31 August, 2009

Whooper Swan

 Scientific Name: Cygnus cygnus

Population Estimate: 180K

Range / Habitat:  Whooper Swan breeds in taiga, in Iceland and Scandinavia, E to NE Siberia.

Field Notes: Whooper Swan is a large swan of the northern parts of Europe and Asia. It is closely related to the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) of North America which has black bill. Adult has white plumage overall, with sometimes rufous wash on head and neck, due to some waters where it feeds. The bill is pale yellow with black tip and cutting edges. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and webbed feet are black.

Black Swan

Scientific Name: Cygnus atratus

Population Estimate: 100K - 1M

Range / Habitat: Wetlands of southwestern and eastern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

Field Notes: Large black waterbird with red bill. It does have white feathers which are apparent during flight.

Personal Notes: Common sight in New Zealand.

Eastern Bluebird

Scientific Name: Sialia sialis

Population Estimate: 10M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in southeastern US and central Mexico. In summers extending north into the upper midwest and eastern Canada. Prefer meadow habitat, often seen perching on wires and nest boxes.

Field Notes: Medium-sized songbird, small thrush. Plump with round head. Male with bright blue on wings, tail and head. Chest, neck and flanks rufous, with striking white belly. Western Bluebird with blue throat, often rufous on shoulders or back, some blue on belly.

Personal Notes: We will always think of the Arboretum in Minneapolis with their bluebird boxes.

30 August, 2009

Grey Catbird

Scientific Name: Dumetella carolinensis

Population Estimate: 10M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds in summer in southern Canada through central and eastern United States. Winters on the east coast of the US into Mexico and Central America. Also found in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica. Prefers a shrub habitat near water.

Field Notes: Secretive bird with habitus true to the mockingbird and thrasher family. Plumage slate grey with black eye and bill, black cap, and black tail feathers. Rusty vent. Distinctive cat-like call. Is also a mimic, though does not repeat phrases. Overlaps in winter with Black Catbird in parts of Central America, though readily distinguished.

Personal Notes: Easily identified by it's call, we've had difficulty getting a good photograph of this shy bird. We finally had some better luck at Chaa Creek Resort in Belize then later at Deseret Ranch in Utah. 

American Treecreeper

Scientific Name: Certhia americana

Population Estimate: 5.4M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Prefers mature forest for breeding, but can be found in parks and residential areas during winter and migration. Year-round in western North America, northeastern US, and into Canada. In winters, filling in the remainder of the US.
Field Notes: Small bird scrambling up trees with slender, decurved bill. Uses stiff tail feathers to prop itself against tree trunks. Patterned brown above, pale gray or white below.

Personal Notes: Also known as Brown Creeper.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Scientific Name: Sitta carolinensis

Population Estimate: 10M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in mature forests and forest edges throughout most of the US, southern Canada, and into Mexico. 

Field Notes: Typical nuthatch behavior. Frosted black cap, white face and underparts, bluish-gray back and wings.

Personal Notes: A hard little bugger to photograph. 

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Scientific Name: Sitta canadensis

Population Estimate: 18M

Range / Habitat: Red-breasted Nuthatches are mainly birds of coniferous woods and mountains. Look for them among spruce, fir, pine, hemlock, larch, and western red cedar as well as around aspens and poplars.
Field Notes: Characteristic nuthatch behavior / perch (climbing down a tree) with long, slightly upcurved bill and dark eye stripe. The Boundary Waters was southernmost area of distribution for summer for this bird as compared to White-Breasted Nuthatch. It is common throughout Minnesota in the winter. It is also much smaller than the White-Breasted Nuthatch. 

White-breasted Nuthatch

Eastern Phoebe

Scientific Name: Sayornis phoebe

Population Estimate: 16M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Nests close to people throughout eastern US and up into much of Canada. Winters around the Gulf of Mexico and into central Mexico. Preferred habitat is open woods. 

Field Notes: Medium-sized flycatcher. Dark head, black bill, no eye markings (to distinguish from most Empidonax flycatchers), no white wing bars (to distinguish from Eastern Wood-Pewee), longish tail which it moves in a characteristic circular pattern while perching. Emphatic "phee-bee" call.

Personal Notes:

Green Heron

Scientific Name: Butorides virescens

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range: Summers throughout the eastern US. Year-round in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

Field Notes: Small, stocky heron with yellow legs and dark green cap. The adult (lower photo) has solid rufous breast whereas the juvenile (upper photo) has a streaked breast.

Personal Notes: A favorite of ours at the Minnesota Arboretum. We were excited to find it down in Mexico as well.

29 August, 2009


Scientific Name: Mergus merganser

Population Estimate: 2M, Least Concern status

Range: Winters throughout much of US, excluding the Southeast. Summers throughout Canada. There is a year-round population in the western US, extending up the coast to Alaska.

Field Notes: A large, diving duck with a long, thin bill. Male breeding plumage is distinct with iridescent green / black head, white neck and sides, and black back. Females have rust-colored head and crest, white chest and brown / grey back. The white chin of the female Common Merganser can be used to differentiated it from the female Hooded Merganser or female Red-breasted Merganser. Juveniles look like females. Adult females will end up raising other broods so they form large groups in the summer.

Personal Notes: Formerly known as Common Merganser. 

Caspian Tern

Scientific Name: Hydroprogne caspia

Population Estimate: 240K - 420K

Range / Habitat: Breeds at large inland lakes and ocean coasts in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia including New Zealand. North American birds migrate to southern coasts, the West Indies and northernmost South America. European and Asian birds spend the non-breeding season in the Old World tropics. African and Australasian birds are resident or disperse over short distance.

Field Notes: Largest of all terns, light-grey wings, black legs, black cap without crest in breeding season, massive red bill with black tip. Royal Tern (which only overlaps in a portion of the range) is smaller with crest and no black tip to the bill. Elegant Tern (which overlaps in an even smaller portion of the range) is smaller still with shaggy crest and lighter, thinner bill which is yellow at the tip and appears to droop.

Personal Notes: Top photo at Lake Bemidji, in fall migration. Bottom photo at Onoke Spit outside Wellington, protecting a nest. Maori name Taranui. 

Black-legged Kittiwake

Scientific Name: Rissa tridactyla

Population Estimate: 17M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Marine bird, breeding on cliff ledges in the subarctic worldwide. Largely pelagic during winter, finding temperate waters in the northern hemisphere. 

Field Notes: Small white gull with light grey mantle and black wingtips without any white. Bill a delicate, unmarked yellow. Legs black. In winter, this species acquires a dark grey smudge behind the eye and a grey hind-neck collar.

Personal Notes: One of the many nesting species seen on the Latrabjarg cliffs in western Iceland. 

Kelp Gull

Scientific Name: Larus dominicanus

Population Estimate: 3M - 4M

Range / Habitat: The kelp gull is widespread along coasts and on islands throughout the Southern Hemisphere, occurring in southern Africa, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Falkland Islands, as well as on Antarctica and many subantarctic islands

Field Notes: The kelp gull is a large bird with slate-black wings, a white head and body, and an all-white tail. The underwing is white, tipped black, and the dark upperwing bears a white bar, with white markings on the wing tips. The beak is yellow, with a conspicuous red spot on the lower mandible, and the yellow eye is surrounded by an orange-red ring.

Personal Notes:

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Scientific Name: Larus fuscus

Population Estimate: 1M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds on sea coasts in northern Europe and northwest Russia. Winters on coastal and inland waters of southern Europe, north and east Africa, and the Middle East.

Field Notes: Large white gull with grey to black mantle. Bill yellow with red spot at tip. Legs yellow.  In non-breeding season head and neck are streaked. Great Black-backed Gull larger with pale legs. Yellow-legged Gull only overlaps in winter, has lighter mantle, and retains unstreaked head. 

Personal Notes: Photographed our last day in Iceland while driving around the Reykjanes Peninsula, waiting for our flight.

Great Black-backed Gull

Scientific Name: Larus marinus

Population Estimate: 500K-750K, Least Concern status

Range: Year-round in coastal regions on both sides of the North Atlantic, though somewhat migratory.

Field Notes: Largest gull in the world. Overall white with dark-grey to black mantle. Yellow bill with red spot on the lower mandible. Legs pale. Lesser Black-backed Gull more dainty with yellow legs.

Personal Notes: Different than the New Zealand black-backed gull.

Arctic Tern

Scientific Name: Sterna paradisaea

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: Arctic terns breed around the Arctic and temperate northern parts of the northern Hemisphere. In Britain, the Arctic tern breeds around the coast in open sand or shingle habitats or in moorland and coastal heathland.

Field Notes:Elegant tern with black cap, bright orange bill and legs, and forked tail. At Kleifarvatn lake outside of Reykjavik we encountered a pair of adults who were defending their fledgling, well camouflaged in the stones on the beach. They called and dove at us until we were well clear. In flight they would swoop toward the water only to pull up dramatically centimeters above the surface and hover there before rising again.

Arctic Skua

Scientific Name: Stercorarius parasiticus

Population Estimate: 500K-10M (per BirdLife)

Range / Habitat: The parasitic jaeger breeds on the tundra and coastal marshes in the Arctic. In the winter, it usually is found on the open ocean close to the shoreline. The parasitic jaeger is found in northern Alaska and northern Canada during the breeding season.
Field Notes:Two different light and dark morphs of the parasitic jaeger exist.The light morph has ashy-brown upperparts, whitish underparts, and the sides of its head and neck are yellowish, while in contrast, the dark morph of the parasitic jaeger is uniformly brown all over. Intermediates between these two morphs also exist.Most individuals of both morphs have pale or white panels on the underside of the wings.The parasitic jaeger has a long, wedge-shaped tail, with two thin, pointed feathers which extend beyond the end of the tail. The bill, which is slightly hooked is greyish-black, as are the legs.

Personal Notes: Also known as Parasitic Jaeger or Parasitic Skua.

Great Skua

Scientific Name: Stercorarius skua

Population Estimate: 50K

Range / Habitat: Breeds on moorland near the sea. Winters at sea.These birds are summer visitors to Scotland and many winter along the Atlantic coast of Europe.
Field Notes: It is the sheer bulk of this bird which makes it quite different from the other skuas. Its broader wings, short tail big body and thick neck are more reminiscent of the bigger gulls but this bird has bold white wing panels even more conspicuous than in the other skuas.

Personal Notes: