Archive for Passerines (perching birds)

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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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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Tree Swallow 6/11/18

Tree Swallows, sometimes called White-bellied Swallows, arrive in April from southernmost parts of North America, the Caribbean, and northern Central America while other North American Swallows winter farther south. Males are an iridescent blue-green on their uppersides and white below, while females are browner above with just hints of blue-green iridescence. As females age they become more colorful and iridescent like the males. They’re found near open fields and wetlands and nest in tree cavities but take readily take to nest boxes like this one.  They raise their young on insects caught on the wing, but if caught by a cold snap early in the season, they can supplement their diet with berries.

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