18

One of our larger flycatchers, the Great Crested likes deciduous and mixed woods where it sits high up in the canopy waiting and watching for larger insects like butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, and wasps. They’re moreoften heard than seen and rarely come down to the ground. They have big heads with a gray face, throat, and breast, with lemony bellies, and rusty highlights in the primary and tail feathers. Topside they are a dull greenish brown. Mated pairs frequently call to each other with a whee eep, but they also have some more frog-like calls. They are the only eastern flycatcher to nest in tree cavities. Sexes are alike.

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Baltimore Oriole male 5/23/18

This handsome guy plays flute over my garden off and on all day while making the rounds of his territory. Clear calls and songs flow out over the neighborhood. He seems settled but I’ve not seen his mate who may already be sitting in a woven bag of a nest high up in some hardwood. His most prominent perch I know of is a huge old maple just leafing out and I often see him up there. He’s the most brilliant of all songbirds, arriving with that first flush of flowering fruit trees, and you just never think something so flashy and flutey is a member of the blackbird family.

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Orchard Oriole immature male 5/18/18

I don’t often run across Orchard Orioles but when I do it’s this time of year and usually, but not always, near fresh water—like the woody edges of a river, pond, marsh or swamp. Most songbirds mature after just 1 year, but Orioles take 2. This one’s an immature male, brighter and yellower than adult males who are black above and a rusty orange below and who are more often mistaken for a Robin than recognized as a different oriole. The immature male has an indistinct black bib below the bill that can vary individually, but helps tell this bird apart from a female Baltimore Oriole who is similarly yellow green above and yellow orange below.

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