Saturday, July 20, 2019

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It's widely reported and easily believed that birds get a substantial dietary benefit from the many, many backyard bird feeders people put out, especially the seed-eating birds.

The Red-bellied Woodpeckers in my observations are a good example of that.

Seeds and nuts are not a complete diet, but counting the number of trips made to the feeders daily, they are getting substantial nourishment from peanuts, raisins and tree nuts.

Insects and invertebrates discovered naturally should complete their diet.

As for the 'red belly' he supposedly sports, I've only seen one Red-bellied Woodpecker, (a few years ago now), that actually lived up to his name.

Even then the 'red' on his belly came nowhere near the red on his head and nape.

This female had her turn at the banquet table, so now rests to digest.

I've read that European Starlings bully Red-bellied Woodpeckers for their nesting sites. I've also seen Blue Jays squabbling with Red-bellied Woodpeckers for food at feeders, but the Red-bellieds are getting their share, too.


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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

White-breasted Nuthatches Fighting

Two White-breasted Nuthatches had a 'go' at each other one early morning in Brown Deer Park.

It's unclear what the dispute was about, but it seemed immensely important to them.

They danced around a small tree with sincere intentions of doing harm to the other, if things weren't seen 'my' way.

The tree's resources had nothing to do with it. It was merely a launching platform for attacks on the supposed intruder.


Little was accomplished and less was gained in this 5-second spat.

I was the only to witness it, but now YOU know it, too.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Eastern Bluebird

I think we have a pair of socially dysfunctional Eastern Bluebirds.

These two have been hanging around our backyard for over a month now.

They just eat, stare, linger and lounge on a dead box elder branch.

They sometimes investigate our bluebird house to see if it is to their liking. They'll keep an eye on it from the nearby tree, too, but aren't at all motivated to build a nest.

I once saw the male remove some debris from the previous year's inhabitants and that was a promising sign, albeit short lived.

The male also brings in new nesting material from time to time.

The female takes it inside gladly. She'll look for more and seems interested in building a new nest.

The male even sings from their personal branch in the box elder, but there is no evidence of eggs or baby Eastern Bluebirds to date.

She is what's described as a 'drab adult' female in the Sibley's Guide to Birds. She doesn't have the flare of  a 'bright adult' also described in the guide. A bright adult female looks much more like the male only slightly more muted.

They will sit for long stretches of time, for a songbird anyway, sometimes six inches to six feet apart just resting and preening.

It's as if they're both waiting for something to happen.

The male fluffs and stares in her direction.

This is an obvious 'pair'... still, a month seems a bit long for a bluebird courtship, although I'm no expert on the matter.

Maybe it's the unusually cool spring we are experiencing... delaying new bluebirds... another thing I don't know. 

I'll have to leave this Feather Tailed Story open-ended right here because I just don't know what their future will be.

I'll keep you posted.


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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Red-eyed Vireo

Life is good when meals literally fly into your mouth. This Red-eyed Vireo was having a picnic on hundreds of tiny flies buzzing around his head.

A bit of a balancing act was needed to stay upright... nothing too challenging.

The flies just kept coming.

(click any picture to enlarge)

When a banquet of flies begins to bore you, fly away and look for something more substantial.

Hovering requires more work, but it's worth it for the chance of finding a caterpillar.
Red-eyed Vireos are born with brown eyes. They turn a deep brick red only after the first year.

They are all-day-long singers, too. Listen to their sweet song at the following link:


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

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Baltimore Oriole

A female Baltimore Oriole looks to have struck the mother load of nesting material... a cassette tape. It would appear to be a good nesting material for the unique pouch-shaped nest... long and strong. However, it could entangle her in the process.

In that case, it's unlikely the male Baltimore Oriole could be of any help to her. Orioles, as other bird species, know only natural nest building materials...not audio tape.

There is no reason to think she met a bad ending with this material, but strange outcomes can happen.

Last summer I saw a female Baltimore Oriole weaving her nest with discarded fishing line. She was having difficulty threading long lengths of line and got entangled in the process.

She eventually won this battle and built a strong nest with it.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Be grateful if you get Baltimore Orioles or any orioles for that matter. They are beautiful to see and melodious to hear.

They will visit your feeder for orange halves, but are particularly fond of grape jelly.

There is little harm in feeding the birds, but they don't need yarn, string or plastic. Let them find their own 'natural' nest building material.

The Baltimore Orioles are in Wisconsin for a short time now... enjoy them.

Watch for Orchard Orioles at the same time. They'll all start to leave in July.

In other parts of the US look for:
Hooded Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Spot-breasted Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Scott's Oriole
Black-vented Oriole
Streak-backed Oriole
Bullock's Oriole


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Elegant Trogon

Some guys get all the attention.

There are hundreds to thousands of people looking for this bird.

The lure of the Elegant Trogon is amazing.

People come 'birding' for the Elegant Trogon with all sorts of binoculars, guidebooks, and photographic equipment.

Although some do come with nothing at all, I suspect the 'nothing at all' people are the spouses.

This is Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains of the Coronado National Forest, Arizona.  You're about 50 miles north of the Mexico border.

This bird 'holds court' every day for his subjects, but not always on the same spot on the mountain. Everyone must guess where and when he'll show up on any given day.

He is not shy about revealing his presence though. He barks out his bizarre song and it travels up and down the canyon, mostly in the early mornings.

Here is an audio link to an Elegant Trogon 'barking'... it's strange.

Cornell University:

Men and women, boys and girls string out along the creek with guidebooks and 'binos' hoping today is the day they'll get to see this rare bird.

The Coronado National Forest is south of Tucson. It's a 10 mile drive up to the end of the canyon. That's where you'll start looking for this colorful bird.

Because Elegant Trogons barely make it into the United States from Mexico and Central America, this bird's uniqueness feeds the local economy with purchases of gas, food and lodging.

All this attention certainly is wasted on the Elegant Trogon though. All he is interested in is fruit and insects to eat and a place to call home.

He has that here, along with exposure to a lot of people to which he's blissfully unconcerned.


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

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Black-headed Grosbeak

                Ah, spring!

This male Black-headed Grosbeak is well dressed for the 2019 find-a-mate match-up season.

He will make a pretty good 'catch', too.

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, the Black-headed Grosbeak males
"... share the chick-rearing duties of sitting on the eggs and feeding the young about equally."

(Click any picture to enlarge)

This is not typical male nesting behavior, although males generally provide protection and feed the female during incubation.

She likely would be impressed by the male's sweet whistled song, too.
Hear an audio recording at:

It's solely the female's choice and only she know what will make a good mate.


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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Turkey Vulture (Zone-tailed Hawk)

                                        Would it be unkind to say only 95% of the Turkey Vulture is beautiful?

Turkey Vultures can be seen in summer throughout most of North America.

They're often seen soaring in circles high in the air with their wings held at a dihedral (V-shaped). 

They're looking for something newly deceased. Or more precisely 'sniffing' for it.  Turkey Vultures find their food by smell. 

Odors rise in Sonoran Desert heat.  It's not long before a death is discovered.  

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: "Turkey Vultures almost never attack living prey."

The sight of Turkey Vultures soaring overhead doesn't frighten animals because they have little to fear from Turkey Vultures. 

But the similarly sized Zone-tailed HAWK (like this one) knows this. They sometimes join the vulture circles to launch their own attacks. 

You've likely seen Turkey Vultures in the sky whether you knew it or not. Their numbers are steadily increasing thanks to a mid-century legislative ban on DDT.
Eating carrion is not for the faint of heart, but Turkey Vultures fare quite well. They seem immune to botulism, anthrax, cholera, salmonella. 

It's residual poisons and lead shot found in dead animals that threaten this beautiful, essential bird.

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

Red-winged Blackbird

Have you ever meet a Red-winged Blackbird that LIKED YOU?
Red-winged Blackbirds have a reputation for being aggressive... towards PEOPLE.

They will get in your face and raise a racket. It's all a warning to let you know, you're in the wrong place.

Particularly aggressive ones will attack the top of your head and even draw blood, if you stray too close.

A female Red-winged Blackbird rests on a reed. She favors a cattail marsh to build a nest. Woven of plant material near the waterline it's lined with mud.

Her mate's territory may be shared with 5-15 other females if space permits. There is a lot of polygyny* in Red-winged Blackbird society.

It seems for all the bluff and bluster the males project, the females also get around. Genetic tests of offspring in a known territory have shown one-quarter to one-half come from different males.

Zoology a pattern of mating in which a male animal has more than one female mate.

With all this time and energy paid to protection, the Red-winged Blackbirds are surprisingly easy to observe.

They don't fly away.

To the contrary they'll come to you.

And they are not ALWAYS angry.

Sometimes they're calmly reflective.


(click any picture to enlarge)

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Bobcat (non-bird story)

Being 'surprised' by a bobcat is a good thing.

I was looking for birds at the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, Arizona, when this strikingly beautiful bobcat strolled out of the weeds.

I had heard of a bobcat that roamed the wetlands, but I had not had the pleasure of meeting her.

Bobcats are at least twice the size of a typical house cat... 13-30 pounds.

This one showed no fear of humans and allowed me to follow her around. I knew she wasn't bothered because she even walked towards me at times. With casual glances, she always knew where I was.

That was being gracious for an animal and wildly unlike the hundreds of birds I so desperately wish to get near.

A riffle of fur outlines the face to give bobcats a unique look.

They get their name from the short wisp of a tail which, oddly and barely, serves a purpose anymore.

(The following two photographs are for those people who enjoy identifying animals by scat left behind. If you wish to skip such information, stop here.)

(click any picture to enlarge)

I can tell you with 100% accuracy this is bobcat scat.