Archive for Backyard Birds

House Wren chicks 8/15/18

Believe it or not there are 7 House Wren chicks packed into this nest I found under the eave of an entryway. They’ll be fledging shortly, it’s hard to imagine any of them moving about without pushing one of its sibs out of the nest. House wrens build twiggy nests in a wide variety of cavities or other protected places such as garages, flower pots, nest boxes, and brush piles. They are quite common little brown songbirds with a loud burbly song frequently repeated.

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Red-winged Blackbird female 7/29/18

Female Red-wings are smaller than males. Instead of black they are a smoky dark brown above with a dark streaky breast underneath. She doesn’t sport scarlet epaulets, but some females have a reddish tint in their face (though this one only has a hint). In the northern part of their range where they are migratory birds, females arrive on the breeding grounds after the males. They are fond of fresh and saltwater wetlands, especially those with cattails, and breed in loose colonies where the female does all the nestbuilding, brooding, and young rearing. Red-winged Blackbird nests are heavily preyed upon and during the nesting period. Males stand guard, alerting the colony with warning calls, and ganging up to drive off predators.

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Dark-eyed Junco female and nest 7/26/18

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows, only unlike their brown and streaky cousins the eastern subspecies are mostly charcoal gray with white bellies and white feathers edging their tails. Females like the one above, and juveniles have more brown in them. Junco subspecies from other parts of North America sport different plumages. They are ground birds, foraging on the forest floor for seeds but during the breeding season they supplement their diet with insects. I came close to mowing over this nest hidden in thick grasses until I saw the woven cup and three brown speckled eggs.

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American Redstart male 7/14/18

A common wood warbler, small and hyperactive, American Redstarts flash the brightly colored patches in their wings and tail to scare up insects, at least that’s one theory. Males are mostly black above with white bellies and orange patches, while females and immature males are more gray and green above with yellow wing and tail patches. They forage for caterpillars and other insects in the upper canopy but nest close to the ground in deciduous woods across southern Canada and Eastern US.

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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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