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Henry David Thoreau

Anna's Hummingbird

Half Moon Bay, California USA 2020
Stacks Image 7575
Anna’s Hummingbirds are among the most common hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast, yet they're anything but common in appearance. With their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds. Though no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel, Anna’s Hummingbirds make a strong impression. In their thrilling courtship displays, males climb up to 130 feet into the air and then swoop to the ground with a curious burst of noise that they produce through their tail feathers.

Size & Shape
Tiny among birds, Anna’s are medium-sized and stocky for a hummingbird. They have a straight, shortish bill and a fairly broad tail. When perched, the tail extends beyond the wingtips.

Color Pattern
Anna’s Hummingbirds are mostly green and gray, without any rufous or orange marks on the body. The male's head and throat are covered in iridescent reddish-pink feathers that can look dull brown or gray without direct sunlight.

Anna’s Hummingbirds are a blur of motion as they hover before flowers looking for nectar and insects. Listen for the male's scratchy metallic song and look for him perched above head level in trees and shrubs

Anna’s Hummingbirds are common in yards, parks, residential streets, eucalyptus groves, riverside woods, savannahs, and coastal scrub. They readily come to hummingbird feeders and flowering plants, including cultivated species in gardens.

Cool Facts
  • In the first half of the 20th century, the Anna's Hummingbird bred only in northern Baja California and southern California. The planting of exotic flowering trees provided nectar and nesting sites, and allowed the hummingbird to greatly expand its breeding range.
  • The dive display of the Anna's Hummingbird lasts about 12 seconds, and the male may fly to a height of 40 m (131 feet) during the display. He starts by hovering two to four meters (6-13 feet) in front of the display object (hummingbird or person), and then climbs in a wavering fashion straight up. He plummets in a near-vertical dive from the top of the climb and ends with an explosive squeak within half a meter of the display object. He then makes a circular arc back to the point where he began. On sunny days the dives are oriented so that the sun is reflected from the iridescent throat and crown directly at the object of the dive.
  • On rare occasions, bees and wasps may become impaled on the bill of an Anna's Hummingbird, causing the bird to starve to death.
  • Hummingbirds are strictly a New World animal. They fascinated the first Europeans who arrived on the continent. Christopher Columbus wrote about them and many wondered if they were a cross between a bird and an insect (at one point being called “flybirds”). Later, their feathers became fashionable ornaments in Europe (a practice that has thankfully fallen out of favor).What do you call a flock of hummingbirds? Few animals have so many applicable terms, and none so beautiful. Instead of calling them a flock, choose between a bouquet, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, or a tune of hummingbirds.
  • Native Americans held hummingbirds in high esteem. Many of their legends describe them as busily bring the rain to quench eruptions or poking holes in the night sky that became the stars. The Navajo say that the characteristic mating dive is a way for them to check what is above the blue of the sky.
  • The iridescent throat patch of male hummingbirds is called a gorget. The Anna’s gorget extends over its head, making it more of a balaclava than a bib. Oddly, female Anna’s have a tiny red gorget—females of most species have none.
  • Hummingbirds have tiny legs and can neither hop nor walk, though they can sort of scoot sideways while perched.
  • Anna's Hummingbirds normally have a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit—that's a scorching temperature for a human. When outside temperatures fall, Anna's and many other species of hummingbirds enter torpor. Their breathing and heart rate slow, and their body temperature can fall as low as 48 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature warms, the hummingbirds can become active again in a few minutes.
The oldest recorded Anna's Hummingbird was at least 8 years, 2 months old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in Arizona.


Ash-Throated Flycatcher

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014
A common flycatcher of open arid areas of the West, the Ash-throated Flycatcher nests in holes in trees, fence posts, and nest boxes.

Adult Description
  • Medium-sized bird, medium to large flycatcher.
  • Long rusty tail.
  • Short, bushy crest.
  • Back brown.
  • Throat and chest pale gray.
  • Belly pale yellow.

Immature Description
Juvenile similar to adult, but paler, with buffy tips to wing feathers, and more rufous in tail.

Cool Facts
  • Unlike most members of its genus, the Ash-throated Flycatcher only occasionally uses snakeskin in its nest. Only 5% of nests examined contained reptile skin, but 98% had mammal hair. Rabbit fur was the most frequently used.
  • The Ash-throated Flycatcher frequently uses man-made structures for nesting. It readily uses nest boxes, as well as pipes, fence posts, ledges under eaves or porches, and even in clothes hanging on a clothesline. The use of artificial structures may have offset the loss of natural nest sites by development, and may be responsible for an increase in numbers.
  • The Ash-throated Flycatcher is a rare, but regular vagrant to the East Coast. Individuals turn up nearly every year, and have been found in all coastal states and provinces. Sightings are less frequent from inland areas in the East and Midwest.
  • The oldest known Ash-throated Flycatcher was just under 12 years old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in California.

Ibis 2019

Australian Ibis

Sydney Hyde Park, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 7397
Common white and black ibis. Adult has bare black head, while juvenile has feathered head. Originally associated with wetlands and marshes (fresh and salt), it is now often seen in urban areas and has developed a reputation as the "Bin Chicken" due to its habit of scavenging food.

63–76 cm; 1400–2500 g, female lighter; wingspan 110–125 cm. Male generally larger, with longer bill, as in most ibises. Narrow pinkish transversal nuchal tracts . Bill thinner and legs less intensely black than congeners; in breeding plumage easily separated from T. aethiopicus by extensive feathering up neck , with ornamental plumes on foreneck; black tips to primaries only . Non breeding adult has tertials dull grey, less lacy, and lacks neck plumes; bare skin of underwing pink instead of red. Immature totally feathered on head and neck , variably dark; tertials greyish brown, not lacy. Race pygmaeus significantly smaller.

Inland wetlands , especially shallow swamps with abundant vegetation , and floodplains; sheltered marine habitats, especially tidal mudflats, mangrove swamps, salt pans and coastal lagoons; also grasslands, cultivation, open areas and recently burnt land, often far from wetlands.

Most adults sedentary, although throughout range some irregular, nomadic movements occur, sometimes over long distances, and usually related to availability of water. Population of SW Australia partially migratory, apparently moving N in winter, returning S in summer. Young birds disperse widely.

Season very variable according to prevailing water conditions. Usually forms colonies of up to 20,000 pairs, sometimes with other Ciconiiformes; occasionally in single pairs. Nest is compact cup of sticks and twigs, lined with leaves and other soft materials; where breeds in swamps, nest built of reeds. 1–4 eggs , with clutches of 5–6 eggs recorded, but possibly laid by 2 females; incubation 20–23 days; chicks have blackish brown down on head and neck, white on body; leave nest at 30–48 days. Success varies annually: in study of 2025 breeding attempts, 51% failed; 1·73 young fledged per successful nest.

Australian Magpie 2019

Australian Magpie

Blue Mountains, Australia, 2019
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Australian Magpie (Western Gymnorhina tibicen dorsalis

SW Western Australia (E almost to Eucla, S of Great Victoria Desert).

37–43 cm; c. 210–360 g (races combined), 212–325 g (terraereginae), 265–360 g (dorsalis), c. 300 g (nominate). Large black-and-white cracticid with long, heavy bill slightly hooked at tip, tail relatively short and square-ended, thighs feathered, long legs with large strong feet; wings long, broad at base, with pointed tip.

Open habitats with low ground cover such as grasses. Originally inhabited open eucalypt (Eucalyptus) woodlands, now found also in farmland and urban areas that provide open areas of grassland with mature trees nearby. Occurs in remnant vegetation patches, homestead trees, shelter-belts and windbreaks, along roads and rivers, also on edges of forest or woodland adjacent to farmland; in urban areas common in large parks, vegetation reserves and older suburbs with large gardens, lawns and well-grown trees.

Primarily sedentary. Non-breeding flocks formed by some races are more mobile within local areas, roosting several kilometres from feeding locations. Occasional long-distance movements of ringed individuals recorded, but no indication that such movement is frequent.

Diet and Foraging
Invertebrates , especially terrestrial insects; also small vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, small birds and small mammals. Will eat carrion if available, or take insects present on a carcass. Forages in groups, members of which spread out over quite a large area, rather than feeding close together. Feeds mainly on ground

Australian Maned Duck 2019

Australian Maned Duck

Sydney Botanic Gardens, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 7437
Small upright duck. Male is gray with a brown head, while the female is more heavily marked with pale marks on face. Nests in tree-hollows and can be quite noisy when perched up in the branches. Often abundant in urban parklands and grassy areas.

44–56 cm; male 700–955 g (1), female 662–984 g; wingspan 78–80 cm. Structure reminiscent of small Chloephaga, with plump body, relatively long legs, stubby bill and conspicuous black-and-white-spotted breast. Male has warm brown head and neck, with black, mane-like crest that can be expanded in display, largely grey body that is vermiculated on flanks, and charcoal black back to tail, as well as belly and vent; bill dark grey, legs and feet grey-brown, and eyes dark brown. Female is less obviously patterned, having paler head , but obvious white supercilium and stripe below eye, spotted breast and brown-barred underparts, white white belly to undertail-coverts; in flight both sexes show grey forewing with broad white patch on innerwing and dark green speculum. Juvenile resembles female, but paler and has breast distinctly streaked, rather than spotted.

Favours freshwater marshes, waste stabilization ponds (2) and farm dams with abundant grazing, often surrounded by open deciduous forest and swampy open woods; generally inland , moving up rivers; also on saline wetlands early in their drying cycle (3). Particularly common in croplands and stock-grazed areas, but commonly seen at ponds in urban areas (1)

Mostly sedentary, perhaps occupying same waterbody throughout life but also somewhat dispersive, with concentrations mainly found in far SW Australia and throughout wetter parts of E Australia (1); can be found almost anywhere with suitable habitat in Australia and Tasmania, but is largely absent from arid zone running from NW of continent to Australian Bight (1).

Starts mainly Jul (1)/Aug, but season variable and can occur year-round, depending on rainfall. Monogamous with long-term pair-bonds (1). In single pairs, which prospect for suitable site together (1); nests in tree hollows or nestboxes, adding much pale grey down (1). Clutch 8–11 creamy white or cream-coloured eggs, up to 18 recorded, probably due to dump laying, with eggs laid at 1–2-day intervals, size 53–62 mm × 40–45 mm, mass (in captivity) 45–62 g (1); incubation c. 28–34 days by female alone guarded by male (1); chicks have grey-brown to dark brown down above , whitish buff below, with two dark stripes on face and weigh c. 38 g on hatching (in captivity) (1); capable of grazing at 2–3 days old (1), fledging 57 days, being cared for by both parents until this time in brood-rearing territory (often within 400 m of nest-site) (8), thereafter gathering into larger flocks (1).


Bald Eagles


Bald Eagle Inflite 2005


Bald Eagle Alaska 2012


Bald Eagle Phases 2005

Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, June 2005
Denali State Park, Alaska 2012
Size & Shape
The Bald Eagle dwarfs most other raptors, including the Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk. It has a heavy body, large head, and long, hooked bill. In flight, a Bald Eagle holds its broad wings flat like a board.
Color Pattern
Adult Bald Eagles have white heads and tails with dark brown bodies and wings. Their legs and bills are bright yellow. Immature birds have mostly dark heads and tails; their brown wings and bodies are mottled with white in varying amounts. Young birds attain adult plumage in about five years.
You'll find Bald Eagles soaring high in the sky, flapping low over treetops with slow wingbeats, or perched in trees or on the ground. Bald Eagles scavenge many meals by harassing other birds or by eating carrion or garbage. They eat mainly fish, but also hunt mammals, gulls, and waterfowl.
Look for Bald Eagles near lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes, and coasts. For a chance to see large Bald Eagle congregations, check out wildlife refuges or large bodies of water in winter over much of the continent, or fish processing plants and dumpsters year-round in coastal Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Cool Facts
  • Rather than do their own fishing, Bald Eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A Bald Eagle will harass a hunting Osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up. A Bald Eagle may even snatch a fish directly out of an Osprey’s talons. Fishing mammals (even people sometimes) can also lose prey to Bald Eagle piracy. See an example here.
  • Had Benjamin Franklin prevailed, the U.S. emblem might have been the Wild Turkey. In 1784, Franklin disparaged the national bird’s thieving tendencies and its vulnerability to harassment by small birds. "For my own part,” he wrote, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. … Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District.”
  • Sometimes even the national bird has to cut loose. Bald Eagles have been known to play with plastic bottles and other objects pressed into service as toys. One observer witnessed six Bald Eagles passing sticks to each other in midair.
  • The largest Bald Eagle nest on record, in St. Petersburg, Florida, was 2.9 meters in diameter and 6.1 meters tall. Another famous nest—in Vermilion, Ohio—was shaped like a wine glass and weighed almost two metric tons. It was used for 34 years until the tree blew down.
  • Immature Bald Eagles spend the first four years of their lives in nomadic exploration of vast territories and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.
  • Bald Eagles can live a long time, with a longevity record of 28 years in the wild and 36 years in captivity.
  • Bald Eagles occasionally hunt cooperatively, with one individual flushing prey towards another.


Barn Owl

Hatfield Fair, England May 2010
Ghostly pale and strictly nocturnal, Barn Owls are silent predators of the night world. Lanky, with a whitish face, chest, and belly, and buffy upperparts, this owl roosts in hidden, quiet places during the day. By night, they hunt on buoyant wingbeats in open fields and meadows. You can find them by listening for their eerie, raspy calls, quite unlike the hoots of other owls. Despite a worldwide distribution, Barn Owls are declining in parts of their range due to habitat loss.

Size & Shape: These medium-sized owls have long, rounded wings and short tails, which combine with a buoyant, loping flight to give them a distinctive flight style. The legs are long and the head is smoothly rounded, without ear tufts.

Color Pattern: Barn Owls are pale overall with dark eyes. They have a mix of buff and gray on the head, back, and upperwings, and are white on the face, body, and underwings. When seen at night they can appear all white.

Behavior: Barn Owls nest and roost in cavities, abandoned barns and other buildings, and dense trees. At night, Barn Owls hunt by flying low, back and forth over open habitats, searching for small rodents primarily by sound.

Habitat; Barn Owls require large areas of open land over which to hunt. This can either be marsh, grasslands, or mixed agricultural fields. For nesting and roosting, they prefer quiet cavities, either in trees or man-made structures such as barns or silos.

