Archive for Passerines (perching 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.

Comments

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.

Comments

Blue-headed Vireo 6/10/18

Up until about 20 years ago when DNA studies began rewriting the relationships between bird species, Blue-headed Vireos were lumped together with the similar looking Cassin’s and Plumbeous Vireos of the west and southwest, and were together called the Solitary Vireo. Today they are recognized as 3 distinct species. All have prominent white “spectacles,” but the Blue-headed Vireo is the easternmost of the group, and most colorful with the bluest head and greenest body. They are small migratory songbirds with much stouter bills than the warblers, and like all vireos, there’s little to no distinction between the sexes. Vireos reside in the middle and upper canopies of hardwoods, where they are virtually impossible to see once the trees have leafed out, though the Blue-headed Vireo also makes use of mixed and coniferous woods.

Comments

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.

 

Comments

Evening Grosbeak male 5/28/18

Check out that golden monobrow! These largest of all the American finches were originally birds of the west that didn’t begin showing up in the Eastern states until about 100 years ago. Today they are in serious decline. Typically Evening Grosbeaks are irruptive winter visitors, showing up in flocks some years at backyard feeding stations, but not in others. However, I found this spring male by his lonesome in the middle of the road picking up grit, presumably as an aid to digestion. Females have black and white wings like the males, but are a soft gray with yellow-green highlights.

Comments

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.

Comments

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.

Comments

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »