Archive for Passerines (perching birds)

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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Cedar Waxwing adult 9/17/18

Cedar Waxwings are rather inconspicuous birds and I generally hear their high pitched buzzy trills in the treetops before spotting them. When seen up close they change from drab brown birds to a silky confection of browns, grays and yellow, with black, white, and red highlights. Very handsome! Cedar Waxwings subsist almost entirely on fruit. The color band at the tip of the tail varies from lemon yellow to bright orange depending on their diet during the previous molt. With the breeding season over, some will migrate south, others will join flocks to wander throughout the winter searching for fruits and berries.

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Barn Swallow male 8/23/18

Barn Swallows are leaving and in many areas have already left on their long distance migration to Central and South America. Originally a cave-roosting bird, they became a worldwide species having successfully spread with human development—taking advantage of open human structures like barns and bridges for breeding, and wires for roosting. They prefer open country near water, catching insect prey on the wing. They have shiny cobalt-blue upper parts, cinnamon foreheads and bibs, and off-white underparts. The long outer tail feathers of adults makes them easy to tell apart from the other North American swallows, and the swallow tails of males are considerably longer than in females.

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Purple Finch female 8/21/18

Similar in appearance to female House Finches and female House Sparrows, female Purple Finches are mostly brown and white with a streaky breast and conical bill, but differ in having  distinctive facial markings, especially the strong whitish stripe above the eye and another below. Like all finches they sport a notched tail. Males are the inspiration for Roger Tory Peterson’s memorable description of them as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” Until recently Purple Finches belonged to the genus Carpodacus, or rosefinches, but recent dna research has shown the three North American members weren’t closely related and were moved into a new genus Haemorhous.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler male 8/17/18

Black-throated Blue Warbler males are one of the few warblers that look much the same in fall as they do in spring, but the blue and black is not as rich and saturated as in spring breeding plumage. Females are more drab gray with blue hints but without any of the male’s bold black markings. They are a warbler of deep forests from Nova Scotia to the Great Lakes then south down the Appalachians. They winter in the Caribbean and parts of Central America. This one on the rocks by the sea appears to be an early migrant.

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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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