Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blue Jay

Besides being a noisy bird with a harsh voice, the Blue Jay copes with a rather unsettling reputation. Commonly known to be a nest robber and an egg eater...his defense is he is not the worst of the bunch. And that's right. The American Crow has an even more menacing reputation of nest predation.

'Not the worst' isn't the most eloquent defense though, but he is just playing the hand he was dealt.

Blue Jays are social birds within their own group...some even mate for life. But Blue Jays don't seem to make friends easily.

You rarely see Blue Jays intermingle with other birds in defensive cooperation.

Blue Jays keep to themselves.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

A noisy "squawk" often announces his arrival, closely followed by a posture declaring who the boss is now. It's a he cannot defend. Many other birds bully the Blue Jay until he flies away.

One outstanding feature of a Blue Jay is the blue. 

Bold contrasts and gentle shading give this large songbird a dramatic look like no other.

In actual fact, the blue is not blue at all. According to Cornell University:
The pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs.

Even social birds can have their squabbles.

A dispute erupts on a low branch over the green-blanketed Milwaukee River. Two Blue Jays fight over possession of this prime river spot.

The attacker quickly becomes the loser. He receives a mucky green bath for his boldness before flying off.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

It's hard to clean up a soiled reputation. It's likely Blue Jays are not all that good at influencing public opinion or simply don't care either way. Perhaps, however, our opinion of the beautiful Blue Jay's nature deserves an upgrade.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

              A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak is photobombed as she poses prettily in Mequon, WI.

She sees something interesting and strains to investigate.

She is a careful bird. There is a Cooper's Hawk in this neighborhood and Cooper's are fast and deadly. The hawk has not been seen today, but that is of little comfort to her.

The usual seeds and berries of fall are scattered all around, although the summer insects are disappearing. 

She will need to gather many seeds and berries along her way to Central or South America. This is just a brief stop for her...passing through Wisconsin.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Wood Duck

A beautiful male Wood Duck paddles a backwater of the Milwaukee River in Mequon, Wisconsin. The water is covered by duckweed, but the floating green mat barely slows them down. These are migrants. They are just passing through.

This pair has a family of different ages, including hatch year youngsters and older siblings.

Two broods a year are quite common for Wood Ducks.

           I'll call these two brothers. They are just starting to develop the bold markings of male Wood Ducks.

The sun hung low.  The days are shortening as father and mother Wood Duck stretch and bend. They must prepare for the demands of a Wood Duck's day...perhaps starting with Wood Duck yoga.

Gleaning the water's surface for food is always a task. Whatever they were eating was too small for me to see, but they eat seeds, fruits, insects and yes, duckweed.

A Blue Jay's alarm call went out and the adult Wood Ducks alerted skyward in unison. No threat materialized and calm returned. Birds are known to respond to alarm calls of other bird species.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Wood Ducks are common in a vast area of the United States...always near water.

They are secretive though. They prefer rivers and creeks with abundant vegetation for cover.

This male offers an admiring glance.

                 He has a lot to offer a female, too. He is a handsome dude. You think he knows it?

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Common Grackle

Even on a good day the Common Grackle is unlikely to win the beautiful bird contest. He doesn't have a lot going for him looks wise, so you'd probably pass him by for most beautiful bird pick.

To be fair, many birds, including the Common Grackle, are going through their annual molt right now. That would certainly lower one's odds of winning a beauty contest.

This flock of about seventy-five birds landed on our lawn recently, pausing on their migration.  They immediately began searching for insects in the grass.

The group only stayed long enough to eat and run. Most of the flock was in some stage of renewing their feathers.

The seasons are changing and so is the bird's look.

Posing in the right light, you might see a nice iridescence glow being replaced by a dull brown winter coat.

Many grackles retreat from Wisconsin to spend their winter where the weather suits their clothes.

The grackle may not make the list of your most favorite birds, but he still has something to offer you...up the right light.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds