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 Forum Index > Other Birds and Wildlife > Birds other than raptors
 Bird Talk 101
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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Monday, March 19 2012 @ 10:43 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Pied-billed Grebe


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I photographed this adult Pie-billed Grebe at Horseshoe Lake this Spring.

General Description
The Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) is a species of the grebe family of water birds. Since the Atitlán Grebe, Podilymbus gigas, has become extinct, it is the sole extant member of the genus Podilymbus.

It is a small grebe with a thick, relatively short bill, the Pied-billed Grebe is grayish-brown with lighter underparts. Juveniles and adults have similar plumage, but during the breeding season adults have black at the throat and a whitish bill with a black band.

Habitat
During the breeding season, Pied-billed Grebes are found in areas at low elevations in ponds, lakes, and marshes. Nesting areas have emergent vegetation to which these birds anchor their nests and open water in which they can forage. During the winter they are found on both fresh and salt water, although they are much more likely to be found on fresh water. More open water is used during winter, as the birds do not have nests to anchor at this time. Pied-billed Grebes often use areas near rivers, typically bodies of still water. In migration Pied-billed Grebes can be found at higher elevations, even in mountain lakes.

Behavior
Pied-billed Grebes are less social than most species of grebes and are rarely found in flocks. When disturbed, they dive headfirst under water, or they sink slowly into the water until only their heads are above water. The courtship displays of Pied-billed Grebes are less ritualized than those of other grebes, but still include much calling, sometimes in a duet.

Diet
Their diet consist of insects, fish, and other aquatic creatures which make up the bulk of the Pied-billed Grebe's diet. The birds' heavy bills are adapted for crushing large crustaceans, but Pied-billed Grebes are also opportunistic feeders, preying on a wide variety of aquatic creatures including fish. Like other grebes, Pied-billed Grebes eat and feed their own feathers to their young. It is thought that these feathers help them regurgitate bones and other non-digestible parts of their diet.

Click on image to download
This is the same Pie-billed Grebe in the first photo. While I was watching it, it dived and surfaced with a crayfish. It dipped the crayfish in the water and then swallowed it whole.

Breeding and Nesting

Click on image to download
I found this photo of a Pie-billed Grebe chick at Wikimedia commons under this license and at this link. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Podil ... ick-8a.jpg

The parents build a nest in shallow water in a marsh or pond. A floating nest, or built up from the bottom, the nest is a dense mat of plant material anchored to emergent vegetation. They can approach the nest from under water. The female generally lays five to seven eggs and both parents help incubate for about 23 days. If the nest is unattended for a prolonged period of time, the adults cover the nest with nesting material to protect it. Both parents feed the young and at times carry them around on their backs, even while swimming underwater.

The downy chicks can leave the nest soon after hatching, but they do not swim well at first and do not spend much time in the water in the first week. They sleep on the back of a parent, held close beneath its wings. By the age of four weeks, the young grebes are spending day and night on the water. For the first ten days their response to danger is to climb onto a parent's back. After that, when danger threatens, they dive under water.


Migration
Populations are found year round in the southern part of North America and along both coasts. Farther north, where the water freezes during winter, Pied-billed Grebes migrate. Migratory birds arrive to winter with the year-round populations during September and October. Migratory populations depart for the breeding grounds in March or April, although many stay behind to breed in suitable habitat.

Conservation
The Pied-billed Grebe has an enormous range, reaching up to 21,000,000 square kilometers. This bird can be found throughout North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America and in vagrant populations in the UK and Europe. The global population of this bird is estimated to be around 110,000 to 300,000 individual birds. Currently, it is not believed that the population trends for this species will soon approach the minimum levels that could suggest a potential decline in population. Due to this, population trends for the Pied-billed Grebe have a present evaluation level of Least Concern.

Interesting Facts
* The Pied-billed Grebe is rarely seen in flight. It prefers to escape predators by diving, and it migrates at night.

* Although it swims like a duck, it does not have webbed feet. Each toe has lobes extending out on the sides that provide extra surface area for paddling.

* Folk names of this grebe include dabchick, devil-diver, dive-dapper, hell-diver, and water witch.

* A group of grebes are collectively known as a "water dance" of grebes.

References:All About Birds, Wikipedia, What Bird, and Bird Web


The sound/call and region map of the Pied-billed Grebe.

A video I made of migrating Pie-billed Grebes foraging.

In this recording I observed four Pie-billed Grebes swimming and preening

In this recording the Grebes are in the breeding season and are calling to one another. They also have the white bill with the black band.





