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Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Oyster Catcher, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

The oystercatchers are a group of waders; they form the family Haematopodidae, which has a single genus, Haematopus. They are large obvious and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prising open molluscs.

In some species, the bill shape varies according to the diet. Those birds with blade-like bill tips prise open or smash mollusc shells, and those with pointed bill tips tend to probe for annelid worms.

They are found on coasts worldwide apart from the polar regions. They are all-black, black and white or brown and white in appearance.

White Ibis at Dawn, Fort Meyers, Florida

Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) is a wading bird of the ibis family Threskiornithidae, also known as the "Sheep bird". They are widespread in eastern and south western Australia.

This ibis occurs in marshy wetlands, often near open grasslands and has become common in Australian east coast city parks and rubbish dumps since 1998, which along with its large size has has led to the nickname of "Tip Turkey". The Australian Ibis is known to have a putrid smell of rotting fish or rubbish dumps.

This ibis feeds on various fish, frogs and other water creatures, and also insects and garbage.

This species has a bald black head and neck and a long black downcurved beak. The body plumage is white with some black feathers near the tail. The legs are dark and red skin is visible on the underside of the wing. The head and neck are feathered in juveniles.

Black-Headed Gulls

The Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) is a small gull which breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory, wintering further south, but some birds in the milder westernmost areas of Europe are resident. Some birds will also spend the winter in the northeastern United States.

This gull is 38-44cm long with a 94-105 cm wingspan. It breeds in colonies in large reedbeds or marshes, or on islands in lakes, nesting on the ground. Like most gulls, it is highly gregarious in winter, both when feeding or in evening roosts. It is not a pelagic species, and is rarely seen at sea far from coasts.

The Black-headed Gull is a bold and opportunist feeder and will scavenge in towns or take invertebrates in ploughed fields with equal relish.

In flight, the white leading edge to the wing is a good field mark. The summer adult has a chocolate-brown head (not black, despite the name), pale grey body, black tips to the primary wing feathers, and red bill and legs. The hood is lost in winter, leaving just dark vertical streaks.

This species takes two years to reach maturity. First year birds have a black terminal tail band, more dark areas in the wings, and, in summer, a less fully developed dark hood.

This is a noisy species, especially at colonies, with a familiar "kree-ar" call. Its scientific name means "Laughing Gull".

The Black-headed Gull is the prefectural bird of Tokyo and the Yurikamome mass transit system is named after it.

Brown Pelicans in Flight

The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. It is 106-137 cm (42-54 in) in length, weighs from 2.75 to 5.5 kg (6-12 lbs) and has a wingspan from 1.83 to 2.5 m (6 to 8.2 ft).

It lives strictly on coasts from Washington and Virginia south to northern Chile and the mouth of the Amazon River. Some immature birds may stray to inland freshwater lakes. After nesting, North American birds move in flocks further north along the coasts, returning to warmer waters for winter.

This bird is distinguished from the American White Pelican by its brown body and its habit of diving for fish from the air, as opposed to co-operative fishing from the surface. It eats mainly herring-like fish. Groups of Brown Pelicans often travel in single file, flying low over the water's surface.

The nest location varies from a simple scrape on the ground on an island to a bulky stick nest in a low tree. These birds nest in colonies, usually on islands.

Pesticides like DDT and dieldrin threatened its future in the southeast United States and California in the early 1970s. Pesticides also threatened the pelican population in Florida in this period. A research group from the University of Tampa headed by Dr. Ralph Schreiber conducted research in the Tampa Bay/St Petersburg area and found that DDT caused the pelican eggshells to be overly-thin and incapable of supporting the embryo to maturity. As a result of this research, DDT usage was eliminated in Florida and the rest of the country.

Along with the American White Pelican, the Brown Pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

The Peruvian Pelican, Pelecanus thagus, used to be considered a subspecies of the Brown Pelican (P. o. thagus). However, due to its well-defined allopatry and because it is much larger and heavier than its relatives, it was reclassified as a separate species.

The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana.

Lesser Flamingos in Motion, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya, Africa

The Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) is a species in the flamingo family of birds which occurs in Africa (principally in the Great Rift Valley), across to Pakistan and northwest India. It is a very rare vagrant to southern Europe, with several records from Spain. Birds are occasionally reported from further north, but are generally considered to be escapes.

It is the smallest and most numerous flamingo, probably numbering up to two million individual birds. In Africa, where they are most numerous, the Lesser Flamingos breeds principally on the highly caustic Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. Like all flamingos, they lay a single chalky white egg on mounds they build of mud. Most of the plumage is pinkish white.

Chicks join creches soon after hatching, sometimes numbering over a hundred thousand individuals. The creches are marshalled by a few adult birds who lead them by foot to fresh water, a journey that can reach over 20 miles.

The clearest difference between this species and Greater Flamingo, the only other Old World species, is the much more extensive black on the bill. Size is less helpful unless the species are together, since the sexes of each species also differ in height.

This species feeds primarily on Spirulina, a cyanobacteria which grows only in very alkaline lakes. Although blue-green in colour, the bacteria contains the phtotosynthetic pigments that gives the birds their pink colour. Their deep bill is specialised for filtering tiny food items.

Lesser Flamingos are predated on by a variety of species including Marabou Storks, baboons, African Fish Eagles and jackals.

The population in the two key east African lakes, Nakuru and Bogoria, have been adversely affected in recent years by suspected heavy metal poisoning.

Its primary African breeding area in Lake Natron is currently under threat by a proposed soda ash plant by Tata Chemicals.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax violaceus or Nyctanassa violacea, is a smaller heron, similar in appearance to the Black-crowned Night Heron.

Adults are 61 cm long and weigh 625 g. They have a white crown and back with the remainder of the body grayish, red eyes and short yellow legs. They have a white stripe below the eye. Juveniles resemble young Black-crowned Night-Herons, being mainly brown flecked with white or gray.

Their breeding habitat is swamps and marshes from the eastern United States to north-eastern South America. They often nest in colonies, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs overhanging water. they lay 3–5 pale blue-green eggs.

In warmer locations, some are permanent residents; others migrate to Central America and the West Indies. They may occasionally wander north to the lower Great Lakes or Ontario after the breeding season.

A related heron was endemic to Bermuda (Bermuda Night Heron), but became extinct following human colonisation. American Yellow-crowned Night Herons have been introduced to fill its ecological niche.

These birds stalk their prey or wait in ambush at the water's edge, mainly at night. They mainly eat crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, aquatic insects and small fish.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Green Heron, Everglades National Park, Florida

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a small heron. Some sources consider this bird and the Striated Heron or Mangrove Heron, Butorides striatus, of tropical Africa and Asia, to be a single species, the Green-backed Heron.

