28 September, 2009

American Wood Duck

Scientific Name: Aix sponsa

Population Estimate: 46.8M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in eastern US and along the Pacific Coast. They prefer wooded wetlands as they nest in trees. A portion of birds winter in the southeastern US into Mexico and in summer the range extends to the border of Canada. 

Field Notes: Either sex unmistakable in any plumage as above. 

Personal Notes: One of our favourite sights on a walk in the woods. 

Northern Shoveler

Scientific Name: Anas clypeata

Population Estimate: 5.5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: During the breeding season, Northern Shovelers are widely distributed throughout North America, Europe and Northern Asia.

 Field Notes: Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks, the Northern Shoveler inhabits wetlands across much of North America. Its elongated, spoon-shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out food from the water.

Personal Notes:

Red-headed Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Population Estimate: 2.5M, Near Threatened status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in pine savannahs and other open forests with clear under stories in central and eastern United States. Summers extending slightly west and north. 

Field Notes: Medium-sized woodpecker with striking red head, white body and black wings with large white squares. The only woodpecker in North America with an entirely red head and neck. White rump especially conspicuous in flight. 

Personal Notes: A common bird at Fontenelle Forest in Nebraska, where we were able to practice distinguishing by voice compared to Red-bellied Woodpecker. 

27 September, 2009

Sandhill Crane

Scientific Name: Grus canadensis

Population Estimate: 520K

Range / Habitat: Found in open grasslands, meadows, wetlands. Summers in Alaska, Canada, parts of upper midwestern and western US. Winters in parts of Texas, California, northern Mexico.

Field Notes: Large grey and brown bird with striking red crown. Frequently feeding on ground. Call is a loud, resonant, wooden rattle.

Personal Notes:

14 September, 2009

Northern Fulmar

Scientific Name: Fulmarus glacialis

Population Estimate: 15M - 30M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds on steep sea cliffs in the circumpolar Arctic to subarctic. Winters at sea from ice-covered northern waters down to temperate zones.

Field Notes: Medium-sized seabird, generally gull-shaped but heavier body. White head and underparts with grey mantle like some gulls, but pale patches in primaries apparent in flight. Eyes with dark smudge and tube nose distinctive. 

Personal notes: One of our favourite sights in Iceland -- nesting Northern Fulmars.

Shy Albatross

Scientific Name: Thalassarche cauta

Population Estimate: 26K, Near Threatened status

Range / Habitat: Pelagic bird that breeds in the Auckland Islands of New Zealand and three islands off of Tasmania. When not breeding, widespread throughout the southern Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean.

Field Notes: Small albatross with white head, neck and body. Bill grey with faint yellow tip. Upperwings and back dark. Underwings white with clear-cut, narrow black borders and small black triangular notch at base of the leading edge.

Personal Notes: Known as the Shy Mollymawk in New Zealand, with the above subspecies called the White-capped Mollymawk. Seen in Fiordland waters and the Foveaux Strait off Stewart Island. Later seen in Sydney Harbour.

Wandering Albatross

                                             File:Diomedea exulans - SE Tasmania.jpg
 Scientific Name: Diomedea exulans

Population Estimate: 26K, vulnerable

Range / Habitat: The Wandering Albatross breeds on South Georgia Island, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Prince Edward Islands, and Macquarie Island, is seen feeding year round off the Kaikoura Peninsula on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand and it ranges in all the southern oceans from 28° to 60°

Field Notes:115 cm. Huge albatross with variable plumage, whitening with age. Juvenile chocolate-brown with white face mask, white underwing with black tip and trailing margin. Underparts become pure white. On upperparts, back whitens first, followed by crown and rump, white wedge forms in centre upperwing, extending to coverts. Black tips remain on outer tail feathers. Pink bill and flesh legs.

Personal Notes:

Northern Royal Albatross

File:Northern Royal Albatross with Red-billed Gull Taiaroa Head Sept 2007.jpg
Scientific Name: Diomedea sanfordi

Population Estimate: 17K, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Pelagic bird which breeds at Tiaroa Head and Chatham Islands of New Zealand. Widespread in the southern Pacific Ocean when not breeding.

Field Notes: Huge seabird with long narrow wings. All white head and body, flesh-coloured bill with black edge to upper mandible. Wings black on top, white underneath with black wingtips. Distinguished from mollymawks by size and all white body. Southern Royal Albatross has extension of white from body onto leading edge of upper wings. Some plumages of Wandering Albatross may be similar but lack black line to mandible.

Personal Notes: Maora name Toroa. Seen at Tiaroa Head, which is the only mainland breeding colony of these majestic birds. Considered one species with Southern Royal Albatross until recently.

Pine Warbler

                                       File:Dendroica pinus.jpg                     

Scientific Name: Dendroica pinus

Population Estimate: 11M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds from Canada south to Texas, winters in southern states north to New England.

Field Notes: 5 1/2" unstreaked olive/yellow above, with yellow throat and breast; blurry streaking below, white belly inconspicuous eye stripe, two white wing bars, female and immature similar but duller and lack yellow on breast 

Personal Notes:

13 September, 2009

Great Northern Diver

Scientific Name: Gavia immer

Population Estimate: 600-650K, Least Concern status.

Range / Habitat: Breeds in tundra wetlands and freshwater lakes of much of Canada and Alaska, southern parts of Greenland, and Iceland. Winters on sea coasts or on larger lakes from Atlantic coast of Europe, to the western Mediterranean, Atlantic coast of North America down to northern Mexico, and Pacific coast of North America down to northern Mexico.

Field Notes: Large waterbird with long body that slopes to rear and sits low on water. Long, pointed bill. Breeding plumage unmistakable as in top photo. Non-breeding and juvenile with grey head and back, white chin, throat and chest as in bottom photo. Usually solitary but will be found close together in winter. Yellow-billed Loon similar coloration but with prominent yellow bill. Pacific Loon and Red-throated Loon are overall more grey, not black.

Personal Notes: We watched a mother teaching it's young how to dive in Iceland. Also known as Great Northern Loon and Common Loon. Eerie call is hallmark of the Great North Woods. 

Little Blue Penguin

Scientific Name: Eudyptula minor

Population Estimate: Unknown but of least concern regarding conservation

Range / Habitat: found on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand, with possible records from Chile.

Field Notes: The blue penguin stands just 25 cm tall and weighs a little over 1 kilogram. The plumage is slate-blue with a bright white belly. Juveniles are indistinguishable from adults. Both sexes are alike, although the male is a little heavier and usually has a larger bill. There are several distinct races of blue penguins and some argue that they should be split up into sub-species. Perhaps the most distinct is the "white-flippered" penguin of Canterbury, however genetic tests have shown it not to be as distinct as its plumage would suggest.

Personal Notes:

Yellow-eyed Penguin

Scientific Name: Megadyptes antipodes

Population Estimate: 4,800 individuals, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found on the rocky southeastern coast of the South Island, Stewart Island, and Auckland Island.

Field Notes: Medium-sized penguin, unmistakable in range as above.

Personal Notes: Maori name Hoiho. We were privileged to first see these birds outside of Dunedin. We saw them on the same beach as sea lions, mostly ignoring one another. It was painful to watch them hop up steep hills and rocks to their nests. We later got a local tip on where to see them on the Catlins coast, which required a climb down essentially a cliff, but well worth the effort.

Rock Ptarmigan

Scientific Name: Lagopus muta

Population Estimate: 8M

Range: Found throughout the year in all treeless Arctic regions around the world.

Field Notes: Mottled dark and white in the summer, all white in the winter. Males with red marking above eyes. Some Rock Ptarmigans will have black eyestripe in winter. Willow Ptarmigan is slightly larger, found at lower and more lush altitudes, and haa more reddish tones.

Personal Notes: Only fowl indigenous to Iceland. The bird above was one of the highlights on our Skaftafell hike.

09 September, 2009


Scientific Name: Gallirallis australis

Population Estimate: 120K-187K, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found in Marlborough Sounds, West Coast, Fiordland, Stewart Island, Kapiti Island. Rarely in North Island. Prefers forests, scrub and open country with good cover.

Field Notes: Large, flightless bird. Brown, streaked with black. Legs and bill short and sturdy. Buff eye stripe. Much stockier than other rails and crakes in its range.

Personal Notes: Cheeky bird, will try to steal a sandwich from your hand or poke around in your bag if you leave it unattended.

Purple Swamphen

Scientific Name: Porphyrio porphyrio

Population Estimate: 250K - 2.2M

Range / Habitat: Found on inland wetlands in the Mediterranean, Africa, tropical Asia, north and east Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Field Notes: Medium-sized waterbird with purple underparts, dusky head and upper parts. Red face shield and bill. Dusky Moorhen smaller, lacking purple underparts, yellow tip to bill. 

Personal Notes: One of our favorite birds in New Zealand, not the least because of its oversized feet. Also known as Pukeko in New Zealand / Maori. Then, we saw these again in Wellington, Florida -- thought we were looking at Purple Gallinule but the mask / legs weren't right. Sure enough, Sibley set us straight. There is an established Eurasian population in southern Florida. They seem to be doing well and we were happy to see our Pukeko again. 

06 September, 2009

Cedar Waxwing

Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum

Population Estimate: 15M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in states along the US / Canada border. Summers up in to Canada. Winters throughout the rest of the US, Mexico, and Central America. In the fall and winter these birds will be in flocks feasting on berries. In the summer they will be catching insects, much as a fly-catcher.

Field Notes: Medium-sized passerine with svelte body, black mask and crest . The "wax" wingtip is striking. Occasionally they have an orange / red tail tip which is a variant thought to be related to diet. Waxwings are a flocking species and sound like crickets chirping. In the appropriate range, they mix with the Bohemian Waxwing which does not have white on the forehead, have a buffy breast, and have burnt orange coloring under the tail.

Personal Notes: These birds look like superheros.

01 September, 2009

Grey Jay

Scientific Name: Perisoreus canadensis

Population Estimate: 16M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in boreal and sub-alpine forests throughout Canada and Alaska with some forays into the Great North Woods of Minnesota and Wisconsin, into Maine, and in the mountainous regions of the American West.

Field Notes: Large, grey bird with long tail and fuzzy black hood. Quite friendly. Only comparison bird is Clark's Nutcracker, which has a much more restricted range with flashy black (and white) on wings and tail.

Personal Notes: This bird is a hallmark of the Great North Woods for us. Richard even got one to land on his hand.