Archive for Thrushes

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.

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Eastern Bluebird male 4/13/18

Every day from my garden now I can hear the twerdling of this male Eastern Bluebird singing to his silvery sweetheart, who is setting up housekeeping in a nest box below him. She builds the nest while he stands guard, and with any luck they’ll raise at least two broods over the summer, maybe even three, with each brood taking about a month to incubate, hatch and fledge. Youngsters are raised entirely on insects and invertebrates. Bluebirds have been around the neighborhood all winter though in a small gregarious flock, but now they’ve paired off and taken up territories for the breeding season. 2018 marks the 5th year in a row we’ve had them nesting somewhere round the yard.

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Eastern Bluebird female 12/10/17

Though many migrate south, many small groups of Eastern Bluebirds will brave the New England winter. Once insects have disappeared with the arrival of snow and frozen earth, they switch their diet and you’ll find them competing for the same fruits and berries that waxwings, robins, starlings, mockingbirds, and others go after. But I’ll also see them at the beach where piles of rotting seaweed hatch brine flies, or in the salt marshes where a receding tide leaves little crustaceans for them to find, and once I saw a group gather at a construction site where a backhoe opened up the frozen earth for a foundation exposing worms and other invertebrates, and bluebirds are no dummies. But this one is in my garden, come for the dried meal worms we scatter for them and the Carolina Wrens.

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Hermit Thrush 4/30/17

Hermit Thrushes are arriving, I came across half a dozen at once the other day, just inside one of Fort Foster’s woodland paths foraging for insects and berries on the forest floor. They are a smaller thrush than a robin but larger than a bluebird, and like its cousins will often droop its wings below the tail. They’re most easily recognized by their brown backs contrasting with reddish tails. They sing in a melancholy minor key with descending flutey trills that many consider the loveliest of birdsongs.

 

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American Robins 4/10/17

American Robins are the biggest North American thrush as well as one of the most abundant birds on the continent with a population well over 300 million. Males have darker more saturated colors than females and first year birds. I’d be confident calling this a male and female but there were enough other robins around at the time I’d be hesitant to call them a pair. Overwintering and migrant flocks are just now breaking up into pairs claiming territories and building nests. Robins are one of the earliest songbirds to lay eggs, their first nest is usually built in an evergreen, with 2nd and 3rd nests built in hardwoods.

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Eastern Bluebird male 1/29/17

Many folks are still surprised that some Eastern Bluebirds hangout in New England all winter long. It’s true that many migrate south, but as their populations rebound, more and more small flocks are persisting through the snowy and cold months. For one thing they can shift their diet from invertebrates to fruits and berries in wintertime, and at least along the coast, they regularly supplement that with occasional protein snacks. I see them in flooded marshy areas after especially high tides, or visiting heaps of rotting seaweed on the beach for hatching brine flies. I’ve even learned to watch for them anywhere excavation is happening—where they’ll come cruise the freshly disturbed earth. If you want to attract them to your yard in the winter, a supply of dried mealworms is essential. This male is checking out a possible nest site in my backyard after a recent snowfall.

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Hermit Thrush 10/8/16

hermitthrush

Pink legs and feet, a white eye-ring, and a tail much redder than its back are what differentiate Hermits from the other spotted thrushes. They rummage for insects and invertebrates on the forest floor but in wintertime their diet will also include berries and other fruit. Hermit Thrushes breed from Alaska to Newfoundland and some migrate as far south as Central America, but here on the southern Maine coast it would be most unusual if I also didn’t see or hear of one or more braving the New England winter. They have one of the loveliest songs of all birds—very flutey. Sexes are alike.

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