Archive for May, 2016

American Kestrel male 5/27/16


Back in 2008 The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago stunned the bird world with new DNA results that Falcons were more parrot than hawk. American Kestrels are the smallest of the North American falcons, smaller than a Merlin. This male would hover looking for small prey along the runway edges at Pease, and then take breaks scanning from the perimeter fences. Females have reddish wings rather than blue and are slightly larger than the robin-sized males.


Ovenbird 5/25/16


These little birds of the forest look like a miniature thrush, but are actually one of the bigger warblers. Males have a huge voice shouting Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! at the top of their lungs, even in the middle of the day. Females weave a domed nest on the ground with a side entrance and when it’s finished she hides it with leaves, twigs and other debris. They are tamer than you think and if you hear one close by stop and watch for it strutting around the forest floor looking for bugs and grubs to snack on, occasionally flying up to a low branch.


Baltimore Oriole female 5/18/16


It’s strange how many birders only post photos of the more colorful adult male birds. Several flutey Baltimore males have been around for over a week now and for sure their rich orange coat is brilliant, but ain’t she purdy? She’s a little flutey herself though in a soft-talking way, and she chatters softly too. I’m seeing more Balties this year than in many a year, and not sure what’s up with that, maybe just lucky. This female seems to be one of a pair I hear more than see, high up in a nearby maple. She’ll weave a remarkable bag-like hanging nest out of long fibers, often recycled from previous nests. Look at that blackbird bill! They like parkland—scattered trees with open spaces and they’re no strangers to residential and rural neighborhoods, but you won’t find them in a thick forest, except maybe along the edge of it.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5/16/16


These little birds really are blue-gray, with the males being bluer on the head, neck and back, and the females grayer. They move about nonstop in deciduous trees foraging for small insects and can be remarkably acrobatic catching them on the wing. They arrive with the warblers but are actually more closely related to the wrens, and on occasion they’ll even cock their long tails like a wren does. They have an insistent and buzzy ”zee-you- zee-you” song.


Mourning Dove female 5/15/16


She’s demure and coy, while around the backside of this tree her mate is cooing up a storm. Mourning Doves are fast and straight flyers with peculiarly long tails more reminiscent of parrots than pigeons. They are a close relative of the now extinct Passenger Pigeon, and today are one of the most abundant birds in all the US with a population close to half a billion. They are also the most hunted game bird—with 20 to 70 million shot every year,


Chipping Sparrow female 5/13/16


Even though sexes are similar, I can tell this bird is a female. She’s one of a pair in my yard and while this ones approaches the garden birdbath for a drink, the male is trilling from the TV antenna atop my house. They are tame little birds with clean, crisp faces, a prominent black eyestripe and striking rufous-red caps. They like open woods with grassy clearings, and mostly forage for grass seeds and insects on the ground. They’re migrants here, arriving early spring and are often confused with the similar looking Amercan Tree Sparrows which leave for the Arctic just about the time that Chipping Sparrows arrive. Chipping Sparrows typically nest in small trees or shrubs—this pair is building their nest in the Arbor vitaes outside my back door. With any luck I may have nestling photos later in the season.


Orchard Oriole male 5/11/16


While Baltimore Orioles are bigger and brighter, Orchard Orioles are less commonly seen. They aren’t exactly rare, just don’t stand out as much as their more brilliant cousins. Unless you look carefully you may easily mistake the male for an American Robin with that dark head and rusty red underside. Females are similarly sized but a dull yellow all over with darker wings and tail. In this same tree and at the same time was a similarly sized yellowish bird I first took for a female, but once I had it in my sights it had black around the bill and throat meaning it was a first-year (immature) male. Orchard Orioles only have one brood early on and once that brood has fledged, the parents don’t stick around until fall but immediately migrate back to Central America—another reason they’re not often spotted. All orioles are blackbirds, belonging to the Icteridae family.


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