Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome Spring

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Last Friday was the first day of Spring. Here in Minnesota mid March does not typically look like Spring, especially the past couple of year. We often still have a lot of snow on the ground and temps that barely reach above freezing. This year has been different though. This winter we have had very little snow and with a couple of weeks with temps in the fifties and even some sixties most of what we had has already melted, although we just got another coating last night. With the warm spring like weather we have been having I have even begun to see woolly bear caterpillars come out of hibernation.
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
The woolly bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella tiger moth. Woolly bear caterpillars are found in paces with colder climates, including the Arctic. They over Winter in their caterpillar form by producing cryprotectant in their tissues. This natural anti freeze allows them to freeze solid over the winter. When the weather warms up they thaw up, pupate and become an Isabella Tiger moth. They will then lay eggs that will hatch in the early fall starting the process over again.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Inca Dove

Inca Dove
 Doves are not one of the families of birds that one thinks of when they think of birds that are cool, attractive or sexy. However even though it is pretty plain as far as color goes I think that the scaled look of the feathers makes the Inca Dove look pretty cool.
Inca Dove
Inca doves are native to Mexico and Central America. In the US they are found along the southern border of Mexico in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They live in arid climates where they eat seeds that they find primarily by foraging on the ground.Inca doves will sometimes roost by standing on top of one another like a pyramid. This behavior is similar to the Harris Hawk in the last post that will also perch on one another.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk
 The Harris hawk is a colorful medium sized hawk. They are found in Mexico, Central and South America. In the United States they can be found in the southwest, particularly Texas and Arizona. These pictures where taken in south Texas.
Harris Hawk
 They are typically found in arid scrubland, tropical deciduous forest, mangrove swamps, and open grasslands habitats. They stay on their breeding territory all year long and do not typically migrate. They eat primarily small mammals but will also eat birds, lizards, snakes and large insects.
Harris Hawk
Young Harris hawks often stay with their parents for up to three years after they fledge. These family groups will often hunt together in pack type fashion. One bird will often flush the prey and chase it to where other members of the "pack" are waiting in ambush. In much of their territory trees are sparse so Harris hawks will often perch on the back of another Harris hawk in a behavior called stacking. This last photo is an immature Harris hawk.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Green Jay

Green Jay
 The green jay is a resident of Mexico, Central and northern South America. The Mexican and Central American population is separated from the South American population and differ in size, color and call. It is possible that in the future it may be discovered that they are actually separate species or at least different subspecies.
Green Jay
 Green jays typically prefer riparian thickets and other dense forested areas in humid climates. The exception to this is in south Texas. South Texas is the only place in the United States where green jays can be found. In Texas they inhabit mesquite thickets, native scrub and open park lands. These birds where photographed in Texas at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Bentsen State Park respectively.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
The ferruginous hawk is a large raptor found in the western plains of North America. They are a member of the buteo genus of hawks. Buteos are soaring hawks that are distinguished by their long wings and short tails. They ferruginous hawks are the largest hawk in North America and the second largest buteo in the world.
Ferruginous Hawk
The common name ferruginous comes from the Latin word ferrgin which roughly means iron rust. This is of course in reference to their rusty red colored feathers. The ferruginous hawk is one of only three North American raptors, other than owls, that have feathers that extend down their legs to their toes. The other two raptors are the rough-legged hawk and the golden eagle.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl Gray
 The eastern screech-owl is a small owl that is found in the eastern half of the United States, south-eastern Canada, and north eastern Mexico.  They can be found in a variety of different habitats including suburban and metropolitan areas. The main priority for habitat is available cavities, since they are a cavity nester. This can be a tree cavity or a man made cavity such as a nesting box. Like most owls they stick on their nesting territory through out the entire year and do not migrate during the winter unless their is a shortage of prey.
Eastern Screech-Owl Red
Like most raptors there is no difference in color between male and female eastern screech-owls.females are typically larger than males however it is difficult to tell by size with out one of the opposite sex to reference. However, as you can probably guess by these photos, there are two different color variations of eastern screech-owl. About 70% of the population is gray, like the wild owl in the first photo. The other 30% are red like Mestaae above. Mestaae is an educational raptor at The Raptor Center. The percentage of red screech-owls is higher in the east with only about 15% red at the western edges of their range.  


Friday, February 6, 2015

Sandhill Cranes in Flight

Sandhill Cranes in Flight
Each year thousands of sandhill cranes stop by the Platt River, in central Nebraska, to feed and rest during their spring migration north.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing
 The cedar waxwing is a robin sized songbird that is found in the northern United States and southern Canada. Birds that breed in the northern US are typically year round residents while birds that breed in Canada often migrate south to the US, Mexico and Central America for the winter. Waxwings get their name from the red waxy substance that forms on the tips of some birds wings. Their are two species of waxwings in North America the cedar waxwing and the more northerly bohemian waxwing.
Cedar Waxwing
 Cedar waxwings eat mostly fruit. They typically eat the entire fruit discarding the seeds through their mute. Cedar waxwings get their name because they also eat the cones and berries of eastern red cedar, especially during the winter months when other fruits are not available. Sometimes they have been found intoxicated by eating fruit that has sat too long and  started to ferment. During the summer they will also supplement their diet with insects that they catch on the wing or glean from trees. The bird in the photo above is a first year bird while the one in the top photo is a mature adult.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler
 The black-throated green warbler is a small passerine that breeds in the eastern half of North America. The breeding range includes the south eastern two thirds of Canada, the northern Great Lakes States, and the eastern United States from Maine down to Virginia and the Carolinas. Across Canada they breed in coniferous boreal forests. In the northern United States they typically breed in mixed coniferous\deciduous and in the southern portions of  their range they breed in cypress swamps. This photo was taken in southern Minnesota in May during the Spring migration.
Black-throated Green Warbler
 Like most warbler species teh black-throated green warbler mainly eats insects. Usually it gleans its prey from branches and leaves. It will also sometimes catch insects in flight and occasionally eat berries Since there are not insects in Canada and the northern United States during the winter these warblers migrate to southern Florida, Mexico, Central and northern Southern America. This photo was taken in southern Florida in October.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler
 The Wilson's warbler is a small new world warbler. They breed across Canada and the western United States. The typical breeding habitat consists of open woodlands, with plenty of undergrowth, typically ponds, lakes or bogs. The nest is built primarily by the female. It is cup shaped, made of vegetation, and lined with grass or hair. It is usually placed on the ground in the grass or under a bush or sometimes low in a bush.  
Wilson's Warbler
 Like most warblers Wilson's warblers are primarily an insect eater, gleaning insects from trees and undergrowth or catching them in flight. Since their are no insects in Canada during the winter they migrate south to Mexico and Central America. Their wintering grounds consists of a variety of typically secondary growth habitats such as tropical forests, thorn-scrub, mangrove undergrowth, riparian forests, and coffee plantations.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager
 The scarlet tanager is an American passerine. They breed through out the eastern half of the United States and parts of southeastern Canada. During this time they feed primarily on insects which they typically glean from th trunk and branches of trees at the top of the canopy. They will also catch flying insects in the air, like a flycatcher, and occasionally eat some fruit.
Scarlet Tanager
The scarlet tanager gets its name from the bright red color of the male. The females are yellow in color with the same black colored wings that the male has. In the fall males will molt and change from their bright scarlet colored plumage to a yellow color similar to the normal female plumage. The bird above was photographed in mid molt. The tanagers will then migrate south, flying over the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Northern South America. Their they will join mixed feeding flocks of tanagers, flycatchers and other tropical birds.  



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
 The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird found in North America. They are the only hummingbird that breeds in the eastern half of the continent, most of which is included in their breeding territory. During the winter they migrate to southern Mexico and Central America.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
 Hummingbirds have very short legs. This makes it very difficult for them to walk or hop. Typically they hover or fly to get from one spot to another. While hovering or flying their wings can beat at approximately 53 times per second.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker
The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America. That is unless you believe that the ivory billed woodpecker, which has not had a verified sighting in about 40 years, is not extinct. they are found in wooded areas of the eastern half of the United States, the Pacific Northwest and the boreal forests of Canada. They prefer an old growth forest habitat with a good number of larger trees. They are non-migratory and stay on their breeding territory all year long. They are very defensive of their territory and will often drum, pound their beaks loudly on a hollow tree, to warn other birds to stay out. They also have a loud call, that sounds like laughing or cackling, that can also be a warning to invaders. During the winter they are a little more forgiving and will let other pileated into the territory to feed.  
Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker primarily eat ants and wood boring insect larva. They do this by excavating large holes into trees and then using their long tongue to slurp up their prey. Pileated excavations are easily identified because they are typically larger than other woodpeckers and often somewhat rectangular. Frequently song birds and smaller woodpeckers will feed inside pileated excavations. They will also eat fruit, berries and nuts. They will sometimes forage on the ground through dead leaves or on fallen trees, where there are a lot of insects. If you are lucky they may even come to a suet feeder, especially during a rough winter. 
Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated begin nesting in April. The male will make a nesting cavity, usually in a dead tree, in hopes of attracting a female. It can take weeks for him to excavate the cavity. The hole to the cavity is an oblong shape and the inside is unlined except for leftover wood chips. Pileated typically have one brood per year which consists of a clutch of 3-5 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs which take between two to three weeks to hatch. Both parents care for the young which are born helpless and without feathers. After they raise the young the pileated woodpeckers abandon the nest. They will not use the same nest again in the future. These abandon cavities provide nesting habitat for many other types of birds including wood ducks and owls. Pileated will also sometimes nest in man made nesting boxes.