Archive for Songbird

Mourning Dove 12/2/18

Mourning Doves—also known as Rain Doves or Carolina Turtle Doves—are abundant and year-round residents 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 being estimated at over 350 million. Like their exterminated cousins they are a popular game bird, indeed the most hunted of all game birds. Roughly 50 million of them are taken every year.

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American Robin 11/28/18

During the winter months when a thaw melts the snow cover and the ground comes alive again, American Robins will leave off foraging for fruits and berries in the trees and shrubs to appear on lawns again to feast on invertebrate protein. Winter flocks of robins can often include other foraging species like waxwings and blackbirds, but scan them carefully, it’s in the relative safety of these mixed groups that you might find one of the rarer winter vagrants, like a flicker, sapsucker, or hermit thrush.

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Hermit Thrush 11/21/18

You won’t find it mentioned in any field guide, but Hermit Thrushes are one of those birds like Flickers, Sapsuckers, Catbirds, Bluebirds, and others who regularly winter along the Maine coast in small numbers. Oh, the range maps are largely correct that most of them have migrated, but in being largely correct, they’re flat out wrong in giving the impression that they’ve all gone. Hermit Thrushes with their reddish tails and spotted breasts forage the forest floor for insects and invertebrates. You won’t ever find them at seed feeders but you might find them on lawns or openings at the woods edge. Like other thrushes, as winter approaches their diet expands to include fruits and berries.

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Palm Warbler female 11/6/18

There’s nothing more confusing in the bird world than the fall warblers to me, but I do have a few of them down, one of them being the Palm Warbler. Spring males are brighter yellow and the breast streaks and cap are a rusty chestnut. No hint of that here leads me to think this a female when a juve would be even more drab and less yellow. Palms are found lower to the ground than most warblers, and helpful in identifying them is the near constant wagging of their tails.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet male 10/29/18

One of the hardest little birds to photograph on account they never hold still for more than the briefest moment. I came across a little fallout of them yesterday following Saturday’s storm at the back of the beach, and took at least a hundred shots, but with few exceptions they are all green blurs or a bit of head or tail chopped off by the frame. Kinglets are tiny, about 4 inches long and weighing about as much as 2 or 3 pennies. Only males have the red crest which you rarely see except as a faint thin line, unless you’re lucky enough catch a courtship or territorial display in spring. I got lucky with this one molting his head feathers.

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Blue Jay 10/24/18

There are more than 3 dozen American Jays, most all of them blue and white and black, not to mention noisy, smart, and aggressive. But the Blue Jay is the only one common to the eastern US. They have a prodigious repertoire of sounds and calls, and are accomplished mimics as well, especially of local hawks. Occasionally I’ll hear some bird sounds I don’t recognize coming from the thickets and woods behind my yard, but after investigating it invariably turns out to be a Blue Jay. In New England some migrate, others stay put for the winter.

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Eastern Wood Pewee 10/20/18

Eastern Wood Pewees are a dull olive color and sport a dusky vest when seen front on. They can be told from other small flycatchers by the lack of eye-ring, two-toned bill (yellow below gray), off-white throat, 2 pale wingbars, and extended remiges or flight feathers giving them longer and pointier wings than other small flycatchers. The Western counterpart looks identical but makes a much different sound than the pee-a-wee of the Eastern birds, not long ago they were considered one. Similar to Eastern Phoebes but lacking the dark head, solid bill, and constantly flicking tail. Sexes alike.

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