20 April, 2010

Chipping Sparrow

Scientific Name: Spizella passerina

Population Estimate: 100M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Throughout most of North America in summer only, found in areas with grassland interspersed by trees. Year-round in southern California. Winters in Mexico, Florida, Cuba, parts of Central America.

Field Notes: Small for a sparrow, always smaller than we think. Bill seems a little too small for a sparrow, too, classic Spizella species. Bright rufous cap, white eyebrow, black eye stripe and clear white breast distinguish this bird. Call is a persistent, rapid "chip".

Personal Notes:

American Mourning Dove

Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura

Population Estimate:
130M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found anywhere except deep woods in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Year-round in most of the US and into Mexico, but extends north into Canada in the summer and south into Central America in the winter.

Field Notes:
A medium-sized graceful dove with soft greyish-brown upperparts and more buffy underparts, with a greyish crown and hindneck, sometimes with a metallic purple or bronze gloss. Small head and slender tail. The eye is surrounded by a narrow ring of bare blue or greenish-blue skin, and there is a small black streak on the cheek. The sorrowful call is distinctive.

Personal Notes: I'm slightly embarrassed to say that when we first started birding we followed one of these birds at dusk, thinking we were hearing an owl call.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Scientific Name: Molothrus ater

Population Estimate: 56M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in southern and eastern US in grasslands and other cleared habitats. Summer visitor to the western US and north into Canada. Winters into Mexico.

Field Notes: Stocky blackbirds, often seen in small flocks often foraging on the ground. Male is glossy black with brown head. Female dull brown. Juvenile light black with extensive breast streaking. Eye is black, as opposed to red eye of Bronzed Cowbird or yellow eye of Brewer's Blackbird.

Personal Notes: These birds lay eggs in other nests then leave the host birds to raise their young. 

Western Osprey

Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Population Estimate: 500K, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Migrant throughout much of the US. It winters primarily in South America and breeds in the northern US and Canada. Found around nearly any type of body of water.

Field Notes: Large raptor with black back and white chest. Wings a distinctive "M" shape in flight. Feathers cover the legs. Dark eye stripe on white head. Stick nests place conspicuously in open areas.

Personal Notes: Above photo taken in Amery, Wisconsin on a job interview. 

Eastern Towhee

Scientific Name: Pipilo Erythrophthalmus

Population Estimate: 11M

Range / Habitat: Restricted to eastern US where found year-round in the south, push up nearly to Canada in the summer. In contrast to the photos above, usually found in scrub and undergrowth.

Field Notes:
A large, bulky sparrow with long tail. Males are strikingly marked, as above, with black head and neck, white belly, rufous flanks, red eye. There is a flash of white on the back in flight. Similar to Spotted Towhee, though less white marking on the back and wings, and minimal overlap in the Great Plains.

Personal Notes: Richard went on quite an excursion for this photo. We kept getting glimpses of this bird in the brush, but patience was finally rewarded.

14 April, 2010

Horned Grebe

Scientific Name: Podiceps auritus

Population Estimate: 140K to 1.1M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Summers in small freshwater areas, subarctic worldwide. In winter, mostly marine, in sheltered bays, throughout northern hemisphere.

Field Notes: Breeding plumage of both sexes unmistakable with large back head and yellow "horns behind the eye that can raise and lower. Winter plumage is black and white and easily confused with Black-necked Grebe.

Personal Notes: We often seen this bird during migration on midwestern lakes after a spring storm causes some grounding. Finally seen at one of the final spring destinations: Lake Myvatn in Iceland.  

11 April, 2010

Tree Swallow

Scientific Name: Tachycineta bicolor

Population Estimate: 20M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breed in open habitats such as fields and wetlands, usually adjacent to water across northern US, Canada and Alaska. Winters in Baja, the Gulf coast of the US, Florida and into Mexico.

Field Notes: Medium-sized swallow with glossy, blue-green upperparts and contrasting white underparts. The wings are long and the tail only shallowly forked.

Personal Notes:

American Crow

Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Population Estimate:
31M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat:
 Year-round in fields, open woodlands, and forests -- as well as areas inhabited by people -- throughout the US. In summer they extend up into Canada. 

Field Notes: L
arge, all-black birds with harsh, cawing voices. Nearly identical to Northwestern Crow and Fish Crow. Common Ravens are larger with longer wings, heavier bills, and shaggy neck feathers. 

Personal Notes:

05 April, 2010

American Kestrel

Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Population Estimate: 6M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: The American kestrel is widespread in open areas throughout the Americas, from central Alaska and Canada, south discontinuously through the United States and Central America, to most of South America, excluding Amazonia. It is also found throughout the West Indies. During the winter, those birds at the most northerly and southerly latitudes may migrate towards more temperate or tropical regions.

Field Notes: A small falcon, and the only kestrel found in the Americas. This colourful kestrel displays marked sexual dimorphism, and there is also considerable variation between individuals. Typically, the male has an orange back, flecked with black, a solid red tail with a wide, black tip, blue-grey wings and head cap, and black markings on the face and belly. The larger female, however, lacks the blue-grey markings and has barred, brown upperparts and streaked underparts.

Personal Notes: Kirby the Kestrel is still our favorite!

Eastern Meadowlark

Scientific Name: Sturnella Magna

Population Estimate: 10M

Range / Habitat:
The eastern meadowlark is one of the most widely distributed species of songbird. It is native to North and Central America, with its range extending into South America.  It is present throughout the year in much of eastern North America, Central America and the north of South America, breeding from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, south to the north-east of Brazil.

Field Notes: Distinctive, medium-sized songbird often found on perches. Dappled brown and black upperparts with bright yellow neck, chest, belly and forehead. Black bib. Characteristic song with slurred, flute-like whistles. Can overlap with Western Meadowlark in places, where best differentiated by voice. The feathers on its back are a mixture of browns and blacks, with an overlaid pattern of darker streaks and bars. Its underparts are bright yellow and there is a black ‘V’ across the chest.

Personal Notes:

04 April, 2010

Rusty Blackbird

Scientific Name: Euphagus Carolinus

Population Estimate: 200K to 2M

Range / Habitat:
The rusty blackbird has the most northerly breeding range of all North American blackbirds, occurring in Alaska, Canada and the north-eastern United States. It is a migratory species, spending the winter in the south-eastern and mid-western United States.

Field Notes: Medium-sized black bird with slender bill and yellow eye. All black in breeding plumage, wings tinged rust in winter. Does not have a sheen to head as common in other black birds. Common Grackle with larger bill, longer tail, and wings tinged blue or purple. Brewer's Blackbird with blue and green iridescence. No other blackbird in range with yellow eye.During the winter, the male rusty blackbird is characterised by the rusty edges to the tertials, and by its rusty brown crown, nape and back. The rest of the upperparts are black, while the cheeks, throat, breast and sides are lighter brown or buff. The male also has a tawny-coloured stripe above the eye. The female rusty blackbird is similar to the male, but with a conspicuous paler buff line above the eye.

Personal Notes:

Blue-winged Teal

Scientific Name: Anas discors

Population Estimate: 4.6M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds across central North America and throughout Canada, favouring small, shallow freshwater such as the prairie-pothole region. Migrates early to the southern US, Mexico, Central America and northern South America.

Field Notes: Small dabbling duck, much smaller than a Mallard. Breeding male with slate blue head and white crescent behind the bill. Female and eclipse male similar to other dabbling ducks. Both sexes with powder-blue patch on wings in flight.

Personal Notes: Frequently seen alongside the Northern Shoveler on a spring trip through South Dakota. 

Song Sparrow

Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia

Population Estimate: 54M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found in open habitats in the southern United States in winter and northern United States throughout Canada in summer.

Field Notes: Sparrow with a streaky breast, and often with a central breast spot, that favors open, shrubby, wet areas. Will commonly sing from prominent perch. Face markings can vary considerably by region, but in general there is a russet cap and eye stripe on a grey head along with white and russet stripes along the jaw. Compared to other sparrows with streaky breasts, the Song Sparrow has more distinct facial markings and lacks the white eye ring of the Vesper Sparrow, whose range is nearly identical. The Song Sparrow has a slightly more restricted range than the Savannah Sparrow, and lacks its yellow eyebrow. Also similar to the American Tree Sparrow, the Song Sparrow's range is more southern and the streaky breast and jaw stripes are distinguishing.

Personal Notes: One of the first birds of spring in Minnesota, and most welcome!

Peregrine Falcon

Scientific Name: Falco Peregrinus

Population Estimate: 1.2M

Range / Habitat: The peregrine falcon has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. The name ‘peregrine’ means ‘wanderer’, with most northern populations undergoing long-distance migrations to winter further south.

Field Notes: The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the Peregrine. The underwing and tail are also barred, and the pale throat and cheeks contrast with a broad, dark ‘moustache’ stripe. The facial skin and legs of the peregrine falcon are yellow to orange, and the beak is bluish, tinged yellow at the base and black at the tip. The female peregrine falcon is up to 20 percent larger than the male, and usually has more heavily marked underparts. Juveniles can be distinguished by the browner plumage, streaked rather than barred underparts, and blue-grey or greenish legs and facial skin .

Personal Notes:

01 April, 2010


Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus

Population Estimate:
1M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat:
Found year-round on open ground with low to no vegetation throughout most of the US and into Mexico. Extends to Central America in the winter and up north into Canada in the summer. 

Field Notes:
A shorebird usually found away from the shore. Typical plover with large eye and short bill. Killdeer is the only plover in the US with two black breast bands. 

Personal Notes:
Such striking birds, no matter where we find them…. 

Common Grackle

Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula

Population Estimate:
100M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat:
The breeding habitat is open and semi-open areas across North America east of the Rocky Mountains. In the summer extends range north through Canada and west to the Rockies. Found in open habitats, lawns, city parks, agricultural areas.

Field Notes:
Adult has a long dark bill, pale yellowish eyes and a long tail; its feathers appear black with purple, green or blue iridescence on the head, and primarily bronze sheen in the body plumage. The adult female, beyond being smaller, is usually less iridescent; her tail in particular is shorter, and unlike the males, does not keel in flight and is brown with no purple or blue gloss. The juvenile is brown with dark brown eyes.

Personal Notes: