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

  • Bird of the Month: Black-chinned Hummingbird May 2019

    May 3, 19 • ndemarino • 5enses, Prescott Audubon Society's Bird of the MonthComments Off on Bird of the Month: Black-chinned Hummingbird May 2019Read More »

      By Russ Chappell   Black-chinned hummingbirds are small and slender with fairly straight bills. They are about 3.5 inches long, weigh about 0.2 ounces, and have 4.3-inch wing-spans. Males have green backs with a prominent purple band around their necks, plus velvety black chins, dishwater white bellies and dark tails. Females and immature birds are green above and whitish below, with females displaying white tips on their outer three tail feathers. Both genders have black bills, the female being longer than the male, and tend to spread their tail feathers wider in flight than other hummingbirds. Their heart rate, at rest, is about 480 beats per minute, and on cold nights they enter torpor, with rates dropping to 45–180 beats per minute. They breath 245 breaths per minute at 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and 420 breaths per minute at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and sporadically while torpid. These hummingbirds construct compact, deep-shaped nests of plant down, spider silk and cocoon fibers, which expand as the chicks mature. They parent up to three broods with two eggs each, per year, and incubation is roughly 15 days. The white eggs are the size of coffee beans. When hatched, the chicks are about one-quarter inch long, with two rows of thin, downy feathers on their backs, and eyes closed. They leave the nest in 21 days. They feed at flowers and feeders and also

  • Bird of the Month: April 2019

    Apr 1, 19 • ndemarino • 5enses, Prescott Audubon Society's Bird of the MonthComments Off on Bird of the Month: April 2019Read More »

    By Russ Chappell Turkey vultures, also called turkey buzzards, are North American scavengers that clean up the countryside one bite at a time! Often visible along roadways or soaring over the countryside, their super-sensitive sense of smell aids them in locating fresh carcasses. With wingspans as great as six feet, they can be misidentified as large raptors. However, their in-flight “V” shaped wing formation makes them easy to identify. They hang around open farmland and landfills, clumsily hopping along the ground, or occasionally standing erect with wings spread in the sunlight to warm up, cool down or dry off. They roost in trees, on rocks, and other high, secluded spots at night. Rarely attacking live prey, they prefer deceased mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and will often wait for carcasses to soften in order to pierce the skin more easily. Several may gather at a carcass, but usually only one feeds at a time, chasing the others off and making them wait their turn. Skillful foragers, they consume the softest bits first, and their immune systems protect them from botulism, anthrax, cholera, or salmonella. However, they are susceptible to pesticides and lead poisoning. To form a nest, turkey vultures scrape out a spot in the soil or leaf litter, pull aside obstacles, or arrange scraps of vegetation or rotting wood. There is one brood yearly, consisting of one to three

  • Bird of the Month: March 2019

    Mar 1, 19 • ndemarino • 5enses, Prescott Audubon Society's Bird of the MonthComments Off on Bird of the Month: March 2019Read More »

     By Russ Chappell   Northern shovelers are dabbling ducks that feed in shallow water, by skimming the surface or by tipping headfirst into the water to graze on tiny aquatic plants, vegetation, larvae, and insects. Common in our area during the winter, shovelers often gather in small groups. Recently, 200 were reported at Watson Lake, and 50 at Willow Lake. Larger than a coot and smaller than a mallard, they can weigh up to 29 pounds with wingspans as great as 33 inches. Their long, shovel-shaped bills, about 2 1⁄2 inch in length, are equipped with over 100 outcroppings called lamellae to filter out tiny crustaceans, vertebrae and seeds as they forage. The male displays a bright white chest, rusty sides, and a green head, and the female a giant orange bill and speckled brown plumage. In flight, males flash blue on the upper wing and green on their secondaries (the speculum). A quiet species, the male making a clunking call, and the female a mallard-like quack. Bolder than many ducks, shovelers often venture close to shore, allowing for easy identification without binoculars or scopes. They are monogamous, bonding on wintering grounds and remaining together until fall migration. After breeding and before migration, males group together in small flocks during a flightless molting period, during which they are inclined to stay hidden in vegetation, especially at night. Nests are small

  • Bird of the Month: Ring-necked Duck February 2019

    Feb 2, 19 • ndemarino • 5enses, Prescott Audubon Society's Bird of the MonthComments Off on Bird of the Month: Ring-necked Duck February 2019Read More »

    By Russ Chappell      Male Ring-necked Ducks are gleaming black, gray, and white, while females are brown with a delicate face pattern. At a distance, look for this species’ distinctive, peaked head to help identify it… don’t look for a ring around the neck—it’s really hard to see! These ducks closely resemble and are often confused with Lesser Scaups.       Ring-necked Ducks are divers and, while feeding, thrust forward in an arc and plunge underwater. Using their feet for propulsion, they feed on submerged plants, aquatic invertebrates, leaves, stems, seeds, and tubers of pondweed, water lilies, wild celery, wild rice, millet, sedges, and arrowhead. Protein-rich animal food is important during the breeding season, and adult females primarily consume animal food while raising their young. Plant foods become much more important during fall migration. These ducks breed across far northern North America in freshwater marshes, bogs and boreal forests. While a diving duck, they frequent shallow waters, where open water is fringed with aquatic or emergent vegetation such as sedges, lilies, and shrubs. Nests are a collection of plant stems and leaves shaped into a bowl and lined with the mother’s down feathers. The nest is about eleven inches across, two to four inches deep, and placed above the water surface, with a ramp to provide the incubating female easier access. There is one brood per year of

  • Bird of the Month: Peregrine Falcon January 2019

      Peregrine Falcon By Russ Chappell The word “peregrine” means “wanderer” or “pilgrim,” and Peregrine Falcons reside world-wide. Thanks to captive breeding and a 1972 ban on DDT, this species has risen from near extinction in the 20th century to now populate every continent except Antarctica. The United States-Canada Stewardship rates peregrines as 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, but it is no longer on the State of North America’s Birds Watch List. However, their breeding areas, especially in the Prescott area, are monitored and protected during certain times of the year, and you should check with the Prescott National Forest Service before entering a Peregrine Falcon breeding area to avoid issues. Considered the fastest animal on earth, at least in a dive or “stoop” the Peregrine Falcon is capable of speeds of over 200 MPH, able to withstand 18G, and possesses exceptional vision which is protected by special membranes at high speed. They are capable of bringing down prey twice their size with their powerful talons and a unique beak. Adaptable to almost any habitat some Peregrines migrate over 15,000 miles a year, while other choose to call a selected region home year-round. In coastal areas nests are usually built on cliffs in “eyries” however being extremely adaptable many reside in cities with high skyscrapers that provide both elevation and a variety of birds to hunt

  • Bird of the Month: Northern Cardinal

    By Sue Drown Ah, December – time for sending and receiving those beautiful Christmas cards. So let’s try a quick free association trivia: What do you think of when you imagine a classic Christmas card? Santa? Perhaps. Tree? Likely. How about the Northern Cardinal? Very likely, indeed! It will be there somewhere, on the tree, atop Santa’s hat, in the snow by his feet. Early colonists named this bird after the red color of Catholic cardinals’ birettas (hats), a reasonable ID for folks who were not ornithologists and had many new birds to sort out. I am happy the name stuck, since the male Northern Cardinal is decidedly red. Stunningly, richly, regally red. Although the female is mostly brown, red adorns her bill, wings, crest, and tail, so she too glows red, though with more reserve. All Cardinals sport a splashy bit of black at the base of their red bills, something their closest relatives, the Pyrrhuloxia, do not. Since these similar species are both found in Arizona, even with overlapping territories, the black surrounding the red bill is a handy field mark. Cardinals do not migrate. They maintain year-round territories in many habitats throughout the U.S., primarily east of the Mississippi. They don’t mind the cold of winter in northern Wisconsin, proving their qualifications for snowy holiday greeting cards. You can find them in Cottonwood, Sedona, Skull Valley, and

  • Bird of the Month: Black-crowned Night Heron

    By Russ Chappell Normally considered nocturnal birds, the beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron may move about during the daytime while feeding, primarily in the evening or after nightfall. During twilight hours, they may be seen flying toward one of their favorite foraging spots, sounding their loud and harsh quawk from which they received one of their popular names, the “Qua-bird.” The preferred hunting grounds of the Black-crowned Night Heron are shallow creeks, edges of ponds, and swamps which may include pools. They usually hunt alone and at some distance from their breeding location, so feeding their young involves lengthy flights back to the nest. Rather than stand rigidly, knee-deep in the water, like Great Blue Herons, night-herons move stealthily, head lowered, neck curved, ready for the quick stroke that brings demise to whatever frog, fish, or other prey they locate. Sociable birds, night herons often reside in large colonies during the nesting season. These heronries are usually in secluded wooded areas and may include hundreds of pairs plus four or five youngsters per family. The parents frequently raise two broods a season, so it’s common to find the adult birds feeding two sets of young simultaneously: fledglings in the nest and older juveniles scrambling around in the branches near the nest. Slightly over two feet in length, adult Black-crowned Night Herons are black and ash-gray with white below, and they display

  • Bird of the Month: Killdeer

    By Doug Iverson The Killdeer (Charadrius Vociferous) is a relatively easy bird to identify — especially when it moves! It’s found in open areas, generally in agricultural fields and near the shoreline at Willow Lake here in Prescott — especially in the winter and spring — but they occur all year. Killdeer belong to the plover family. While chicks only have one black breast band, adults are distinguished by having two black bands and a distinct reddish-orange ring around a large black eye. The underside is completely white except for those two black bands. Killdeer have a loud, high-pitched, piercing kill-dee, kill-deer, dee-dee-dee call, heard both night and day, uttered repeatedly. Killdeer place eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. Eggs are difficult for predators to see due to a broken color pattern that mimics the ground surface. Hatchlings can forage with adults as soon as their downy feathers dry (precocial). If these defenses are insufficient, the Killdeer parent will use a distraction display, such as feigning injury by dragging a wing across the ground, limping, or flattening its tail, drawing a predator away from the nest, as is shown in the photograph above. Male and female parents raise the young and have even been observed flying in the face of would-be poachers. They react quickly and vociferously to any perceived threat. Killdeer often nest where they winter —

  • Bird of the Month: Black-chinned Sparrow

    By Maxine Tinney On a warm summer afternoon, an adult male Black-chinned Sparrow appears at one of the groundwater pans to quench its thirst with a refreshing drink of cool, clear water. Normally this sparrow is inconspicuous with retiring habits; now it bravely emerges from the chaparral of tangled shrubs and thorny bushes. This male Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis) is a breeding adult songbird and has a black chin patch, throat, and lores, highlighted by a grey torso saddled with reddish brown back and brown wings, light gray underparts, long brownish tail, and a thick, bright orangy-pink bill. The male arrives in Prescott during the spring breeding season and sometime sings for a mate from conspicuous perches, but otherwise tends to seek discreet cover in dense shrubs. Both sexes may be located by voice and song with a series of slurred notes, ssip/ssip/ssip, running together and accelerating into a rapid trill. In the nearby underbrush, a female with feathers of more restricted greys and brownish tones answers the male’s song, chooses him as a mate, and builds a shallow, open cup nest near the ground in dense shrub. The nest is made of dry grass, weed stems, and yucca fibers, and lined with fine grass, plant fibers, sometimes feathers or animal hair. The “mate-guarding” male stays close to the female during the laying of two to four pale blue eggs,

  • Bird of the Month: Long-billed Curlew

    By Russ Chappell Long-billed Curlews (aka “candlestick birds”) are a migratory species that spend summers in western North America and winters in southern wetlands, tidal estuaries, mudflats, flooded fields, and beaches. These long-legged shorebirds are the size of crows. With wingspans of almost three feet, these birds have long, thin, down-curved bills. The females are slightly longer than the males. They have heavy spheroid bodies, long necks, and small heads. In terms of color, they’re brown with bars and speckles above and have plain cinnamon bellies and wings of brilliant cinnamon, visible during flight. Long-billed Curlews strut with heads moving back and forth while walking or running. When they leap into the air to take flight, they thrust their legs behind them and retract their necks. During landings, they flap their wings upward, hover briefly before touching down, and often run a few feet following the landing. These birds forage on shores and mud flats using their long bills to catch worms and burrowing shrimp and crabs. In grasslands, they feast on grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and occasionally eggs and nestlings. Monogamous during the breeding season, Long-billed Curlews often remaining paired in subsequent seasons. Nests are on the ground where the male and female form a shallow depression with their bills and chests, then line it with pebbles, tree bark, grass, and other shrubbery. These birds have one brood per season

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