Saturday, August 31, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The goldfinch is a common visitor to bird feeders through out the United States. They are strictly seed eaters rarely consuming insects. At feeders they prefer thistle and nyjer seed. The breeding season for goldfinch comes later then many other birds, usually June or July. This is an advantage because this is typically around the time when plants like thistle are in bloom. The thistle seed provides food for the chicks and adults while the stringy substance that is attached to the seeds is often used in nest construction.
The goldfinch is the only finch that molts its feathers more then once a year. Molting is the process by which birds replace their feathers. Feathers are not living tissue, they are sort of like our hair, if they break they can not be healed. To make sure that their feathers stay in tip top shape birds molt once or twice a year. Birds that molt twice a year usually do so because they have more colorful plumage for the breeding season. In the species that molt twice both male and female will molt however it is usually much more obvious in the male. The bottom photo was taken in March when goldfinch are just beginning to molt into their summer breeding plumage. The top photo was taken at the height of the breeding season when the males are almost a neon yellow color.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Saturday, August 24, 2013
The belted kingfisher is a medium sized bird that is found through out most of North America. Their breeding range includes Alaska and Canada, except for the extreme north, and the United States except for the southwest. Birds that breed in the northern portion of their territory will migrate south into the southern US, Mexico, Central America and the northern coasts of South America. Her in southern Minnesota they will stick around as long as they are near a water source that does not freeze up. I photographed this female, females are distinguished by the rufous band on the upper belly, in January. She was around Black Dog Lake which has a power plant which keeps the lake from freezing during the winter.
Belted kingfishers nest in burrows dug into soft dirt banks. Usually the nest is located near water where the kingfisher will hunt. The burrow often has a long upward slopping tunnel, up to 8', as an entrance. As their name would suggest their primary food source is fish. Kingfisher chicks are able to digest all parts of the fish including scales and bones but as they mature they begin to cough up , cast, pellets. The pellets are similar to those of owls and usually include scales and bones.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The ferruginous hawks is the largest hawk in North America. They live in arid and semi arid grasslands. Their primary source of food are mammals, at 80-90%. Typical prey includes mice, ground squirrels, prairie dogs and jackrabbits. They will also eat snakes, lizards, and birds. They nest from southern Canada in the north to New Mexico and Arizona in the south and from Washington and Oregon in the west to the Dakotas and Nebraska in the east. During the winter birds in the northern portions of the breeding range head down into the southwestern United States and Mexico. Although they spend most of their time in warmer climates they are one of only 2 species of hawks in North America with feathers that extend down to their feet. The other species is the rough-legged hawk which is a species found mostly in the north.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
The spotted sandpiper is a shorebird that is found through out most of North America. They breed in a variety of wetland habitats as far north as northern Canada and Alaska and as far south as central New Mexico. They also breed in mountains at elevations up to 14,000 feet above sea level as long as their is a source of fresh water. During the winter they migrate down to the southern coastal areas of the United States, Central America or South America.
I found this chick along the shore of the St Croix River at Wild River State Park. At first I did not know what species of shorebird it was until I saw its parent, pictured above. Because this is a spotted sandpiper the bird in the first photo could most likely be the male. Spotted sandpiper do things a bit backwards compared to other birds. For spotted sandpipers it is the female that is first to arrive in the breeding territory and she is the one that picks out and defends a territory. Both male and female build the nest, typically as part of the courting ritual. Once the eggs are laid it is usually the male spotted sandpiper that will incubate the eggs and care for the chicks once they hatch. The female will often go and find another male and start another family.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Egyptian vultures eat a wide variety of things including carrion, organic waste, insects, eggs and small invertebrates. The Egyptian vulture is small compared to many of the other predators and scavengers that live in their region. For this reason they have evolved to become a sort of specialist when it comes to scavenging. Smaller scavengers do not usually get on to a carcass until last, when there is very little meat left, so the Egyptian vulture uses its long thin beak to get meat that is left in tight places that larger predators and scavengers have a difficult time getting into. That is also why the Egyptian vulture does not have a bald head, like many other species of vultures, because they rarely need to stick their whole head into the carcass to get to their food. This is Osiris. He is a permanent education bird at the World Bird Sanctuary in St Lois Missouri. For the past five or more years, the World Bird Sanctuary has put on programs each March at the Carpenter Nature Center here in the Twin Cities. Osiris was part of the program in 2012.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Like many other species of orioles the Altamira weaves a nest from roots, sticks, vines, grasses and other materials. The woven nest hangs down below the branch instead of sitting on the branch like other most species of birds. Their nest is longer then any other bird in North America.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Sunday, August 4, 2013
The silver-bordered fritillary is medium sized brushfoot butterfly that is found in the northern United States and Canada. It is usually found around wetlands, such as wet meadows, swamps and bogs. I photographed this one at the Big Bog State Recreational Area last summer.
This species over winters as a caterpillar so there are typically two broods per year. The first brood begins to emerge around mid may and the second begins around July. The larval host plants are members of the violet family, which you can see the butterfly above is perched on. The species gets its name from the large silver-white triangles that border the under side of both fore and rear wings.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
The common loon is the state bird of Minnesota, where I live. Common loons breed primarily in Canada but will also breed in the northern portions of the US, such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Common loons spend their entire life in the water, except for nesting. They are designed for swimming, with their back legs placed further back on their body. They are also heavier then most birds their size. This is because their bones are not hollow like other birds. This gives them less buoyancy so that they can dive easier to catch fish, their primary food source. It also makes it more difficult for them to fly. A loon will dive under the water to avoid danger instead of trying to fly. About the only time that you will see loons in flight is during migration. When the northern lakes begin to freeze the common loons head to the open coastal waters of North America. Loon chicks are able to swim shortly after hatching. When they are small they rely on their parents for food and protection. Most predators will not mess with adult loons because of their size but loon chicks are a different matter. Before they are old enough to dive for cover to avoid danger the chicks will often hide under their parents wings if a larger raptor is in the area. Other times they will snooze while riding on mom or dad's back.