Cool Facts
  • Barn Owls swallow their prey whole—skin, bones, and all. About twice a day, they cough up pellets instead of passing all that material through their digestive tracts. The pellets make a great record of what the owls have eaten, and scientists study them to learn more about the owls and the ecosystems they live in.
  • Up to 46 different races of the Barn Owl have been described worldwide. The North American form is the largest, weighing more than twice as much as the smallest race from the Galapagos Islands.
  • Barn Owl females are somewhat showier than males. She has a more reddish and more heavily spotted chest. The spots may indicate the quality of the female. Heavily spotted females get fewer parasitic flies and may be more resistant to parasites and diseases. The spots may also stimulate the male to help more at the nest. In an experiment where some females’ spots were removed, their mates fed their nestlings less often than for females whose spots were left alone.
  • The Barn Owl has excellent low-light vision, and can easily find prey at night by sight. But its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. It can catch mice in complete darkness in the lab, or hidden by vegetation or snow out in the real world.
  • The oldest known North American Barn Owl lived in Ohio and was at least 15 years, 5 months old.


Black-billed Magpie

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming March 2011
Black-billed Magpies are familiar and entertaining birds of western North America. They sit on fenceposts and road signs or flap across rangelands, their white wing patches flashing and their very long tails trailing behind them. This large, flashy relative of jays and crows is a social creature, gathering in numbers to feed at carrion. They’re also vocal birds and keep up a regular stream of raucous or querulous calls.

Size & Shape: Black-billed Magpies are slightly larger than jays with much longer, diamond-shaped tails and heavier bills. In flight, their wings seem to be too short to support their graceful flight.

Color Pattern: These birds are black and white overall with blue-green iridescent flashes in the wing and tail. The upperparts are mostly black with a white patch in the outer wing and two white stripes (“backpack straps”) on the back.

Behavior: Black-billed Magpies are social, inquisitive birds that eat fruits, grains, insects, small animals, and frequently gather in large flocks at carrion. Magpies move in groups and give a variety of trill, cackle, and whistle calls. They flap steadily in flight, alternating deep and shallow wingbeats, and use their very long tails to negotiate abrupt turns.

Habitat; Black-billed Magpies are widespread in towns, fields, and stream corridors of the West. They also concentrate in flocks at feedlots and other areas where food is easy to find.

Cool Facts
  • The Black-billed Magpie makes a very large nest that can take up to 40 days to construct. It's a lot of work, but a study found that it only used about 1% of the daily energy expenditure of the pair. Laying eggs, on the other hand, takes 23% of the female's daily energy budget.
  • Historical records of the American West indicate that Black-billed Magpies have been associates of people for a long time. Magpies frequently followed hunting parties of Plains Indians and fed on leftovers from bison kills. On their expedition, Lewis and Clark reported magpies boldly entering their tents to steal food.
  • Like most members of the jay family, the Black-billed Magpie is a nest predator, although eggs and nestlings make up only a tiny portion of the bird’s overall diet.
  • The Black-billed Magpie frequently picks ticks from the backs of large mammals, such as deer and moose. The magpie eats the ticks or hides some for later use, as members of the crow and jay family often do with excess food. Most of the ticks, however, are cached alive and unharmed, and may live to reproduce later.
  • The longest-living Black-billed Magpie on record was at least 9 years, 4 months old and lived in Idaho.


Black Crown Heron

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hawaii September 2011
Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

Size & Shape
Black-crowned Night-Herons are small herons with rather squat, thick proportions. They have thick necks, large, flat heads, and heavy, pointed bills. The legs are short and, in flight, barely reach the end of the tail. The wings are broad and rounded.
Color Pattern
Adults are light-gray birds with a neatly defined black back and black crown. Immatures are brown with large white spots on the wings and blurry streaks on the underparts. Adults have all-black bills; immatures have yellow-and-black bills.
Black-crowned Night-Herons often spend their days perched on tree limbs or concealed among foliage and branches. They forage in the evening and at night, in water, on mudflats, and on land. In flight they fold their head back against their shoulders, almost making the neck disappear.
These are social birds that tend to roost and nest in groups, although they typically forage on their own. Look for them in most wetland habitats across North America, including estuaries, marshes, streams, lakes, and reservoirs.

Cool Facts
  • The familiar evening sight and sound of the Black-crowned Night-Heron was captured in this description from Arthur Bent’s Life Histories of North American Marsh Birds: “How often, in the gathering dusk of evening, have we heard its loud, choking squawk and, looking up, have seen its stocky form, dimly outlined against the gray sky and propelled by steady wing beats, as it wings its way high in the air toward its evening feeding place in some distant pond or marsh!”
  • Scientists find it easy, if a bit smelly and messy, to study the diet of young Black-crowned Night-Herons—the nestlings often disgorge their stomach contents when approached.
  • Black-crowned Night Heron nest in groups that often include other species, including herons, egrets, and ibises.
  • A breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron will brood any chick that is placed in its nest. The herons apparently don’t distinguish between their own offspring and nestlings from other parents.
  • Young Black-crowned Night-Herons leave the nest at the age of 1 month but cannot fly until they are 6 weeks old. They move through the vegetation on foot, joining up in foraging flocks at night.
  • The oldest Black-crowned Night-Heron on record was a female who was at least 21 years, 5 month old.


Brewer's Blackbird

Kennedy Meadows, Stanislaus National Forest, April 2010
A bird to be seen in the full sun, the male Brewer’s Blackbird is a glossy, almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green. Females are a staid brown, without the male’s bright eye or the female Red-winged Blackbird’s streaks. Common in towns and open habitats of much of the West, you’ll see these long-legged, ground-foraging birds on sidewalks and city parks as well as chuckling in flocks atop shrubs, trees, and reeds.

Size & Shape
A small, fairly long-legged songbird with the well-proportioned look of many blackbirds: the fairly long tail is balanced by a full body, round head, and long, thick-based beak. In perching males, the tail appears widened and rounded toward the tip.
Color Pattern
Males are glossy black all over with a staring yellow eye and a blue sheen on the head grading to greenish iridescence on the body. Females are plainer brown, darkest on the wings and tail, with a dark eye. Immature birds look like washed out, lighter-brown versions of the females.
Brewer’s Blackbirds feed on open ground or underfoot in parks and busy streets. Their long legs give them a halting walk, head jerking with each step almost like a chicken’s. In flocks, Brewer’s Blackbirds rise and fall as they fly. At landing, birds may circle in a slow fluttering flight before settling.
Look for Brewer’s Blackbirds in open habitats of the West, such as coastal scrub, grasslands, riversides, meadows, as well as lawns, golf courses, parks, and city streets.

Cool Facts

  • Brewer’s Blackbirds are social birds that nest in colonies of up to 100 birds. The first females to arrive choose a nest site to suit them, and later arrivals follow suit. Eggs are extremely variable in color and pattern. Some studies suggest the variability helps the eggs match the background pattern of the nest, helping to camouflage them.
  • Most birds fly south for the winter, but a small number of Brewer’s Blackbirds fly west – leaving the frigid Canadian prairies for the milder coastal regions of British Columbia and Washington.
  • Brewer’s Blackbirds cope well with humans and the development we bring. In the last century, they spread eastward from western Minnesota, taking advantage of agricultural fields, farmhouses, and towns. Where they overlap with the Common Grackle, the grackles take the streets and suburbs, leaving the Brewer’s Blackbirds to the fields and grasslands.
  • Brewer’s Blackbirds are sometimes shot, trapped, or poisoned around agricultural fields in an attempt to protect crops. Although they do eat grains, this species’ appetite for insects makes it more of a farmer’s friend than a pest. Brewer’s Blackbirds are quick to notice new food sources and have been credited with helping to curb outbreaks of insect pests including weevils, cutworms, termites, grasshoppers, and tent caterpillars, among others.
  • The oldest known Brewer’s Blackbird was a male, and over 12 years, 6 months when it was found in California.



California Quail

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014
The California Quail is a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume. Its stiffly accented Chi-ca-go call is a common sound of the chaparral and other brushy areas of California and the Northwest. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quail are common but unobtrusive. They flush to cover if scared, so approach them gently.

Size & Shape
California Quail are plump, short-necked game birds with a small head and bill. They fly on short, very broad wings. The tail is fairly long and square. Both sexes have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers projecting forward from the forehead, longer in males than females.
Color Pattern
Adult males are rich gray and brown, with a black face outlined with bold white stripes. Females are a plainer brown and lack the facial markings. Both sexes have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales on the belly. Young birds look like females but have a shorter topknot.
California Quail spend most of their time on the ground, walking and scratching in search of food. In morning and evening they forage beneath shrubs or on open ground near cover. They usually travel in groups called coveys. Their flight is explosive but lasts just long enough to reach cover.
You’ll find California Quail in chaparral, sagebrush, oak woodlands, and foothill forests of California and the Northwest. They’re quite tolerant of people and can be common in city parks, suburban gardens, and agricultural areas.

Cool Facts
  • The California Quail digests vegetation with the help of protozoans in its intestine. Chicks acquire the protozoans by pecking at the feces of adults.
  • Several California Quail broods may mix after hatching, and all the parents care for the young. Adults that raise young this way tend to live longer than adults that do not.
  • Pairs of California Quail call antiphonally, meaning that the male and female alternate calls, fit them into a tightly orchestrated pattern.
  • The California Quail’s head plume, or topknot, looks like a single feather, but it is actually a cluster of six overlapping feathers.
  • As an adaptation to living in arid environments, California Quails can often get by without water, acquiring their moisture from insects and succulent vegetation. During periods of sustained heat they must find drinking water to survive.
  • The California Quail is California’s state bird and has had roles in several Walt Disney movies, including "Bambi."
  • California Quail nests can contain as many as 28 eggs. These large clutches may be the result of females laying eggs in nests other than their own, a behavior known as "egg-dumping."
  • California Quail are pretty as well as popular with game hunters. They’ve been introduced to many other parts of the world, including Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand.
  • The oldest known California Quail was 6 years 11 months old.


California Thrasher

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014
A long-tailed bird of the chaparral, the California Thrasher is found only in California and Baja California.

Adult Description
  • Large, long-tailed songbird.
  • Grayish brown all over.
  • Long, down-curved bill.
  • Reddish brown underside.

Immature Description
  • Similar to adult, but generally duller, with less distinct features and fewer contrasts than in adult.

Cool Facts
  • The California Thrasher is the largest of the thrashers.
  • The oldest recorded California Thrasher was at least 9 years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2013. It had been banded in the same state in 2005.
  • Habitat: Lowland and coastal chaparral, and riparian woodland thickets. Also parks and gardens.
  • Food: Insects and fruits.
  • Clutch Size: 1–6 eggs
  • Egg Description: Pale blue with dark spots and blotches; markings may form a ring around the large end or be uniformly distributed over the egg.
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless.
  • Nest Description: Robust platform of coarse twigs, lined with roots and fine stems. Well hidden in dense shrubs.
  • Nest Placement: Shrub
  • Behavior: Ground Forager. Feeds chiefly under cover on the ground by swinging its bill in sideways arcs, digging vigorously and noisily in leaf litter, and peering intently into its excavations.

Stacks Image 6670

California Towhee

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014
Your first encounter with a California Towhee may be prompted by a tireless knocking at your window or car mirror: these common backyard birds habitually challenge their reflections. But California Towhees are at heart birds of the tangled chaparral and other hot scrublands of California and Oregon. You’re as likely to hear their bright chip notes along a secluded trail as on your way out your front door. If you live in the Southwest, look for this bird’s twin, the Canyon Towhee.

Size & Shape
California Towhees are essentially large sparrows, with a sparrow’s short, rounded wings, long tail, and thick, seed-cracking beak – but towhees are larger and bulkier. The long tail and short wings can give this bird an ungainly look in flight.
Color Pattern
Few birds are as uniformly matte brown as a California Towhee. A patch under the tail (called the crissum, giving the bird its scientific name) is a noticeably warmer ruddy brown. Males look the same as females.
California Towhees hop or run on the ground but tend to stay close to the protection of low shrubs and trees. When not foraging they may perch on shrubs, rooftops, and backyard fences, to sit and chip for long periods. In flight they look out of practice, using lots of wingpower to travel short distances.
California Towhees live in chaparral and other tangled, shrubby, and dry habitats. They’re also at home in the small backyards and neighborhood parks of lowland California towns.

Cool Facts
  • Taxonomists used to consider the California Towhee and the almost identical Canyon Towhee the same species, the Brown Towhee. The Abert’s Towhee looks quite different from these two species, but evidence suggests it may actually be the California Towhee’s closest relative, rather than the Canyon Towhee.
  • Poison oak is one of the hazards of outdoor recreation in California. It lines trails and covers hillsides, seemingly lying in wait to inflict its itchy, weeping rash on the unwary. But it’s also an integral part of the landscape and part of the daily life of California Towhees. Many towhees build their nests in poison oak and feast on the plant’s copious crops of pale white berries.
  • The Inyo California Towhee is restricted to riparian habitat in the Argus Mountains of central California. It is threatened by the destruction of the habitat, largely the result of foraging by feral burros.
  • The oldest known California Towhee was male, and at least 12 years, 10 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 1986. He had been banded in the same state in 1973.


Canada Goose

Stacks Image 6700

Liftoff at New Melones in the Sierra Foothills 2011

Dorney, England May 2010 (London Olympics Rowing site)
A familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back. Has increased in urban and suburban areas in recent years; just a decade or two after people intentionally introduced or reintroduced “giant” Canada Geese to various areas, they are often considered pests.

Size & Shape
Canada Geese are big waterbirds with a long neck, large body, large webbed feet, and wide, flat bill.
Color Pattern
Canada Geese have a black head with white cheeks and chinstrap, black neck, tan breast, and brown back.
Canada Geese feed by dabbling in the water or grazing in fields and large lawns. They are often seen in flight moving in pairs or flocks; flocks often assume a V formation.
Just about anywhere near lakes, rivers, ponds, or other small or large bodies of water, and in yards, park lawns, and farm fields.

Cool Facts
  • At least 11 subspecies of Canada Goose have been recognized, although only a couple are distinctive. In general, the geese get smaller as you move northward, and darker as you go westward. The four smallest forms are now considered a different species: the Cackling Goose.
  • Some migratory populations of the Canada Goose are not going as far south in the winter as they used to. This northward range shift has been attributed to changes in farm practices that makes waste grain more available in fall and winter, as well as changes in hunting pressure and changes in weather.
  • Individual Canada Geese from most populations make annual northward migrations after breeding. Nonbreeding geese, or those that lost nests early in the breeding season, may move anywhere from several kilometers to more than 1500 km northward. There they take advantage of vegetation in an earlier state of growth to fuel their molt. Even members of "resident" populations, which do not migrate southward in winter, will move north in late summer to molt.
  • The “giant” Canada Goose, Branta canadensis maxima, bred from central Manitoba to Kentucky but was nearly driven extinct in the early 1900s. Programs to reestablish the subspecies to its original range were in many places so successful that the geese have become a nuisance in many urban and suburban areas.
  • In a pattern biologists call “assortative mating,” birds of both sexes tend to choose mates of a similar size.
  • The oldest known wild Canada Goose was 30 years 4 months old.


Cattle Egret

Anini Beach, Princeville, Kauai USA 2010
The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret spends most of its time in fields rather than streams. It forages at the feet of grazing cattle, head bobbing with each step, or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow plumes on its head and neck during breeding season. Originally from Africa, it found its way to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent. Elsewhere in the world, it forages alongside camels, ostriches, rhinos, and tortoises—as well as farmers’ tractors.

Size & Shape
Compared with other herons, Cattle Egrets are noticeably small and compact. They have relatively short legs and a short thick neck. The straight, daggerlike bill is shorter and thicker than other herons. They have medium-length, broad, rounded wings.
Color Pattern
Adult Cattle Egrets are all white with a yellow bill and legs. In breeding plumage they have golden plumes on their head, chest, and back. Juveniles have dark legs and bill.
Cattle Egrets stalk insects and other small animals on the ground in grassy fields. They are much less often seen in water than other herons. They nest in dense colonies of stick nests in trees or emergent wetlands, often mixed with other species of herons.
They forage in flocks in upland areas such as pastures and fields, generally focusing on drier habitats than other species of white herons.

Cool Facts
  • Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached northeastern South America in 1877. They continued to spread, arriving in the United States in 1941 and nesting there by 1953. In the next 50 years they became one of the most abundant of the North American herons, showing up as far north as Alaska and Newfoundland.
  • Cattle Egrets follow large animals or machines and eat invertebrates stirred up from the ground. They will fly toward smoke from long distances away, to catch insects fleeing a fire.
  • The Cattle Egret has a broad and flexible diet that occasionally includes other birds. In the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida, migrating Cattle Egrets have been seen hunting migrating warblers.
  • Cattle Egrets have many names around the world, usually referencing the grazing animals they team up with to forage. In various languages they are known as cow cranes, cow herons, cow birds, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets, and hippopotamus egrets.
  • The oldest Cattle Egret on record was at least 17 years old when it was captured and released in Pennsylvania in 1979. It had been banded in Maryland in 1962.


Clark's Nutcracker


Clark's Nutcracker First Image Emigrant 2003


Clark's Nutcracker Bristlecone Pine White Mountains 2007

Yellowstone Park , Montana USA March 2011
Named for William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark duo, this hi-altitude bird from the Jay family can be found always on top of it's favorite pine tree. Here they crack open the seeds and either feast on them or store them for feeding their young. Because of these plentiful caches, the young can hatch as early as January or February. They emit sharp, rapid and at times grating 'kraaks'.

  • Description
  • Large songbird
  • Gray all over
  • Black wings and tail, with white patches
  • Long, stout, pointed black bill
  • Size: 27-30 cm (11-12 in)
  • Weight: 106-161 g (3.74-5.68 ounces)

Cool Facts
  • The Clark's Nutcracker has a special pouch under its tongue that it uses to carry seeds long distances. The nutcracker harvests seeds from pine trees and takes them away to hide them for later use.
  • The Clark's Nutcracker hides thousands and thousands of seeds each year. Laboratory studies have shown that the bird has a tremendous memory and can remember where to find most of the seeds it hides.
  • The Clark's Nutcracker feeds its nestlings pine seeds from its many winter stores (caches). Because it feeds the young on stored seeds, the nutcracker can breed as early as January or February, despite the harsh winter weather in its mountain home.
  • The Clark's Nutcracker is one of very few members of the crow family where the male incubates the eggs. In jays and crows, taking care of the eggs is for the female only. But the male nutcracker actually develops a brood patch on its chest just like the female, and takes his turn keeping the eggs warm while the female goes off to get seeds out of her caches.


Cooper's Hawk

Half Moon Bay, California 2011
Cooper's Hawk
Accipiter cooperii
ORDER: Accipitriformes
FAMILY: Accipitridae

Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wingbeats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. Both species are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).

Size & Shape
A medium-sized hawk with the classic accipiter shape: broad, rounded wings and a very long tail. In Cooper’s Hawks, the head often appears large, the shoulders broad, and the tail rounded.

Larger than a Sharp-shinned Hawk and about crow-sized, but males can be much smaller.
Relative Size: crow sized

Length: 14.6-15.3 in (37-39 cm)
Weight: 7.8-14.5 oz (220-410 g)
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in (62-90 cm)
Length: 16.5-17.7 in (42-45 cm)
Weight: 11.6-24.0 oz (330-680 g)
Wingspan: 29.5-35.4 in (75-90 cm)

Color Pattern
Adults are steely blue-gray above with warm reddish bars on the underparts and thick dark bands on the tail. Juveniles are brown above and crisply streaked with brown on the upper breast, giving them a somewhat hooded look compared with young Sharp-shinned Hawks' more diffuse streaking.

Look for Cooper’s Hawks to fly with a flap-flap-glide pattern typical of accipiters. Even when crossing large open areas they rarely flap continuously. Another attack maneuver is to fly fast and low to the ground, then up and over an obstruction to surprise prey on the other side.

Cool Facts
  • Dashing through vegetation to catch birds is a dangerous lifestyle. In a study of more than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula, or wishbone.
  • A Cooper's Hawk captures a bird with its feet and kills it by repeated squeezing. Falcons tend to kill their prey by biting it, but Cooper’s Hawks hold their catch away from the body until it dies. They’ve even been known to drown their prey, holding a bird underwater until it stopped moving.
  • Once thought averse to towns and cities, Cooper’s Hawks are now fairly common urban and suburban birds. Some studies show their numbers are actually higher in towns than in their natural habitat, forests. Cities provide plenty of Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove prey. Though one study in Arizona found a downside to the high-dove diet: Cooper’s Hawk nestlings suffered from a parasitic disease they acquired from eating dove meat.
  • Life is tricky for male Cooper’s Hawks. As in most hawks, males are significantly smaller than their mates. The danger is that female Cooper’s Hawks specialize in eating medium-sized birds. Males tend to be submissive to females and to listen out for reassuring call notes the females make when they’re willing to be approached. Males build the nest, then provide nearly all the food to females and young over the next 90 days before the young fledge.
  • The oldest recorded Cooper's Hawk was a male and at least 20 years, 4 months old. He had been banded in California in 1986, and was found in Washington in 2006.

Crimson Rosella 2019

Crimson Rosella

Blue Mountains, Australia, 2019
Stacks Image 7385
Colorful rosella with blue cheek patches and highly variable plumage, occuring in crimson, yellow, and orange forms. Note diagnostic blue cheek regardless of form (the Green Rosella of Tasmania also has blue cheeks but the two species’ ranges do not normally overlap). Juvenile much greener than adult, attaining a blotched mixed plumage as they transition to adult. Found in a wide range of habitats in southeastern Australia. In many locations it is accustomed to humans and can be quite tame. Contact call is a familiar two-toned whistle.

30–37 cm; 99–170 g (nominate), 75–140 g (flaveolus), 107–160 g (adelaidae); wingspan 44–53 cm (1). Plumage predominantly red; bill whitish; dark red frontal band through eye, with broad grey-blue lower cheek; feathers of mantle , back and scapulars black edged red, giving scaled effect; lesser wing-coverts black , median and outer secondary coverts and outer secondaries pale grey-blue, flight-feathers blackish; tail above deep blue, lateral feathers tipped white, below pale grey-blue.

Coastal and adjacent mountain forests and clearings from sea-level to alpine woodlands at 1900 m (but is mainly found at 600–1500 m in N of range) (5), also penetrating outer suburbs of cities ; most numerous in wet forests and wet woodlands, where annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm.

Nomadic movements reported in winter at edges of range, but generally sedentary (of 1741 ringed, 146 recoveries, of which only six were away from ringing site) (1). However, some movements observed, with presence or changes in numbers in some areas appear seasonal, though movements may only be local.

Season Aug–Feb or later (Aug–Jan in race flaveolus, Sept–Dec in race adelaidae). Monogamous and territorial, with pair-bonds surviving several years and possibly life-long (1). Nest in hollow limb or trunk of tree (site selected and prepared by female), usually a live or dead eucalypt (also Acmena smithii), lined with dead wood chips (5) and up to 23 m above ground (sometimes < 1 m from it), with minimum spacing between nests of c. 30–40 m

Dusky Moorhen 2019

Dusky Moorhen

Sydney Botanic Gardens, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 7413
Dark waterhen with white edges to the under tail. Bill and forehead shield are primarily red with a yellow tip. Juvenile and non-breeding adult may be confused with other species due to their less colorful bills, which may appear primarily dark. Occurs in a wide variety of wetland habitats and is a common sight in urban parks. Typically fairly vocal, produces a wide array of shrieking sounds.

35–40 cm (New Guinea birds 25–32 cm); nominate 336–720 (525) g, neumanni 290–370 (333) g; wingspan 55–65 cm. Darker and more uniform in plumage than Eurasian G. c. chloropus, but differs from marginally sympatric G. c. orientalis only in absence of prominent white line along top of flanks, only infrequently showing narrow or broken line; orange to red legs and feet with dark soles and joints. Separated from other sympatric congeners by dark plumage , white outer rectrices and lateral undertail-coverts, and bare part colours. Sexes similar.

Inhabits permanent or ephemeral wetlands, usually freshwater but sometimes brackish or saline: swamps, creeks, rivers, lagoons and estuaries. Also occupies artificial wetlands such as reservoirs, farm dams, and ornamental ponds and lakes in parks and gardens. Requires open water, which usually has fringing cover such as reeds, rushes and grass, and often has floating , emergent or aquatic vegetation; however, waters choked with water hyacinth (Eichhornia) are avoided.

In Australia sedentary, nomadic or dispersive, possibly partly migratory. Apparently occurs seasonally in some areas, and also shows seasonal fluctuations in numbers, but atlas reporting rates do not suggest large-scale seasonal pattern of movement. Appears at intermittent inland waters and isolated wetlands, and immatures disperse either in autumn or after wintering in flocks.

Sulawesi, possibly Apr, downy young Mar; Seram, juvenile, May; New Guinea, small young May–Jun; Australia, Aug–Mar. Territorial when breeding. Simultaneously promiscuous, forming breeding groups of 2–7 apparently unrelated birds; individuals sometimes switch groups between seasons. Within group, all males copulate with all females. All group members defend territory, build nests , incubate , and care for young ; older siblings sometimes help to care for young. Nest usually built up to 180 cm above water (occasionally on ground) in grass tussocks, reeds (especially Typha, Phragmites), rushes, bushes or trees; also on water-lilies, floating in clear water, and in stumps or hollow logs; recorded building inside metal drum and wire netting.


Eurasian Coot

Lake Annecy, France 2014
Stacks Image 6791
The Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), also known as coot, is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae. It is found in Europe, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa. The Australian subspecies is known as the Australian coot

The coot breeds across much of the Old World on freshwater lakes and ponds. It occurs and breeds in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range into New Zealand. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but migrates further south and west from much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze

The Eurasian coot is 32–42 cm (13–17 in) long and weighs 585–1,100 g (1.290–2.425 lb), and is largely black except for the white frontal shield (which gave rise to the phrase "as bald as a coot", which the Oxford English Dictionary cites in use as early as 1430).[3] As a swimming species, the coot has partial webbing on its long strong toes.

The juvenile is paler than the adult, has a whitish breast, and lacks the facial shield; the adult black plumage develops when about 3–4 months old, but the white shield is only fully developed at about one year old.

This is a noisy bird with a wide repertoire of crackling, explosive, or trumpeting calls, often given at night.

The Eurasian coot is much less secretive than most of the rail family, and can be seen swimming on open water or walking across waterside grasslands. It is an aggressive species, and strongly territorial during the breeding season, and both parents are involved in territorial defence.[4] During the non-breeding season they may form large flocks, possibly related to predator avoidance.[5]

It is reluctant to fly and when taking off runs across the water surface with much splashing. They do the same, but without actually flying, when travelling a short distance at speed in territorial disputes. As with many rails, its weak flight does not inspire confidence, but on migration, usually at night, it can cover surprisingly large distances. It bobs its head as it swims, and makes short dives from a little jump.

The coot is an omnivore, and will take a variety of small live prey including the eggs of other water birds, as well as algae, vegetation, seeds and fruit.[7] It shows considerable variation in its feeding techniques, grazing on land or in the water. In the water it may upend in the fashion of a mallard or dive in search of food.

Great Blue heron 2019

Great Blue Heron

Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California 2019
Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.

Size & Shape
Largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, daggerlike bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance. In flight, the Great Blue Heron curls its neck into a tight “S” shape; its wings are broad and rounded and its legs trail well beyond the tail.
Color Pattern
Great Blue Herons appear blue-gray from a distance, with a wide black stripe over the eye. In flight, the upper side of the wing is two-toned: pale on the forewing and darker on the flight feathers. A pure white subspecies occurs in coastal southern Florida.
Hunting Great Blue Herons wade slowly or stand statue-like, stalking fish and other prey in shallow water or open fields. Watch for the lightning-fast thrust of the neck and head as they stab with their strong bills. Their very slow wingbeats, tucked-in neck and trailing legs create an unmistakable image in flight.
Look for Great Blue Herons in saltwater and freshwater habitats, from open coasts, marshes, sloughs, riverbanks, and lakes to backyard goldfish ponds. They also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields. Breeding birds gather in colonies or “heronries” to build stick nests high off the ground.

Cool Facts
  • Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, Great Blue Herons can quickly strike prey at a distance.
  • Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying the powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps.
  • Great Blue Herons can hunt day and night thanks to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors in their eyes that improve their night vision.
  • Despite their impressive size, Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.
  • Great Blue Herons in the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada have benefited from the recovery of beaver populations, which have created a patchwork of swamps and meadows well-suited to foraging and nesting.
  • Along the Pacific coast, it’s not unusual to see a Great Blue Heron poised atop a floating bed of kelp waiting for a meal to swim by.
  • The white form of the Great Blue Heron, known as the "great white heron," is found nearly exclusively in shallow marine waters along the coast of very southern Florida, the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the Caribbean. Where the dark and white forms overlap in Florida, intermediate birds known as "Wurdemann's herons" can be found. They have the body of a Great Blue Heron, but the white head and neck of the great white heron.
  • Great Blue Herons congregate at fish hatcheries, creating potential problems for the fish farmers. A study found that herons ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons.
  • The oldest recorded Great Blue Heron was found in Texas when it was at least 24 years, 6 months old.


Great Egret

Half Moon Bay, California 2011
The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

Size & Shape
Great Egrets are tall, long-legged wading birds with long, S-curved necks and long, dagger-like bills. In flight, the long neck is tucked in and the legs extend far beyond the tip of the short tail.
Color Pattern
All feathers on Great Egrets are white. Their bills are yellowish-orange, and the legs black.

Cool Facts
  • The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.
  • Not all young that hatch survive the nestling period. Aggression among nestlings is common and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings. This behavior, known as siblicide, is not uncommon among birds such as hawks, owls, and herons, and is often a result of poor breeding conditions in a given year.
  • The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.
  • In mixed-species colonies, Great Egrets are often the first species to arrive, and their presence may induce nesting among other species.
  • Great Egrets fly slowly but powerfully: with just two wingbeats per second their cruising speed is around 25 miles an hour.
  • Though it mainly hunts while wading, the Great Egret occasionally swims to capture prey or hovers (somewhat laboriously) over the water and dips for fish.
  • The oldest known Great Egret was 22 years, 10 months old and was banded in Ohio.


Great Horned Owl

Yellowstone National Park, Mammoth Hot Springs 2007
We caught up with this trio on the last in-park day of the trip. The adult was just snoozing away when all of sudden the branches quivered and these two balls of feathers just ambled out into view. The adult never woke! Interestingly, these Owls are found in just about any habitat throughout North America. But they do seem to prefer forested areas. Found from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest, from the desert to suburban backyards, the Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America.

Size & Shape
These are large, thick-bodied owls with two prominent feathered tufts on the head. The wings are broad and rounded. In flight, the rounded head and short bill combine to create a blunt-headed silhouette.
Color Pattern
Great Horned Owls are mottled gray-brown, with reddish brown faces and a neat white patch on the throat. Their overall color tone varies regionally from sooty to pale.
Great Horned Owls are nocturnal. You may see them at dusk sitting on fence posts or tree limbs at the edges of open areas, or flying across roads or fields with stiff, deep beats of their rounded wings. Their call is a deep, stuttering series of four to five hoots.
Look for this widespread owl in woods, particularly young woods interspersed with fields or other open areas. The broad range of habitats they use includes deciduous and evergreen forests, swamps, desert, tundra edges, and tropical rainforest, as well as cities, orchards, suburbs, and parks.

Cool Facts
  • Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take large prey, including raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and other owls. They also eat much smaller items such as rodents, frogs, and scorpions.
  • When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.
  • If you hear an agitated group of cawing American Crows, they may be mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Crows may gather from near and far and harass the owl for hours. The crows have good reason, because the Great Horned Owl is their most dangerous predator.
  • Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.
  • Great Horned Owls are covered in extremely soft feathers that insulate them against the cold winter weather and help them fly very quietly in pursuit of prey. Their short, wide wings allow them to maneuver among the trees of the forest.
  • Great Horned Owls have large eyes, pupils that open widely in the dark, and retinas containing many rod cells for excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction. They also have sensitive hearing, thanks in part to facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to their ears.
  • The oldest Great Horned Owl on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005.
Gray Butcherbird 2019

Grey Buthcherbird

Sydney Botanic Park, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 6855
Medium-sized ambush-hunter with a long gray bill with a dark, hooked tip. Black head and face with a white nape and throat. Upperparts dark gray, with white rump, mostly black wings (limited white), and black tail with narrow white tip. Rollicking, chuckling song.

27–30 cm; 68–99 g, 112 g (male cinereus). Medium-sized butcherbird having strong bill with sharp terminal hook. Male nominate race has top and sides of head black, sharply separated from bright white chin and throat, broad white half-collar on each side from throat towards middle of hindneck (the two sides not meeting), conspicuous white spot on lores; upperparts dark grey with some streaking and mottling, narrow white band across rump (prominent in flight); uppertail black with narrow white tip (usually abraded); upperwing mostly black, narrow white stripe through innermost secondaries, white patch in secondary-coverts (visible in flight); underparts off-white, grey shading over breast, flanks and belly; underwing whitish, merging into brown on flight-feathers, undertail black or silver-grey with broader white tip; iris dark brown; bill pale blue-grey at base, sharp transition to black distal third to half; legs dark grey.

Range of open habitats, mainly eucalypt (Eucalyptus) open forests and woodlands, including mallee woodlands and Acacia shrublands and woodlands, preferring open ground layer of grass or scattered shrubs; also on farms, in rural towns and in parts of larger cities with well-grown trees in parks and gardens.

Sedentary. Many anecdotal reports of seasonal movements probably refer to post-breeding dispersal of immatures, but no detailed studies.

Laying generally from early Aug to Jan (mostly Sept–Oct), but breeding recorded in all months, probably in response to rain in arid and semi-arid areas. Nests usually in simple pairs, sometimes with a helper, usually immature from previous year. Territorial; present in territory all year. Nest built by both sexes (reportedly lined only by female), a shallow, open untidy bowl c. 20 cm in diameter, external depth c. 10 cm, constructed mostly with thin twigs, neat internal cup c. 5 cm deep and lined with grass, rootlets, hair and other fine pliable materials, usually placed 2–12 m (mostly c. 5–6 m) above ground in horizontal or vertical fork in tree, usually living, most in eucalypt, some in Acacia, Banksia, cypress-pine (Callitris) or other native or introduced tree, often sapling used.

Gray Jay 2008

Gray Jay

Johnston Canyon, Bannf, Canada 2008
The deceptively cute Gray Jay is one of the most intrepid birds in North America, living in northern forests year-round and rearing chicks in the dark of winter. Highly curious and always on the lookout for food, Gray Jays eat just about anything, from berries to small animals. They may even land on your hand to grab a raisin or peanut. During summer they hoard food in trees to sustain themselves through bleak winters.

Size & Shape
Gray Jays are stocky, fairly large songbirds with short, stout bills. They have round heads and long tails, with broad, rounded wings.
Color Pattern
Gray Jays are dark gray above and light gray below, with black on the back of the head forming a partial hood. Juveniles are grayish black overall, and usually show a pale gape at the base of the bill.
Gray Jays are typically in small groups. They fly in quiet swoops, generally holding their wings below the horizontal. While they have a large variety of vocalizations including hoots and chatters, they are less noisy overall than other jays. Gray Jays have very broad diets, eating anything from berries to carrion to handouts from hikers.
Gray Jays live in evergreen (especially spruce) and mixed evergreen-deciduous forest across the boreal forest of the northern United States and Canada, as well as in high mountain ranges of the West.

Cool Facts
  • The Gray Jay stores large quantities of food for later use. It uses sticky saliva to glue small food items to tree branches above the height of the eventual snow line. It may be this food storage behavior that allows the jay to live so far north throughout the winter.
  • The Gray Jay nests during late winter, incubating its eggs in temperatures that may drop below minus 20°F. Oddly, it does not attempt a second brood in the May–June breeding period used by other birds in boreal habitats, even though those warmer conditions would appear to be more favorable.
  • Paleontologists have recovered the fragmented fossils of two Gray Jays from the late Pleistocene (about 18,000 years ago), along with other boreal birds and mammals, at a cave in central Tennessee, indicating a much colder climate at that time than now.
  • The Gray Jay ranges across northern North America, and its close relative the Siberian Jay spans a similar swath of northern Eurasia. Together, they complete a ring around the Northern Hemisphere. The two species share the habit of using sticky saliva to attach food to crevices in trees.
  • A 2.5-ounce Gray Jay has to eat 47 calories (technically, kilocalories) per day, compared to a human’s daily diet of 2,000 kilocalories. Gray Jays take advantage of whatever food they can find. A Gray Jay was seen landing on the back of a live moose to eat blood-filled winter ticks. Another was observed tearing a baby bat away from its mother. Gray Jays may even attack injured larger animals.
  • The Gray Jay has incredibly thick, fluffy plumage that it puffs up in cold weather, enveloping its legs and feet. Even its nostrils are covered with feathers.
  • The oldest Gray Jay on record was at least 17 years, 2 months old. Banded in 1985, it was recaptured and re-released by a bird bander in Colorado in 2002.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Kona, Hawaii USA 2012
The guinea fowl is a large wild bird that is natively found inhabiting a variety of habitats across the African continent. Today, the guinea fowl has been introduced to various countries around the world as it is farmed by humans.

The guinea fowl is a ground-nesting bird and spends much of its time scratching around on the ground in search for something to eat. The guinea fowl often has long, dark coloured feathers and a bald neck and head which makes the guinea fowl a very distinctive bird.

The guinea fowl is a fairly resilient and highly adaptable bird and the guinea fowl is therefore found naturally in range of habitats. Wild guinea fowl can be found inhabiting jungles, forests, shrublands, grasslands and even areas of desert, depending on the abundance of food.

In their native Africa, guinea fowl have been used as domestic animals for hundreds of years as the large size of the guinea fowl means that just one bird can provide a great deal of food. Today, guinea fowl are farmed around the world for their meat, eggs and feathers.

The guinea fowl is an omnivorous bird and therefore has a diet that consists of both plants and other animals. Guinea fowl primarily feed on worms and insects on the ground, along with seeds, berries and small mammals and reptiles.

The guinea fowl has numerous predators wherever it happens to be. Mammals including wildcats, dogs, wolves and humans and large reptiles such as snakes and crocodiles. are the most common predators of the guinea fowl.

The female guinea fowl builds a nest out of twigs and leaves on the ground, often somewhere where it is more sheltered. The female guinea fowl lays between 8 and 15 small eggs which hatch after an incubation period of around a month. The guinea fowl chicks, known as keets, remain with their mother until they are big enough to fend for themselves.


Hairy Woodpecker

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming USA 2011
The larger of two look alikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. It wields a much longer bill than the Downy Woodpecker's almost thornlike bill. Hairy Woodpeckers have a somewhat soldierly look, with their erect, straight-backed posture on tree trunks and their cleanly striped heads. Look for them at backyard suet or sunflower feeders, and listen for them whinnying from woodlots, parks, and forests.

Size & Shape
A medium-sized woodpecker with a fairly square head, a long, straight, chisel-like bill, and stiff, long tail feathers to lean against on tree trunks. The bill is nearly the same length as the head.
Color Pattern
Hairy Woodpeckers are contrastingly black and white. The black wings are checkered with white; the head has two white stripes (and, in males, a flash of red toward the back of the head). A large white patch runs down the center of the black back.
Hairy Woodpeckers hitch up tree trunks and along main branches. They sometimes feed at the bases of trees, along fallen logs, and even on the ground at times. They have the slowly undulating flight pattern of most woodpeckers.
Hairy Woodpeckers are birds of mature forests across the continent. They’re also found in woodlots, suburbs, parks, and cemeteries, as well as forest edges, open woodlands of oak and pine, recently burned forests, and stands infested by bark beetles.

Cool facts
  • Across North America the Hairy Woodpecker can be found from sea level to high in the mountains. In Central America, it is restricted to higher mountain forests.
  • Hairy and Downy woodpeckers occur together throughout most of their ranges. The Downy Woodpecker uses smaller branches while the Hairy Woodpecker tends to spend more time on trunks.
  • Hairy Woodpeckers sometimes follow Pileated Woodpeckers, and sometimes appears when it hears the heavy sounds of a pileated excavating. As the pileated moves on, the Hairy Woodpecker investigates the deep holes, taking insects the pileated missed.
  • Hairy Woodpeckers sometimes drink sap leaking from wells in the bark made by sapsuckers. They’ve also been seen pecking into sugar cane to drink the sugary juice.
  • The oldest recorded Hairy Woodpecker was a male, and at least 15 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in New York in 2010.
Stacks Image 6896

Harris Hawk

Half Moon Bay, California 2011
A handsome hawk of the arid Southwest, Harris’s Hawk is a standout with bold markings of dark brown, chestnut red, and white, long yellow legs, and yellow markings on its face. The most social of North American raptors, these birds are often found in groups, cooperatively attending nests and hunting together as a team. When hunting, a group of hawks surround their prey, flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it. This hawk’s social nature and relative ease with humans has made it popular among falconers and in education programs.

Adult Description
Medium-sized to large hawk. Dark overall. White rump and undertail. White tip to dark tail. Chestnut-red thighs and shoulders. Legs and bare face skin yellow.
Immature Description
Juvenile similar to adults, except underparts streaked with cream or buffy coloration; amount of light color variable. Rufous patches reduced and dullish. Underwing has whitish primaries, conspicuous in flight. Tail crossed with many fine dusky bars; base and tip white.

Cool Facts
  • The Harris's Hawk nests in social units that vary from an adult pair, to as many as seven individuals, including both adults and immatures.
  • Cooperatively hunting groups of Harris's Hawks are more successful at capturing prey than individuals hunting alone. Hawks with more than two members in their group have higher survival rates.
  • Although most North American Harris's Hawks nest in spring (March through June), some females lay a second and even a third clutch regardless of whether their first breeding attempt fails or succeeds. Eggs or young have been recorded in every month of the year. Multiple clutches often occur when plentiful food is available.
  • Older nestlings and subadults sometimes seem to play by chasing insects, or jumping on sticks in an imitation of prey capture.
  • Electrocution from unshielded power poles is a danger to Harris’s Hawks—they can be killed or lose limbs—but other members of the group sometimes come to the aid of injured individuals, providing them with food.
  • The oldest known wild Harris’s Hawk in the wild was at least 15 years old when it was retrapped and released during banding operations in New Mexico. A captive female lived to be 25 years old.

Hawaiian Nene

National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai, Hanalei 2010
Stacks Image 6919
The Hawaiian Goose or Nene, Branta sandvicensis, is a species of goose endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. It shares a recent common ancestor with Branta canadensis, the Canada Goose. The official bird of the State of Hawaii, the Nene is exclusively found in the wild of the islands of Maui, Kaua'i and Hawai'i. A larger, extinct and possibly flightless species, the Nene-nui (Branta hylobadistes), was present in prehistoric times on Maui related, but hitherto undescribed forms also occurred on Kaua'i and O'ahu there was also a gigantic, flightless relative on the island of Hawai'i. The Nene gets its Hawaiian name from its soft call. It also has soft feathers under its chin, and at Martin Mere, they are very friendly and will eat grain out of one's hand.

The adult male has a black head and hindneck, buff cheeks and heavily furrowed neck. The neck has black and white diagonal stripes. The female Hawaiian Goose is similar to the male in colouring but slightly smaller. The adult's bill, legs and feet are black. The young birds are similar to the male, but are a duller brown and with less demarcation between the colours of the head and neck, and striping and barring effects are much reduced. The bill, legs and feet are the same as for the adult.

Its strong toes have much-reduced webbing, an adaptation to the lava flows on which it breeds. It mates on land unlike most other wildfowl.

This is the world's rarest goose. The bird was once believed to be common, with approximately 25,000 nenes living in Hawai'i when Captain James Cook arrived in 1778. However, hunting and introduced predators such as mongooses, pigs, and cats reduced the population to 30 birds by 1952. However, this species breeds well in captivity, and has been successfully re-introduced in 2004 it was estimated that there were 800 birds in the wild, as well as 1000 in wildfowl Collection and zoos. However, there is some concern of inbreeding due to the small initial population of birds. The nature reserve WWT Slimbridge in England was instrumental in the successful breeding of Nene geese in captivity. Under the direction of the leading conservationist Sir Peter Scott, it was bred back from the brink of extinction during the 1950s for later re-introduction into the wild in Hawaii. There are still nenegeese at Slimbridgetoday.


Hawaiian Coot

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai 2016
The Hawaiian coot (Fulica alai), also known as the ʻalae kea in Hawaiian, is a bird in the rail family, Rallidae, that is endemic to Hawaiʻi.[2] It is similar to the American coot at 33–40.6 cm (13.0–16.0 in) in length and weighing around 700 g (1.5 lb). It has black plumage and a prominent white frontal shield. Its natural habitats are freshwater lakes, freshwater marshes, coastal saline lagoons, and water storage areas. The bird was federally listed in October 1970 as an endangered species [3] and is considered both endemic and endangered by the state of Hawaii. It is threatened by habitat loss and introduced predators such as the small Asian mongoose.[1] The Makalawena Marsh on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi has been listed as a National Natural Landmark to preserve one of its last nesting areas.

Cool Facts
  • In Hawaiian culture, it was thought to be a deity but was also considered good to eat.
  • This bird builds floating nests in just about any standing water including irrigation ditches, sewage treatment ponds, and wet taro fields.
  • A group of coots has many collective nouns, including a "codgery", "commotion", "fleet", "shoal", and "swarm" of coots.
  • The Hawaiian Coot is known as "Alae keokeo" in the Hawaiian language.


Kalij Pheasant


Kalij Pheasant Male 2012


Kalij Pheasant Female 2012

Volcano National Park, Hawaii, USA 2012
The Kalij Pheasant is one of 12 game birds that were introduced into Hawai'i. Brought to the islands in 1962, this bird's population is rapidly increasing.

The male and female Kalij differ considerably in looks. The male is quite striking and is mainly bluish black with white speckling on its lower back. The male has bright red around the eyes. The females, on the other hand, are fairly plain. They are a medium brown color with darker and lighter spots.

The Kalij are almost always in clusters of male and female, or several males to females. The birds are monogamous and share the brood together. A HVNP Park Survey in 2002 found that 85% of the young Kalij being born were male. Many of the male stay with the family and help the parents raise the next generation. They are quick runners, but will fly if frightened. They are usually found on the ground during the day and in the trees at night.

One of the best places to see the Kalij Pheasant is up in the Volcano area, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and the HVNP Bird Park area. The can be spotted around the roads just before sunrise and sunset.


Kalij Pheasant Range

Laysan Albatross

Princeville, Kauai 2016
One of the most marvelous sights in the Pacific ocean is the graceful glide of a Laysan Albatross at play among the winds and waves. These expert soarers can travel hundreds of miles per day with barely a wingbeat. They nest on islands of the tropical Pacific, but they may head out to Japan, the Aleutian Islands, or California to feed. Laysan Albatrosses are numerous, though they face threats from longline fishing, plastic trash in the ocean, and predation by dogs, rats, and cats.

Size & Shape Laysan Albatrosses are very large seabirds (though they are among the smaller albatrosses). They have very long, very narrow wings. The neck is thick and the head is large.
Color Pattern Laysan Albatrosses are white-headed birds with dark gray-brown upperwings and mostly white underwings (with variable dark markings). The underparts are clean white. They have a dark patch around the eye. In flight, note the dark back, white rump, and dark tail.
Behavior They fly by dynamic soaring: gliding low over the waves and then wheeling up into the sky to take advantage of the wind. They rarely flap their wings. They feed by sitting on the water, often at night, catching squid and other small prey with their bills.
Habitat Laysan Albatrosses spend most of their time on the open Pacific Ocean, spanning tropical waters up to the southern Bering Sea. They nest on open, sandy or grassy islands, mostly in the Hawaiian Island chain.

Cool Facts
  • Laysan Albatrosses are masterful soarers, able to fly great distances and through the fiercest storms while barely even flapping their wings. To a large extent, the faster the wind blows the more maneuverable they area
  • One Laysan Albatross found its way back to Midway Island from the Philippines—a journey of 4,120 miles. Another made its way back to Midway from Washington state traveling at an average of almost 350 miles per day.
  • Ever heard of a “tubenose” before? That’s the term birders and biologists use to describe albatrosses and their relatives (petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, and storm-petrels). These birds have a pair of bony tubes above or inside the bill that excrete salt—allowing these ocean-going birds to drink seawater without becoming dehydrated.
  • Albatrosses’ amazing size and graceful flight led sailors to regard them as good luck. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a crewmember foolishly shoots an albatross, setting off a string of terrible misfortunes.
  • When the wind is calm, albatrosses have trouble taking off. They typically need to face into the wind and run along the ground or water’s surface, wings spread, to take off; or to launch themselves from a high point.
  • The Laysan Albatross gets its name from its Laysan breeding colony in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where it is the second most common seabird.
  • Laysan Albatrosses live very long lives. They usually don’t start breeding successfully until they are 8 or 9. The oldest known individual was 65 years old, when she was identified in 2016 by the band on her leg while she was at her nest.



Male Mallard @ Yellowstone 2011


Female Mallard @ Yellowstone 2011

Heever Castle, England, UK 2010
Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Park 2011
If someone at a park is feeding bread to ducks, chances are there are Mallards in the fray. Perhaps the most familiar of all ducks, Mallards occur throughout North America and Eurasia in ponds and parks as well as wilder wetlands and estuaries. The male’s gleaming green head, gray flanks, and black tail-curl arguably make it the most easily identified duck. Mallards have long been hunted for the table, and almost all domestic ducks come from this species.

Size & Shape
Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear.
Color Pattern
Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.
Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.
Mallards can live in almost any wetland habitat, natural or artificial. Look for them on lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, and coastal habitats, as well as city and suburban parks and residential backyards

Cool Facts
  • The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck). Domestic ducks can be common in city ponds and can be confusing to identify—they may lack the white neck ring, show white on the chest, be all dark, or show oddly shaped crests on the head.
  • The widespread Mallard has given rise to a number of populations around the world that have changed enough that they could be considered separate species. The "Mexican Duck" of central Mexico and the extreme southwestern United States and the Hawaiian Duck both are closely related to the Mallard, and in both forms the male is dull like the female. The Mexican Duck currently is considered a subspecies of the Mallard, while the Hawaiian Duck is still given full species status.
  • Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. So-called “extra-pair copulations” are common among birds and in many species are consensual, but male Mallards often force these copulations, with several males chasing a single female and then mating with her.
  • Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.
  • Ducks are strong fliers; migrating flocks of Mallards have been estimated traveling at 55 miles per hour.
  • The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.
  • Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks. They are secretive during this vulnerable time, and their body feathers molt into a concealing “eclipse” plumage that can make them hard to identify.
  • Many species of waterfowl form hybrids, and Mallards are particularly known for this, hybridizing with American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Canvasback, as well as Hawaiian Ducks, the Grey Duck of New Zealand, and the Pacific Black Duck of Australia.
  • The oldest known Mallard lived to be at least 27 years 7 months old.
Masked Lapwing 2019

Masked Lapwing (Black Shouldered)

Sydney Botanic Park, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 7449
Noisy lapwing with a large yellow wattle across forehead and hanging over the bill. Two subspecies: southern “Black-shouldered” subspecies has a black shoulder band (not meeting in middle as on Banded Lapwing) and a larger black cap. Northern subspecies lacks black shoulder band and has a larger yellow wattle. Only “Black-shouldered” subspecies occurs in New Zealand. Abundant in most open country, being a common feature of urban parks, sporting fields, paddocks, riverbeds, wetlands, and coastal habitats.

30–37 cm; 296–412 g; wingspan 75–85 cm. Large lapwing. Crown and nape black continuing over central hindneck to join narrow black collar extending around lower hindneck and onto sides of breast; rest of feathered parts of head and neck white. Mantle , back , scapulars, tertials, inner wing-coverts and alula pale grey-brown, with silver-grey wingbar on greater wing-coverts; outerwing and secondaries black. Rump , longest uppertail-coverts and base of tail white, rest of tail mostly black with thin white tip. Underparts mostly white. Bill yellow, paler at tip (sometimes greenish); wattles bright yellow, covering only forehead and reaching only to eye; iris yellow with bright yellow orbital ring; legs and feet dull red, grey on front of tarsi in some; and wing-spur long and sharp, yellow, with blackish tip. Sexes alike (though male averages larger) and no seasonal variation.

Wide range of natural and modified open habitats, usually near water, including short-grass areas especially around shallow, fresh or saline terrestrial wetlands, permanent or temporary swamps, marshes, billabongs, lakes, reservoirs, farm dams, saltmarshes, billabongs, lagoons, waterlogged fields and occasionally riverbeds, or even open woodland at high altitudes. Also sheltered coastal areas. Recorded to at least 1800 m.

Migration Overview
Resident and dispersive, responding to new food sources in recently constructed and temporary wetlands, leaving as soon as they dry out. An altitudinal migrant in some regions, e.g. Snow Mts of SE New South Wales, where visits alpine and subalpine regions (above 1500 m) only in summer.

Diet and Foraging
Diet includes molluscs, worms , millepedes, centipedes, insects, crustaceans, and occasionally seeds, leaves and frogs. Walk or run, then lunge and stab at prey; also employs foot-trembling; foraging rate higher in adults than young, with juveniles reliant on earthworms brought to surface by rainfall. Usually forages in short grass , sometimes in gravel and mud. Possibly also feeds at night.

Common Merganser

Yosemite National park, California 2014
Common Mergansers are streamlined ducks that float gracefully down small rivers or shallow shorelines. The males are striking with clean white bodies, dark green heads, and a slender, serrated red bill. The elegant gray-bodied females have rich, cinnamon heads with a short crest. In summer, look for them leading ducklings from eddy to eddy along streams or standing on a flat rock in the middle of the current. These large ducks nest in hollow trees; in winter they form flocks on larger bodies of water.Size & Shape: These are large, long-bodied ducks with thin, pointed wings. Their bills are straight and narrow, unlike the wide, flat bill of a “typical” duck. Females have shaggy crests on the backs of their heads.

Size & Shape
These are large, long-bodied ducks with thin, pointed wings. Their bills are straight and narrow, unlike the wide, flat bill of a “typical” duck. Females have shaggy crests on the backs of their heads.
Color Pattern
Adult males are crisply patterned with gleaming white bodies and dark, iridescent-green heads. The back is black and the bill red. Females and immatures are gray-bodied with a white chest and rusty-cinnamon heads. In flight, both sexes show large white patches on the upperwings (larger in adult males).
Common Mergansers dive underwater to catch fish. After the chicks leave the nest in summer, the female stays with them as they grow up while males gather in flocks. In winter, mergansers form large flocks on inland reservoirs and rivers. They stay in these tight flocks to feed and court during the cold months. In migration and winter, they mix with other fish-eating, diving ducks such as Bufflehead, goldeneyes, and other species of mergansers.
These ducks live mainly on freshwater rivers and lakes. They are rare in the ocean, but they sometimes use saltwater estuaries in winter. They nest in tree cavities in northern forests near rivers and lakes.

Cool Facts
  • Young Common Mergansers leave their nest hole within a day or so of hatching. The flightless chicks leap from the nest entrance and tumble to the forest floor. The mother protects the chicks, but they catch all of their own food. They start by diving for aquatic insects and switch over to fish at about 12 days old.
  • Common Mergansers are sometimes called sawbills, fish ducks, or goosanders. The word “merganser” comes from the Latin and roughly translates to “plunging goose”—a good name for this very large and often submerged duck.
  • Common Mergansers usually nest in natural tree cavities or holes carved out by large woodpeckers. Sometimes mergansers take up residence in nest boxes, provided the entrance hole is large enough. On occasion they use rock crevices, holes in the ground, hollow logs, old buildings, and chimneys.
  • You may see gulls trailing flocks of foraging Common Mergansers. They wait for the ducks to come to the surface and then try to steal their prey rather than fishing on their own. Occasionally even a Bald Eagle will try to steal a fish from a merganser.
  • The oldest Common Merganser on record was a female, and at least 13 years, 5 months old. She was banded in Oklahoma in 1938 and found in Wisconsin in 1950

Mute Swan & Cygnet

Dorney, England May 2010 (London Olympics Rowing site)
A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.