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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Wednesday, March 21 2012 @ 10:05 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Northern Flicker


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Female and male Northern Flicker found at Wikimedia Commons and taken by David Margrave. His statement, I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... r_pair.jpg

General Description
The Northern Flickers are different among North American woodpeckers in that their coloration is brown rather than black and white. Their backs are brown with black barring, and their chests and bellies are light tan with prominent clear black spots. Their tails are black, and they have white rumps. There is a broad, black band across the upper chest. Two forms occur, the Red-shafted, and less commonly, the Yellow-shafted. The flight feathers of Red-shafted Flickers have reddish-orange shafts, and their wings and tail are reddish-orange below. Red-shafted Flickers have gray heads, throats, and napes, and their foreheads are brown. Male Red-shafted Flickers have red moustaches; the moustaches of females are pale brown. Neither sex has a colored nape crescent. The flight feathers of yellow-shafted Flickers have yellow shafts, and their wings and tail feathers are yellow below. The heads of Yellow-shafted Flickers are gray with their faces and throats being brown. The males have black moustaches and the females have none. Both males and females have red nape crescents. Intergrades between the red and yellow shafted Flickers are common.

Habitat
The Northern Flickers can be found throughout most wooded regions of North America, and they are seen in most suburban environments. They need open areas for nesting and do not nest in the middle of dense forests. Outside of the breeding season, they also frequent other open areas, including suburban lawns and parks, grassland, sagebrush, and even sand dunes.

Behavior
Unlike most other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are mostly ground feeders, though they also forage on tree trunks and limbs. They have a strongly undulating flight pattern, and they can be easily identified in flight by this pattern and their prominent white rumps. Their whinny call sounds somewhat like laughter. They also give a distinctive call that is often transcribed as klee-yer.

Diet

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This Male Northern Flicker was foraging in the grass for insects and I caught this photo.

The Northern Flickers eat mainly insects, especially ants and beetles that they gather from the ground. They also eat fruits and seeds, especially in winter. Flickers often go after ants underground (where the nutritious larvae live), hammering at the soil the way other woodpeckers drill into wood. They’ve been seen breaking into cow patties to eat insects living within. Their tongues can dart out 2 inches beyond the end of the bill to snare prey. Other invertebrates eaten include flies, butterflies, moths, and snails. Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter, including poison oak and ivy, dogwood, sumac, wild cherry and grape, bayberries, hackberries, and elderberries, and sunflower and thistle seeds.

Breeding and Nesting

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A male at his nest cavity found at wikimedia commons, this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... us_MP1.jpg

Northern Flickers excavate nesting cavities in dead or diseased pine, cottonwood, or willow trees. Males do most of the excavation for the nest cavity, with some help from females. Both parents incubate the 5 to 8 eggs for around 11 days, then brood the hatched young for about 4 days more. Both parents feed the young, the nestlings leave the nest after 24 to 27 days. The parents continue to feed the young after they fledge, and soon the young begin to follow the adults to foraging sites and gather their own food.

Migration Status
Resident Northern Flicker or short-distance migrant. Northern Flickers leave the northern parts of their range to winter in the southern U.S. Birds that breed farther south typically stay for the winter.

Conservation Status
The Northern Flicker has a large range, estimated globally at 15,000,000 square kilometers. Native to North and Central America and nearby island nations, this bird prefers open forest, though it can live on pasture land or in urban areas. The global population of this bird is estimated at 16,000,000 birds and does not show signs of significant decline that would include it on the IUCN Red List. The current evaluation status of the Northern Flicker is Least Concern.

Interesting Facts
* Northern Flickers produce a drumming sound to attract a female. They often practice on the metal flues of fireplaces and cedar homes.

* The yellow-shafted Flicker is the state bird of Alabama.

* A group of flickers are known as a "guttering", "menorah", and "Peterson" of flickers.

* Although the Flicker can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main diet, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them and uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.

* The red-shafted and yellow-shafted forms of the Northern Flicker formerly were thought to be two different species. The two forms hybridize extensively in a wide range from Alaska to the panhandle of Texas. A hybrid often has some traits from each of the two types and some traits that are intermediate between them. The Red-shafted Flicker infrequently hybridizes with the Gilded Flicker.

* The Northern Flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. Flickers in the northern parts of their range move south for the winter, although a few individuals often stay rather far north.

* Northern Flickers generally nest in cavities in trees like other woodpeckers. At times, they have been found nesting in old, earthen burrows vacated by Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows.

* Northern Flickers drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defense. The object used for drumming is at times metal, to make as loud a noise as possible.

References: All About Birds, What Bird, and Bird Web

The sounds/calls and region map of the Northern Flicker.

Great video of a parent feeding its nestlings at the nest cavity.

This video shows a female parent Northern Flicker at its nest feeding its nestling.

Three videos of the Northern Flicker.









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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Tuesday, March 27 2012 @ 08:01 AM EDT  
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Bird Talk 101

The American Woodcock


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I photographed this American Woodcock in Algonquin Park.

