Search Results for "bird of the month"

  • 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

  • Bird of the Month: Blue-winged Teal

    By Richard Schooler A Blue-winged Teal was recently reported at Watson Woods in Prescott. And that’s news to celebrate. The Blue-winged Teal is reported by Carl Tomoff in his “Birds of Prescott, Arizona” (2009) to be a rarely observed transient in the Prescott region. Breeding within the State of Arizona has been confirmed in southern Apache County and possible in southern Navajo County according to the “Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas” (Corman and Wise-Gervais, 2005). Breeding has not been reported or suspected in the Prescott region. The male Blue-winged Teal is unmistakable with a bold white crescent in front of the eye and a white flank patch just in front of the tail. In flight, in addition to the white crescent on the head, a blue wing patch is evident on the wings, giving the bird its name. Unfortunately, the wing patch is not generally visible while the bird is on the water or sitting on land unless the bird is observed stretching its wings. The female Blue-winged Teal is much more subtle. It doesn’t display the white facial crescent or flank patch. She does have a dark line through the eye and a faint small white patch on the lores behind the bill. Both sexes have brownish underparts. In the fall, the plumage of both adults, regardless of sex, appear similar. The adult males gain their distinctive breeding plumage by

  • Bird of the Month: Common Yellowthroat

    By Peter Pierson You might be one of the many who find themselves driving north on Miller Valley Road, stopping at a red light at Whipple. As temperatures rise through the spring, you might roll your window down to take in the season’s affirming breeze and warm sun, idling at the light. Take a moment to offer the scene a bit of attention. On your right, on the southeast corner of that intersection, willows are in spring bloom. Cattails are greening in the restored urban wetland. You might catch a glimpse of butterflies and early dragonflies among the greenery. Just as the light turns to green, you hear a rolling, melodic witchety-witchety-witchety-witch from the lush growth alongside the busy street. You start forward, slowly, and hear it again, removing the lingering disbelief. It’s the song of the common yellowthroat, right here in this tiny urban sanctuary. A member of the family Parulidae, this New World, or wood, warbler is at home in the lush green undergrowth of marshes and sedges from the Gulf Coast to the edge of the Arctic. Like other birds dependent exclusively on the green corridors and small islands of wetlands here in the arid Southwest, its colorful plumage and vibrant song stands out in our diminishing riparian ecosystems. The male yellowthroat is easily identified (when you can catch a glimpse of it) by following its song

  • Bird of the Month: Wood Duck

    By Sharon Arnold Just a few riparian areas in Arizona support Wood Ducks, and Watson Woods along Granite Creek is a good place to spot them. Don’t be surprised if you see this colorful, distinctively marked duck — some might say, a gaudy bird — peering out of a nest hole. Wood Ducks nest in natural cavities or nest boxes in wooded swamps or in trees along creeks and lakes. They are the only North American duck to produce two broods a year. A clutch may have up to 10 or 11 eggs. Chicks are alert when hatched and covered with down. A day after hatching, the nestlings are ready to fledge. The mother calls from below, and the ducklings jump down, sometimes from heights of 50 feet, without injury. Wood Ducks have strong claws that grip bark and help them perch safely on branches near their nest site. They do not excavate a cavity preferring instead to use a site where a branch has broken off and created an opening. Ornate, courting males swim speedily before an elegant female with wings and tail elevated sometimes with the head tilted back. Ritualized drinking, preening and shaking movements can be observed. Look for mated pairs in the Watson Woods pond and in the shallow, swampy south end of Watson Lake. These ducks eat aquatic seeds, fruits, and insects by dabbling or

  • Bird of the Month: Barn Owl

    By Felipe Guerrero A band of coyotes yip and howl excitedly as the last reaches of light lift off the rounded peaks and icy corners of the Granite Dells. The winter sun lowers and finally its glowing crown disappears from the western skyline. A pulse of frozen air washes over the rocks and the temperature sinks. A large oak, anchored on the edge of a grassy cove, stirs with the first cold breath of night, its branches waving stiffly in the breeze. In the tree, a Barn Owl shifts her position, awakened by the waning light and the sound of wind through the leaves. Her dark eyes open widely and stare out on the field to the north through a small window in the branches. A second icy breeze surges through the old oak. Without a sound she is gone. Sailing silently on long, pale wings across the darkening sky, she appears ghostlike. Her body is white from below, lightly speckled across her breast and belly. Above she is cloaked in soft orange and beige tones, dappled with gray. As she flies, her outstretched head intently scans the earth below. Her sharp eyes, fixed within a mask of fleecy white feathers, perceive even the smallest features passing beneath in unimaginable detail. Banking left and right she turns her ears to the ground, listening for movement from her small, favored prey

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