14 November, 2009

Eurasian Chaffinch

Scientific Name: Fringilla coelebs

Population Estimate: 500M - 1.5B

Range / Habitat: This bird is widespread and very familiar throughout Europe. It is the most common finch in western Europe, Its range extends into western Asia, northwestern Africa, and Macaronesia, where it has many distinctive island forms.

Field Notes: The Common Chaffinch's large double white wing bars, white tail edges and greenish rump easily identify this 14–16 cm long species. The breeding male is unmistakable, with his reddish underparts and a blue-grey cap. The female is drabber and greener, but still obvious.

Personal Notes:

Eurasian Jay

Scientific Name: Garrulus glandarius

Population Estimate: 40M - 150M

Range / Habitat: Resident in temperate forest throughout most of Europe, northwest Africa to the Indian Subcontinent and further to the eastern seaboard of Asia and down into south-east Asia.

Field Notes: Large, mostly brown passerine with iridescent blue flash in wings and dark tail.

Personal Notes: Seen at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London.

Common Stonechat

Scientific Name: Saxicola torquatus

Population Estimate: 25M - 300M

Range / Habitat: The Common Stonechat is very widespread, occurring all across the Northern Hemisphere from North America, Europe, Asia, as well as throughout the African continent.

Field Notes: The Common Stonechat is a small chunky bird. The male has a black head, an orange breast, a pale belly, a dark tail and a brown back with black streaks. The female is paler and more chestnut in color, with a ginger breast and a pale throat. The juvenile is brown overall with a mottled chest and a pale throat

Personal Notes:

Great Spotted Woodpecker


Scientific Name: Dendrocopos major

Population Estimate: 75M - 200M

Range / Habitat:In Ireland, this woodpecker has been recorded in Tollymore Forest Park. While the Irish Wildlife Trust had argued in the past for the reintroduction of this woodpecker, the birds themselves began to recolonize Ireland of their own accord since about 2007

Field Notes: The upperparts are glossy black, with white on the sides of the face and neck. A black line zigzags from the shoulder halfway across the breast (in some subspecies nearly meeting in the center), then back to the nape; a black stripe, extending from the bill, runs below the eye to meet this latter part of the zigzag line. On the shoulder is a large white patch and the flight feathers are barred with black and white. The three outer tail feathers are barred; these show when the short stiff tail is outspread, acting as a support in climbing. The underparts are dull white, the abdomen and undertail coverts crimson. The bill is slate black and the legs greenish grey.

Personal Notes:

Eurasian Green Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picus viridis

Population Estimate: 2M - 5M

Range / Habitat: Eurasian Green Woodpecker is essentially resident in its range, from W Europe and North Africa, to W Asia.

Field Notes: Adult male has green plumage. Upperparts are bright yellow-green. Rump is bright yellow. Uppertail coverts are yellow with green bases. Uppertail feathers are blackish with green edges. Central pair shows some pale bars. Long, pointed bill is dark grey to blackish, with paler base of lower mandible. Eyes are white with pinkish-white eye-ring. Short legs and zygodactylous feet are greenish-grey.

Personal Notes:

Common Kingfisher


Scientific Name: Alcedo atthis

Population Estimate: 600K

Range / Habitat: The Common Kingfisher is widely distributed over Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

Field Notes:This species has the typical short-tailed, dumpy-bodied large-headed and long-billed kingfisher shape.Their brilliant blue upperparts, deep red underparts, white face patches and unique shape make Kingfishers impossible to misidentify.

Personal Notes:

Yellow-legged Gull

Scientific Name: Larus michahellis

Population Estimate: 760K - 1.8M

Range / Habitat: The breeding range is centred around the Mediterranean Sea. In North Africa it is common in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and increasing in places

Field Notes: Adults have darker grey backs and wings than herring gulls, but are paler than lesser black-backed gulls. They have more black in the wing tips than herring gulls and smaller white 'mirrors'. The legs are bright yellow, there is a red ring around the eye and the bill is yellow with a large red spot. In non-breeding plumage, the head is less streaked and whiter than herring gulls.

Personal Notes: We got other shots of this gull in Spain, but still like the top photo best -- sulking through the rain on the Plaza San Marco in Venice. 

13 November, 2009

Mediterranean Gull


Scientific Name: Larus melanocephalus

Population Estimate: 360K - 960K

Range / Habitat: The Meditteranean Gull breeds almost entirely in Europe, mainly on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, with a recent spread to the northern Caucasian Plains and Azerbaijan.

Field Notes: The Mediterranean Gull is slightly larger and bulkier than the Black-headed Gull with a heavier bill and longer, darker legs. The breeding plumage adult is a distinctive white gull, with a very pale grey mantle and wings with white primary feathers, with a black hood contrasting with distinct white eye crescents. The blunt tipped, parallel sided, dark red bill has a black subterminal band.

Personal Notes:

Common Black-headed Gull

Scientific Name: Larus ridibundus

Population Estimate: 4.8M - 8.9M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds on inland wetlands and marine habitats of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory, wintering further south in costal areas.

Field Notes: Delicate hooded gull with black-tipped red bill and red legs. Light grey mantle and black-tipped primaries. In summer plumage, head is chocolate brown. In winter plumage, head is all white except for black spot behind the eyes. Distinguished from Mediterranean Gull by black in wings.

Personal Notes: We finally saw this gull in bleeding plumage in Spain after winter sightings in Venice and Prague. Seen again in breeding plumage in Iceland.

Common Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Actitis hypoleucos

Population Estimate: 2.6M - 3.2M

Range: Throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Field Notes: Medium-sized shore bird with proportionate bill. Drab back but bright white breast and striking eye-ring. White wedge between neck and wing. Non-breeding Spotted Sandpiper is similar but does not generally overlap in range.

Personal Notes:

Common Greenshank

 File:Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) at Bharatpur I IMG 5523.jpg

Scientific Name: Tringa nebularia

Population Estimate: 440K - 1.5M

Range / Habitat: Migratory species, breeding from northern Scotland eastwards across northern Europe and Asia. Winters in Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Australasia, usually on fresh water.

Field Notes: Medium-sized wader with brown-grey upperparts and buff underneath. They have long greenish legs and a long, slightly upturned bill with a grey base.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain.

Common Snipe

Scientific Name: Gallinago gallinago

Population Estimate: 6.3M - 8.1M

Range / Habitat: The common snipe breeds from Alaska to Newfoundland south to the mid-United States. It is also found in Europe, Northern Africa and Asia.

Field Notes: The common snipe is a meduim-sized wading bird with a long, straight, pointed, black bill. It has a brown body with black bars, a striped head and back and a white belly. The common snipe's legs are shorter than most wading birds' legs.

Personal Notes: It was amazing to hear these birds drumming on their breeding grounds in northern Iceland.

12 November, 2009

Eurasian Curlew

Scientific Name: Numenius arquata

Population Estimate: 770K - 1.1M

Range / Habitat: The Eurasian Curlew is widespread in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Field Notes: The Eurasian Curlew is a large  shorebird with long legs and a long, down-curved bill. Sexes are similar, though the male has a shorter bill. The juvenile is distinguishable with close views.

Personal Notes:

Common Ringed Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius hiaticula

Population Estimate: 360K - 1.3M

Range / Habitat: Generally migratory, breeding on beaches or flats across northern Eurasia and northeast Canada. Winter in coastal areas south to Africa.

Field Notes: Small plover with grey-brown back and wings, white belly, and white breast with one black neckband. Brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes and a short orange and black bill. Legs are orange. Little Ringed Plover with yellow eye-ring and flesh-colored legs.
Personal Notes:


Scientific Name: Calidris alpina

Population Estimate: 4.6M - 6.5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds in tundra of circumpolar Arctic. Winters mainly at estuarine mudflats, but also at wide variety of freshwater and brackish wetlands, both coastal and inland, throughout much of the northern hemisphere.

Field Notes: Medium-sized sandpiper. Hunched appearance with short neck. Moderately long, drooping black bill. Black legs. In breeding plumage has black belly, rufous cap, and rufous back. Nonbreeding plumage is all dull brownish gray, with whitish belly.

Personal Notes: Seen in Italy, at the Salton Sea in California, then in Iceland.

Pied Avocet

Scientific Name: Recurvirostra avosetta

Population Estimate: 210K - 460K

Range / Habitat: The Pied Avocet is mainly migratory, but populations are present all year round in Africa and in some parts of W Europe. The strongest migrants are the eastern populations which move to Persian Gulf, NW India and SE China in winter, coming from C Asian breeding areas.

