The ferruginous hawk is one of only three diurnal raptors in North America that have feathers that reach all the way to their feet. The other two species, the rough-legged hawk and the golden eagle, have ranges that are further north or in higher elevations than the ferruginous. The breeding range of the ferruginous only extends into southern Canada with many of the birds breeding in the northern half of the range migrating to the southwestern U.S. and Mexico for the winter.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The eastern towhee is a passerine found in the eastern half of North America. They nest from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast and as far north as southern portions of Canada. Birds in the northern portion of the range migrate to the southern United States for the winter while birds in the southern portion of the range stay on territory year round.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The chestnut-sided warbler is a colorful passerine that is easy to identify. They nest in the southeastern half of Canada and in the north eastern and north central United States.They spend winters in Central America, Northern portions of South America and the Caribbean. each inter they often go to the same territory where they mix with tropical warblers and other birds in foraging flocks. Most of their diet is made up of insects.
Chest-nut sided warblers typically nest in deciduous forests. They make a cup shaped nest made of bark, grasses, and other plant material usually located in a bush or small tree within 6 feet of the ground. Immature birds do not have the maroon streak of their parents. I photographed this immature in northeast Minnesota where they bread. The top shot was taken during migration when they pass through southern Minnesota on their way to the breeding grounds.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
American goldfinch breed through out the central and northern United States and southern Canada. They tend to breed later than most other birds, waiting for the thistle and milkweed seed. They often use the little parachute fibers from these seeds to line their nests. The abundance of seeds help to feed the chicks. Their typical habitat is open fields where plenty of weeds are growing.
During the winter birds that breed in the northern portions of their range migrate to the southern US and Mexico. Prior to migrating the gold finch will molt into its winter plumage. This is one of two molts per year. The first molt occurs at the end of winter when the goldfinch changes to its bright yellow breeding plumage.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The white-eyed vireo is a small passerine that breeds in the south eastern United States. They are typically found in scrub where they can often be seen hopping between branches gleaning insects from the bushes. They will also some times eat fruit. During the winter they migrate to their southern wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean. I photographed this bird on South padre island. The South Padre Convention Center had a small garden with a man made stream running through which attracted many birds who had just made a long flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
A few years back I took a trip out to the Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin. I began to travel to Necedah the year before because it is known for being one of the best places in the world to photograph endangered Karner Blue butterflies. On this particular trip it was early October, which is a bit late in the season for Karners, but I had a free weekend day and wanted to go photograph some place that I had not photographed so often. The day was going well, photographing primarily red-headed woodpeckers, when as I was walking along a dirt road I spotted a pair of large white birds flying my way. As the got closer I was excited to see that it was a pair of whooping cranes.
The whooping crane is one of the largest birds in North America and it is highly endangered. They stand about 5 feet tall and have over a seven foot wingspan. Because of habitat loss and unregulated hunting the population of the whooping crane dropped to just 15 birds by 1941. They were added to the endangered species list in 1967. Since this time their population has been increased slowly to about 400 - 500 birds today.
Most of the cranes, around 300 or so, are a part of a flock that breeds in Wood Buffalo Park in Canada and winters in Aransas National Wildlife refuge in Texas. This flock are the decedents of the remaining 15. However there is concern about the population since they breed and winter together in the same location. A disease, natural disaster, or man made disaster could easily wipe out the entire flock in one shot. In order to avoid potential disaster the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership began to release birds into central Wisconsin. Young birds where then trained to fly to wintering grounds in Florida using ultra light aircraft. This project was based out of Necedah NWR. These birds are a part of the eastern flock, easy to tell because of the tracking bracelet on one of the legs, which now numbers over 100.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Snowy owls are more diurnal then most owls.It makes sense that they would have to be active during daytime hours during the nesting season, which runs from may through September. During the summer daylight can stretch to over 20 hours per day. Birds that stay on the nesting territory during the winter would have to switch to nocturnal hunting because of lack of daylight during the winter. The primary prey of the snowy owl are lemmings. They will also eat other small mammals as well as ptarmigan and water fowl.
Occasionally there are mass eruptions of snowy owls down into Europe, Asia, or the United States. These typically occur because of a lack of food in their tundra territories. this lack of food can be caused by a bad year for the prey species, such as a decline in the lemming population due to disease, or it can be caused by a particularly good breeding season. as a ground nesting bird snowy owls can lay up to 11 eggs in a clutch. most years a snowy pair can not support that many chicks and some do not make it. On a good year where there is plenty of prey during the breeding season more chicks survive and when it comes time for them to go out on their own in the winter many head south to find food. This past winter was a huge snowy eruption in the US. Snowies were seen all the way down in Florida. Most of the snowies that I spotted were immature birds which suggests that it was a good breeding year for snowies. Unfortunately many of the snowies that came south will never make it back.