31 May, 2010

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Scientific Estimate: Archilochus Colubris

Population Estimate: 7M

Range / Habitat: Eastern America’s sole breeding hummingbird, the ruby-throated hummingbird is a migratory species that breeds in eastern North America, as far north as the southern limit of dense boreal forests, and winters in Central America, from south Sinaloa and south Veracruz, Mexico, to Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, sometimes, extreme western Panama. It is also a regular winter visitor to central and southern Florida and the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas.

Field Notes: Iridescent green back, males with red throat which can appear dark depending on the light. This is the only hummingbird in the eastern US. The male is recognised by its iridescent, ruby red gorget, which covers the entire throat, and by its black face and chin and entirely dark, deeply-forked tail. The larger female and the immature bird lack the gorget, instead possessing a white chin and throat with variable amounts of thin, dark streaking, and have a dark, slightly-forked tail with white edging. All ruby-throated hummingbirds have a bright, metallic-green back and crown, which often appears darker on the males, and white underparts with greenish flanks. The plumage of the ruby-throated hummingbird, however, varies with the intensity of the light and, consequently, often appears almost black.

Personal Notes: Identification is easy in Minnesota, however, the above bird was in Costa Rica in early May, which complicated our ID at bit.

24 May, 2010

Great Crested Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Myiarchus crinitus

Population Estimate: 7.5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Temperate forests in eastern North America in summer, from Yucatan Peninsula to northern South America in winter.Their breeding habitat is deciduous or mixed forests across eastern North America and is found over most of the eastern and mid-western portions of the continent

Field Notes: Large flycatcher with grey head, prominent crest and yellow belly. Rufous patches in wings. All adults are brownish-olive on the upperparts with yellow underparts; they have a long rusty brown tail and a bushy crest. Their throat and breast are grey.

Personal Notes: A very welcome sight in Minnesota in the spring of 2014. 

Eastern Kingbird

Scientific Name: Tyrannus tyrannus

Population Estimate: 13M

Range / Habitat: Found in generally open areas throughout most of North America in the summer, excluding the southwest portion. Winters in the interior of South America.

Field Notes: Widespread, large flycatcher with dark head, back and tail. White belly and white tip to tail.

Personal Notes: This fellow actually thrives pretty far west, and overlaps range with the Western Kingbird, though they look nothing alike.

16 May, 2010

Clark's Nutcracker

Scientific Name: Nucifraga columbiana

Population Estimate: 1M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in montane pine forests of the American West. Outside breeding season this species may wander down from its traditional altitude of 3000 - 13,000 feet (500 - 3000 meters).

Field Notes: Large grey bird with prominent black wings and tail. Its call belies its inclusion in the crow and jay family. The only similar bird in its range is the Grey Jay, whose appearance is spotty throughout the Clark's range, and who is much more demure in appearance with small bill, fuzzy black cap, and no starkly contrasting black or white on the wings or tail.

Personal Notes: We originally found this bird in the High Uintas of Utah (although the photo above was taken later in the Beartooth Mountains), outside Salt Lake City. It was the call, size, and flashes of black on grey that solidified our attention. We didn't see it crack any nuts. Later we were in Lost Creek Canyon on Deseret Ranch and came across perhaps as many as one hundred of these birds flocking together. It was an unusual sight as they are usually quite solitary birds. 

Red-naped Sapsucker

Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Population Estimate: 2.2M

Range / Habitat: Moves throughout the lower elevations of mixed forest in western mountains of North America. Summer up to western Canadian Rockies, winter down to mountain regions in southern Mexico.

Field Notes: Woodpecker stance, but known to be sapsucker by white stripe down length of body. Very similar appearance to Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (red cap and throat, yellow belly), but little overlap in distribution. Per Sibley, Red-naped Sapsucker with two distinct columns of barring on the back, as in the top photos.

Personal Notes: Wonderful patience on Richard's part to get these photos. As so frequently happens, this bird was found in the wilds of a campground parking lot.

15 May, 2010

Spotted Towhee

Scientific Name: Pipilo Maculatus

Population Estimate: 14M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in forested regions in western US. In summers the range extends slightly north and east, winters slightly south and east.

Field Notes: Large, striking sparrow with long tail. Black head with red eye. White breast and rufous flanks. Compared to Eastern Towhee, with whom it actually shares little geographic area, the Spotted Towhee has white spots across its back and wings.

Personal Notes:

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Scientific Name: Archilochus Alexandri

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: Winters along the west coast of Mexico in lowland moist forest. Summers in the western US. Their breeding habitat is open semi-arid areas near water in the western United States, northern Mexico and southern British Columbia.

Field Notes: Males (top photo) with black chin and just a flash of iridescent purple when seen from the right angle. Range overlaps with Broad-tailed Hummingbird (which has a stocky body with conspicuously large tail, males with rosy throat, and distinct loud hum), Calliope Hummingbird (very small hummingbird, males with unmistakable streaked rosy gorget), and Rufous Hummingbird (later migrant, males with rufous coloring). Females (bottom photo) are more difficult to distinguish but posture, size and lack of spotted checks are suggestive of a Black-chinned. A better look at the tail would be definitive.

Personal Notes: Though these photos where taken at feeders we also saw this delicate bird on a separate occasion, perched high on a bare branch

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Scientific Name: Selasphorus Platycercus

Population Estimate: 4M

Range / Habitat: A bird of subalpine areas found year-round in the mountainous regions of central Mexico and summers in the Rockies.

Field Notes: Unfortunately, the above photo does not show the most distinctive features of this bird. In the right light the male has a rosy red chin with broad tail. The hum of the wings is also unique, quite loud. The photo does show the white line running from the chin to eye to neck. They also have which outer rectrices seen in flight. The Broad-tailed's range overlaps with the Black-chinned Hummingbird (which looks all black-headed), Calliope Hummingbird (very small hummingbird, males with unmistakable streaked rosy gorget), and Rufous Hummingbird (later migrant, males with rufous coloring).

Personal Notes: As with many hummingbirds, we have encountered the Broad-tailed away from feeders as well. They were just much harder to photograph in the "wild"!

Plumbeous Vireo

Scientific Name: Vireo plumbeus

Population Estimate: 2.7M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Winters in western Mexico in montane moist forest. Summers in the southern Rockies and the Great Basin. it is a small North American songbird, ranging from far southeastern Montana and western South Dakota south to the Pacific coast of Mexico, including the extreme southern regions of Baja California Sur.

Field Notes: All grey head, back and tail with two weak, white wing bars. White spectacles are pronounced. White underneath, completely lacking yellow coloring of most other vireos. The Grey Vireo overlaps in range, but has a complete, thin eye ring and only one weak wing bar. At first glance may also be confused with a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, who is smaller with longer tail, thinner bill, complete and narrow eye ring, and no wing bars.

Personal Notes: Formerly lumped as a "Solitary Vireo" with the more eastern Blue-headed Vireo and more northwestern Cassin's Vireo.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Scientific Name: Polioptila caerulea

Population Estimate: 57M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Their breeding habitat includes open deciduous woods and shrublands in southern Ontario, the eastern and southwestern United States, and Mexico. Among gnatcatcher species, this is in the only one to breed in eastern North America.

Field Notes: Tiny, long-tailed all grey bird, with belly lighter than back. May overlap with Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. May also be confused with Plumbeous Vireo, who has incomplete and thick eye ring, stouter bill, shorter tail, and white wing bars. The Grey Vireo is much less common with limited range, and typical vireo size, stance, weak wing bar, and faint "spectacle" spot in front of eye.

Personal Notes: When we first saw this bird in San Blas, Mexico we thought it looked like a "mini mockingbird." I still think it does.

Snow Goose

Scientific Name: Chen Caerulescens

Population Estimate: 7.6M

Range / Habitat: Winters in discrete areas throughout the US and Mexico, including a large swath of states along the Mississippi River. Occasional vagrant to Europe. Breeds in Arctic tundra of North America and Siberia.

Field Notes: Medium-sized white goose (though there is a blue morph) with black tail. Nearly identical to smaller Ross's Goose except Snow Goose has green base to bill with a black edge or "smile" to bill. Blue morph similar to Emperor Goose, though the latter has dark neck and white nape.

Personal Notes: We originally saw this bird in captivity at Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City, Utah (bottom photo). We were later rewarded by seeing one in migration in early April at the Minnesota Zoo (top photo). And, we likely spotted a blue morph in migration with Canadian geese in November along with Mississippi.

Emperor Goose

Scientific Name: Chen Canagica

Population Estimate: 85K

Range / Habitat: The range of the emperor goose centres on the Bering Sea in the North Pacific Ocean. It breeds in Arctic and sub-Arctic Alaska and along the north-eastern coast of Russia. The majority of the population spends winter along the coasts of the Aleutian Islands, but it may also winter in Canada and the Alaskan Peninsula. Occasionally, individuals have been recorded as far south as California and Japan.

Field Notes: The emperor goose (Chen canagica) is a small, stocky goose that has dark bluish-grey plumage with black barring on the upperparts. The legs and feet of the emperor goose are yellow-orange in colour and the bill is pink. The head and hindneck are striking white, but are often stained an orange-red colour from feeding in tidal ponds where iron oxide is present in sufficient concentration. Juvenile emperor geese have a slightly duller appearance than the adults, with brown barring on the upperparts, grey mottling on the head and foreneck, a black bill and olive-brown legs.

Personal Notes: This bird seen in Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Golden Eagle

Scientific Name: Aquila Chrysaetos

Population Estimate: 170K

Range / Habitat: The golden eagle has probably never been particularly common in Britain, as pairs require enormous territories. The British population is thought to number around 400 pairs at present. Most of these pairs are found in the Scottish Highlands, although more recently a few birds have returned to the Lake District, Cumbria (6). The species is extinct in Ireland, following persecution. The golden eagle's world range spreads through the Palaearctic region including mountainous parts of Europe as far south as northern Africa and south-east Asia. It also occurs in North America.

Field Notes: This huge bird of prey can be identified by its very long wings and long tail. When gliding or soaring it typically holds its wings in a shallow ‘V’. The plumage is dark brown rather than golden and the massive talons are bright yellow. The feathers of the head and nape of the neck are typically light yellowish or reddish-brown, giving the appearance of a ‘shawl’. Males and females are similar in appearance, but juveniles can be distinguished by the presence of white patches on the undersides of the wings and on both surfaces of the tail.

Personal Notes:

Southern Lapwing

Scientific Name: Vanellus Chilensis

Population Estimate: 2M

Range / Habitat: It is a common and widespread resident throughout South America, except in densely forested regions (e.g. most of the Amazon), the higher parts of the Andes and the arid coast of a large part of western South America. This bird is particularly common in the basin of the River Plate. It has also been spreading through Central America in recent years.

Field Notes: The Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) is a wader in the family Charadriiformes.The upperparts are mainly brownish grey, with a bronze glossing on the shoulders. The head is particularly striking; mainly grey with a black forehead and throat patch extending onto the black breast. A white border separates the black of the face from the grey of the head and crest. The rest of the underparts are white, and the eye ring, legs and most of the bill are pink.

Personal Notes: Seen at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Elegant Crested Tinamou

Scientific Name: Eudromia elegans

Range / Habitat: Year-round in arid, open areas in Argentina and Chile.

Field Notes: Medium-sized, plump terrestrial bird with small head and essentially no tail. Overall brownish / grey with extensive spotting. Buffy facial stripes and crest.

Personal Notes: Seen in captivity at Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City, Utah. This bird was constantly moving and bobbing, making it almost impossible to photograph even in an enclosed setting.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Scientific Name: Numida meleagris

Range / Habitat: Year-round in open areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Has been introduced into West Indies, Brazil, Australia and southern France.

Field Notes: Plump, fowl-like bird with very short tail. Body black with white speckling. Head and neck featherless, with bare skin blue to bluish white. Characteristic horn-colored bony casque and variety of red facial appendages.

Personal Notes: First seen in captivity in Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, later photographed at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Still waiting to see these birds in the wild....

14 May, 2010

Saffron Finch

Scientific Name: Sicalis Flaveola

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: They have a wide distribution in Colombia, northern Venezuela, western Ecuador, western Peru, eastern and southern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina, and Trinidad and Tobago. It has also been introduced to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Formerly, it was placed in the Emberizidae but it is close to the seedeaters.

Field Notes: The Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) is a tanager from South America that is common in open and semi-open areas in lowlands outside the Amazon Basin. Male is bright yellow with an orange crown which distinguishes it from most other yellow finches (the exception being the Orange-fronted Yellow-finch). The females are more confusing and are usually just a slightly duller version of the male, but in the southern subspecies S. f. pelzelni they are olive-brown with heavy dark streaks.

Personal Notes:

Black-necked Swan

Scientific Name: Cygnus Melancoryphus

Population Estimate: 25-100K

Range / Habitat: The black-necked swan is found in southern South America, ranging from the Falkland Islands and Tierra del Fuego, northwards to central Chile, Paraguay and southern Brazil. It is also an occasional visitor to the Antarctic Peninsula and the Juan Fernández Islands.

Field Notes: This majestic waterbird is easily distinguished by its immaculate white body plumage that contrasts sharply with a velvety black neck and head. The bill is a blue-grey colour with a conspicuous, scarlet-coloured, double-lobed knob, known as a caruncle, sitting at the base. A thin white line surrounds the eyes and stretches along the sides of the crown to the rear of the head. The male and female black-necked swan are similar in appearance, although the female is typically slightly smaller, but the juvenile lacks the caruncle, has a more brownish-black neck and head, and has varying amounts of greyish-flecked and brownish-tipped feathers.

Personal Notes:

Brewer's Blackbird

Scientific Name: Euphagus cyanocephalus

Population Estimate: 35M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in the American West. Winters in the southern US and into Mexico. Summers extending through the US up into Canada, excluding northeastern US. They favor open and semi-open areas, often near water. 

Field Notes: Males iridescent with black head and dark green elsewhere. Yellow eye, black bill, black legs. Common Crackle is larger, with reversed color pattern (green head, darker body), large bill, longer and wedge-shaped tail. Common Starling with black eye, yellow bill and pink legs. Rusty Blackbird is less iridescent with rufous pattern on black body.

Personal Notes:

Swainson's Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo Swainsoni

Population Estimate: 490K

Range / Habitat: Summers in the western US and Canada where favors prairie and dry grassland. Forms large kettles on migration to a relatively small region in Argentina.

Field Notes: In flight, pale inner wing / leading edge contrasts with dark flight feathers. The darker morphs, shown above, have uniform rufous breast; lighter morphs have a rufous bib on white breast. White area on face around bill. Smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk.

Personal Notes: Common hawk in Utah and other parts of the American West.

Greater Yellowlegs

Scientific Name: Tringa Melanoleuca

Population Estimate: 100K

Range / Habitat: Breed in bogs and marshland in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. Range does not extend as far north as Lesser Yellowlegs. Migrates to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of United States and south to South America. Rare vagrant to Western Europe.

Field Notes: Medium to large sandpiper with slightly elongated, blunt-tipped, upturned bill. Bright yellow legs are distinguishing feature. Lesser Yellowlegs is smaller and has a straight, sharp bill.

Personal Notes:

Calliope Hummingbird

Scientific Name: Stellula Calliope

Population Estimate: 1M

Range / Habitat: Breed in shrubby, mountainous regions of western United States and into Canada. Migrate in winter to a relatively restricted area of southwestern Mexico.

Field Notes: Tiny hummingbird. Males with unmistakable streaked rosy gorget. Black-chinned Hummingbird and Broad-tailed Hummingbird overlap in range but are larger and males without shaggy gorget. These birds have glossy green on the back and crown with white underparts. Their bill and tail are relatively short. The adult male has wine-red streaks on the throat, green flanks and a dark tail. Females and immatures have a pinkish wash on the flanks, dark streaks on the throat and a dark tail with white tips.

Personal Notes: We saw this bird both "in the wild" (bottom photo) and at a feeder while in the Salt Lake City area.

Wilson's Phalarope

Scientific Name: Phalaropus tricolor

Population Estimate: 1.5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds in the prairies of western North America and Canada. Winters in the central Andes in South America. Frequents saline lakes in migration. 

Field Notes: Dainty shorebird. Breeding female is predominantly grey and brown above, with white underparts, a reddish neck and reddish flank patches. Breeding male is a duller version of the female, with a brown back, and the reddish patches reduced or absent. Typical phalarope behaviour of swimming in tight circles while feeding. 

Personal Notes: Seen on Deseret Ranch in Utah.

Forster's Tern

Scientific Name: Sterna Forsteri

Population Estimate: 120K

Range / Habitat: Breeds on inland marshes in the American West and parts of Canada. Winters along the southern US coast, into Mexico, and in the Caribbean. Rare vagrant to western Europe.

Field Notes: Medium-sized, black-capped tern. Breeding plumage as above. Legs are orange, which cannot be appreciated in the photo. Non-breeding plumage is unmistakable with black eye and ear patch on a white head. Overlaps some in migration and breeding range with Common Tern, which has darker mantle and duller bill and legs.

Personal Notes: We frequently saw this tern hunting over the flats of the Great Salt Lake.

Franklin's Gull

Scientific Name: Leucophaeus Pipixcan

Population Estimate: 470K - 1.5M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in the prairies of central Canada. Migrates through central North America and winters along the Pacific coast of South America.

Field Notes: Small, hooded gull with thick white crescents above and below eyes. Mantle dark grey. In breeding plumage (lower photo), the head is entirely black. In non breeding plumage (top photo), the head is mottled grey, though still with white eye crescents. Laughing Gull quite similar but very limited range overlap (winter along northwest South American coast).

Personal Notes:

Clark's Grebe

Scientific Name: Aechmophorus clarkii

Population Estimate: 10K - 20K

Range / Habitat: Year-round in parts of Mexico and California. Migrant population breeds on inland lakes in the western US and winters further south along the Pacific coast.

Field Notes: Medium-sized water bird. Black cap and nape contrast with white face and throat. Dark body. Long yellow bill. Western Grebe is similar except the dark cap covers the eyes.

Personal Notes: It was a quite a joy to find these birds in Utah. Until the 1980s, this bird was thought to be a pale morph of Western Grebe. 

Sage Grouse

Scientific Name: Centrocercus Urophasianus

Population Estimate: 150k

Range / Habitat: The Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest grouse in North America, where it is known as the Greater Sage-Grouse. Its range is sagebrush country in the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.

Field Notes: Birds in known lake areas. Adults have a long, pointed tail and legs with feathers to the toes. Adult males have a yellow patch over the eye, are grayish on top with a white breast, a dark brown throat and a black belly; two yellowish sacs on the neck are inflated during courtship display. Adult females are mottled gray-brown with a light brown throat and dark belly.

Personal Notes: We especially like the bottom three "mug shot" photos!

Great Horned Owl

Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus

Population Estimate: 5M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in a wide range of wooded habitats throughout all of North America, extending through Mexico into Central America. Also found in northwestern and eastern South America.

Field Notes: Large owl with long ear tufts and yellow eyes. Coloration varies regionally but is overall mottled grey-brown with a reddish facial disc.

Personal Notes: We've seen this bird twice in Utah. Aways an amazing sight. 

Marsh Wren

Scientific Name: Cistothorus Palustris

Population Estimate: 8M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in portions of the American West. Otherwise, summers in the northeast and midwestern US and into Canada. Winters in Florida, the Gulf coast, southwestern US and into Mexico. Favors marsh...clearly.

Field Notes: Common and noisy resident of cattail marshes. Typical wren appearance of a small, secretive bird with tail held upright and slightly down-curved bill. Noticeable on this wren is the white eyebrow, buffy throat.

Personal Notes: The wrens fall for the iBird call every time....

American Rock Wren

Scientific Name: Salpinctes obsoletus

Population Estimate: 4.2M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in the southwestern US and into Mexico in rocky areas. Extends in summer further up in the western US. Their breeding habitat is dry rocky locations from southwestern Canada down to Costa Rica. 

Field Notes: Pale grey bird of rocky areas with typical wren appearance: tail often upright, slightly down-curved bill, pale white eyebrow. Streaking to throat, which is less pronounced in juveniles. 

Personal Notes: Did I mention that iBird audio can get a wren's attention? Even when not trying to….