Saturday, May 26, 2018

Baltimore Oriole (nest building)

Some birds go to elaborate extents to make a secure nests for their next generation. The Baltimore Oriole is one of those birds.

The tear drop shape is easily recognized as a Baltimore Oriole's nest in America, although other birds worldwide build woven hanging nest.

It's bewildering how this bird visualizes the process to begin with and possesses the dexterity to build this structure.

It surely starts somewhere deep in the bird's mind that straws and grasses are needed. The material must be strong, but of a manageable length.

Wrapping and securing long fibers starts construction. Using only her bill, she weaves and shapes the nest into a pouch.

It takes hundreds of fiber searching sorties for just the right properties of flexibility and strength.

Springy materials expand the pouch near the bottom of the nest to give the female space to incubate eggs.

The male Baltimore Oriole occasionally brings construction material to the nest, but his main focus is protecting the territory from threats.

The search for just the right nesting material is a week-long effort with countless back and forth trips.

There is a reason all this activity takes place in the spring... insects.

Food is plentiful or at least adequate at this time of year. High protein insects fill the air, providing a continuous buffet for the young growing chicks.

Just a few more trips are needed to complete this nest. Already plump and pendulous, a final touch will make it perfect.

(Click any  picture to enlarge.)

Soft cottony fibers are provided by the new spring trees. Collected with care and arranged at the bottom of the nest, the female will rest there comfortably secure for
11-14 days... expecting baby Baltimores soon!


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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Up in the sky!

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak putting on the Superman pose.

This ounce and a half bird with an outsized attitude and a striking red breast can be found in the Eastern half of the United States along forest edges and woodlots.

These three adult males appear to be traveling together on a warm spring day through the Lion's Den Nature Preserve in Grafton, Wisconsin.

To get to North America they likely flew across the Gulf of Mexico in one single night all the way from Central or South America.

That's pretty Super... man!

Both males and females have a whistling, sweet song. Check out the music they make on Cornell University's website:

The aim of all the singing is to impress a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

She sings the same sweet song, but has arrived here in a far less showy fashion as is typical for female birds.

I found her hiding deep inside a tree full of spring pear blossoms and wary of my intentions.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are medium sized, stocky songbirds slightly smaller than the American Robin. They're widespread and common, yet, I'm surprised as to how few I get to see while birding. Grosbeaks are just one bird that seems to elude me.

'Super' or not, he is one distinguished bird.

With a bird feeder full of sunflower seeds and raw peanuts you may entice the Rose-breasted Grosbeak to visit you. The caveat being you must live in the eastern half of the United States.


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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted, Eastern)

A Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted) spreads its wings and shows you why he deserves his name.

We're at the Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Town of Grafton, Wisconsin, USA.

Another distinguishing feature of this male Northern Flicker is the black malar (stripe) on his cheek.

It's spring and the male's all consuming drive is to attract a female.

Looking spectacular in not enough, though. Finding a nesting site to offer the female is essential.

A preferred location would be 6-13 feet above the ground with a 3 inch opening. Last year's hole might be fine if it's available. But if she wants a NEW home, chiseling another hole will take some work.

Being woodpeckers, that task is possible.

A dead or decaying tree is chosen. The spongy wood fibers give way to repeated pecks. The pair will share this task of making a 13-16 inch deep cavity in the tree. It will be a little wider near the bottom to accommodate incubation and room for 5-8 hatchlings.

This place looks nice!

The male calls the female to inspect it.

The female Northern Flicker checks it out.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

She finds one thing she didn't like and tosses it to the wind.

Finding the perfect location to raise the next generation takes careful consideration... is the site too visible... too low, too high... accessible to squirrels, crows or other predators.

Later that morning I watched a European Starling enter the cavity, possibly looking for a meal.
It left within seconds.

Given that European Starlings eat just about anything, including trash, an unguarded egg would likely go missing.

I revisited this site several times to see if the flickers were building a nest. I found no continuing activity. That leads me to believe they've turned down this location.

I'm assuming they are searching elsewhere for a more suitable home to raise this year's brood.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Orchard Oriole

You can't choose which birds you'll see on any given day. It's not up to you.

But if you have an option on an Orchard Oriole, don't pass it up.

These are beautiful birds.

Orchard Orioles are a rare treat. They are not here in Wisconsin for that long.

The Baltimore Orioles are more common and colorful, but the Orchard Oriole still shines in shades of satin black and burnished russet.

The female Orchard Oriole is a standout beauty bird, too.

They mainly eat insects so there is little you can do to entice them to your locale. Still, in fall when the insects disappear, mulberries and chokecherries will attract them.

You might get an Orchard Oriole at your hummingbird feed, whether you like it or not. They have a real 'sweet tooth'. 

They are not social birds, yet rather  agreeable to sharing territory with other birds at nesting time.

Being smaller than the others orioles they may have adapted to being congenial, not so much by choice... rather by necessity.

Look and listen for them singing in the treetops.

There are many smartphone apps you can download for free, so you'll recognize their song when you hear it.

You don't have much time though. Orchard Orioles are one of the first birds to leave in summer. They will be back in Central America all too soon for the winter.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Warbler Watching

Today would be a good day for warbler watching.

The emerging leaves are tiny, enhancing your chances of seeing these cute little birds. This Wilson's Warbler was at eye level and willing to be photographed in his fresh breeding finery.

Wilson's Warblers are common throughout the continental United States and Canada. Look for them gleaning insects from the new twigs and leaves.

Another common and easily recognized warbler is the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

You may be lucky and see one at your feeder if you put out raisins, sunflower seed, suet or peanut butter.

But with the hatch of fresh insects rising from the weeds right now, your offerings may be a second choice.

The Black and White Warbler is another stand-out warbler. 

Striped as a 'jailbird', this bouncy little warbler is usually found hopping up and down tree trunks.  He's searching for insects and invertebrates.

Black and White Warblers lead the warbler migration northward each year.

They're in Wisconsin now.

An Ovenbird scratches the leaf litter in search of food.

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds:
Its nest, a leaf-covered dome resembling an old-fashioned outdoor oven, gives the Ovenbird its name.

The Palm Warbler is another May warbler... widespread... easy to find with a bit of trying.

Binoculars make birding far more enjoyable. 

Birds seem to fly away when you're just close enough to distinguish their features. That's the frustrating part of birding.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Yellow is a popular color in warblers. This one is simply called the Yellow Warbler.

There're more than 50 species of warblers in America. If you wonder why all these colorful birds aren't in your neighborhood, your location may not be 'bird friendly'.

Or, it could be you never got close enough to see what's there. Binoculars will help, but there is nothing more important than an awareness of their existence.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds