Search Results for "bird of the month"

  • Bird of the Month: Northern Flicker

    By Maxine Tinney An incessant tapping sound along with a wika-wika-wika calling awakens my husband and I one early Spring morning. Going outside, we find the source of the drumming. A male Red-shafted Northern Flicker is gripping the side of one of our bird houses using his two toes pointing forward and two toes backward for support and his tail as a prop. He proceeds drilling on the surface of the wood roof with his robust, slightly down-curved bill to claim his territory, including intermittent calling of his wika-wika-wika love song to attract a mate. He is a large, light-brown woodpecker measuring about 12.5 inches with a handsome black-scalloped plumage, barred upperparts and spotted underparts, has a black bib, gray face, tan crown, red mustache malars, and would be a catch for any tan-malared female. As he flies away, he shows off his orange-red under-wing primaries and tail, white rump spot, rising and falling smoothly with interspersed periods of flapping and gliding. The Red-shafted Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer) is common to woodlands and forests of Yavapai County and the western United States. If you travel to the east and far north of the United States, you will find the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus) with yellow under-wing primaries and tail, black mustache malars, and red crest on the nuchal nape. With luck and a keen eye, whilst visiting

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-billed Cuckoo

    By Russ Chappell High on the list of any Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s culinary menu are caterpillars. They are one of a few species capable of eating hairy caterpillars, and often consume thousands each season. A close relative of the Greater Roadrunner and Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-Billed Cuckoos have a croaking call they often voice in response to loud sounds, such as thunder, leading to the nick name “rain crow.” Fairly large, long, and slim with a long, primarily yellow, thick, downward curved bill and flat head, they are a distinctive bird with brownish backs, white underparts and yellow orbital eyering. They also display wide white bands mixed with narrower black ones on their tails. The parents share nest building, incubation and brooding of their young. Eggs are laid one at a time over several days, with the period between eggs being as long as 5 days, making the period from incubation to total fledging around 17 days. Chicks are born featherless, with the young fully feathered and ready to leave the nest within a week. Yellow-billed Cuckoos forage methodically in treetops for large, hairy caterpillars and live primarily in the canopies of deciduous trees in woodland areas. In the West, they are elusive and difficult to spot, normally found in Cottonwood-dominated areas near rivers flowing through arid habitats. They are visitors to the Prescott and Verde River regions in the summer and

  • Bird of the Month: Pied-billed Grebe

    By Russ Chappell Consider the Pie-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). Common across North America, these small brown birds have unusually thick bills which turn silver and black in summer. They’re expert divers, able to reach depths of over 20 feet and can remain submerged for up to 30 seconds, especially if startled or in danger. They frequent sluggish rivers, freshwater marshes, lakes, and estuaries, using their chunky bills to feed on large crustaceans and a variety of fish, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. They rarely fly and often hide amid vegetation. Their loud, far-reaching call “whooping kuk-kuk-cow-cow-cow-cowp-cowp“ is hard to forget once you have heard it. Two to ten, 1.5” to 2”, bluish white to greenish white eggs are laid in a bowl shaped floating nest, usually situated among tall emergent vegetation and sometimes among lower-growing plants. The young leave the nest shortly after birth, climbing onto the adults back where they brood for their first week of life. The adults still dive with the young aboard, holding them under their wings. Pied-billed Grebes can trap water in their feathers, giving them great control over their buoyancy. They can sink deeply or stay just at or below the surface, exposing as much or as little of the body as they wish. The water-trapping ability may also aid in the pursuit of prey by reducing drag in turbulent water. Like other grebes,

  • Bird of the Month: Black-headed Grosbeak

    By Sharon Arnold You think you’re hearing a robin that has had voice training. Following the sound, you discover a stocky, large-billed, black-headed bird with a buffy orange breast and collar and bold white markings on its wings. This male Black-headed Grosbeak sings a richer, throatier song than the American Robin. Females also sing although less frequently and at a lower volume. The call of a Black-headed Grosbeak is a low telltale “eek.” Like males, females have yellow “armpits” in flight. They have buffy eyebrows and light streaking on buffy breasts. Immature birds look like females. Males may take more than a year to reach adult plumage, and consequently, these males are not as attractive to females and are less successful breeders. Black-headed Grosbeaks are neotropical migrants. Early arrivals start returning to their preferred breeding habitat by April. Late arrivals have been spotted in mid-June. Look for these birds in pinyon-oak woodlands and conifer-dominated forests. Deciduous tree-dominated canyons and mountain drainages are also regular nesting habit. Black-headed Grosbeaks frequent feeders during breeding season and are fond of black oil sunflower seeds and fruit. Early nest building and breeding has been observed in April. However, the peak breeding season for Black-headed Grosbeaks is mid-June through mid-July. Nests are flimsy, cup-shaped structures made of twigs, rootlets, flower heads, and forb stems constructed primarily by the female in tree forks and shrubs.

  • Bird of the Month: Thinking inside the box – A special Bird of the Month collaboration – Wood duck

    By Peter Pierson Take a walk through Watson Woods Riparian Preserve past a small pond just off the trail and watch and listen. You may hear the distinct song of a yellowthroat or a yellow warbler at home in the cover of willow and cottonwood along the wetlands of this restored riparian preserve. A pair of ducks emerge from the partially submerged trees and glide into the sunlight. The brilliant foliage along the head and back of one, the male, distinguishes it as a wood duck. Once threatened because of habitat loss and over-hunting, the wood duck has made a comeback, even in its marginal range in preserved and restored riparian wetlands here in the arid Southwest. With recovering beaver populations in the West, there are more quiet ponds from their dam construction activity offering habitat for wood ducks. In the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, the wood duck, yellowthroat, yellow warbler, and other habitat-dependent species are establishing themselves in and along wetlands. Those wetlands were restored through the efforts of Prescott Creeks and scores of volunteers who’ve helped reestablish functioning streambeds and floodplains and planted thousands of trees in the preserve. Prescott Creeks and Prescott Audubon Society have partnered to set up nest boxes in Watson Woods and suitable habitat along Willow Lake to aid in nesting success of wood ducks. Wood ducks are cavity nesters, preferring holes in mature

  • Bird of the Month: Greater White-fronted Goose

    By Stephen Burk Greater White-fronted Geese breed during summer in the far northern reaches of North America. Fall migration (mostly October through December) finds them traveling in large numbers to winter grounds, especially in the Central Valley of California, as well as eastern Texas and the coastal Gulf of Mexico region. This medium-sized, brown goose occasionally can be seen in small numbers during winter on our Prescott lakes. Adult Greater White-fronted Geese have pink bills, a distinctive white band encircling the base of the bill, and dark lines/speckles on the belly. They are smaller than most Canada geese, being about the size of a Snow goose. While seeing Greater White-fronted geese in the Prescott area can be challenging even for avid birders, one can definitely improve their chances by joining the Prescott Audubon Society and taking advantage of their PAS Rare Bird hotline. Another highly useful birding resource to be aware of is the website eBird.Org. eBird collects observations daily from birders around the globe in a massive citizen-science effort, yielding a unique avian database on species populations and planet-wide biodiversity. Perhaps a word of caution should be injected here. Before rushing to your computer to report your identification of Greater White-fronted Geese at a Prescott location, be aware that there are domestic geese that look quite similar to GWFG. These Graylag (barnyard) geese have been residents at Watson Lake

  • Bird of the Month: Dark-eyed Junco

    By Maxine Tinney As winter approaches in central Arizona, the common Dark-eyed Junco sometimes congregate along with other sparrows and warblers in coniferous forests. They may be seen pecking in leaf litter or searching for food in the underbrush. In backyards with feeders, they’re hopping and foraging on the ground for millet, sunflower seeds, and corn. A sudden movement or flash of noise may send the flock flying to nearby trees flashing their bright white tail feathers. In general, the Dark-eyed Juncos have a pale pinkish bill, gray/black heads, gray or brown backs and wings, gray/brown/pinkish flanks, and gray necks and breasts with a white belly. The Dark-eyed Junco species (Junco hyemalis) of the sparrow family in Yavapai County may consist of at least five recognizable populations or subspecies based on different sizes and colorations, genetics of the birds, how the bird communicates, and the frequency of hybridization. The smallest subspecies is the Oregon with dull gray or black head, reddish brown back and pinkish brown flanks. The Pink-sided subspecies has a blue-gray hood with blackish lores around the eyes and extensive pinkish-flanks. The slate-colored varies from pale brown to slate gray, while the gray-headed and Red-backed have a well defined rufous mantle on their backs. The Red-backed also has a bi-colored bill with the top being blackish and lower mandible being pink. Most Dark-eyed Junco will retreat northward as

  • Bird of the Month: Sandhill Crane

    By Corinne Shaw As new birders, we joined the Prescott Audubon Society to enhance our birding knowledge. To experience a new birding adventure, we traveled to the Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico for the Sandhill Crane Festival. To support the many migrating birds, including the Sandhill Cranes, the Bosque del Apache NWR and local farmers carefully plant and harvest crane-friendly food sources. As the weather turns cold in Colorado, the cranes travel through New Mexico, to the delight of thousands of birders. During the day, the cranes feed in the fields in the area. The cranes may number in the thousands, but they will not be seen in large numbers in the Refuge during the day. As dusk approaches, the cranes start to fly into the local ponds and the large ponds of the Bosque. You can hear the cranes calling for miles; they have a wonderful night-time call. Crane groups can range from only a few to as many as 20 in magnificent “Y” formations. As a photographer, the sight of a flock of Sandhill Cranes is a beautiful must-have picture. Sandhill Cranes roost in shallow ponds. The water provides good protection; a coyote’s splashing approach, would result in alarms awakening the entire flock. Not long after sunrise, lift-off activities begin. Sandhill Cranes prefer not to fly from the water, they make their way to the shore

  • Bird of the Month: Lincoln’s Sparrow

    By Sue Drown Birds display every color of the rainbow. They are art on the wing. Perhaps it’s not entirely fair, but sparrows got limited to the browns, rusts, and quiet tones of the avian color palette. But, if ever there were a sparrow who makes real artistry out of its limited choices, it’s the lovely Lincoln’s Sparrow. When they return to Prescott, dressed in their fresh autumn plumage, they are drop-dead beautiful. Lincoln’s Sparrows seem delicate, although they are just a tad smaller and lighter-weight than the familiar Song Sparrow — a very close relative in the avian family tree. Like most sparrows, Lincoln’s prefer to be in cover such as grasses or shrubs, but they are also curious. And a bit feisty. They will often pop out if you hold still for a bit. Their body language seems half afraid and half ready to fight. In the summer months, Lincoln’s Sparrows are found throughout Canada and in the Rocky Mountains, where they prefer to sing their upbeat, jumbled songs to the background music of mountain streams. Prescott is on the north edge of their winter range, and we can find them in any brushy spot, such as Watson Woods, this time of year. Listen for a husky “pik” note coming from the brush, then hold still until the Lincoln’s pops up to see who has stopped near its

  • Bird of the Month: Sora

    By Morganthal Persival Wheysleywillow III If you are looking to expand your “Big Year” list, the Sora is a great candidate worth considering. Sora are the most common and widely distributed rails in North America, yet few individuals will ever see one. It a small, secretive bird with a triangular shaped body, deep rear end, gray body, short, bright yellow bill, strong legs and a short tail with white on the underside. Adults are 8-10 inches in length and weigh no more than 4 ounces, with black faces and bibs, which are missing in the immature, who display a buffy, brownish chest. Sora breed in shallow wetlands and marshes throughout North America, nesting in well-concealed dense vegetation. They lay 10 to 12 eggs, sometimes up to 18, in a saucer-shaped nest built from marsh vegetation. Eggs hatch over several days, and both parents incubate and feed the young, who leave the nest when able to fly within a month. Soro feed primarily on seeds and aquatic invertebrates, but have been sighted in grain fields during migration. These omnivores help check the populations of insects and invertebrates they eat, as well as plants they consume. Survival of the species is a challenge for Sora because of the many predators that prey on them, especially their eggs and young which are highly vulnerable to snakes, raccoons, and many other animals. Sora are

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