Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow
Cliff swallows are native to most of North America, although they are more common in the western part of the continent. During the winter they migrate to South America. As their name would suggest they are often found nesting on cliffs. In the past this limited their range. However cliff swallows have adapted to human civilization and now nest on many man made structure, such as bridges and building overhangs. This has helped them to expand their range and they can now be found in a variety of habitats.
Cliff Swallow
 Cliff swallows eat primarily flying insects which they catch in flight. They usually feed in groups. These groups can consist of a couple of birds or a flock of 100's of birds. Often swallows will follow another bird who has found a good area to hunt.
Cliff Swallow
Cliff swallows usually nest in colonies. Colonies in western North America tend to be larger than their counterparts in eastern North America. Both male and female build the nest which is made from mud. They will typically have 1 to 2 broods of chicks per year depending on where in the range their nest is located. Some swallows will lay eggs in other nests in the colony. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Brown-crested Flycatcher
 The brown-crested flycatcher is found from Arizona and southern Texas down through Mexico, Central and South America. They are year round residents in most of their territory, however birds that nest in the United Sates often migrate to Mexico for the winter. They are often found in riparian forests, open woodlands, and desert scrub habitats, where they hunt insects on the wing in the under brush. They will also sometimes eat lizards or fruit depending on what is available. They look very similar to the ash-throated flycatcher but usually have a broader beak and depper yellow belly. This photo was taken at The Santa Ana NWR in south Texas.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

American Dipper

American Dipper
 The American dipper is not your typical songbird. They are not cute and colorful and popular on blog posts. However they are very fascinating as the are the only aquatic songbird in North America. The American dipper preys on aquatic insects and small fish which it often catches under the water. They find their prey by constantly dipping their head under the water, which is how they got their name.
American Dipper
 The American dipper is found along streams and rivers in the western half of North and Central America, from Alaska to Panama. They are not migratory and stay on territory year round. An abundance of feathers and a slow metabolic rate allow them to survive the freezing river temperatures even during the winter. The white spot in the photo above is the eye lid. These photos were taken on the Yellowstone River.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day

Othello
Happy Independence Day to all of my friends in the US. This handsome fellow is Othello. He is one of our education eagles at The Raptor Center.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Yellow-throated Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo
 The yellow-throated vireo is a small song bird that breeds through out much of the eastern United States. Minnesota, where these pictures where taken, is on the western edge of their range. They prefer forest habitats where they can glean insect from foliage. Insects are their primary food source although they will also eat seeds and fruit. During the winter they migrate down to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and northern portions of South America.
Yellow-throated Vireo
 The yellow-throated vireo is one of the most colorful vireo found in North America. They are primarily solitary coming together only for mating and raising their young. Nests are built in trees and are usually made from a combination of bark, vegetation, pine needles, spider webs and hair.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis
The white-faced ibis is medium sized wading bird with a diverse breeding range. They breed further north than other species of ibis, breeding as far north as the Canadian border. They breed as far south as central Argentina. In between they are found in the western plains of the United States, California, the Gulf Coast, Mexico and throughout the Central portion of South America. Birds in the northern portion of the range migrate south for the winter. Those breeding along the Gulf Coast, southern California, Mexico and South America are typically year round residents. The white-faced ibis looks similar to the glossy ibis except for the white outline around the face which is where they got their name.




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Violet-green Swallow

Violet-green Swallow
 Each time we go to Yellowstone we look for violet-green swallows around the Old Faithful area. As with many types of swallows they like to nest under the eaves of building and there are plenty of spots around Old faithful for them to nest. The violet-green swallow is a bird that is found through out the western half of North America. They breed as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. Since they eat primarily insects which they catch in the air most of them migrate south for the winter down into Mexico and Central America where there are plenty of bugs to eat. Birds that breed in parts of Mexico are typically year round residents. Even though they seem to breed in Yellowstone we do not see them every time that we go. It usually depends on how long the winter lasted, whether they have returned by the time we arrive at the end of May. This year we found none at Old Faithful but there were quite a few flying around West Yellowstone where we stayed.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three-toed Woodpecker

Three-toed Woodpecker
 The three-toed woodpecker is a woodpecker of the north.In fact their range extends further north than any other woodpecker. The American three-toed woodpeckers range extends through the boreal forests of Canada and down into the Rocky Mountains. The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker's range extends through out northern Europe and Asia. The American and Eurasian version both look similar but differ in their DNA. The three-toed woodpecker gets its common name because it is one of only a few species of woodpeckers that have only 3 toes, most species have 4. The black-backed woodpecker also has only three toes. it is found in similar habitats, although its range does not extend quite as far north. The three-toed and black-backed woodpeckers look very similar except that the three-toed woodpecker has white barring on its back while the black-backed has a plain black back, as its name would suggest.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
The scissor-tailed flycatcher is long tailed tyrant flycatcher. They are a member of the Tyrannus, or kingbird genus. They breed in the south central United States, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas as well as parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and northern Mexico.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Even though much of their breeding territory has warm temperatures year round, the scissor-tailed flycatchers migrate south each winter down into southern Mexico and Central America. Prior to migrating they often gather in premigratory flocks of up to 1000 birds 
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  As with most kingbirds the scissor-tailed flycatcher primarily eats insects. They catch their prey by hawking,  flying off from a perch to catch a flying insect in the air, or gleaning them from branches. Although they are a flycatcher they feed mainly on grasshoppers, dragonflies and robber-flies. On their wintering grounds they may also eat some fruit.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed fly catchers are extremely territorial while breeding and will often go after larger birds such as hawks, owls, and crows that enter their territory. They are also the state bird of Oklahoma.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Roseate Spoonbill

 Roseate Spoonbill
The roseate spoonbill is a large colorful wading bird that is found in wetland in the coastal Gulf Coast, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America. In the United States they are found in Southern Florida, and the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. In the early 1900's these birds had been nearly eliminated from the U.S. due to the feather trade, which killed birds for feathers that were used for fans, hats, and clothes. In south Florida there were less than 50 breeding pairs left.
Roseate Spoonbill
With the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 most native species of birds in North America were given protection. Populations of roseate spoonbills began to rise again in the United States. In southern Florida spoonbills typically nest in mangrove trees. However in Texas and Louisiana most spoonbills nest on the ground on small off shore islands. The islands help protect their nests from predators who do not want to cross the water. Unfortunately their reliance on these island nesting sites make them susceptible to habitat loss, due to coastal development, and environmental factors such as huricanes and oil spills.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peregrine Falcon

 Peregrine Chick at Banding
 Lately I have been spending some time photographing the peregrines at the Ford Bridge that connects St Paul and south Minneapolis. The bridge is not far from an active eagles nest and a spot where Merlin falcons frequently nest, so it enables me to photograph several different nests from several different species in a very close area.
Peregrine Falcons and Chicks at Nesting Box
 For the past few years the peregrines have decided to nest under the bridge which makes it impossible to get any decent pictures of the nest. Back in 2010, when most of the pictures in this post where taken, the peregrines nested in the nesting box which is on the side of the dam.
Young Peregrine Falcon Fledging
The dam box is very visible from the observation platform at the dam which made it very easy to document the peregrines early life through photographs. When they were very young it was difficult to see them inside the nest box. Fortunately through my connections with The Raptor Center I was able to attend the banding that year. The top photo was taken  at the banding at the beginning of June.
Adult Peregrine Falcon in Flight
A few weeks later the peregrine chicks were almost as big as their parents and already had a majority of their flight feathers, the second photo. They are also very hungry. In another week they are ready to fledge / fly, the third photo. Eventually they will look like their parents, final photo. This year since they are nesting under the dam I can only photograph them when they visit one of their neighboring perches. Hopefully i will get a chance to photograph the chicks before they leave the area.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy B-Earthday


 For many of you who visit this blog today is a very special day. Earth Day began back in 1970 as a celebration of nature and the environmental movement.
Nature and environmental stewardship have always been central themes here at the Ecobirder blog but Earth Day also holds a special meaning. 
It was eight years ago today that the Ecobirder blog was born.

Here is a copy of the initial post.

Welcome to my new Ecobirder Blog

In honor of Earth Day 2007 I have started my first blog. The purpose of this blog will be to share my love of the environment, wildlife, and birding with others who share these interests.
 

The owl pictures above are the first photos that I posted to the blog on April 24, 2007. This nest had one chick and it was located at the Woodlake Nature Center.
 
I hope that you all enjoy this blast to the past.
 
I thank you for your support and hope that you continue to visit for a long time to come.
 
Happy B-Earthday 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Osprey

Osprey with Fish
 Now that all of the ice has left the rivers and lakes the osprey have returned to Minnesota. Osprey are found on every continent in the world except for Antarctica. They nest on all continents except Antarctica and South America. Osprey do migrate to South America, from North America, during the winter. However they do not nest in South America.
Osprey Banding
 The osprey is sometimes called a fishing hawk. This is because their primary food source is fish. However they are not really a hawk. They actually have their own genus, Pandion, and family Pandionidae. This is because Osprey have some unique characteristics and behaviors that differ from other hawks, falcons, and eagles. First off all of their toes are relatively the same size, unlike other diurnal raptors which have a longer toe called a hallux. They also have the ability, like owls, to shift their outer toe so that they can have two toes facing front and two facing back instead of 3 forword and one back like hawks, eagles, and falcons.
Osprey bringing fish to the nest
 These adaptations to their feet are designed to help them catch fish. Switching their toes to two forward and two back helps them to hold onto slippery fish. They also have rough pads on the bottom to help them to grasp a fish. They are much better at catching fish than the bald eagles are, actually plunging up to a couple of feet below the water surface to catch their prey.
Osprey and Turkey Vulture Face Off
Unfortunately it is dangerous world and a passing eagle or turkey vulture will not hesitate to try and steal the osprey's hard earned meal. Osprey were once rare here in Minnesota due to DDT, which affected many different species of raptors. Through release programs the population has rebounded nicely here and is now stable and healthy. Half of the pictures in this post were taken in Minnesota the other half were taken in south Texas.