Archive for the ‘Prescott Audubon Society’s Bird of the Month’ Category

  • 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

  • Bird of the Month: Acorn Woodpecker

    By Al Lodwick As their name implies, Acorn Woodpeckers inhabit the Oak and Pinyon-Juniper woodlands found in the Prescott area. They make use of dead Ponderosa Pines (called snags) for storing acorns, their winter food. These birds have a complex and variable social structure. Sometimes they will live as a mated pair and raise their young on their own. In other instances, they may have a commune of up to 20 individuals with young of mixed parentage and subordinate adults assisting in feeding the offspring. They are present in the Prescott area year-round. A common description of this bird is “clown-like in appearance.” They have a white ring completely surrounding both eyes on their black face. Both sexes have red caps. Females have a black band separating the red from a white forehead. Males do not have the black band, so the red touches the white forehead. Stiff tail feathers are used to stabilize it when pecking on a vertical tree trunk. In the late summer and fall, they harvest acorns from the many small oak trees in the Central Arizona Highlands. They drill out holes in Ponderosa snags. These holes are just the right diameter to snugly hold one acorn. Then they fly to nearby oaks and pull the fleshy portion of the acorn away from its cap. Returning to the snag, also called a granary tree, they pound

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-rumped Warbler

    By Sharon Arnold   Arizona is famous for attracting winter visitors called snowbirds. In Prescott, a true avian version is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Lower elevations in Prescott are often the spring and fall migration stopover and wintering haven for the Audubon’s sub-species of this colorful warbler. Although some of these “butter butts” are known to breed in our coniferous forests, most breed in mountainous states north and west of Arizona, in Canada and in Alaska. Now is the time to look for migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging in trees and shrubs. Their sharp “chip” call notes give them away, and they may be traveling in large flocks. In summer, charcoal grey, black and bold white plus the five brilliant yellow markings including the rump spot that gives them their charming nickname, define these plump, 5.5-inch warblers. Winter birds may be a pale brown retaining their yellow rump and some yellow on their sides. They sport large heads and bills, flashes of white in their wings, and a long tail which is white underneath. Winter visitors begin migrating to higher elevation nesting areas by early or mid-April. These warblers commonly use older stands of Ponderosa for nesting. They are most abundant in cool mixed-conifer forests that include Douglas fir, white fir, and Aspen. In summer, look for them in the Bradshaw Mountains at elevations above 6,000 feet. Like other warblers males arrive

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-breasted Chat

    By DeeDee DeLorenzo X ***** Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org. DeeDee is a retired elementary school teacher, Prescott Audubon Society Board Member, and active member of Friends of the Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges. Her email is VerdiND3@Yahoo.Com

  • Bird of the Month: Crissal Thrasher

    By Russ Chappell A year-round Prescott resident, the Crissal Thrasher occasionally visits local bird feeders. It’s large and slender with a long tail, shorter wings than other desert thrashers, a dark-brown back, rufous undertail coverts, dull yellowish eyes, and a light brown eyebrow. Possessing a long, sharply downturned curved bill (more prominently curved that its cousin, the Curved-billed Thrasher) this bird has a permanent frown. Both adult sexes measure slightly less than 12 inches in length with wingspans of more than 12.5 inches and can weigh up to 2.5 ounces. Residing in dense, low scrubby vegetation and riparian brush, the Crissal prefers walking and running to flying. Even when disturbed by people or predators, it’s more likely to run for cover than to fly. When not at your feeder, this ground forager can be found digging through leaf litter with its huge curved bill looking for insects, spiders, seeds, and berries. During breeding season, a cup-shaped nest constructed of twigs and lined with fine vegetation is concealed in the middle of dense shrubs, three to eight feet off the ground. The nest, containing one to four eggs, is often located beneath large branches for protection from other birds and direct sunlight. Eggs are a plain, faded blue and are the only thrasher eggs that don’t have spots. Both the male and female take turns on the nest. When hatched, the

  • Bird of the Month: Yellow-breasted Chat

    By DeeDee DeLorenzo Let’s play “Name That Bird.” The bird I’m thinking of has white spectacles like a vireo, the bill of a tanager, the yellow breast of an oriole, and is the size of a brown-headed cowbird. Need more clues? It mimics like a northern mockingbird with a song that contains lots of whistles, gurgles, rattles, burps, squeaks, scolds, mews, and “chacks.” You’ll probably hear it before you see it, which can drive you crazy because it’s so loud and obnoxious. It is quite good at hiding toward the top of trees among leaves and branches. Quite a tease, I must say. Every once in a while, it’ll will pop out and sit on top of a large tamarisk bush or mesquite tree as if to say, “See, here I am.” Alright, one more clue. It’s the largest wood warbler species. Seriously, a warbler. Give up? It’s the Yellow-breasted Chat. You were thinking that, weren’t you? And yes, it has a name that is actually accurately descriptive. Each spring, I expectantly wait for this bird to arrive from its wintering grounds in southern Mexico and Central America. For some time now my FOS (First of Season) chat has been heard and then spotted in mid-April on Old South Dike in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. It certainly can’t be missed because its noisy, boisterous song just about drowns everyone

  • Bird of the Month: Lesser Goldfinch

    By Johanna Shipley When is a LEGO not a toy? When it’s a Lesser Goldfinch! Bird banders (and many other birders) use four letter codes to abbreviate the name of each species, and the Lesser Goldfinch was given the acronym of the famous building blocks. As such, it’s not unusual to listen to a group of birders exclaim “LEGO!” at the sight of a tiny yellow and black bird. Not surprisingly, most commercial products that feature pictures of “Goldfinches” show the American Goldfinch, since that species is found all across the United States. Here in the Southwest, however, the most numerous species is the Lesser Goldfinch. An American Goldfinch is an uncommon winter visitor. The Lesser Goldfinch, aka LEGO, is a small bird, only 4.5 inches long. The males are bright yellow underneath with a black crown and wings and a greenish (sometimes black) back. The females and young are dull yellow with dark wings. Both sexes have a large white wing patch. That white wing patch is a good field mark, aiding in identification when the birds fly overhead. It is also prominent when a male displays for a female. He spreads his tale and flies slowly with quickly fluttering wings, singing all the way. He will also give her food as a courtship gift. If the female is impressed, they form a pair bond and she builds a

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