The green heron is relatively small; adult body length is about 44 cm. The neck is often pulled in tight against the body. Adults have a glossy, greenish-black cap, a greenish back and wings that are grey-black grading into green or blue, a chestnut neck with a white line down the front, grey underparts and short yellow legs. The bill is dark with a long, sharp point. Female adults tend to be smaller than males, and have duller and lighter plumage, particularly in the breeding season. Juveniles are duller, with the head sides, neck and underparts streaked brown and white, tan-splotched back, and greenish-yellow legs.

Their breeding habitat is small wetlands in eastern and midwest North America, Central America, the West Indies and the Pacific coast of Canada and the United States. They nest in a platform of sticks often in shrubs or trees, sometimes on the ground, often near water. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs. Both parents incubate for about 20 days until hatching, and feed the young birds which take a further 3 weeks to fledge.

Northern Green Heron populations of the race B. v. virescens are migratory and winter from the southern United States through to northern South America. This subspecies is an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe.

Green Herons stand very still on shore or in shallow water and await prey. They mainly eat small fish, frogs and aquatic insects. They sometimes drop food, insects, or other small objects on the water's surface to attract fish, making them one of the few known tool-using species. Feeding is done during the day. Their call is a loud and sudden kyow.

Green herons are seasonally monogamous. Nests are constructed in forest and swamp patches, over water or in plants near water. Locations in trees are preferred, with nests built up to 20 m off the ground. The clutch is 2 to 4 eggs, which are laid in 2-day intervals. The chicks are fed by both parents, though the frequency of feedings decreases as they become more independent. When chicks are 16 to 17 days old, fledging occurs, and they become independent after 30 to 35 days.

Scarlet Ibises, Venezuela

Eudocimus ruber) is a species of ibis that occurs in tropical South America and also Trinidad and Tobago. It is the national bird of Trinidad and is featured on the Trinidad and Tobago coat of arms along with Tobago's national bird Rufous-vented Chachalaca.

Adults are 56-61 cm long and weigh 650g. They are completely scarlet, except for black wing-tips. They nest in trees, laying two to four eggs. Their diet includes crustaceans and similar small marine animals. A juvenile Scarlet Ibis is grey/white in colour; as it grows the ingestion of red crabs in the tropical swamps gradually produces the characteristic scarlet plumage.

This species is very closely related to the American White Ibis and is sometimes considered conspecific with it.

While the species may have occurred as a natural vagrant in southern Florida in the late 1800s, all recent reports of the species in North America have been of introduced or escaped birds. Eggs from Trinidad were placed in White Ibis nests in Hialeah Park in 1962, and the resulting population hybridised with the native ibis, producing "pink ibis" that are still occasionally seen.

Blue Footed Booby, Galapagos Islands

The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) is a bird in the Sulidae family which comprises ten species of long-winged seabirds. The blue-footed booby is medium to large in size. It is on average 81 cm long and weighs 1.5 kg (3 lb), with the females slightly larger than the males. It has long pointed wings and a wedge shaped tail. They have strong thick necks. The boobies eyes are placed on either side of their bill and oriented towards the front. They have excellent binocular vision. The blue-footed boobies eyes are yellow. The male has more yellow on its iris than does the female. The blue-footed booby has permanently closed nostrils specialized for diving. They breath through the corners of their mouths. Their feet range from a pale turquoise to a deep aquamarine. Males and younger birds have lighter feet than females do.

The name “booby” comes from the Spanish term bobo, which means "stupid fellow". This is because the Blue-footed Booby is clumsy on the land, and like other seabirds can be very tame. It has been known to land on boats, where it was once captured and eaten.

The natural breeding habitat of the Blue-footed Booby is tropical and subtropical islands off the Pacific coast of South America from Peru to Mexico including, most famously, the Galápagos Islands.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Indian Peafowl, Children's Zoo, Saitama, Japan

The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. The African Congo Peafowl is placed in its own genus Afropavo and is not dealt with here. Peafowl are best known for the male's extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, the female a peahen, though it is common to hear the female also referred to as a "peacock" or "female peacock". The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.

The Indian Peafowl is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India.

The Green Peafowl breeds from Myanmar east to Java. The IUCN lists the Green Peafowl as vulnerable to extinction due to hunting and a reduction in extent and quality of habitat.

The Indian Peafowl is monotypic, while the Green Peafowl has 3 subspecies, P. muticus spicifer, P. m imperator and the nominate P. m. muticus.

The two species are largely allopatric but will hybridise in captivity.

While the form of Green Peafowl in Yunnan is not separated taxonomically, it differs in a few aspects from other forms, particularly in its forest-dwelling habits, an "odd, monal-like bill", a curiously long hind toe and longer, more slender wings (K. B. Woods in litt. 2000). Some have suggested this is a new subspecies.

Some pheasant breeders have suggested that the Green Peafowl may have more subspecies.

Peafowl have sometimes been included in a distinct family from Pheasants.

The male (peacock) Indian Peafowl has iridescent blue-green or green coloured plumage. The so-called "tail" of the peacock, also termed the "train", is not the tail quill feathers but highly elongated upper tail coverts. The train feathers have a series of eyes that are best seen when the tail is fanned. Both species have a head crest.

The female (peahen) Indian Peafowl has a mixture of dull green, brown, and grey in her plumage. She lacks the long upper tail coverts of the male but has a crest. Females can also display their plumage to ward off danger to their young or other female competition.

The Green Peafowl is very different in appearance to the Indian Peafowl. The male has green and gold plumage and has an erect crest. The wings are black with a sheen of blue.

Unlike the Indian Peafowl, the Green Peahen is very similar to the male, only having shorter upper tail coverts and less iridesence. It is very hard to tell a juvenile male from an adult female.

Many of the brilliant colours of the peacock plumage are due to an optical interference phenomenon (Bragg reflection) based on (nearly) periodic nanostructures found in the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers.

Different colours correspond to different length scales of the periodic structures. For brown feathers, a mixture of red and blue is required: one color is created by the periodic structure, and the other is a created by a Fabry-Perot interference peak from reflections off the outermost and innermost boundaries of the periodic structure.

Such interference-based structural color is especially important in producing the peacock's iridescent hues (which shimmer and change with viewing angle), since interference effects depend upon the angle of light, unlike chemical pigments.

The peafowl are forest birds that nest on the ground. The Pavo peafowl are terrestrial feeders but roost in trees.

Both species of Peafowl are believed to be polygamous. However, it has been suggested that "females" entering a male Green Peafowl's territory are really his own juvenile or subadult young (K. B. Woods in litt. 2000) and that Green Peafowl are really monogamous in the wild. Those who subscribe to this notion cite the similarities between the sexes.

During mating season they will often emit a very loud high pitched cry.

Peafowl are omnivorous and eat plant parts, flower petals, seed heads, insects and other arthropods, reptiles, and amphibians.

In common with other members of the Galliformes, males possess metatarsal spurs or "thorns" used primarily during intraspecific fights.

Asiatic peafowl like the Indian Blue Peafowl and especially the Green Peafowl occupy a similar niche as the roadrunners, secretary bird, and seriema. All of these birds hunt for small animals including arthropods on the ground and tall grass and minnows in shallow streams.

Because of human encroachment into their natural territories, peafowl and humans have come into increasing contact. Because of their natural beauty some are reluctant to classify the birds as pests, but their presence can be disturbing.

Mealy Parrot, Amazon Rainforest, Peru

The Mealy Amazon or Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa) is one of the largest Amazon parrot species.

The Mealy Parrot occurs in tropical Central America and South America. It frequents humid to semi-humid forest (only rarely in deciduous forest) and plantations. In regions dominated by open/dry habitats it is restricted to gallery forest or completely absent.

It has a total length of 38-40 cm (14.96-15.75 in) and weighs 540-700 g (19.01-24.64 oz). Captives commonly are heavier. It is among the largest parrots in the Americas, mainly being surpassed by a the large macaws. As the other members of its genus, the Mealy Parrot has a relatively short, squarish tail.

The Mealy Parrot is mainly green. The back and nape often have a whitish tinge; almost as if it had been covered in a thin layer of flour ("meal"; hence its name). The distal half of the tail is paler and more yellow than the basal half, thus resulting in a distinctly bi-coloured look. In flight it shows a bluish-black trailing edge to the wing and a conspicious red speculum. Occasionally a few yellow feathers are apparent on the top of the head and two subspecies, virenticeps and guatemalae, have a bluish-tinged crown. The maroon to orange eyes (typically appear dark from a distance) are surrounded by a relatively broad white eye-ring of bare skin.

The Mealy Parrot is social and can be found in pairs or in large flocks. They are even known to interact with other parrots, such as macaws. They are usually quiet but can be loud at dusk and dawn. In captivity, they are know as one of the gentlest and calmest of all amazons.

When Mealy Parrots reach sexual maturity they usually form monogamous relationships with a single partner.

Courtship usually begins in early spring. The hen will usually lay three eggs, which she incubates for 28 days. The male will eat for both himself and the female during the incubation period. He will regurgitate the food for the female and chicks to eat.

The diet of the Mealy Parrot consists mostly of fruits, seeds, berries, nuts, blossoms, and leaf buds.

Kell-Billed Toucan, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Toucans are near passerine birds from the neotropics. They are brightly marked and have large, colorful bills. The family includes five genera and about forty different species.

Toucans range in size from the Lettered Aracari (Pteroglossus inscriptus), at 130 g (4.6 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco), at 680 g (1.5 lb) and 63 cm (25 inches). Their bodies are short (of comparable size to a crow's) and thick. The tail is rounded, and varies in length from half the length to the whole length of the body. The neck is short and thick, and at the base of the head is a huge, brightly-colored beak that measures, in some large species, more than half the length of the body. A toucan's tongue is long, narrow, grey, and singularly frayed on each side, adding to its sensitivity as an organ of taste.

The legs of a toucan are strong and rather short. Their toes are arranged in pairs with the first and fourth toes turned backward. Males and females are the same color. The feathers in the genus containing the largest toucans are generally black, with touches of white, yellow, and scarlet. The underparts of the araçaris (smaller toucans) are yellow, crossed by one or more black or red bands, and the edges of the beak are saw-toothed. The toucanets have mostly green plumage with blue markings.

Toucans are frugivorous (fruit-eating), but will take prey such as insects and small lizards. However, the function of the beak in feeding is not known, since many other birds consume these foods without the giant bill to help them. One likely use is to specialize on prey such as nestlings and bats in treeholes. In this view, the beak allows the bird to reach deep into the treehole to access food unavailable to other birds.

They are arboreal and nest in tree holes laying 2–4 white eggs. The young hatch completely naked, without any down. Toucans are resident breeders and do not migrate. Toucans are usually found in pairs or small flocks.

The name of this bird group is derived from Tupi tucana, via French.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dark-Eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis), is the best-known species of junco, a genus of small American sparrows.

Adults are generally grey on top with a white belly. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight. The bill is usually pinkish. The males tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than the female. Juveniles often have pale streaks and may even be mistaken for a Vesper Sparrow until they acquire adult plumage at 2 to 3 months. There are several regional variations:

The Slate-colored Junco (J. hyemalis hyemalis) has a dark slate-grey head, breast and upper parts. Females are brownish grey. It is found in North America in taiga forests from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to the Appalachian Mountains, wintering further south; it is relatively common in its range.

The White-winged Junco (J. hyemalis aikeni) has a pale gray head, breast, and upperparts with white wing bars. Females are washed brownish. It is an endemic breeder in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana. It is common across its breeding range.
The Oregon Junco (J. hyemalis oreganus) is found on the Pacific coast mountains from southeastern Alaska to extreme northern Baja California. It has a blackish-gray head and breast with a brown back and wings and reddish flanks. This is the most common form in the west.

The Pink-sided Junco (J. hyemalis mearnsi) has a grey head and breast, with a brown back and wings. It has pinkish-brown flanks. It is found in the northern Rocky Mountains from southern Alberta, Canada to Idaho and Wyoming in the northern United States.

The Gray-headed Junco (J. hyemalis caniceps) is found in the southern Rocky Mountains from Colorado to central Arizona. It is mainly grey on with a rusty back.

The Red-backed Junco (J. hyemalis dorsalis) is found in the southern mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. It differs from "Gray-headed" Junco in having a dark upper mandible, a variable amount of rust on the wings, and pale underparts. This makes it similar to the Yellow-eyed Junco except for the dark eye. It does not overlap with Yellow-eyed Junco in breeding range.

Their breeding habitat is coniferous or mixed forest areas throughout North America. They usually nest in a cup shaped depression on the ground, well hidden by vegetation or other material, although they are sometimes found in the lower branches of a shrub or tree. The nests have an outer diameter of about 10cm and are lined with fine grasses and hair.

Normally two broods of 4 eggs are laid during the breeding season. They are incubated by the female for 12 to 13 days. The slightly glossy egg shells are greyish or pale bluish-white in color and heavily spotted (sometimes splotched) with various shades of brown, purple or grey. The spotting is concentrated at the large end of the egg. Young leave nest between 11 and 14 days of hatching.

Northern birds migrate further south; many populations are permanent residents or altitudinal migrants. In winter, juncos are familiar in and around towns. The Slate-coloured Junco is a rare vagrant to western Europe and has wintered in Great Britain, usually in a domestic garden.

Malachite Kingfisher, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) is a river kingfisher which is widely distributed in Africa south of the Sahara. It is largely resident except for seasonal climate related movements.

This is a small kingfisher, 13 cm in length. The general colour of the upper parts of the adult bird is bright metallic blue. The head has a short crest of black and blue feathers, which gives rise to the scientific name. The face, cheeks and underparts are rufous and there are white patches on the throat and rear neck sides.

The bill is black in young birds and reddish orange in adults; the legs are bright red. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult.

This is a common species of reeds and rank vegetation near slow moving water or ponds. The flight of the Malachite Kingfisher is rapid, the short rounded wings whirring until they appear a mere blur. It usually flies low over water.

The bird has regular perches or stands from which it fishes. These are usually low over the water. It sits upright, its tail pointed downwards. It drops suddenly with a splash and usually returns at once with a struggling captive.

Large food items are beaten on a bough or rail; small fish and insects are promptly swallowed. A fish is usually lifted and carried by its middle, but its position is changed, sometimes by tossing it into the air, before it is swallowed head downwards. Fish, aquatic insects and crustaceans are eaten.

The nest is a tunnel in a sandy bank, usually, though not always, over water. Both birds excavate. Most burrows incline upward before the nesting chamber is reached.

There is no nest, but three or four clutches of 3-6 round white eggs are placed on a litter of fish bones and disgorged pellets.

The call of this kingfisher is then a short shrill seek. The breeding song is a chuckling li-cha-cha-chui-chui.

There is a closely related species in Madagascar, the Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher, or Malagasy Kingfisher, (Alcedo vintsiodes). This has a black bill and greenish crest, and is not quite as dependent on water as the African species. It is otherwise similar in plumage and behaviour to the more widespread species.


The Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a medium-sized hummingbird.

These hummingbirds are glossy green on the back and grey below with green flanks. Their bill is long, straight and slender. The adult male has a glossy red crown and throat and a dark tail. Anna's is the only hummingbird species with a red crown. Females and juveniles have a green crown, a grey throat with some red marking, and a dark tail with white tips.

Their breeding habitat is open wooded or shrubby areas and mountain meadows along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Arizona. The female builds a large cup nest in a shrub or tree, sometimes in vines or on wires. The nest is round and about 1 1/2 to 2" in diameter. The nest is built of very small twigs, lichen and other mosses, and often lined with downy feathers or animal hair. The nest materials are bound together with spider silk or other sticky materials. They are known to nest early as mid-December and as late as June.

These birds are permanent residents in parts of their range. Some birds may wander north to southern Alaska, south to Mexico or move east from California after nesting season. Some individuals have been banded as far east as Alabama and Florida.

These birds feed on nectar from flowers using a long extendable tongue or catch insects on the wing. While collecting nectar, they also assist in plant pollination. They sometimes eat tree sap.

Unlike most hummingbirds, this bird sings during courtship. They are very territorial.

This bird was named after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli. A hybrid between this species and Allen's Hummingbird has been described as Floresi's Hummingbird, "Selasphorus" floresii (Ridgway, 1909; Taylor, 1909); the hybrid with the Black-chinned Hummingbird was called "Trochilus" violajugulum.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common species of wren resident in the eastern half of the USA, the extreme south of Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and the extreme northeast of Mexico. A very distinct population in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Belize is treated either as a subspecies Thryothorus ludovicianus albinucha, or as a separate species, White-browed Wren Thryothorus albinucha. Following the review by Mann et al. (2006), these are the only forms remaining in the genus Thryothorus. This is the state bird for South Carolina.

It is a fairly large wren, of the US species, second largest after the Cactus Wren, typically 14 cm long and about 20 g weight. The upperparts are rufous brown, and the underparts a strong orange-buff, usually unmarked but faintly barred on the flanks in the southwest of the range. The head has a striking pure white supercilium (eyebrow) and a whitish throat. The race albinucha is duller brown above and has additional white streaking on the head.

It is easiest to confuse with the Bewick's Wren, a fairly close relative (Martínez Gómez et al. 2005), which differs in being smaller but with a longer tail, grayer-brown above and whiter below.

Cattle Egret, Florida

The Cattle Egret is native to Africa and Asia, and only reached the Americas in the late 19th century. It was first found in northeastern South America in 1877, having probably arrived there from Africa. It reached the United States in 1941, and started nesting by 1953. In the next 50 years it became one of the most abundant of the North American herons. It has occurred all the way to Alaska and Newfoundland, and has bred in nearly all states.

The Cattle Egret is an opportunistic feeder, and will follow large animals or machines to catch insects they stir up. It also is attracted by smoke from a large fire. Egrets come from long distances to catch insects trying to escape the fire.

The Cattle Egret occasionally adds birds to its diet. At Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida, migrating Cattle Egrets land on the large green lawn inside the fort, probably hoping for some nice grasshoppers. Because no insects are there to be had, the egrets try to catch the migrating warblers that also have stopped on the tiny island.

* Size: 46-56 cm (18-22 in)
* Wingspan: 88-96 cm (35-38 in)
* Weight: 270-512 g (9.53-18.07 ounces)

* Medium-sized all-white heron.
* Sturdy yellow bill.
* Dark legs and feet.
* Swollen throat.
* Rather short, thick neck for a heron.

* Sits in hunched posture.
* Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: White overall, with long, buffy reddish feathers on crown, chest, and back. Legs yellow-green, eyes dark yellow. In brief high breeding condition, bill, legs, and eyes bright red; lores purple-pink.
* Nonbreeding (Definitive) Plumage: Feathers all white; shorter orangish plumes on head, chest, and back. Legs dark green, appearing black. Bill, lores, and eyes yellow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Black-Crowned Night Heron

The Black-crowned Night Heron (in Eurasia, often just Night Heron; in North America, Black-crowned Night-Heron with a second hyphen), (Nycticorax nycticorax) is a medium-sized heron.

Adults are 64 cm long and weigh 800 g. They have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey, red eyes, and short yellow legs. Young birds are brown, flecked with white and grey. These are short-necked and stout herons.

These birds stand still at the water's edge and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, and small mammals. During the day they rest in trees or bushes. The New World race is more gregarious outside the breeding season than the nominate race.

They are often found nesting or roosting within cities in avenue trees on busy roads.

Rainbow Lorikeets

The Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Australia, it is common along the eastern seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia and northwest Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas.

Rainbow Lorikeets have been introduced to Perth, Western Australia, Auckland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Rainbow Lorikeets grow to 25-30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, with a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in) and vary significantly in colouration between the numerous subspecies. Their eponymous markings of the best known subspecies moluccanus are particularly striking: a dark blue or violet-blue head and stomach, a bright green back, tail and vent, and an orange breast and beak. Several have darker scalloped markings across the orange breast and the Weber's lorikeet is predominantly green.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pair of Mourning Doves

Pigeons and doves constitute the family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerine birds. In general parlance the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, there is a tendency for "dove" to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the term "dove" and "pigeon." This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. The young doves and pigeons are called "squabs."

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. The species commonly referred to just as the "pigeon" is the feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities.

Their usually flimsy nests are made of sticks, and the two white eggs are incubated by both sexes. Doves feed on seeds, fruit and plants. Unlike most other birds (but see flamingo), the doves and pigeons produce "crop milk," which is secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Both sexes produce this highly nutritious substance to feed to the young.

Mute Swans

The Mute Swan (Cygnus olor is a common Eurasian member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae.
This species of bird is found naturally mainly in temperate areas of Europe across western Asia, as far east as the Russian maritimes, near Sidemi (Dement'ev,G.P.(1967), Gmelin(1789) and John Latham(1824) reported Mute Swans present in Kamchatka in the 1700s and still nesting there in 2007.[Sladen and King,1976 and Heilprin,J.[Assoc.Press].(2006)] recorded Mute Swans arriving in Alaska across the Bering Strait.

It is migratory throughout northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, as far south as north Africa. [Dement'ev,Sibley,C.] and in the Mediterranean. It is known and recorded to have nested in Iceland [Sutton,G.M.(1962)]and is a vagrant to that area, as well as to Bermuda according to the U.N.Environmental Program chart of international status chart of bird species.

In America, it migrates in the Saskatchewan area,[Greenleaf 2004] across the Hudson's Bay over the Great Lakes into the States, dispersing there through mid continent [Cirianca, HillvNorton (2001)] [USFish&Wildlife,(2006)]. A specimen of Mute Swan dated 1650-1700,was designated as that species by Rufus Churcher,professor of archeology,emeritus, at University of Toronto;Howard Savage,MD,professor and curator of Archaeozoological Comparative Collection at Trent University;Donald Baldwin of Royal Ontario Museum and it appears in Birds from the Ground,a 2003 publication from Trent University,Ontario. Interior swans must often migrate to mid Atlantic coastal locations when lakes freeze over, returning to their nesting area when the lakes open. [S.Dillon Ripley,] (1965), who headed the Smithsonian for many years, wrote that "mute swans have been gracing our rivers and streams since Colonial Days," (1976). They have also been introduced into the US, sometimes as gifts from the Royal Family of Great Britain, to Lakeland, Florida, for example.

A recent revaluation of a watercolor done by John White in 1585,while on a scientific exploration for Sir Walter Raleigh to America, reveals much earlier occupation by Cygnus olor (MuteSwan) on the Atlantic coast. Titled by the artist as simply, "The Swann," it was mislabeled in the 1960s as a "Trumpeter Swan," probably because its bill is black. However,scientists at the British Museum, holder of the collection, say that lead in the paint used by White has degraded over the four hundred years, turning some colors grey or black. The s-curved neck,the knob,the lifted rear feathers, the entire countanence could not be a trumpeter's. Further research is being done.(See: A New World, by Kim Sloan, curator of the John White collection at British Museum)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Female Anna Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are small birds in the family Trochilidae, native only to the Americas. They are known for their ability to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings, 15–80 times per second (depending on the species). Capable of sustained hovering, the hummingbird has the ability to fly deliberately backwards (this is the only group of birds able to do so or vertically, and to maintain position while drinking nectar or eating tiny arthropods from flower blossoms. They are named for the characteristic hum made by their wings.

The hummingbird is a small bird with a long, thin beak. This elongated beak is one of the defining characteristics of the hummingbird, which, with an extendable, bifurcated tongue, has evolved in order to allow the bird to feed upon nectar deep within flowers. A hummingbird's lower beak also has the unique ability to flex downward to create a wider opening, facilitating the capture of insects in the mouth rather than at the tip of the beak.

Colorful Budgerigar

The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus, nicknamed budgie), the only species in the Australian genus Melopsittacus, is a small parrot belonging to the tribe of the broad-tailed parrots (Platycercini); these are sometimes considered a subfamily (Platycercinae). In the latter case, the Budgerigar is sometimes isolated in a tribe of its own, the Melopsittacini, although it is probably quite closely related to Pezoporus and Neophema. Though Budgerigars are often called Parakeets, especially in American English, this term refers to any of a number of small Parrots with long flat tails. The Budgerigar is found throughout the drier parts of Australia and has survived in the inlands of that continent for over 5 million years.

Budgerigars are nomadic birds found in open habitats, primarily in Australian scrubland, open woodland and grassland. The birds are normally found in small flocks, but can form very large flocks under favourable conditions. The species is extremely nomadic and the movement of the flocks is tied to the availability of food and water. Drought can drive flocks into more wooded habitat or coastal areas. They feed on the seeds of spinifex, grass weeds, and sometimes ripening wheat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Male Indigo Bunting

The Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea, is a small seed-eating bird in the family Cardinalidae.

Adult males have deep blue plumage; the wing and tail are black with blue edges. Adult females are brown: darker on the upperparts, faintly streaked underneath.

Their breeding habitat is brushy edges across eastern North America and the southwest United States. They nest relatively low in dense shrub or a low tree. These birds are monogamous but not always faithful to their partner. In the western part of their range, they often hybridize with the Lazuli Bunting.

They migrate to southern Mexico, the West Indies and Central America. They occur in western Europe as an extremely rare vagrant.

These birds forage on the ground or in trees or shrubs. They mainly eat insects and seeds. In winter, they often feed in flocks.

The song of this bird is a high-pitched buzzed sweet-sweet chew-chew sweet-sweet.

The Indigo Bunting will migrate during the night, using the stars to direct itself. In captivity, since they cannot migrate, they experience disorientation in April/May and in September/October if they cannot see the stars from their enclosure.

Orange Cheeked Waxbill

The Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda is a common species of estrildid finch native to western and central Africa, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 3,600,000 km².

Orange cheeks like a lot of grass. They eat the seed heads, they forage at its roots for tiny insects, and build their nests directly in it. Some open tall shrubbery and dead, scraggly branches should be provided for roosting. The floor should be composed of a good, dry substrate. Otherwise, the enclosure should have stands of clump and/or runner grasses and reeds which grow 40 cm or taller. Care should be taken to establish walkways through the grass for maintaining the habitat so nests will not be stepped on.

White Tern, Midway Atoll, Hawaii

Midway Atoll (also known as Midway Island or Midway Islands, Hawaiian: Pihemanu) is a 2.4 square mile (6.2 km²) atoll located in the North Pacific Ocean (near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago) at [show location on an interactive map] 28°12′N 177°21′WCoordinates: [show location on an interactive map] 28°12′N 177°21′W, about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. It is less than 140 nautical miles east of the International Date Line, about 2,800 nautical miles (5,200 km) west of San Francisco and 2,200 nautical miles (4,100 km) east of Tokyo. It consists of a ring-shaped barrier reef and several sand islets.

The atoll, which has a tiny population (40 in 2004, but no indigenous inhabitants), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, designated an insular area under the authority of the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is a National Wildlife Refuge administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The visitor program closed in January 2002 and there are no facilities at the present time for receiving visitors. However, visitors who are able to provide their own transportation can contact the refuge manager for information on visiting the atoll. The economy is derived solely from governmental sources. All food and manufactured goods must be imported.

Midway, as its name suggests, lies nearly halfway between North America and Asia. It also lies almost halfway around the earth from Greenwich, England.

Midway is best known as the location of the Battle of Midway, fought in World War II on June 4, 1942. Nearby, the United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against the Midway Islands, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific Theater.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Male Magnolia Warbler

Dendroica magnolia , is a New World warbler. It breeds across most of Canada as well as New England and the Great Lakes region of the U.S.

It is migratory, wintering in Central America. This species is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

The summer male Magnolia Warbler is unmistakable in appearance. It has a black back and face with a white supercilium and gray crown. The underparts and rump are yellow, and the breast band is black. The flanks are streaked with black and there is a white wing patch.

Other plumages are essentially gray above and yellow below, with the flank streaking reduced or absent, but there are always two white wing bars. Young birds may have a brown back.

The breeding habitat is coniferous woodland. Magnolia Warblers nest in a young conifer, laying 3-5 eggs in a flimsy cup nest. Both parents feed the young.

These birds feed on insects and spiders, often found while foraging low in shrubs. The birds will hover while tracking prey. They sometimes eat berries in stormy weather, when their preferred food is scarce.

The song is a weety weety wee. The call is a soft ship.

The first bird seen by Wilson happened to be in a magnolia tree which gave this bird its common name.

Male Rufous-Sided Towhee

The rufous-sided towhee is about seven inches in length. It has red-brown eyes, long black tail feathers and a small pointed black bill. The male rufous-sided towhee has a black head, neck and shoulders, a white chest and rust-red wings and sides. The female has the same color pattern as the male, but where he is black she is a dark brown.

The rufous-sided towhee breeds from British Columbia east to Maine and south to California, Louisiana, Florida and Guatemala. It winters in the south from British Columbia, Nebraska and southern New England.

The rufous-sided towhee lives in thickets and at the edges of brushy woodlands.

The rufous-sided towhee scratches under leaves looking for food. Nuts, seeds and fruits make up most of its diet. It also eats some insects.

The female makes a nest of weeds, leaves, bark and stems on or near the ground in a well-covered area. Sometimes the males brings materials for the nest. The female lays two to six eggs. The male sometimes brings the female food during incubation. The female incubates the eggs. The chicks hatch in a little under two weeks and both parents feed them. The chicks fledge when they are 10 to 12 days old. The female usually has two broods a year.

Rufous-sided towhees have regional accents! Depending on where they live, the towhee's call will vary. Birds in the east sound nothing like birds in the west.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lincoln's Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii, is a medium-sized sparrow.

Adults have dark-streaked olive-brown upperparts with a light brown breast with fine streaks, a white belly and a white throat. They have a brown cap with a grey stripe in the middle, olive-brown wings and a narrow tail. Their face is grey with brown cheeks, a brown line through the eye and an eye ring. They are somewhat similar in appearance to the Song Sparrow.

Their breeding habitat is wet thickets or shrubby bogs across Canada, Alaska and the northeastern and western United States; this bird is less common in the eastern parts of its range. The nest is a well-concealed shallow open cup on the ground under vegetation.

These birds migrate to the southern United States, Mexico and Central America. They forage on the ground in dense vegetation, mainly eating insects and seeds. They are very secretive. Their song is a musical trill, but this bird is often not seen or heard even where they are common. This bird was named by Audubon after his friend, Thomas Lincoln.

Green Jay

The Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas), a bird-species of the New World jays, exhibits distinct regional forms within its large but discontinuous range. This stretches from southern Texas south into Mexico and Central America, with a break before the species reappears in a broad sweep across the north of the South American continent in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador

Green Jays have feathers of yellowish-white with blue tips on the top of the head, cheeks and nape, though some forms have more blue than others. The breast and underparts have a bright yellow hue, fading to cream in worn plumage. The upper parts of this bird appear rich green.

The birds have especially large nasal bristles that form a distinct crest in some of the geographical forms, but have developed less in others. A black bib forms a thick band up to the sides of the head as well as a stripe through the eye line and one above it.

Green Jays feed on a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, as well as on acorns and various cereal grains. They take ebony seeds where these occur, and also any oak species' acorns, as this jay will readily store them for hard times. Meat and human scraps add to the diet when opportunity arises. Green Jays have been observed using sticks as tools to extract insects from tree bark.

Green Jays usually build a nest in a tree or in a thorny bush or thicket, and the female lays 3 to 5 eggs. Only the female incubates, but both parents take care of the young.

As with most of the typical jays, this species has a very extensive voice repertoire. The bird's most common call makes a rassh-rassh-rassh sound, but many other unusual notes also occur. One of the most distinctive calls sounds like an alarm bell.

Broadtail Hummingbird

A hummingbird of subalpine meadows, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird ranges across the south-central Rockies in summer. It possesses a number of physiological and behavioral adaptations to survive cold nights, including the ability to enter torpor, slowing its heart rate and dropping its body temperature.

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird enters torpor, a slowed metabolic state, on cold nights. It maintains a body temperature of about 12.2�C (54� F) when ambient temperatures fall below 10�C (44� F).

In some areas of Broad-tailed Hummingbird breeding habitat, cold air descends into valleys at night, with warmer areas upslope. This phenomenon is called a thermal inversion. The male Broad-tailed Hummingbird, which does not attend the nest, goes upslope at night to conserve heat, reducing the energy costs of thermoregulation by about 15 percent.

* Size: 8-9 cm (3-4 in)
* Wingspan: 13 cm (5 in)
* Weight: 3-4 g (0.11-0.14 ounces)

Small bird; medium-sized hummingbird. Shiny green upperparts. Adult male has red throat. Adult female has white throat speckled with iridescent green or bronze.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Agapornis: from the Greek Agape, for love, and Ornis, for Bird) is a very social and affectionate parrot.

The name Lovebird stems from these birds' affectionate nature. This is reflected by the birds name in other languages: in German, "die Unzertrennlichen," and in French "les inséparables"- "inseparables." For this reason, many people feel strongly that lovebirds in captivity should be kept only in pairs which is not always true. Others believe that lovebirds, like other parrots, are social animals who can bond with human companions when given a great deal of care and attention. Recommended foods include a pellet based diet along with fruits, vegetables and grains.

Lovebirds are about 13-29 cm in size, 40-80 grams in weight and characterized by a small, stocky build and a short, blunt tail. This puts them among the smallest parrots in the world although their beak is rather large for their overall size. Most lovebirds are blue, green, or lutino although color mutations can feature many different colors. Some lovebird species, like Fischer's, black cheeked, and the yellow collared lovebird, have a white ring around the eye. Lifespan is 10 to 20 years.

Female Northern Cardinal on a Snowy Pine

The Northern Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 8.3 to 9 inches (21-23 cm) and a wingspan of 10-12 in (25-31 cm). It weighs about 1.6 ounces (45 g). Males are slightly larger than females.

The male is a brilliant crimson red with a black face mask over the eyes and extending to the upper chest. Females are a fawn color, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint in the wings and tail feathers. The face mask of the female is gray to black, and is less defined than that of the male. Both sexes possess prominent raised crests and strong bright coral-colored beaks. Young birds, both male and female, show the coloring of the adult female until the fall, when they will molt and grow their adult feathers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Major Mitchell Cockatoo

The Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Lophocroa leadbeateri also known as Leadbeater's Cockatoo or Pink Cockatoo is a medium-sized cockatoo restricted to arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia. It was usually placed in the genus Cacatua in recent times, but all available evidence suggests that placement of this species in a monotypic genus, Lophocroa is advocated (Brown & Toft, 1999).

With its soft-textured white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest, it is generally recognised as the most beautiful of all cockatoos. It is named in honour of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who wrote "Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region".

Female Orchard Oriole, Rio Grande Valley, Texas

The Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius, is the smallest species of icterid blackbird at 6.3 inches (16 cm) long and a weight of 20 g. The specific name spurius refers to the original misidentification of the male as a female Baltimore Oriole. These birds are sometimes mistakenly identified as New World warblers.

The adult has a pointed bill and white wing bars. The adult male is chestnut on the underparts, shoulder and rump, with the rest of the plumage being black. One-year males are yellow with a black bib. The adult female is olive-green on the upper parts, yellowish on the breast and belly.

The breeding habitat is semi-open areas with deciduous trees across eastern North America south to central Mexico, often near water. The nest is a tightly woven pouch attached to a fork on a horizontal branch. In some parts of their range, they may nest in small colonies.

These birds migrate in flocks for wintering from central Mexico south through Central America to northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela. In the Caribbean, they can often be found on the Bahamas, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

They forage in trees and shrubs, also making short flights to catch insects and feed from flowers. These birds mainly eat insects, particular fruit[1] and nectar, and also other plantstuff.

Snowy Egret in Breeding Plumage, Florida

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small white heron. It is the American counterpart to the very similar Old World Little Egret, which has established a foothold in the Bahamas.

Adults are typically 61 cm long and weigh 375 g. They have a slim black bill and long black legs with yellow feet. The area of the upper bill, in front of the eyes, is yellow but turns red during the breeding season, when the adults also gain recurved plumes on the back, making for a "shaggy" effect. The juvenile looks similar to the adult, but the base of the bill is paler, and a green or yellow line runs down the back of the legs.

Their breeding habitat is large inland and coastal wetlands from the lower Great Lakes and southwestern United States to South America. The breeding range in eastern North America extends along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Maine to Texas, and inland along major rivers and lakes. They nest in colonies, often with other waders, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. Their flat, shallow nests are made of sticks and lined with fine twigs and rushes. Three to four greenish-blue, oval eggs are incubated by both adults. The young leave the nest in 20 to 25 days and hop about on branches near the nest before finally departing.

In warmer locations, some Snowy Egret are permanent residents; northern populations migrate to Central America and the West Indies. They may wander north after the breeding season, very rarely venturing to western Europe—the first bird sighted in Britain wintered in Scotland from 2001–2002.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Velvet-Purple Coronet, Ecuador

The success and popularity of our ‘Cock-of-the-Rock tour’, in north-central Ecuador, has prompted us to expand our selection in this bird-rich country. Whilst many birders are familiar with such sites as Mindo, Bellavista and Tandayapa, the chocó and lowland forests of north-western Ecuador are less well known, yet home to many range-restricted and endemic birds.

When the Andes were formed, the Chocó region (wet lowland coastal forests stretching from Ecuador through Colombia and into Panama) was cut off from the Amazon rainforests in the east, leading to a divergent evolutionary path. It is now thought that between one-fifth and a half of all the species found in this area are endemic. In the last 60 years however, over 95% of Ecuador’s Chocó forests have been destroyed; it now has the dubious honour of being the most intensively farmed area in Ecuador, covered mainly with monoculture African palm oil plantations. The Chocó Endemic Bird Area (EBA), as defined by BirdLife International, traverses the length of western Colombia and Ecuador. The EBA, characterized by wet forest and with up to 16,000mm of rain per year, is arguably the wettest place on earth! The Chocó has one of the world’s richest lowland biotas, with exceptional richness and endemism in a wide range of taxa, including over 50 endemic bird species.

This is the area on which this tour focuses; an ideal itinerary for repeat visitors to Ecuador in search of new and exciting birding horizons. The tour is also a chance to support a critically-important self-sustaining ecotourism enterprise run by the region’s poor Afro-Ecuadorian population.

Purple-Throated Mountain-Gem, Costa Rica

The Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaemus) is a hummingbird which breeds in the mountains of southern Nicaragua, northern Costa Rica and western Panama. It is replaced in southern Costa Rica by its close relatives, the White-throated and Gray-tailed Mountain-gems, with which it is sometimes considered conspecific. These three species form a closely-related group that evolved some 3.5 million years ago and has diversified since (García-Moreno et al., 2006).

This bird inhabits forested areas in hilly terrain, and is found at altitudes from 800 m to 2500 m. It is 10.5 cm long. The male weighs 6.0 g and the female 4.8 g. The shortish black bill is slightly curved.

The adult male has bronze-green upperparts and underparts except for a brilliant green crown, purple throat and dark grey tail. The female lacks the bright crown and throat, and has rich cinnamon underparts. Young birds resemble the female but have buff fringes to the upperparts plumage.

The female Purple-throated Mountain-gem is entirely responsible for nest building and incubation. She lays two white eggs in a deep plant-fibre cup nest 0.7-3.5 m high in a scrub, small tree or vine. Incubation takes 15-19 days, and fledging another 20-26.

The food of this species is nectar, taken from a variety of small flowers, including epiphytic Ericaceae. Like other hummingbirds it also takes small insects as an essential source of protein. Male Purple-throated Mountain-gems defend flowers and scrubs in their feeding territories, and are dominant over most other hummingbirds. The call of this species is a sharp buzzy zeet.

Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are small birds in the family Trochilidae, native only to the Americas. They are known for their ability to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings, 15–80 times per second (depending on the species). Capable of sustained hovering, the hummingbird has the ability to fly deliberately backwards (this is the only group of birds able to do so[1]) or vertically, and to maintain position while drinking nectar or eating tiny arthropods from flower blossoms. They are named for the characteristic hum made by their wings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gila Woodpecker

The Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States. They range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

he back and wings of this bird are spotted and barred with a black and white zebra-like pattern. The neck, throat, belly and head are greyish-tan in color. The male has a small red cap on the top of the head. Females and juveniles are similar, but both lack the red cap of the adult male. White wing patches are prominent in flight. The dark tail has white bars on the central tail feathers. They range from 8-10 in (20-25 cm) in length.

This woodpecker's habitat consists of low desert scrub typical of the Sonoran desert. They build nests in holes made in saguaro cacti or mesquite trees. There, they typically lay 3-5 white eggs.

This woodpecker's voice is a rolling churr sound.


The Cardinals or Cardinalidae are a family of passerine birds found in North and South America.

These are robust, seed-eating birds, with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinctive appearances; the family is named for the red plumage (like that of a Catholic cardinal's vestments) of males of the type species, the Northern Cardinal.

The “buntings” in this family are sometimes generically known as “tropical buntings” (though not all live in the tropics) or “North American buntings” (though there are other buntings in North America) to distinguish them from the true buntings. Likewise the grosbeaks in this family are sometimes called “cardinal-grosbeaks” to distinguish them from other grosbeaks. The name “cardinal-grosbeak” can also apply to this family as a whole.

Cardinals mate in early spring. Their nests are loosely woven in tall bushes such as honeysuckle and rose. Their diet includes seeds and small berries.

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a small finch, 11–13 centimeters (4–5 in) in length, with a wingspan of 19–22 centimeters (7–9 in). It weighs between 11–20 grams (0.39–0.71 oz).[8] The beak is small, conical, and pink for most of the year, though it turns bright orange with the spring molt in both sexes.[9] The shape and size of the beak are a result of adaptation, to aid in the extraction of seeds from the seed heads of thistles, sunflowers, and the other plants which make up its diet.

The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt in the spring and fall. The sexual dimorphism displayed in plumage coloration is especially pronounced after the spring molt, when the bright color of the male's summer plumage is needed to attract a mate.[10] It is the only cardueline finch to undergo a complete molt; other finches change plumage color by the gradual wearing-down of the feathers.[11] In each molt, it sheds all but the wing and tail feathers, which are dark olive in the female and black in the male. The markings on these feathers remain identical through each molt, with large white bars on the wings, and white feathers at the edges of the short, notched tail.

Once the spring molt is completed, the body of the male is a brilliant lemon yellow, a color produced by carotenoid pigments from plant materials in its diet,[12] with a striking jet black cap and white rump that is visible during flight.[13] The female is an olive yellow, with a yellow bib.[11] After the fall molt, the bright summer feathers are replaced with duller plumage. The goldfinch becomes buff below and olive-brown above, with a pale yellow face and bib. The fall plumage is almost identical in both sexes; the only markings which differentiate the sexes are the yellow shoulder patches of the male.[14] In some winter ranges, the goldfinches lose all traces of yellow, becoming a predominantly medium tan-gray color with an olive tinge evident only on close viewing.

The immature American Goldfinch is colored differently from the adult during its first fall and winter. The back is dull brown, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with buff-colored, rather than white, markings on wings and rump. This coloration is the same in both genders.

The song of the American Goldfinch is a series of musical warbles and twitters, often with a long note. A tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call is often given in flight; it may also be described as per-chic-o-ree.[9] While the female incubates the eggs, she calls her returning mate with a soft continuous teeteeteeteete sound. The young begin to use a call of chick-kee or chick-wee shortly before fledging, which they use until they have left the nest entirely.[10] There are two defense calls made by adults during nesting; a sweeet call made to rally other goldfinches to the nest and distract predators, and a bearbee used to signal to the nestlings to quiet them and get them to crouch down in the nest (to become less conspicuous).

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Bluebirds are territorial, prefer open grassland with scattered trees and are cavity nesters (similar to many species of woodpecker). Bluebirds can typically produce between two to four broods during the spring and summer (March through August in the Northeastern United States). Males identify potential nest sites and try to attract prospective female mates to those nesting sites with special behaviors that include singing and flapping wings, and then placing some material in a nesting box or cavity. If the female accepts the male and the nesting site she alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs.

Predators of young in the nests can include snakes, cats and raccoons. Non-native bird species competing with bluebirds for nesting locations include the Common Starling and House Sparrow, both of which kill adult bluebirds sitting on their nests along with the young and eggs in order to claim the nesting site.

Bluebirds are attracted to platform bird feeders, filled with grubs of the darkling beetle, sold by many online bird product wholesalers as mealworms. Bluebirds will also eat raisins soaked in water. In addition, in winter bluebirds use backyard heated birdbaths.

Bluebird numbers declined by estimates ranging to 70% in the 1970s due to a decline in habitat. However, in late 2005 Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology reported bluebird sightings at many locations in the southern U.S. as part of its yearly Backyard Bird Count, a strong indication of the bluebird's return to the region.

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 8.3 to 9 inches (21-23 cm) and a wingspan of 10-12 in (25-31 cm). It weighs about 1.6 ounces (45 g). Males are slightly larger than females.

The male is a brilliant crimson red with a black face mask over the eyes and extending to the upper chest. Females are a fawn color, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint in the wings and tail feathers. The face mask of the female is gray to black, and is less defined than that of the male. Both sexes possess prominent raised crests and strong bright coral-colored beaks. Young birds, both male and female, show the coloring of the adult female until the fall, when they will molt and grow their adult feathers.

Male American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch: Male is a small, noisy finch with a bright yellow body, black cap, wings, and tail, and white rump and undertail coverts. Wings have flashy white patches and bright yellow shoulder bar. Bill is pink and conical. Female is duller with olive back and lacks black cap and yellow shoulder bars. Winter male has olive-gray to olive-brown upperparts, paler underparts, yellow shoulder bar, white wing bar, dark bill, and may show black on forehead and yellow on throat and face. Winter female is duller with buff wing and shoulder bars, and lacks yellow and black on face and head. Juvenile resembles winter female but has yellow wash on throat and breast.