Field Notes: The Pied Avocet is a striking white wader with bold black markings. Adults have white plumage except for a black cap and black patches in the wings and on the back. They have long, upturned bills and long, bluish legs.

Personal Notes: 

10 November, 2009

Arctic Loon

Scientific Name: Gavia arctica

Population Estimate: 280K - 1.5M

Range / Habitat:  The large circumpolar range of the Arctic loon stretches from Alaska in the east to Siberia in the west. The breeding grounds of the Arctic loon are located in Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska and Canada.

Field Notes: The Arctic loon (Gavia arctica) is an elegant and distinctive diving bird, with a dark grey or black, dagger-shaped bill and deep red eyes. Non-breeding plumage is drabber with the chin and foreneck white. Its bill is grey or whitish and dagger-shaped. In all plumages a white flank patch distinguishes this species from all other divers including the otherwise almost identical Pacific Diver.

Personal Notes:

Eurasian Coot

Scientific Name: Fulica atra

Population Estimate: 9M - 10M

Range / Habitat: The Eurasian Coot ranges from Eurasia to Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia. Birds have also recently transported themselves to New Zealand, and the species is quickly becoming established.

Field Notes: The Eurasian Coot is recognised by its snowy white bill and forehead shield. The remainder of the bird is dark sooty grey, except for its bright red eye. Immature birds are generally paler than adults with a white wash on the throat. Nestlings are downy, black with fine yellow tips. The head is orange-red and the bill is red with a cream-white tip.

Personal Notes:

Common Moorhen

Scientific Name: Gallinula chloropus

Population Estimate: 3.9M - 8.1M

Range / Habitat: Common Moorhen: Breeds over much of North America through Central America and northern South America. Spends winters from the southern Atlantic states to South America. Prefers habitat with large areas of open water; common near reservoirs, ponds, freshwater marshes, and flooded grasslands.

Field Notes: The Moorhen is a distinctive species, with dark plumage apart from the white undertail, yellow legs and a red facial shield. The young are browner and lack the red shield. It has a wide range of gargling calls and will emit loud hisses when threatened. It is easily recognised by its vivid red shield and short, yellow bill, which sits in stark contrast to dark-coloured plumage. From a distance the plump body appears bold black, but upon closer inspection it is a more attractive olive-brown on the back, head and on its short wings, and grey on the underparts.

Personal Notes:

Ring-necked Pheasant

Scientific Name: Phasianus colchicus

Population Estimate: 34M - 47M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Common Pheasants are native to Asia, their original range extending from between the Black and Caspian Seas to Manchuria, Siberia, Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan. Through introduction they are now found in open fields and roadsides through the middle of US and Europe. 

Field Notes: Unmistakable, as above. 

Personal Notes: Also known as Common Pheasant.

Common Kestrel

Scientific Name: Falco tinnunculus

Population Estimate: 5M

Range / Habitat: Common and widely distributed throughout Britain. The kestrel has a wide distribution in the rest of the world, from Europe and North Africa, through Eurasia, the Middle East, India, China and Japan.

Field Notes: Small bird of prey, often seen hovering over farmland and at the sides of motorways. The sexes are distinct; in males the rump and tail are bluish grey and unbarred, whereas in females they are brownish-red with dark barring. Their plumage is mainly light chestnut brown with blackish spots on the upperside and buff with narrow blackish streaks on the underside; the remiges are also blackish. Unlike most raptors, they display sexual colour dimorphism with the male having fewer black spots and streaks, as well as a blue-grey cap and tail.

Personal Notes: Seen at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, London.

Pileated Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus

Population Estimate: 930K, Least Concern status

Range and Habitat: Year-round in old forests of eastern US, southern Canada, and the west coast of the US. 

Field Notes: Large, black and white woodpeckers with a prominent head with red crest. White line down the sides of the throat. They show white on the wings in flight. Adult males have a red line from the bill to the throat, in adult females these are black.

Personal Notes: A majestic bird.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Scientific Name: Tringa flavipes

Population Estimate: 400K, Least Concern status

Range: Breeds in boreal forest with scattered shallow wetlands in northern Canada and through the interior of Alaska, a range extending further north than Greater Yellowlegs. Winters from the southern coastal US, down through Mexico, Central and South America where found in a wide variety of shallow fresh and saltwater habitats.

Field Notes: Medium sized sandpiper, with with sharp, straight bill. Differentiated from most other sandpipers by the bright yellow legs. Greater Yellowlegs is larger and has a blunt-tipped, slightly upturned bill.

Personal Notes: Elegant wading bird seen in migration in the Minnesota River Valley. Size comparison with a Canada Goose in the above photo.

Common Buzzard

Scientific Name: Buteo buteo

Population Estimate: 4M

Range and Habitat: The common buzzard has an extremely large range, with breeding populations located on the Atlantic Islands of Cape Verde, the Azores, Canaries and Madeira, east through most of Europe, northern and central Asia, as far as Japan. Populations in Britain, southern Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus, Japan, and on the smaller islands are resident throughout the year.

Field Notes: The plumage can vary in Britain from almost pure white to black, but is usually shades of brown, with a pale 'necklace' of feathers. While the common buzzard’s plumage is usually brown, the exact colouration and patterning is highly variable, with shades such as blackish-brown, reddish-brown and pale whitish-brown all potentially exhibited. The upperparts are darker then the underparts, and the wingtip and trailing edge of the wing are also noticeably darker than the rest of the wing feathers.

Personal Notes: 

Western Marsh Harrier

Scientific Name: Circus aeruginosus

Population Estimate: 93K - 14M

Range and Habitat: A scarce summer visitor to Britain, marsh harriers are also found in Europe, the Middle East, Central and northern Asia, and parts of Africa. In Britain the species mainly breeds in East Anglia, but can be seen on the south and east coast as far north as Scotland whilst it is migrating. It can also occasionally be seen in Wales and Ireland. Small numbers of individuals over-winter in East Anglia, Kent and south Wales.

Field Notes: It is a large, bulky harrier with fairly broad wings, and has a strong and peculiarsexual dichromatism. The male's plumage is mostly a cryptic reddish-brown with lighter yellowish streaks, which are particularly prominent on the breast. The head and shoulders are mostly pale greyish-yellowish. Therectrices and the secondary and tertiary remigesare pure grey, the latter contrasting with the brown forewing and the black primary remiges at the wingtips.The plumage colour is variable, but mainly brown. Females and immature individuals have creamy coloured crowns and throats; mature males have pale-grey wings with a dark brown body and wings.

Personal Notes: 

Red-breasted Merganser

Scientific Name: Mergus serrator

Population Estimate: 510K - 610K, Least Concern status

Range and Habitat: Breeds on deep lakes and slow-moving rivers throughout most of Canada, Greenland, Iceland and most of northern Europe and Asia. Winters mostly at sea, extending somewhat south from the breeding areas.

Field Notes: Large diving duck with long, thin, orange bill and shaggy crest. Female and male plumage as above. Goosander similar but with with clean crest.

Personal Notes: One of our local Minnesota birds that is always nice to see elsewhere around the world. 

Eurasian Wigeon

Scientific Name: Anas penelope

Population Estimate: 2.8M - 3.3M, Least Concern status

Range: Breeds in the northernmost areas of Europe and Asia. Winters in southern Asia and Africa. Will periodically appear in the US and Canada.

Field Notes: Dabbling duck. Breeding male with rufous head, buff stripe down forehead. Bill of both males and females in light grey with dark tip. Dark rump bordered by white. The American Wigeon has a green eye marking in the breeding male and grey head, not rufous.

Personal Notes: There were so many waterfowl here at Isola della Cona in the Po River Delta near Venice Italy this November day, that we shot photos first and asked questions later. Only when we got home were we able to identify these birds.

Common Shelduck

Scientific Name: Tadorna tadorna

Population Estimate: 600K- 700K

Range / Habitat: Found throughout Europe, Asia and down to northern Africa primarily in brackish waters and mudflats. They are somewhat migratory in this range.

Field Notes: Striking, medium-sized ducks with black heads and largely white bodies broken up with a vertical brown strip near the front and a black strips horizontally down the body. Male and female are similar except for the breeding male which has the bright red bill with prominence on it.

Personal Notes: Seen in vivo in the Po River Delta near Venice, Italy. The above photo taken of a bird at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

09 November, 2009

Greater Flamingo

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus roseus

Population Estimate: 550K - 680K

Range / Habitat: Shallow saline areas throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. The most widely distributed of the six flamingo species.

Field Notes: Large flamingo, the most pale of the six species. Older flamingos are more pink, younger flamingos are more grey / white. Pink bill with black at the tip; Lesser Flamingo has black base to the bill and pink tip.

Personal Notes: The bottom photo is from the Po River Delta. This group comes from all over Europe to winter here. Once they arrive they separate by age. When you see the whole group together there is a remarkable gradation in the group from grey to pink. Top photos are from Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Little Egret

Scientific Name: Egretta garzetta

Population Estimate: 640K - 3.1M

Range / Habitat: Europe, Africa, and most of Asia except the southeast

Field Notes: Its plumage is all white. The subspecies garzetta has long black legs with yellow feet and a slim black bill. In the breeding season, the adult has two long nape plumes and gauzy plumes on the back and breast, and the bare skin between the bill and eyes becomes red or blue. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet. has yellow feet and a bare patch of grey-green skin between the bill and eyes.

Personal Notes:

Black-crowned Night-heron

Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax

Population Estimate: 510K - 3.6M

Range / Habitat: With a range that spans five continents, including much of North America, the Black-crowned Night-Heron is the most widespread heron in the world.

Field Notes: They have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or grey, red eyes, and short yellow legs. They have pale grey wings and white under parts. Two or three long white plumes, erected in greeting and courtship displays, extend from the back of the head. The sexes are similar in appearance although the males are slightly larger. Black-crowned Night Herons do not fit the typical body form of the heron family. They are relatively stocky with shorter bills, legs, and necks than their more familiar cousins, the egrets and "day" herons. Their resting posture is normally somewhat hunched but when hunting they extend their necks and look more like other wading birds.  

Personal Notes

Pygmy Cormorant

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax pygmeus

Population Estimate: 85-180K

Range / Habitat: The largest distribution is in south-east of Europe, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Balkan countries, Turkey, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Israel, Syria

Field Notes: It has a long tail and short thick bill. Adults have small white feather tufts on the head, neck and underparts in the breeding season. Non-breeding birds have a white throat. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller and browner.
Personal Notes

Great Cormorant

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax carbo

Population Estimate: 1.4M - 2.9M

Range / Habitat: Wetlands throughout Europe, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Atlantic coast of the US.

Field Notes: Large, common all-black cormorant with yellow at base of bill and white check patch sometimes extending to throat. Breeding adults have white thigh patch as in the top photo.

Personal Notes: Known as White-breasted Cormorant in sub-Saharan Africa. Known as Black Shag in New Zealand. Maori name Kawau.

Little Grebe

Scientific Name: Tachybaptus ruficollis

Population Estimate: Unclear, estimates at 610K to 3.5M

Range / Habitat: Tachybaptus ruficollis is a widespread breeder across much of western and central Europe,

Field Notes: The smallest of the grebes, Little Grebes have a very dumpy body, a short neck, tiny straight bill and no ornamental head feathers giving a rounded shape to the head. They swim buoyantly with feathers often fluffed out at rear giving a power- puff effect. In breeding adults the throat and cheeks are a bright chestnut, the fleshy gap patch takes on a pale color and the body becomes a rich dark brown above and paler below. Out of the breeding season birds are less striking with the neck taking on a buff-brown color and the body becoming dull brown above and paler below.

Personal Notes:

Mute Swan

Scientific Name: Cygnus olor

Population Estimate: 600K

Range / Habitat: Found on inland wetlands in temperate areas of Europe across western Asia, as far east as the Russian Maritimes. Partially migratory throughout northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, as far south as north Africa and the Mediterranean. Vagrant to Iceland, Bermuda, Japan.

Field Notes: Unmistakable large, white, water bird with orange bill. The juvenile form is mottled brown and white with an all black bill.

Personal Notes: We were lucky enough to be visiting the Isola della Cona reserve near Venice, Italy on a wet windy day when easily a hundred birds were taking refuge.

Greylag Goose

Scientific Name: Anser anser

Range / Habitat: Breeds in a variety of habitats generally associated with water in open country, throughout northern Europe, Russia and Asia. Migratory species, wintering on similar habitats in southern Europe and Asia.

Field Notes: Bulky, grey goose with white rump. Orange legs, bill and eye ring. 

Personal Notes: First seen in Italy and later in Seville, Spain.