Description
The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), sometimes referred to as the Timberdoodle. The American Woodcock has a full body, short legs, a large, rounded head, and a long, straight bill. Adults are 10 to 12 inches long and weigh 5 to 8 ounces and females are considerably larger than males. The bill is 2.5 to 2.75 inches long. The plumage is a mix of different shades of browns, grays, and black. The breast and sides vary from yellowish white to shades of tans. The nape of the head is black, with three or four crossbars of deep buff. The feet and toes, which are small, are brownish gray to reddish brown. Woodcock have large eyes located high in the head, and their visual field is one the largest of any bird, 360° in the horizontal plane and 180° in the vertical plane.

Habitat
The American Woodcock is the only species of Woodcock inhabiting North America. Although classified with the sandpipers and shorebirds in the group Scolopacidae, the American Woodcock lives mainly in upland settings. Woodcock inhabit forested and mixed forest agricultural urban areas. The Woodcock have been sighted as far north as York Factory, Manitoba, east to Labrador and Newfoundland. The American Woodcock live in wet thickets, moist woods, and brushy swamps. Ideal habitats feature young forest and abandoned farmland mixed with forest. In late summer, some Woodcock roost on the ground at night among the vegetation.

Behavior
The Woodcock spend most of their time on the ground in brushy forest habitats, where the birds' brown, black, and gray plumage provides camouflage. Because of the male Woodcock's beautiful courtship flights, the bird is know as a sign of spring in northern areas.

Diet
Woodcock eat mainly invertebrates, especially earthworms. They do most of their foraging in areas where the soil is damp and moist. They forage by probing with their beaks in the soil in thickets, where they remain well-hidden from sight. Their diet also includes insect larvae, snails, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, snipe flies, beetles, and ants. A small amount of plant food is sometimes eaten, mainly seeds. Woodcock are most active at dawn and dusk.

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This Woodcock is going to enjoy a meal of a earthworm. I found this photo at Wikimedia commons under this license, this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... thworm.jpg

Nesting and Breeding

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A female Woodcock on its nest. This photo was found at Wikimedia commons under this license, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... _minor.jpg

In the Spring, males inhabit individual singing grounds. Usually openings near brushy cover from which they call and perform display flights at dawn and dusk. If the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights they will display then too. The male's ground call is a short, buzzy peent. After sounding a series of ground calls, the male takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiraling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male's outer primary wing feathers. Males may continue with their courtship flights for as many as four months running – sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their broods and left the nest.

The females, known as hens, are attracted to the males' displays. A hen will fly in and land on the ground near a singing male. The male courts the female by walking stiff-legged and with his wings stretched vertically, and by bobbing and bowing. A male may mate with several females. The male Woodcock plays no role in selecting a nest site, incubating eggs, or rearing young. In the primary northern breeding range, the Woodcock may be the earliest ground-nesting species to breed.

The hen makes a shallow, rudimentary nest on the ground in the leaf and twig litter, in brushy or young-forest cover usually within 150 yards of a singing ground. Most hens lay four eggs, sometimes one to three. Incubation takes 20 to 22 days. The downy young are already well-camouflaged

The down-covered young are precocial and leave the nest within a few hours of hatching. The female broods her young and feeds them. When threatened, the chicks usually take cover and remain motionless, attempting to escape detection by relying on their cryptic coloration. Some observers suggest that frightened young may cling to the body of their mother, who will then take wing and carry the young to safety.

Woodcock chicks begin probing for worms on their own a few days after hatching. They develop quickly and can make short flights after two weeks, can fly fairly well at three weeks, and are independent after about five weeks.

Migration
Woodcock migrate at night. They fly at low altitudes, individually or in small, loose flocks. Flight speeds of migrating birds have been clocked at 16 to 28 miles per hour (26 to 45 kilometers per hour). It is believed that Woodcock orient visually using major physiographic features such as coastlines and broad river valleys. Both the autumn and spring migrations are leisurely compared with the swift, direct migrations of many passerine birds.

In the North, Woodcock begin to shift southward before ice and snow seal off their ground-based food supply. Cold fronts may prompt heavy southerly flights in autumn. Most Woodcock start to migrate in October, with the major push from mid-October to early November. Most individuals arrive on the wintering range by mid-December. The birds head north again in February. Most have returned to the northern breeding range by mid-March to mid-April.

Migrating birds' arrival at and departure from the breeding range is highly irregular. In Ohio, for example, the earliest birds are seen in February, but the bulk of the population does not arrive until March and April. Birds start to leave for winter by September, but some remain until mid-November.

Conservation
The American Woodcock is native to Mexico, Canada, the United States and Saint Pierre. The range of this bird is fairly extensive, up to 4 million square kilometers around the world. The concern regarding the population of the American Woodcock is not currently serious as the population is not believed to meet the minimum levels that would indicate possible decline over the next several years. From 1988 to 2000, the evaluation rating for the American Woodcock bird species was Lower Risk; however, in 2004 the rating was downgraded to Least Concern due to lower concerns.

Interesting Facts
*In this species, there is no pair bond and the male provides no parental care. Nor is there any evidence of a social dominance hierarchy.

*The elaborate courtship ritual of the male American Woodcock may be repeated as long as four months running, sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their brood and left the nest.

*These birds are seldom seen during the day. They are typically active during times of low light such as dawn, dusk, moonlit nights and sometime on cloudy days. They also migrate at night, singly or in small, loose flocks.

*The flexible tip of the American Woodcock's bill is specialized for catching earthworms. The bird probably feels worms as it probes in the ground. A woodcock may rock its body back and forth without moving its head as it slowly walks around, stepping heavily with its front foot. This action may make worms move around in the soil, increasing their detectablity.

*The American Woodcock is one of the few shorebirds that is regularly hunted for sport.

*The male American Woodcock has an unique display to attract females. He gives repeated "peents" calls on the ground, often on remaining patches of snow in the early spring. After a time he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. After reaching a height of 70-100 m (230-328 ft) the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts chirping as he starts to descend. He comes down in a zig-zag dive, chirping as he goes. As he comes near the ground he silently lands, near a female if she is present. Then he starts peenting again.

*The male American Woodcock gives no parental care, but he continues to display long after most females have laid eggs. Some males display at several, widely separated singing grounds and will mate with several females. The female may visit four or more singing grounds before nesting, and she may keep visiting even when she is caring for her young.

*Unlike many birds that leave their nests at hatching, newly hatched woodcocks cannot feed themselves. They are dependent on the mother for food for the first week. The chicks start to probe in dirt at three or four days after hatching.

References:All About Birds, Wikipedia, and What Bird

The sound and region of the Woodcock.

Narated video of the American Woodcock.

The American Woodcock doing aerial Courting dance and sound.

An American Woodcock doing its rocking motion behavior.

Another video with some narration of the rocking motion of the American Woodcock.





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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Monday, April 02 2012 @ 08:53 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Black-capped Chickadee


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An adult Black-capped Chickadee, photo found at Wikimedia commons and this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... la-001.jpg

Description
The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small, North American songbird, and a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. The Black-capped Chickadee has a black cap and bib with white cheeks to the face. Its underparts are white with rusty brown on the sides. Its back is gray and the tail is normally slate-gray. This bird has a short dark beak , short rounded wings, and a long tail. males and females look alike, males are a little larger and longer than females.

Habitat
The black-capped chickadee region is from coast to coast and from the northern half of the United States in the south, to James Bay, the southern edge of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the southern half of Alaska in the north. In winter it can wander outside of this range, both to the north and south. It prefers habitat of deciduous woods or mixed woods. It is also likes open woods, parks, and suburban areas.

Behavior
During the fall migration and in winter, chickadees often flock together and join Many other species of birds including titmice, nuthatches, and warblers. The combined flocks stay together because the chickadees call out whenever they find a good source of food. This calling-out joins the group together, allowing the other birds to find food more efficiently. In flocked groups, the Black-capped Chickadees soon establish a rigid social hierarchy, males usually rank over females, and old birds over juveniles.

The Black-capped Chickadee sleep in thick vegetation or in tree cavities, usually solo. Though at times they may occasionally roost clumped together. The sleeping posture is with the beak tucked under the shoulder feathers.

Diet
Insects such as caterpillars form a large part of their diet in summer. The birds hop along tree branches foraging for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering. They may also make short flights to catch insects in the air. Seeds and berries are their major diet in winter, though insect eggs and pupae remain on their menu. they will eat sunflower seeds from bird feeders. The birds take a seed in their bill and commonly fly from the feeder to a tree, where they proceed to hammer the seed on a branch to open it. They frequently cache seeds and insects in bark, dead leaves, pine needles, or knotholes.

Black-capped Chickadees tolerate human approach to a much greater degree than other species. During the winter many individuals accustomed to human habitation will readily accept seed from a person's hand.

Click on image to download
A Black-capped Chickadee landing on a persons hand to feed on seeds. This photo was found at Wikimedia Commons and this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... n_hand.jpg


Breeding and Nesting
Black-capped Chickadees nests in a tree cavities. The male and female excavate the hole together, or they use a natural cavity, or at times an old woodpecker nest. This chickadees will also nest in a nesting box. The breeding and nesting season is from late April through June. The female builds the nest and It consists moss or bark strips, and lining of finer material such as mammal hair. Eggs are white with fine dots of reddish brown at the larger end. The clutch size is 6-8 eggs and incubation lasts 11–14 days. The female does all the incubation and is fed by the male. Hatchlings are naked with their eyes closed. Nestling are fed by both parents, but are brooded by the female only and the male brings food to her, which she passes on to the young. The nestlings leave the nest 12–16 days after hatching. They continue to be fed by the parents for several weeks but have the capability of catching food on their own within a week after leaving the nest.

They usually breed only once a year, but second broods are possible if the first one is lost. The juveniles will start breeding at one year of age. Black-capped Chickadees have been know to interbreed with Carolina Chickadees or Mountain Chickadees where their ranges overlap.

Click on image to download
A Chickadee at a nesting box, this photo was found at Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... s_1476.jpg

Migration
The Black-capped Chickadee are permanent residents, but sometimes they move south within their range, and even outside of it, in the fall or winter. Chickadees often flock together during winter migration with Many other species of birds – including titmice, nuthatches.


Conservation
In the states of Alaska and Washington, and in regios of western Canada, the Black-capped Chickadees are among a group of bird species affected by an unknown agent that is causing beak deformities. These beak deformities may cause stress for affected species by making feeding, mating, and grooming more dificult. The Black-capped Chickadees were the first affected bird species, with reports of the deformity beginning in Alaska in the late 1990s, but more recently the deformity has been observed in close to 30 bird species in the affected regions.

The Black-capped Chickadees are widespread and common throughout their regions. They appear to be increasing in the eastern part of their range but have experienced slight declines in the western region. Development and clear-cuts have resulted in more Black-capped Chickadee habitat than was available historically. Their nesting success has added to their continued population growth. Forestry practices may limit nesting sites, as chickadees need existing cavities or soft, rotting wood in which to excavate nesting cavities.

Neat Facts
* The Black-Capped Chickadee caches seeds and insects to eat later. The food is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.

* In the fall Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.

*The Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identitcation and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee sounds in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat concern.

* The winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and juveniles, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species that flock with chickadee flocks include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers and vireos.

* Most of the birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.

* There is a dominance hierarchy within the mixed flocks. Some birds are referred to as “winter floaters” that don’t belong to a single flock, these birds may have a different rank within each flock they spend time in.

* Even when temperatures drop far below zero, chickadees virtually always sleep solo in their own individual cavities. On cold winter nights, the Black-capped Chickadee can reduce their body temperature by up to 10–12 °C from their normal temperature of about 42 °C to conserve energy.


References Wikipedia, Bird Web, and All About Birds

This link will take you to a map of the regions the bird is found in, also the sounds/calls of the Black-capped Chickadee

This a Hd video of a Black- capped Chickadee foraging sunflower seeds and taking them to a tree to eat and cache.

This video is a HD Mini Documentary about the Black-capped Chickadee.

This video includes calls/sounds of the Black-capped Chickadee.

A Black-capped Chickadee is excavating a nest cavity in this video.


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Linda/HikerBikerGram

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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Friday, April 13 2012 @ 01:34 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Brown Thrasher


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I took this photo of the Brown Thrasher while watching an Eagles nest.

Description
The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), sometimes called the Brown Thrush, is a bird in the Mimidae family, a family which also includes the New World Catbirds and Mockingbirds.

The Brown Thrasher is reddish-brown above with thin, dark streaks on its buffy underparts. Its long tail is rounded with paler corners, and its eyes are a bright gold. Adults average about 11.5 in long with a wingspan of 13 in, and have an average mass of 2.4 oz. Juvenile looks like adults, but their upperparts have indistinct buff spotting, the wingbars are buff, and eyes gray.

Habitat
It habitat is thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. It also enjoys urban lawns, particularly if there are shrubs or shrubby trees for cover. It also enjoys perennial gardens and can be seen jumping from the ground to catch insects on flowers and foliage. Its spring and summer breeding range includes the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.

Behavior
Brown Thrashers are known to have as many as over 3000 unique songs in their vocal repertoire. It jumps from the ground to catch insects on flowers and foliage.

Click on image to download
The Brown Trasher is a beautiful songstress. I caught this photo as it was singing.

Diet
The Brown Trasher is omnivorous, eating insects, berries, nuts and seeds, as well as earthworms, snails, and sometimes lizards.

Click on image to download
A Brown Trasher forging a worm, photo found at Wikimedia Commons.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... 9_RWD2.jpg

Breeding and Nesting
The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in a twiggy nest lined with grass. The nest is built in a dense shrub or low in a tree. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These birds raise two or three broods in a year. They are able to call in up to 3000 distinct songs. The male sings a series of short repeated melodious phrases from an open perch to defend his territory and is also very aggressive in defending the nest.

Migration
It is a partial migrant, with northern birds wintering in the southern USA, where it occurs throughout the year. There is a single British record of this unlikely transatlantic vagrant.

Conservation
Although this bird is widespread and still common, it has declined in numbers in some areas due to loss of suitable habitat. The population of the Brown Trasher does not seem to be declining at a rate that necessitates inclusion on the IUCN Red List. Because of this population status, the evaluation status of the Brown Thrasher is Least Concern.

Neat Facts
* The Brown Thrasher is considered a short-distance migrant, but two individuals have been recorded in Europe: one in England and another in Germany.

* It is an aggressive defender of its nest, the Brown Thrasher is known to strike people and dogs hard enough to draw blood.

* Brown Thrashers leave the nest when only 9 to 13 days old, earlier than either of its smaller relatives, the Northern Mockingbird or Gray Catbird.

References; Wikipedia and AllAboutBirds

This link will take you to the Region Map and sounds and songs of the Brown Thrasher at allaboutbirds

A Brown Thrasher Singing

In this video a Brown Thrasher takes on a Black Snake, defending its nesting territory.

This video shows a parent feeding its fledgling in the underbush.





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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Saturday, April 28 2012 @ 09:51 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101,

The Little Blue Heron


Click on image to download
An adult with a crayfish for a meal, I saw and photographed this bird at Horseshoe Lake.

Description
The Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea, is a small heron. Breeding adult birds have blue-grey plumage except for the head and neck, which are purplish and have long blue plumes. The legs and feet are dark blue. Sexes are similar.

Non-breeding adults have dark blue head and neck plumage and paler legs. Young birds are all white except for dark wing tips and have yellowish legs. They gradually acquire blue plumage as they mature during their first year.

Habitat
Their habitats are swamps, estuaries, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

Behavior
White Little Blue Herons often mingle with Snowy Egrets. The Snowy Egret tolerates their presence more than Little Blue Herons in adult plumage. These young birds actually catch more fish when in the presence of the Snowy Egret and also gain a measure of protection from predators when they mix into flocks of white herons. It is plausible that this is because of these advantages, they remain white for their first year.

Click on image to download
I found this juvenile Little Blue Heron foraging with a group of Snowy Egrets near the Mississippi River.

Diet
The Little Blue Heron stalks its prey methodically in shallow water, often running as it does so. It eats fish, frogs, crustaceans, small rodents and insects.

Breeding and Nesting
The male Little Blue Heron finds its nesting territory before selecting a female. Its breeding habitat is sub-tropical swamps, lakes, rivers and ponds. It nests in colonies, often with other herons. The male courts the female by stretching his neck out and pointing his bill upward. He then lowers his torso and makes snapping noises with his bill, swaying his neck and head back and forth and vocalizes. The female may not be receptive at first, but soon the pair will spend time grooming each other and twine their necks together. Both the male and female build the nest. The male collects twigs for the nest and presents them to the female who will use them to build the nest. The nest is generally made of sticks, reeds and grass. The nest is built a few feet above the ground in a tree or a shrub, although sometimes it is built on reeds or on the ground. The female lays three to five eggs,green-blue in color. Both parents incubate the eggs, with the eggs hatching in about three weeks. The young chicks are fed regurgitated food by the female and male. The chicks fledge when they are 35 and 40 days old.

Click on image to download
I caught this photo of a juvenile Little Blue Heron near the Mississippi River foraging.

Neat Facts
* The Snowy Egret tolerates the close habitat of the juvenile white Little Blue Herons more than that of dark mature Little Blue Herons. A white juvenile Little Blue Heron catches more fish in the company of Snowy Egrets than when alone. This relationship may be one reason why young Little Blue Herons stay white for a year.

* Another advantage of white plumage is that young Little Blue Herons are more readily able to join into mixed-species flocks of white herons, gaining a measure of protection against predators.

Migration
It is a resident breeder in most of its range, but some northern breeders migrate to the southeastern USA or beyond in winter. There is post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range, as far as the border between the US and Canada.

Conservation
The Little Blue Heron is declining in much of its range in the United States. Because it does not bear long showy plumes in breeding adult plumage, the Little Blue Heron largely escaped serious population declines from feather hunting for the millinery trade. Habitat loss and human-caused changes are the most serious threats.

References: Allaboutbirds and Wikipedia Commons

The sound/call of the Little Blue Heron and a region map

This is a very nice video of the Little Blue Heron at Arkive, there is some footage of nest building. There are also more photos of the Little Blue Heron

In this video I recorded, a Little Blue Heron forages and catches a Crayfish

In this recording the Little Blue Heron forages and catches a few meals.


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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Friday, July 13 2012 @ 12:11 PM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Osprey


Click on image to download
I photographed this Osprey perched on a dead tree on the Mississippi River.


General Description
The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, while the breast is white and sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The head is white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck. The irises of the eyes are golden to brown, and the transparent nictitating membrane is pale blue. The bill is black, with a blue cere, and the feet are white with black talons. A short tail and long, narrow wings with four long, finger-like feathers, and a shorter fifth, give it a very distinctive appearance.


The sexes appear fairly similar, but the adult male can be distinguished from the female by its slimmer body and narrower wings. The breast band of the male is also weaker than that of the female, or is non-existent, and the underwing coverts of the male are more uniformly pale. It is straightforward to determine the sex in a breeding pair, but harder with individual birds.

The juvenile Osprey may be identified by buff fringes to the plumage of the upperparts, a buff tone to the underparts, and streaked feathers on the head. During spring, barring on the underwings and flight feathers is a better indicator of a young bird, due to wear on the upperparts.

In flight, the Osprey has arched wings and drooping "hands", giving it a gull-like appearance. The call is a series of sharp whistles, described as cheep, cheep or yewk, yewk. If disturbed by activity near the nest, the call is a frenzied cheereek!

Habitat
The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

Behavior
Ospreys search for fish by flying on steady wingbeats and bowed wings or circling high in the sky over relatively shallow water. They often hover briefly before diving, feet first, to grab a fish. You can often clearly see an Osprey's catch in its talons as the bird carries it back to a nest or perch.

Diet
Fish make up 99% of the Osprey's diet. It typically takes fish weighing 150–300 grams (5–10 oz) and about 25–35 centimetres (10–14 in) in length, but the weight can range from 50 to 2000 grams (2–68 oz). Virtually any type of fish in that size range are taken.

Ospreys have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air. Prey is first sighted when the Osprey is 10–40 metres (32–130 ft) above the water, after which the bird hovers momentarily then plunges feet first into the water.

The Osprey is particularly well adapted to this diet, with reversible outer toes, sharp spicules on the underside of the toes, closable nostrils to keep out water during dives, and backwards-facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help hold its catch.

Occasionally, the Osprey may prey on rodents, rabbits, hares, amphibians, other birds, and small reptiles.

Click on image to download
Osprey flying in with prey.
This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted".
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... flight.jpg

Breeding and Nesting
Click on image to download
Osprey young in nest.
This image or file is a work of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soldier or employee, taken or made during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: ... r_Nest.jpg

The Osprey breeds by freshwater lakes, and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. Rocky outcrops just offshore are used in Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia, where there are 14 or so similar nesting sites of which five to seven are used in any one year. Many are renovated each season, and some have been used for 70 years. The nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood and seaweed built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles, artificial platforms or offshore islets. Generally, Ospreys reach sexual maturity and begin breeding around the age of three to four years, though in some regions with high Osprey densities, such as Chesapeake Bay in the U.S., they may not start breeding until five to seven years old, and there may be a shortage of suitable tall structures. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding. To ease this problem, posts are sometimes erected to provide more sites suitable for nest building

Ospreys usually mate for life. Rarely, polyandry has been recorded. The breeding season varies according to latitude; spring (September–October) in southern Australia, April to July in northern Australia and winter (June–August) in southern Queensland.[36] In spring the pair begins a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. The female lays two to four eggs within a month, and relies on the size of the nest to conserve heat. The eggs are whitish with bold splotches of reddish-brown and are about 6.2 x 4.5 centimetres (2.4 x 1.8 in) and weigh about 65 grammes (2.4 oz).[36] The eggs are incubated for about 5 weeks to hatching.

The newly hatched chicks weigh only 50–60 grammes (2 oz), but fledge in 8–10 weeks. A study on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, had an average time between hatching and fledging of 69 days. The same study found an average of 0.66 young fledged per year per occupied territory, and 0.92 young fledged per year per active nest. Some 22% of surviving young either remained on the island, or returned at maturity to join the breeding population. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive. The typical lifespan is 7–10 years, though rarely individuals can grow to as old as 20–25 years. The oldest European wild osprey on record lived to be over thirty years of age. In North America Bubo owls and Bald Eagles (and possibly other eagles of comparable size) are the only major predators of both nests and sub adults. However, kleptoparasitism by Bald Eagles, where the larger raptor steals the Osprey's catch, is more common than predation.

Migration
European breeders winter in Africa. American and Canadian breeders winter in South America, although some stay in the southernmost U.S. states such as Florida and California. Some Ospreys from Florida migrate to South America. Australasian Ospreys tend not to migrate.

Studies of Swedish Ospreys showed that females tend to migrate to Africa earlier than the males. More stopovers are made during their autumn migration. The variation of timing and duration in autumn was more variable than in spring. Although migrating predominantly in the day, they sometimes fly in the dark hours particularly in crossings over water and cover on average 260–280 km/day with a maximum of 431 km/day. European birds may also winter in South Asia, an Osprey ringed in Norway has been recovered in western India.

Conservation
The Osprey has a large range, covering 9,670,000 km2 (3.7 million square miles) in just Africa and the Americas, and has a large global population estimated at 460,000 individuals. Although global population trends have not been quantified, the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations), and for these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. There is evidence for regional decline in South Australia where former territories at locations in the Spencer Gulf and along the lower Murray River have been vacant for decades.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the main threats to Osprey populations were egg collectors and hunting of the adults along with other birds of prey, but Osprey populations declined drastically in many areas in the 1950s and 1960s; this appeared to be in part due to the toxic effects of insecticides such as DDT on reproduction. The pesticide interfered with the bird's calcium metabolism which resulted in thin-shelled, easily broken or infertile eggs. Possibly because of the banning of DDT in many countries in the early 1970s, together with reduced persecution, the Osprey, as well as other affected bird of prey species, have made significant recoveries. In South Australia, nesting sites on the Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are vulnerable to unmanaged coastal recreation and encroaching urban development.

Cool Facts

* The Osprey is the provincial bird of both Nova Scotia, Canada and Södermanland, Sweden.

* The Osprey differs in several respects from other diurnal birds of prey. Its toes are of equal length, its tarsi are reticulate, and its talons are rounded, rather than grooved. The Osprey and Owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish.

* The Osprey was one of the many species described by Carolus Linnaeus in his 18th-century work, Systema Naturae, and named as Falco haliaeetus.] The genus, Pandion, is the sole member of the family of Pandionidae, and contains the sole species Osprey (P. haliaetus). The genus Pandion was described by the French zoologist Marie Jules César Savigny in 1809, and is taken from a mythical Greek king, Pandion.

* The Osprey is unusual in that it is a single living species that occurs nearly worldwide.

* The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

All material found at Wikipedia The Free Ecyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osprey

The sound/call and regional map can be found at this link. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/osprey/id

Video of Osprey catching prey. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA5XLzXZ ... re=related

Video of an Osprey in flight and hunting prey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA3LtXnN ... re=related

Video of a osprey pair at their nest in Canada, very NICELY done. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH3hMUgypzo

A very nice video of a Osprey pair building their nest along the Columbia River in Oregon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBEDSDIA ... re=related





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Linda/HikerBikerGram

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By: HikerBikerGram (offline) on Thursday, July 19 2012 @ 11:12 AM EDT  
HikerBikerGram

Bird Talk 101

The Chinese Goose


Click on image to download
A male Chinese Goose I photographed in a marsh pond near the Mississippi River.

Desription
The Chinese Goose, Anser Cygnoides, is a breed of domesticated goose descended from the wild Swan Goose. Chinese geese differ from the wild birds in much larger size (up to 5–10 kg in males, 4–9 kg in females), and in having an often strongly developed basal knob on the upper side of the bill. The knob at the top of the beak is more prominent on males than females. By 6–8 weeks of age, the knob is already pronounced enough that it can be used for sexing. Chinese geese are a close cousin of the African goose, a heavier breed also descended from the Swan Goose.

Chinese geese appear in two varieties: a brown similar to the wild Swan Goose, and white. While many domestic Chinese geese have a similar body type to other breeds, the breed standards as defined in the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection and other sources call for a slimmer, taller fowl.

Habitat
They prefer areas around lakes, ponds, and marshes where they can forage for water vegetation.

Behavior
It spends most of its time on the water foraging for vegetaion from the bottom of the shallow areas. It is a social bird and can be seen in gatherings with other geese and ducks.

Diet
The Chinese Goose's diet primarly consist of water vegetaion. It uses its long neck to search the bottom of the water areas for vegetaion. It can also be seen eating other green vegetaions growing on the surface of the water.

Click on image to download
I caputred this image of a male Chinese Goose froaging vegetaion from this water plant.

Breeding and Nesting
Click on image to download
A family of Chinese Geese on a local march pond, I was delighted to see them and capture this image and others.

Chinese geese are among the better laying breeds of geese. A female Chinese goose can lay 50–60 eggs over the course of the breeding season (February to June), although there are reports of Chinese Geese laying up to 100 eggs during that time. They build their nests near water and lay up to 12 white eggs. Incubation is 28-34 days, with both parents sharing time on the eggs. The female does most of the incubating, while the male defends his nesting territory. Once the goslings have hatched they take to the water soon after and start foraging for vegetaion with the parents.

Cool Facts
*The Chinese Goose is one of the post popular and well known breeds of domestic goose. Unofficially, there are two kinds of Chinese geese: those that hate the world and everything that moves within it, and those which have to be picked up and carried to their shed. They are so tame that they prefer to stand around your feet and won't be driven.

*The Chinese Goose is a breed descended from the wild Swan Goose, hence their name Anser Cygnoides. Historic names include "Hong Kong ,Knob Fronted, Chinese Swan Goose and Spanish Geese".

*These geese are meant to be the most suitable 'watchdog ' being the chattiest breed with a curiosity unrivaled by other breeds . They can occasionally take a violent dislike to people, but this is generally when on guard duty for a broody female and luckily seasonal.

Migration
They generally do not migrate from their regions.

Conservation
Their population is stable in the wild at this time. The only threat to the wild Chinese Geese would be the development of wetlands.

References:
Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Goose, Ashton Waterfowl http://www.ashtonwaterfowl.net/chinese_geese.htm, Domestic Waterfowl Club http://www.domestic-waterfowl.co.uk/chinese.htm, and from my own observations.


This is a video of a family of Chinese Geese that I recorded on a marsh like pond near the Mississippi River. The title is Swan Geese Family, but as I have discovered with this research, they are Chinese Geese descended from the wild Swan Goose. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmFNC6DaTCA


Foot Note: This was a very interesting research on this goose that I thought was a Swan Goose. It is a descendent of the Wild Swan Goose, but has been breed and domosticated in Europe. Therefore we have the Chinese Goose, which some have escaped domestication and live in the wild as the family I have been observing. :hello:




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