Size & Shape
Mute Swans are very large waterfowl. They have heavy bodies, short legs, and a long, slender neck habitually held in a graceful S. The large, flat bill has a bulging knob at the base.
Color Pattern
Mute Swans are entirely white with a bill that is orange with a black base. Young swans (cygnets) may be dusky brown-gray all over, with a gray-black bill.
Mute Swans spend most of their time floating on the water. They feed by grazing on underwater vegetation in shallow water, tipping up their bodies if necessary. These aggressive birds often hold their wings half-raised in a display as they swim toward an intruder.
Look for Mute Swans in city-park ponds, as well as rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

Cool Facts
  • All of the Mute Swans in North America descended from swans imported from Europe from the mid 1800s through early 1900s to adorn large estates, city parks, and zoos. Escapees established breeding populations and are now established in the Northeast, Midatlantic, Great Lakes, and Pacific Northwest of the U.S.
  • Mute Swans form long-lasting pair bonds. Their reputation for monogamy along with their elegant white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures.
  • The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male.
  • The black knob at the base of the male Mute Swan's bill swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the female's. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious.
  • Downy young Mute Swans (called cygnets) come in two color morphs: a gray form and a white form. The gray (or "Royal") chicks start off with gray down and grow in gray-brown and white feathers, giving them a mottled look. White (or "Polish") chicks have all white down and juvenal feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs and feet instead of black, but otherwise the adults look alike.
  • Mute Swans have enormous appetites. A Maryland study found they ate up to 8 pounds a day of submerged aquatic vegetation, removing food and habitat for other species faster than the grasses could recover.
  • Give plenty of space to nesting Mute Swans. They can be extremely aggressive and frequently attack canoeists, kayakers, and pedestrians who wander too close to a nest or chicks.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s fairly tale The Ugly Duckling chronicles the woes and triumphs of a young, Mute Swan that hatches in a clutch of duck eggs but goes on to become a beautiful swan. Some speculate that the book was based on Andersen’s own less-than-handsome looks as a youngster.
  • Mute Swans can adapt to degraded habitat and actually benefit from the spread of the invasive common reed Phragmites australis, which flourishes in disturbed sites. As the reeds spread into lakes and ponds, the swans can build nests farther offshore in the reed beds, where they’re safer from egg predators.
  • Based on banding records, the oldest known Mute Swan in North America was a male and at least 26 years, 9 months old when he was found in Rhode Island, the same state where he had been banded.
Myna Bird 2017

Myna Bird

Myna Common, Princeville Kauai 2017
Myna Bird Range Map
Common myna is a species of bird that belongs to the starling family. It originates from Central, South and Southeast Asia. Common myna was deliberately introduced to New Zealand and Australia to eradicate several species of pest insects in the 19th century. Unfortunately, this bird soon adapted to the new environment and became one of the most notorious pest in Australia. Common myna inhabits shrubby woodlands, open fields, floodplains and grasslands in the wild. It is very common in urban areas where it inhabits parks, gardens and areas filled with garbage. Common myna is widespread and numerous in the wild (nothing currently threatens its survival).

Interesting Common myna Facts:
  • Common myna can reach 9.1 inches in length and 3.8 to 4.9 ounces of weight.
  • Common myna has dark brown body, white-tipped tail and white patch on the bottom side of the wings (visible during the flight). Head, throat and upper part of the breasts are covered with black feathers. Eyes are encircled with bare yellow skin.
  • Common myna has stocky body, straight, stout bill, large feet and short tail.
  • Common myna uses its strong legs to walk (rather than to hop) on the ground.
  • Common myna is an omnivore (it eats plants and meat). Its diet is based on the snails, eggs, immature birds, frogs, insects, fruit and seed.
  • Common myna often follows the ploughs due to insects that can be collected from the furrowed soil. It occasionally eliminates ticks from the back of cattle.
  • Common myna often feeds in the groups and produces great damage in the orchards. It pierces the skin of various types of soft fruit and decreases their market value.
  • Common myna roosts in large flocks that occasionally consist of few thousand birds.
  • Common myna produces various songs that consist of whistling, squeaking and gurgling sounds. Captive birds are able to mimic humans' speech.
  • Mating season of common mynas takes place from April to July in India. Common mynas are monogamous birds (they mate for a lifetime).
  • Common mynas are very aggressive during the breeding season. Pairs of birds often violently fight with each other. Winners get opportunity to build nest on the preferred site.
  • Common mynas build nest in the cavities of trees, buildings or cliffs. Both parents collect twigs, leaves and grasses for the construction of cup-shaped nest.
  • Female lays 4 to 5 eggs that hatch after 13 to 18 days. Male provides food for the female during the incubation.
  • Both parents collect food for their offspring. Young birds are ready to leave the nest 22 to 27 days after hatching. They begin independent life three weeks later. Common myna reaches sexual maturity at the age of one year.
  • Common myna can survive around 4 years (rarely up to 12 years) in the wild.



Yellowstone National Park, Tower Point 2007
These are majestic and swift birds as they soar overhead in search of food for their young. I had to drop down to my 28-300 zoom to follow this one in-flight and got lucky. They are facing a decline in numbers around the park and significantly around Yellowstone Lake. This is a case of the domino effect that we are seeing all too often. Native cutthroat trout are being squeezed out by non-native lake trout, which impacts up the chain to the Osprey. Imagine the early 70s and seeing over 70,000 cutthroats and going back today and counting only 471!!! And to make matters worse, a fire in 2003 on Frank Island, in the middle of the lake, burnt 570 of 600 acres and took with it the old-growth trees that were an excellent habitat for breeding. In 2007, just nine pairs were breeding on the island and produced three young.

Size & Shape
Ospreys are very large, distinctively shaped hawks. Despite their size, their bodies are slender, with long, narrow wings and long legs. Ospreys fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below.
Color Pattern
Ospreys are brown above and white below, and overall they are whiter than most raptors. From below, the wings are mostly white with a prominent dark patch at the wrists. The head is white with a broad brown stripe through the eye. Juveniles have white spots on the back and buffy shading on the breast.
Ospreys search for fish by flying on steady wingbeats and bowed wings or circling high in the sky over relatively shallow water. They often hover briefly before diving, feet first, to grab a fish. You can often clearly see an Osprey's catch in its talons as the bird carries it back to a nest or perch.
Look for Ospreys around nearly any body of water: saltmarshes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, estuaries, and even coral reefs. Their conspicuous stick nests are placed in the open on poles, channel markers, and dead trees, often over water.

Cool Facts
  • An Osprey may log more than 160,000 migration miles during its 15-to-20-year lifetime. Scientists track Ospreys by strapping lightweight satellite transmitters to the birds’ backs. The devices pinpoint an Osprey's location to within a few hundred yards and last for 2-3 years. During 13 days in 2008, one Osprey flew 2,700 miles—from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to French Guiana, South America.
  • Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.
  • Ospreys are excellent anglers. Over several studies, Ospreys caught fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line in the water.
  • The Osprey readily builds its nest on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds, and nest platforms designed especially for it. Such platforms have become an important tool in reestablishing Ospreys in areas where they had disappeared. In some areas nests are placed almost exclusively on artificial structures.
  • Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once. Rather, the first chick emerges up to five days before the last one. The older hatchling dominates its younger siblings, and can monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is abundant, chicks share meals in relative harmony; in times of scarcity, younger ones may starve to death.
  • The name "Osprey" made its first appearance around 1460, via the Medieval Latin phrase for "bird of prey" (avis prede). Some wordsmiths trace the name even further back, to the Latin for "bone-breaker"—ossifragus.
  • The oldest known Osprey was at least 25 years, 2 months old, and lived in Virginia.

Osprey Family


Osprey Family Male Landing with Meal 2011


Osprey Family om Spreading Wings 2011

Yellowstone National Park, Tower Point 2007
A lot of patience and time went into getting this shot. A katak ride in May 2011 and then a June hike to a seculded spot in a far corner of the lake that had a natural blind, allowing us to get close and personal. We spent a good portion of the day watching the male and female care and defend their two chicks, with plenty of meals and aggressive tactics to keep away all predators. Just one look into their eyes tells it all!!!

Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting Ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons.

One of the largest birds of prey in North America, the Osprey eats almost exclusively fish. It is one of the most widespread birds in theworld, found on all continents except Antarctica..

Size & Shape
Ospreys are very large, distinctively shaped hawks. Despite their size, their bodies are slender, with long, narrow wings and long legs. Ospreys fly with a marked kink in their wings, making an M-shape when seen from below.
Color Pattern
Ospreys are brown above and white below, and overall they are whiter than most raptors. From below, the wings are mostly white with a prominent dark patch at the wrists. The head is white with a broad brown stripe through the eye. Juveniles have white spots on the back and buffy shading on the breast.
Ospreys search for fish by flying on steady wingbeats and bowed wings or circling high in the sky over relatively shallow water. They often hover briefly before diving, feet first, to grab a fish. You can often clearly see an Osprey's catch in its talons as the bird carries it back to a nest or perch.
Look for Ospreys around nearly any body of water: saltmarshes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, estuaries, and even coral reefs. Their conspicuous stick nests are placed in the open on poles, channel markers, and dead trees, often over water.

Cool Facts
  • An Osprey may log more than 160,000 migration miles during its 15-to-20-year lifetime. Scientists track Ospreys by strapping lightweight satellite transmitters to the birds’ backs. The devices pinpoint an Osprey's location to within a few hundred yards and last for 2-3 years. During 13 days in 2008, one Osprey flew 2,700 miles—from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to French Guiana, South America.
  • Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.
  • Ospreys are excellent anglers. Over several studies, Ospreys caught fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line in the water.
  • The Osprey readily builds its nest on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds, and nest platforms designed especially for it. Such platforms have become an important tool in reestablishing Ospreys in areas where they had disappeared. In some areas nests are placed almost exclusively on artificial structures.
  • Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once. Rather, the first chick emerges up to five days before the last one. The older hatchling dominates its younger siblings, and can monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is abundant, chicks share meals in relative harmony; in times of scarcity, younger ones may starve to death.
  • The name "Osprey" made its first appearance around 1460, via the Medieval Latin phrase for "bird of prey" (avis prede). Some wordsmiths trace the name even further back, to the Latin for "bone-breaker"—ossifragus.
  • The oldest known Osprey was at least 25 years, 2 months old, and lived in Virginia.

Osprey Nest

Columbia River, Oregon 2002
One of the largest birds of prey in North America, the Osprey eats almost exclusively fish. It is one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica.

  • Large raptor
  • White breast and belly
  • Black back and wings
  • Long wings, held with wingtips angled slightly backwards
  • Dark eyestripe
  • Crown and forehead white
  • Size: 54-58 cm (21-23 in)
  • Wingspan: 150-180 cm (59-71 in)
  • Weight: 1400-2000 g (49.42-70.6 ounces)

  • Calls are short, chirping whistles

Cool Facts
  • An Osprey may log more than 160,000 migration miles during its 15-to-20-year lifetime. Scientists track Ospreys by strapping lightweight satellite transmitters to the birds’ backs. The devices pinpoint an Osprey's location to within a few hundred yards and last for 2-3 years. During 13 days in 2008, one Osprey flew 2,700 miles—from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to French Guiana, South America.
  • Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds' feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.
  • Ospreys are excellent anglers. Over several studies, Ospreys caught fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line in the water.
  • The Osprey readily builds its nest on manmade structures, such as telephone poles, channel markers, duck blinds, and nest platforms designed especially for it. Such platforms have become an important tool in reestablishing Ospreys in areas where they had disappeared. In some areas nests are placed almost exclusively on artificial structures.
  • Osprey eggs do not hatch all at once. Rather, the first chick emerges up to five days before the last one. The older hatchling dominates its younger siblings, and can monopolize the food brought by the parents. If food is abundant, chicks share meals in relative harmony; in times of scarcity, younger ones may starve to death.
  • The name "Osprey" made its first appearance around 1460, via the Medieval Latin phrase for "bird of prey" (avis prede). Some wordsmiths trace the name even further back, to the Latin for "bone-breaker"—ossifragus.
  • The oldest known Osprey was 25 years, 2 months old.

Pine Grosbeak

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming USA 2011
One of the larger members of its family, the Pine Grosbeak is a bird of the boreal forests, found across northern Eurasia and North America, and south into the mountains of western Canada and the United States. A large, unwary finch, it makes periodic winter irruptions into southern Canada and northern United States. It is the largest and rarest of the "winter finches."

Size & Shape:
  • Adult Description
  • Plump, heavy-chested.
  • Dark wings with two white wingbars.
  • Large stubby curved bill.
  • Male red.Large finch; medium-sized songbird.

Male Description
Pinkish-red head, breast, back and rump. Streaked back. White undertail coverts. Blackish brown wings and tail. White wingbars and tertial edges.

Female Description
Yellowish olive head and rump. Gray underparts and back. Blackish brown wings and tail. White wingbars and tertial edges.

Immature Description
Immature male usually is indistinguishable from immature or adult female until the second year when it molts and grows new reddish feathers. Some young males have some red or orange feathers in the body plumage, which females apparently lack. Females average duller than males (especially on the crown and rump) and have a lighter russet tinge to the head or lighter olive tinge to the breast than males. The color of the head and body is often golden orange or reddish bronze in males, in contrast to golden yellow of the female, and the chin is often buffier or more brown-gray than in the female.

Cool Facts
  • The tameness and slow-moving behavior of the Pine Grosbeak gave rise to local name in Newfoundland of "mope."
  • Winter flocks may stay near a tree with abundant fruit until all of it is consumed.
  • A breeding adult Pine Grosbeak develops pouches in the floor of its mouth for carrying food to its young.
  • During most of the year, 99% of diet is vegetable matter, especially buds, seeds, and fruits of spruce, pine, juniper, elm, maple, mountain ash, apple, and crabapple. It feeds insects and spiders to its young, though, often mixed with plant foods. It drinks water or eats snow daily.
  • The oldest recorded Pine Grosbeak was a male, and at least 9 years, 9 months old when he was found in Quebec in 1970. He had been banded in Connecticut in 1961.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Half Moon Bay, California USA 2020
Stacks Image 7501
Pygmy Nuthatch
Sitta pygmaea
ORDER: Passeriformes
FAMILY: Sittidae

Small even by nuthatch standards, Pygmy Nuthatches are tiny bundles of hyperactive energy that climb up and down ponderosa pines giving rubber-ducky calls to their flockmates. Their buffy-white underparts set off a crisp brown head, slate-gray back, and sharp, straight bill. Pygmy Nuthatches breed in large extended-family groups, which is one reason why you’ll often see a half-dozen at a time. Look for them in open forests of older ponderosa pines across the West.

Size & Shape
A tiny bird with a relatively large, rounded head, no discernible neck, and a straight, sharp bill. The legs are short, the wings are short and broad, and the tail is short and square.

Color Pattern
Bluish-gray above with a sharply defined brown crown and pale nape spot. The throat is white and the underside creamy buff. Some subspecies show a blackish line through eye.

These energetic songbirds forage by climbing pine trunks and branches to search under bark and in needle clusters for insects and seeds. They move constantly and give short, squeaky calls, often mixing with chickadees, kinglets, and other songbirds. Pygmy Nuthatches are highly social: they breed cooperatively and also pile in to cavities in groups to roost communally on cold winter nights.

Pygmy Nuthatches live in pine forests in western North America; they especially favor mature ponderosa pine forests. They are typically found at lower and middle elevations where ponderosa pine grows, but can sometimes occur up to 10,000 feet

Cool Facts

  • The Pygmy Nuthatch is one of only a few songbirds in North America (and only two nuthatch species worldwide) with nest helpers. Breeding pairs often get assistance from relatives—including their own grown offspring—when raising a young brood. The helpers defend the nest and feed incubating females and chicks.
  • They survive cold nights by sheltering themselves in tree cavities, huddling together, and letting their body temperature drop into hypothermia. They and the unrelated Vaux's Swift are the only bird species in North America that combine those three energy-saving mechanisms.
  • No records exist of Pygmy Nuthatches roosting alone. They always huddle in groups. In the 1950s, a biologist watched 150 Pygmy Nuthatches pile into roost holes in a single tree—at least 100 in a single hole.
  • Pygmy Nuthatches in aspen forests of Arizona often dig out nest cavities within scars or darkened patches of bark. One incubating female repeatedly climbed out and covered the entrance with her body, her dark back camouflaged against a dark scar on the trunk, to prevent a red squirrel from finding the nest.
  • What does it take to keep such a tiny, hyperactive bird running? Pygmy Nuthatches weigh about a third of an ounce, and the food they eat each day adds up to a whopping 9 calories (or technically, kilocalories).
  • A late Pleistocene fossil of a Pygmy Nuthatch, at least 11,000 years old, was unearthed in California. A fossilized member of its genus (Sitta) was found in France, possibly dating to the mid-to-late Miocene, at least 23 million years ago.
Rainbow Lorikeet 2019

Rainbow Lorikeet

Sydney Botanic Park, Australia, December 2019
Stacks Image 7461
Familiar, large lorikeet. Very colorful, with a bright red breast, blue/black belly and head, as well as a red bill. Very conspicuous, often observed calling loudly while flying overhead or feeding. Note the much longer tail than Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. No range overlap with Red-collared Lorikeet, which has an orange breast and neck. Found in a wide range of habitats, including urban areas. In the evening and early morning can be seen roosting in very large, noisy flocks.

25–30 cm; 70–169 g; wingspan 46 cm (1). Bill orange to red; head blue to deep brown lightly flecked pale violet; nuchal collar yellow ; rest of upperparts and tail green, latter dusky yellow below; nominate has breast barring variable from slight to non-existent; belly dark green; thighs and undertail-coverts yellow barred dark green; underwing-coverts orange with broad yellow underwing bar. Sexes alike. Immature duller, bill brownish. Superficially resembles T. rubritorquis , but lacks orange-red hindcollar .

Most types of lowland and lower montane wooded country, including primary rain forest, secondary growth, scrubby monsoon forest, savanna, riparian woodland, mallee, coconut and other plantations, gardens and suburban areas; tends to favour edges and disturbed vegetation rather than interior of closed-canopy formations.

Considered to be nomadic, presence or absence, or at least quantities, being governed by flowering events; this is particularly pronounced in S of range. Daily movements to offshore islands to and from feeding/roosting areas occur.

Season Aug–Jan in SE Australia, may be almost year-round in Queensland. Monogamous. Nest in deep unlined hole in limb or trunk of large tree, e.g. Melaleuca and Angophora, and in suburban Perth, in cotton palm (Washingtonia fillfera) and date palm (Phoenix canariensis); once in a building, typically 3–30 m above ground, lined with wood chips and occasionally dry grasses (1). Eggs 1–3 (usually two in wild), white, size 25·4–31·8 mm × 21·3–24·1 mm; incubation lasts c. 22–25 days, by female alone, commences with first egg in captivity; nestling period 49–52 days (captivity) or 57–54 days (wild) and young become independent 7–16 days (captivity) or 14–21 days later. Success unknown. Natural predators include Powerful Owls (Ninox strenua) (8).


Common Raven


Common Raven Snow Beak 2007


Common Raven Pushing the Limit 2009


Common Raven Juvenile 2012

Yosemite National Park, Winter 2009
The intriguing Common Raven has accompanied people around the Northern Hemisphere for centuries, following their wagons, sleds, sleighs, and hunting parties in hopes of a quick meal. Ravens are among the smartest of all birds, gaining a reputation for solving ever more complicated problems invented by ever more creative scientists. These big, sooty birds thrive among humans and in the back of beyond, stretching across the sky on easy, flowing wingbeats and filling the empty spaces with an echoing croak.

Size & Shape
Not just large but massive, with a thick neck, shaggy throat feathers, and a Bowie knife of a beak. In flight, ravens have long, wedge-shaped tails. They're more slender than crows, with longer, narrower wings, and longer, thinner “fingers” at the wingtips.
Color Pattern
Common Ravens are entirely black, right down to the legs, eyes, and beak.
Common Ravens aren’t as social as crows; you tend to see them alone or in pairs except at food sources like landfills. Ravens are confident, inquisitive birds that strut around or occasionally bound forward with light, two-footed hops. In flight they are buoyant and graceful, interspersing soaring, gliding, and slow flaps.
Common Ravens live in open and forest habitats across western and northern North America. This includes deciduous and evergreen forests up to treeline, as well as high desert, sea coast, sagebrush, tundra, and grasslands. They do well around people, particularly rural settlements but also some towns and cities.

Cool Facts
  • The Common Raven is an acrobatic flier, often doing rolls and somersaults in the air. One bird was seen flying upside down for more than a half-mile. Young birds are fond of playing games with sticks, repeatedly dropping them, then diving to catch them in midair.
  • Breeding pairs of Common Ravens hold territories and try to exclude all other ravens throughout the year. In winter, young ravens finding a carcass will call other ravens to the prize. They apparently do this to overwhelm the local territory owners by force of numbers to gain access to the food.
  • Common Ravens are smart, which makes them dangerous predators. They sometimes work in pairs to raid seabird colonies, with one bird distracting an incubating adult and the other waiting to grab an egg or chick as soon as it’s uncovered. They’ve been seen waiting in trees as ewes give birth, then attacking the newborn lambs.
  • They also use their intellect to put together cause and effect. A study in Wyoming discovered that during hunting season, the sound of a gunshot draws ravens in to investigate a presumed carcass, whereas the birds ignore sounds that are just as loud but harmless, such as an airhorn or a car door slamming.
  • People the world over sense a certain kind of personality in ravens. Edgar Allan Poe clearly found them a little creepy. The captive ravens at the Tower of London are beloved and perhaps a little feared: legend has it that if they ever leave the tower, the British Empire will crumble. Native people of the Pacific Northwest regard the raven as an incurable trickster, bringing fire to people by stealing it from the sun, and stealing salmon only to drop them in rivers all over the world.
  • Increasing raven populations threaten some vulnerable species including desert tortoises, Marbled Murrelets, and Least Terns. Ravens can cause trouble for people too. They’ve been implicated in causing power outages by contaminating insulators on power lines, fouling satellite dishes at the Goldstone Deep Space Site, peeling radar absorbent material off buildings at the Chinal Lake Naval Weapons center, pecking holes in airplane wings, stealing golf balls, opening campers’ tents, and raiding cars left open at parks.
  • Common Ravens can mimic the calls of other bird species. When raised in captivity, they can even imitate human words; one Common Raven raised from birth was taught to mimic the word “nevermore.”
  • The oldest known wild Common Raven was at least 22 years, 7 months old. It was banded and found in Nova Scotia.
Rad Tail Hawk 2012

Red Tail Hawk

Emigrant Wilderness, California USA 2011
Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis
ORDER: Accipitriformes
FAMILY: Accipitridae

This is probably the most common hawk in North America. If you’ve got sharp eyes you’ll see several individuals on almost any long car ride, anywhere. Red-tailed Hawks soar above open fields, slowly turning circles on their broad, rounded wings. Other times you’ll see them atop telephone poles, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit, or simply waiting out cold weather before climbing a thermal updraft into the sky.

Size & Shape
Red-tailed Hawks are large hawks with typical Buteo proportions: very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. Large females seen from a distance might fool you into thinking you’re seeing an eagle. (Until an actual eagle comes along.)

The Red-tailed is the second-largest Buteo hawk in North America, after Ferruginous Hawk.
Relative Size: between crow and goose

Length: 17.7-22.1 in (45-56 cm)
Weight: 24.3-45.9 oz (690-1300 g)
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)
Length: 19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
Weight: 31.8-51.5 oz (900-1460 g)
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)

Color Pattern
Most Red-tailed Hawks are rich brown above and pale below, with a streaked belly and, on the wing underside, a dark bar between shoulder and wrist. The tail is usually pale below and cinnamon-red above, though in young birds it’s brown and banded. “Dark-morph” birds are all chocolate-brown with a warm red tail. “Rufous-morph” birds are reddish-brown on the chest with a dark belly.

You’ll most likely see Red-tailed Hawks soaring in wide circles high over a field. When flapping, their wingbeats are heavy. In high winds they may face into the wind and hover without flapping, eyes fixed on the ground. They attack in a slow, controlled dive with legs outstretched – much different from a falcon’s stoop.

The Red-tailed Hawk is a bird of open country. Look for it along fields and perched on telephones poles, fenceposts, or trees standing alone or along edges of fields.

Cool Facts
  • The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.
  • Birds are amazingly adapted for life in the air. The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. A similar-sized small dog might weigh 10 times that.
  • The "Harlan's Hawk" breeds in Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters on the southern Great Plains. This very dark form of the Red-tailed Hawk has a marbled white, brown, and gray tail instead of a red one. It’s so distinctive that it was once considered a separate species, until ornithologists discovered many individuals that were intermediate between Harlan's and more typical Red-tailed Hawks.
  • Courting Red-tailed Hawks put on a display in which they soar in wide circles at a great height. The male dives steeply, then shoots up again at an angle nearly as steep. After several of these swoops he approaches the female from above, extends his legs, and touches her briefly. Sometimes, the pair grab onto one other, clasp talons, and plummet in spirals toward the ground before pulling away.
  • Red-tailed Hawks have been seen hunting as a pair, guarding opposite sides of the same tree to catch tree squirrels.
  • The oldest known wild Red-tailed Hawk was at least 30 years, 8 months old when it was found in Michigan, the same state where it had been banded.

Red-winged Blackbird

Half Moon Bay, California USA 2020
Stacks Image 7517
Red-winged Blackbird (California Bicolored)
Agelaius phoeniceus
ORDER: Passeriformes
FAMILY: Icteridae

One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. Their early and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.

Size & Shape
A stocky, broad-shouldered blackbird with a slender, conical bill and a medium-length tail. Red-winged Blackbirds often show a hump-backed silhouette while perched; males often sit with tail slightly flared.

Color Pattern
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are hard to mistake. They're an even glossy black with red-and-yellow shoulder badges. Females are crisply streaked and dark brownish overall, paler on the breast and often show a whitish eyebrow.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds do everything they can to get noticed, sitting on high perches and belting out their conk-la-ree! song all day long. Females stay lower, skulking through vegetation for food and quietly weaving together their remarkable nests. In winter Red-winged Blackbirds gather in huge flocks to eat grains with other blackbird species and starlings.

Look for Red-winged Blackbirds in fresh and saltwater marshes, along watercourses, water hazards on golf courses, and wet roadsides, as well as drier meadows and old fields. In winter, you can find them at crop fields, feedlots, and pastures.

Cool Facts

  • Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds vary markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was conducted that moved nestlings between populations and found that the chicks grew up to resemble their foster parents. This study indicated that much of the difference seen between populations is the result of different environments rather than different genetic makeups.
  • The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, meaning males have many female mates – up to 15 in some cases. In some populations 90 percent of territorial males have more than one female nesting on their territories. But all is not as it seems: one-quarter to one-half of nestlings turn out to have been sired by someone other than the territorial male.
  • Male Red-winged Blackbirds fiercely defend their territories during the breeding season, spending more than a quarter of daylight hours in territory defense. He chases other males out of the territory and attacks nest predators, sometimes going after much larger animals, including horses and people.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost in the wetlands where the birds breed. Winter flocks can be congregations of several million birds, including other blackbird species and starlings. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night.
  • One California subspecies of the Red-winged Blackbird lacks the yellow borders to the red shoulders (epaulets) and has been dubbed the “bicolored blackbird.” Some scientists think this plumage difference may help Red-winged Blackbirds recognize each other where their range overlaps with the similar Tricolored Blackbird.
  • The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years, 9 months old. It was banded in New Jersey in 1967, and found alive, but injured in Michigan in 1983. It was able to be released after recovering from its injuries.

South African Crowned Crane

Maui Kula Botantical Gardens 2009
The Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It occurs in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although it nests in somewhat wetter habitats.

There are two subspecies. The East African B. r. gibbericeps (Crested Crane) occurs from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through Uganda, of which it is the national bird, and Kenya to eastern South Africa. It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller Balearica regulorum regulorum (South African Crowned Crane) which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.

This species and the closely related Black Crowned Crane are the only cranes that can roost in trees, because of a long hind toe that can grasp branches. This habit, amongst other things, is a reason why the relatively small Balearica cranes are believed to closely resemble the ancestral members of the Gruidae

The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.

The nest is a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation. The Grey Crowned Crane lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28-31 days. Chicks fledge at 56-100 days.

  • About 1 m (3.3 ft) tall and weighs 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs)
  • Body plumageis mainly grey
  • Wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours
  • Head has a crown of stiff golden feathers
  • Sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch
  • Bill is relatively short and grey, and the legs are black
  • Sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger
  • Young birds are grayer than adults, with a feathered buff face
  • Like all cranes, it feeds on insects, reptiles and small mammals.

Although the Grey Crowned Crane remains common over much of its range, it faces threats to its habitat due to drainage, overgrazing, and pesticide pollution.

The Grey Crowned Crane eats grass seeds and insects, along with other invertebrates.

The Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda and features in the country's flag and coat of arms


Steller's Jay

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming USA 2011
A large, dark jay of evergreen forests in the mountainous West. Steller’s Jays are common in forest wildernesses but are also fixtures of campgrounds, parklands, and backyards, where they are quick to spy bird feeders as well as unattended picnic items. When patrolling the woods, Steller’s Jays stick to the high canopy, but you’ll hear their harsh, scolding calls if they’re nearby. Graceful and almost lazy in flight, they fly with long swoops on their broad, rounded wings.

Size & Shape:
Steller’s Jays are large songbirds with large heads, chunky bodies, rounded wings, and a long, full tail. The bill is long, straight, and powerful, with a slight hook. Steller’s Jays have a prominent triangular crest that often stands nearly straight up from their head.
Color Pattern:
At a distance, Steller’s Jays are very dark jays, lacking the white underparts of most other species. The head is charcoal black and the body is all blue (lightest, almost sparkling, on the wings). White markings above the eye are fairly inconspicuous.
Like other jays, Steller’s Jays are bold, inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy. Steller’s Jays spend much of their time exploring the forest canopy, flying with patient wingbeats. They come to the forest floor to investigate visitors and look for food, moving with decisive hops of their long legs.
Look for Steller’s Jays in evergreen forests of western North America, at elevations of 3,000-10,000 feet (lower along the Pacific coast). They’re familiar birds of campgrounds, picnic areas, parks, and backyards.

Cool facts
  • Steller's and Blue jays are the only North American jays with crests. The Blue Jay is expanding its range westward. Where they meet, the two species occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.
  • Steller’s Jays have the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently misspelled names in all of bird watching. Up close, the bird’s dazzling mix of azure and blue is certainly stellar, but that’s not how you spell their name. Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, they named it after him – along with other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
  • The Steller's Jay and the Blue Jay are the only New World jays that use mud to build their nests.
  • The Steller's Jay shows a great deal of variation in appearance throughout its range, with some populations featuring black crests and backs, and others blue. One black-crested form in southern Mexico is surrounded by eight other blue-crested forms.
  • Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco.
  • An excellent mimic with a large repertoire, the Steller’s Jay can imitate birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens, and some mechanical objects.
  • The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay was a male, and at least 16 years 1 month old when he was found in Alaska in 1987. He had been banded in the same state in 1972

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 2019

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Sydney, Australia 2019
The sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) is a relatively large white cockatoo found in wooded habitats in Australia, and New Guinea and some of the islands of Indonesia. They can be locally very numerous, leading to them sometimes being considered pests. A highly intelligent bird, they are well known in aviculture, although they can be demanding pets.

45–55 cm; 815–975 g. White cockatoo with yellow ear-coverts and 14 cm long, erectile bright yellow crest ; underside of wings and tail washed yellow; bill black; feet dark grey; periophthalmic skin white; eye dark brown in male, red-brown in female. Juvenile like adult but eye pale brown. Race fitzroyi has little yellow on ear-coverts and periophthalmic skin is pale blue; triton smaller than fitzroyi, with broader crest feathers; eleonora similar to triton, but bill smaller.

In New Guinea, occurs in lowland forest, up to 1400 m. In Australia, inhabits forest , woodland and cultivated cropland.

Strong flier, often foraging several kilometres from traditional roost or nest.

Diet and Foraging
Wide range of seeds , fruits and buds gathered from the ground and in trees . Species considered a pest of cultivated crops, digging up recently sown seeds, eating ripening heads and grain fed to stock; long-renowned for flocks of foraging birds responding to alarm given by a sentinel individual (see Family Text ); also damages stored hay and grain, opening sacks and plastic-covered bales, and will sometimes also chew the wooden window frames of houses. Nominate race often feeds in large flocks of several hundred birds; the other races seldom seen in groups of more than 20.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior
Commonest call, both in flight and when perched, is a very harsh grating note with a slightly upslurred (somewhat variable) terminus, “rreh-ah”. When perched, vocabulary more diverse, with most notes having similar tonal quality to flight call, combined with nasal squeals and squawks.

Season Aug–Jan in S Australia, May–Sept in N Australia; few records from New Guinea. Nest is bed of woodchips in a tree-hollow. Pairs tend to be territorial during breeding season and to nest far apart. Clutch 2–3 eggs, size (in captivity) 43·2 mm × 31·1 mm (race fitzroyi) (1); incubation 25–27 days, by both adults; chick has sparse yellow down; nestlings remain in hollow for 9–12 weeks, where they are fed by both parents. Fledglings remain with parents for several months, foraging together in a locally nomadic flock.


Western Scrub Jay

Ramrod Ranch, Monterey, California 2014
The “blue jay” of dry Western lowlands, the Western Scrub-Jay combines deep azure blue with dusty gray-brown and white. The rounded, crestless head immediately sets it apart from Blue Jays and Steller’s Jays. These birds are a fixture of dry shrublands, oak woodlands, and pinyon pine-juniper forests, as well as conspicuous visitors to backyards.

Size & Shape
A lanky bird with long, floppy tail and an often hunched-over posture.
Color Pattern
Blue and gray above, with a pale underside broken up by a blue necklace. In birds, the color blue depends on lighting, so Western Scrub-Jays often look simply dark.
Assertive, vocal, and inquisitive. You’ll often notice scrub-jays silhouetted high in trees, on wires, or on posts where they act as lookouts. In flight seems underpowered and slow, with bouts of fluttering alternating with glides.
Look for Western Scrub-Jays in open habitats of the West: oak woodlands and chaparral near the coast and pinyon-juniper woodlands of the interior West; also backyards, pastures, and orchards. Typically, though not always, in lower and drier habitats than Steller’s Jay.

Cool Facts
  • Look closely, and you'll see an intriguing difference between the California Scrub-Jay and its close relative, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. The bill of a California Scrub-Jay is stout and hooked, giving it extra power and grip as the birds hammer open acorns in their oak woodland habitats. By comparison, Woodhouse's have thinner, more pointed bills that nimbly reach deep into pinyon pine cones to pull out the pine nuts inside.
  • The Western Scrub-Jay’s calls are a hallmark sound of the open West. Some 20 call types are known, and perhaps the best description comes from naturalist W. L. Dawson in 1923: “No masquerader at Mardi Gras has sprung such a cacophonic device upon a quiveringly expectant public. Dzweep, dzweep: it curdles the blood, as it is meant to do.”
  • California Scrub-Jays—like many members of the crow and jay family—have a mischievous streak. They’ve been caught stealing acorns from Acorn Woodpecker caches, and some even steal acorns they’ve watched other jays hide. When these birds go to hide their own acorns, they check first that no other jays are watching.
  • You might see California Scrub-Jays standing on the back of a mule deer. They’re eating ticks and other parasites. The deer seem to appreciate the help, often standing still and holding up their ears to give the jays access.
  • The oldest known California Scrub-Jay lived to be at least 15 years, 9 months old. It was banded in California in 1932 and found in 1948 in the same state.
White-Tailed Kite 2019

White-Tailed Kite

Half Moon Bay, California 2019
White-talied Kite Range Map
White-tailed Kite
Elanus leucurus
ORDER: Accipitriformes
FAMILY: Accipitridae

Grasslands and savannas are great places to fly a kite and that's exactly where you will find the White-tailed Kite, flying as if it were attached to a kite string. With its body turned toward the wind and wings gently flapping, it hovers above the ground, a behavior that’s so distinctive it’s become known as kiting. From above it tips its head down to look for small mammals moving in the grass below. Its white underparts, gleaming white tail, and black shoulder patches are its other marks of distinction.

Size & Shape
A small to medium-sized raptor with narrow, pointed wings and a long tail. When perched, it looks rather big-headed with a long and skinny body.

Larger than an American Kestrel, smaller than a Northern Harrier.
Relative Size between crow and goose

Both Sexes
Length: 12.6-15.0 in (32-38 cm)
Weight: 10.6-12.7 oz (300-360 g)
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)
White-tailed Kite
© Matt Davis | Macaulay Library

Color Pattern
A largely pale raptor easily identified by its entirely white tail and black shoulder patches. Note the white head and red eyes (visible at close range). Sexes are similar.

Cool Facts
  • During the nonbreeding season, the White-tailed Kite roosts communally. Sometimes more than 100 individuals pile into a few trees or tall shrubs at the edge of a grassland or savanna.
  • White-tailed Kites have a tiny range in the U.S., but they occur throughout the Americas, breeding as far south as Chile and Argentina. A closely related and very similar species, the Black-shouldered Kite, occurs across Europe, Africa, and Asia.
  • The oldest recorded White-tailed Kite was at least 6 years old when it was found in California.



White-Tailed Ptarmigan

Yosemite Wilderness, Dorothy Lake 1994
Non-native experimental population released 1971-72 in and around Eagle Peak and Twin Lakes

The smallest grouse in North America, the White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabitsalpine regions from Alaska to New Mexico. It has numerous adaptations to its severe habitat, including feathered toes, highly cryptic plumage, and an energy-conserving daily regime.

Adult Description
  • Small grouse; medium to large chicken-like bird.
  • Thick bodied.
  • Tail moderately short, rounded.
  • Completely white in winter.
  • Barred grayish brown in summer.
  • Wings and tail white.

Male Description
Breeding male mostly grayish-brown, with broad band of black markings across chest. Eye combs are red. Nonbreeding male is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Female Description
Breeding female shows finely barred plumage, with yellowish tint contrasting with black or dark brown. Nonbreeding female is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Cool Facts
  • The White-tailed Ptarmigan leads a very sedentary lifestyle in winter, conserving precious energy by avoiding flight and often roosting in snow banks.
  • In winter, the White-tailed Ptarmigan defecates an average of 49 times overnight.
  • Warm weather may stress the White-tailed Ptarmigan. It can be seen bathing in snow when the temperature is higher than 21° C (70° F).
Stacks Image 7316

Wild Turkey

Half Moon Bay, California 2019
WIld Turkey Range Map
Wild Turkey
Meleagris gallopavo
ORDER: Galliformes
FAMILY: Phasianidae

Most North American kids learn turkey identification early, by tracing outlines of their hands to make Thanksgiving cards. These big, spectacular birds are an increasingly common sight the rest of the year, too, as flocks stride around woods and clearings like miniature dinosaurs. Courting males puff themselves into feathery balls and fill the air with exuberant gobbling. The Wild Turkey’s popularity at the table led to a drastic decline in numbers, but they have recovered and now occur in every state except Alaska.

Size & Shape
Wild Turkeys are very large, plump birds with long legs, wide, rounded tails, and a small head on a long, slim neck.

One of our largest and heaviest birds; smaller than a Trumpeter Swan; about twice the size (and four times as heavy) as a Ring-necked Pheasant.

Both Sexes
Length: 43.3-45.3 in (110-115 cm)
Weight: 88.2-381.0 oz (2500-10800 g)
Wingspan: 49.2-56.7 in (125-144 cm)

Color Pattern
Turkeys are dark overall with a bronze-green iridescence to most of their plumage. Their wings are dark, boldly barred with white. Their rump and tail feathers are broadly tipped with rusty or white. The bare skin of the head and neck varies from red to blue to gray.

Cool Facts
  • The Wild Turkey and the Muscovy Duck are the only two domesticated birds native to the New World.
  • In the early 1500s, European explorers brought home Wild Turkeys from Mexico, where native people had domesticated the birds centuries earlier. Turkeys quickly became popular on European menus thanks to their large size and rich taste from their diet of wild nuts. Later, when English colonists settled on the Atlantic Coast, they brought domesticated turkeys with them.
  • The English name of the bird may be a holdover from early shipping routes that passed through the country of Turkey on their way to delivering the birds to European markets.
  • Male Wild Turkeys provide no parental care. Newly hatched chicks follow the female, who feeds them for a few days until they learn to find food on their own. As the chicks grow, they band into groups composed of several hens and their broods. Winter groups sometimes exceed 200 turkeys.
  • As Wild Turkey numbers dwindled through the early twentieth century, people began to look for ways to reintroduce this valuable game bird. Initially they tried releasing farm turkeys into the wild but those birds didn’t survive. In the 1940s, people began catching wild birds and transporting them to other areas. Such transplantations allowed Wild Turkeys to spread to all of the lower 48 states (plus Hawaii) and parts of southern Canada.


Willow Ptarmigan

Denali National Park, Alaska USA 2012
The Alaska State Bird.

A typical bird of the arctic tundra, the Willow Ptarmigan is the largest and most numerous of the three ptarmigan species.

Adult Description
Medium to large chicken-like bird. Thick bodied. Tail moderately short, rounded, and black. Completely white in winter. Barred rusty brown in summer. Wings white.
Immature Description
Similar to adult.
Open tundra, especially in areas heavily vegetated with grasses, mosses, herbs, and shrubs, less frequently in openings in boreal coniferous forest.
Clutch Size: 4–14 eggs. Condition at Hatching: Completely covered with dense down, eyes open. Leave nest within six to 12 hours after the last egg hatched

Cool Facts
  • The subspecies of Willow Ptarmigan living in Great Britain is known as the "Red Grouse." It does not change its coloring in the winter, but remains entirely reddish brown throughout the year.
  • The Willow Ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world in which the male is regularly involved in parental care. Pairs remain together from the beginning of the breeding season until their chicks are independent.


Yellow Billed Cardinal

Kona Coast, Hawaii USA 2011
The yellow-billed cardinal (Paroaria capitata) is a bird species in the tanager family (Thraupidae). It was formerly placed in the Emberizidae and is not very closely related to the cardinals proper (Cardinalidae).

It occurs in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and northern Argentina and has been introduced on the island of Hawai'i. It breeds in moist shrubland. The yellow-billed cardinal could be easily confused with the red-crested cardinal. The yellow-billed cardinal does not have a crest.

  • Diet: Yellow-billed Cardinals eat seeds, fruit and insects. They can be seen foraging on the ground hunting for seeds.
  • Courtship: Mating season begins in October.
  • Nesting: The nest is deep and cup-shaped and is made of small branches, twigs, grasses and horsehair. Usually two eggs are laid and are alricial (little feathers at birth)
  • Habitat and Range: They are common on the Kona Coast and are usually found in shrubs and open areas near marshes, lakes and rivers and on the edges of woodlands and forests. I saw them on the lawns around various resorts in Kona.
  • Vocalization: Their call is a single, squeaky note similar to the red-crested cardinal but softer.
  • Plumage/Molt No information.
  • Migration: Not sure about South America, but Yellow-billed Cardinals don't migrate in Hawaii.
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