Tag Archive: birdwatching


Black Capped Chickadees

So i got some chickadees the last couple years… I previously had an entry entitled carolina Chickadees, but i thin k what i have been seeing are black caps… at least using their vocalizations to differentiate between the two.
some of these pics came from my porch, others from my back yard after i moved all my feeders over there last season. What i notice to be most difficult about these guys right now is that, i am using primarily a platform feeder, and they like to light for a second, like literally one second, and get a seed, and then LEAVE to eat it in a tree. So thats been a photographic challenge. however, i feel i met it well today, keeping the lens aimed at the corner of the platform most near to the tree they jut flew into, and half depressing the button, to focus on the empty space, and just waiting. it paid off today i think. i got the little buggers. 🙂
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Info from WIKI
Description
The Black-capped Chickadee has a black cap and bib with white sides to the face. Its underparts are white with rusty brown on the flanks. Its back is gray and the tail is normally slate-gray. This bird has a short dark bill of 8–9.5 mm (0.31–0.37 in), short rounded wings 63.5–67.5 mm (2.50–2.66 in), a tarsus of 16–17 mm (0.63–0.67 in) and a long tail at 58–63 mm (2.3–2.5 in).[4] Total body length is 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in), wingspan is 16–21 cm (6.3–8.3 in) and body mass is 9–14 g (0.32–0.49 oz).[5] Sexes look alike, but males are slightly larger and longer than females.

Although range can generally be used to separate them, the Black-capped Chickadee is very similar in appearance to the Carolina Chickadee. The Black-capped is larger on average but this cannot be used reliably for identification. The most obvious difference between the two is in the wing feathers. In the Black-capped Chickadee, the wing feathers have white edges that are larger and more conspicuous than those of the Carolina Chickadee. The latter is often mistaken for Black-capped Chickadees with feather dystrophy which sometimes affects the appearance of the primary feathers making them look slimmer, a phenomenon caused by illnesses such as fatty liver disease in malnourished birds. Overall, the Carolina appears slightly paler colored whereas the flanks of the Black-capped can appear to have a trace of off-yellow or rusty coloration. Also, the Black-capped generally has a more “ragged” looking black bib, whereas the bib of the Carolina has a more smooth-edged look. These subtle features are often even more vague in populations around where the Black-capped and Carolina overlap in range (possibly the result of hybrids) and the two cannot always be distinguished as two species. The two species were formerly thought to be easily distinguished by call, but they often learn each other’s vocalizations where their ranges overlap (their point of overlap is a narrow band that runs along the east-central United States, with the Black-capped Chickadee to the north). A bird located near the zone of overlap that sings both songs, or sings “odd-sounding” songs, cannot be positively identified solely by voice in the field.[6]

Distribution and habitat

The black-capped chickadee is found from coast to coast, from the northern half of the United States in the south, to James Bay, the southern edge of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the southern half of Alaska in the north. In winter it may wander outside this range, both to the north and south.

Its preferred habitat is deciduous woods or mixed (deciduous/coniferous) woods. It is also found in open woods, parks, and suburban areas. Habitat segregation is the principal factor that separates the Black-capped Chickadee from both the Boreal Chickadee in the north and the Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the Pacific northwest (these two species prefer strictly coniferous forests). Altitude also separates the Black-capped Chickadee from the (higher) Mountain Chickadee in the western mountains and the (lower) Carolina Chickadee in the Great Smokey Mountains.

Diet and foraging

Chickadees will take food such as seeds from feeders and trays over to a tree branch to hammer them open.

Insects (especially caterpillars) form a large part of their diet in summer. The birds hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering; they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Seeds and berries become more important in winter, though insect eggs and pupae remain on the menu. Black oil sunflower seeds are readily taken from bird feeders. The birds take a seed in their bill and commonly fly from the feeder to a tree, where they proceed to hammer the seed on a branch to open it.

Like many other species in the Paridae family, Black-capped chickadees commonly cache food, mostly seeds but sometimes insects also.[7] Items are stored singly in various sites such as bark, dead leaves, clusters of conifer needles, or knotholes. Memory for the location of caches can last up to 28 days.[8] Within the first 24 hours, the birds can even remember the relative quality of the stored items.[9]

At bird feeders, Black-capped Chickadees tolerate human approach to a much greater degree than do other species. In fact, during the winter, many individuals accustomed to human habitation will readily accept seed from a person’s hand.

Metabolism

On cold winter nights, these birds reduce their body temperature by as much as 10-12 °C (18-22 °F) (from their normal temperature of about 42 °C (108 °F)) to conserve energy.[10][11] Such a capacity for torpor is rare in birds (or at least, rarely studied). Other bird species capable of torpor include the Common Swift Apus apus, the Common Poor-will Phalaenoptilus nuttallii, the Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis, and various species of hummingbirds.

Movements

These birds are permanent residents, but sometimes they move south within their range, and even outside of it, in the fall or winter.

During the fall migration and in winter, chickadees often flock together. Many other species of birds – including titmice, nuthatches, and warblers – can often be found foraging in these flocks. Mixed flocks stay together because the chickadees call out whenever they find a good source of food. This calling-out forms cohesion for the group, allowing the other birds to find food more efficiently. When flocking, Black-capped Chickadees soon establish a rigid social hierarchy. In such hierarchies, males usually rank over females, and older birds over juveniles.

Body maintenance

Black-capped Chickadees sleep in thick vegetation or in cavities, usually singly, though there have been suggestions that they may occasionally roost clumped together.[12] The sleeping posture is with the bill tucked under the scapular (shoulder) feathers.

This bird scratches its head with its foot over the wing. It can bathe in water, dew, or snow; young chickadees have been observed dust-bathing.

Flight

Their flight is slightly undulating with rapid wing beats. Flight speed is about 20 km/h (12 mph).[13]

Vocalization

The vocalizations of the Black-capped Chickadee are highly complex.[14] Thirteen distinct types of vocalizations have been classified, many of which are complex and can communicate different types of information. Chickadees’ complex vocalizations are likely an evolutionary adaptation to their habitat: they live and feed in dense vegetation, and even when the flock is close together, individual birds tend to be out of each other’s visual range.

The song of the Black-capped is a simple, clear whistle of two notes, identical in rhythm, the first roughly a whole-step above the second.[15] This is distinguished from the Carolina chickadee’s four-note call fee-bee fee-bay; the lower notes are nearly identical but the higher fee notes are omitted, making the Black-capped song like bee bay.

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Some ‘gargles’, then a minute of singing.

NOTE: American Robin singing in background.


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The males sing the song only in relative isolation from other chickadees (including their mates). In late summer, some young birds will sing only a single note. Both sexes sometimes make a faint version of the song, and this appears to be used when feeding young.

The most familiar call is the chick-a-dee-dee-dee which gave this bird its name. This simple-sounding call is astonishingly complex. It has been observed to consist of up to four distinct units which can be arranged in different patterns to communicate information about threats from predators and coordination of group movement. Recent study of the call shows that the number of dees indicates the level of threat from nearby predators. In an analysis of over 5,000 alarm calls from chickadees, it was found that alarm calls triggered by small, dangerous raptors had a shorter interval between chick and dee and tended to have extra dees, usually averaging four instead of two. In one case, a warning call about a pygmy owl – a prime threat to chickadees – contained 23 dees.[16] The Carolina Chickadee makes a similar call which is faster and higher-pitched.

There are a number of other calls and sounds that these Chickadees make, such as a gargle noise usually used by males to indicate a threat of attacking another male, often when feeding. This call is also used in sexual contexts. This noise is among the most complex of the calls, containing 2 to 9 of 14 distinct notes in one population that was studied.

Reproduction

The Black-capped Chickadee nests in a hole in a tree, 1–7 m (3.3–23 ft) above ground. The pair either excavate the hole together, or use a natural cavity, or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. This species will also nest in a nesting box. The nesting season is from late April through June. The nest is built by the female only. It consists of a base of coarse material such as moss or bark strips, and lining of finer material such as mammal hair. Eggs are white with fine dots of reddish brown concentrated at the larger end. On average, eggs are 1.52 × 1.22 cm (0.60 × 0.48 in). Clutch size is 6–8 eggs. Incubation lasts 11–14 days and is by the female only, who is fed by the male. If there is an unusual disturbance at the nest entrance, the incubating female may utter an explosive hiss, like that of a snake, a probable adaptation to discourage nest predators.[17]

Hatchlings are altricial, naked with their eyes closed. Nestlings are fed by both sexes but are brooded by the female only (at which time the male brings food to her, which she passes on to the young). Young leave the nest 12–16 days post-hatching, in great part because the parents start presenting food only outside the nest hole. The young will still be fed by the parents for several weeks but are capable of catching food on their own within a week after leaving the nest.

Black-capped Chickadees usually breed only once a year, but second broods are possible if the first one is lost. First breeding is at one year of age. Maximum recorded lifespan is twelve years, but most individuals live only half that long.[18]

Black-capped Chickadees may interbreed with Carolina Chickadees or Mountain Chickadees where their ranges overlap. It appears to be more rare, but interbreeding with Boreal Chickadees has also been documented.[19]

Concerns

In the states of Alaska and Washington, and in parts of western Canada, Black-capped Chickadees are among a number of bird species affected by an unknown agent that is causing beak deformities which may cause stress for affected species by inhibiting feeding ability, mating, and grooming. Black-capped Chickadees were the first affected bird species, with reports of the deformity beginning in Alaska in the late 1990s, but more recently the deformity has been observed in close to 30 bird species in the affected areas.[20]

House Sparrow

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They are everywhere. The males are pretty. The end. 🙂

 

  • Size & Shape

    House Sparrows aren’t related to other North American sparrows, and they’re differently shaped. House Sparrows are chunkier, fuller in the chest, with a larger, rounded head, shorter tail, and stouter bill than most American sparrows.

  • Color Pattern

    Male House Sparrows are brightly colored birds with gray heads, white cheeks, a black bib, and rufous neck – although in cities you may see some that are dull and grubby. Females are a plain buffy-brown overall with dingy gray-brown underparts. Their backs are noticeably striped with buff, black, and brown.

  • Behavior

    House Sparrows are noisy sparrows that flutter down from eaves and fencerows to hop and peck at crumbs or birdseed. Look for them flying in and out of nest holes hidden behind shop signs or in traffic lights, or hanging around parking lots waiting for crumbs and picking insects off car grills.

  • Habitat

    House Sparrows have lived around humans for centuries. Look for them on city streets, taking handouts in parks and zoos, or cheeping from a perch on your roof or trees in your yard. House Sparrows are absent from undisturbed forests and grasslands, but they’re common in countryside around farmsteads.

  • Voice:

 

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This was an amazing day at Smithville park, here in New Jersey. This is a Great Horned Owl, in its nest with its baby. one of my best finds to date.

 

Wiki says:

The Great Horned Owl is the heaviest extant owl in Central and South America and is the second heaviest owl in North America, after the closely related but very different looking Snowy Owl (B. scandiacus). It ranges in length from 43–64 cm (17–25 in) and has a wingspan of 91–153 cm (36–60 in).[2][3] Females are invariably somewhat larger than males. An average adult is around 55 cm (22 in) long with a 124 cm (49 in) wingspan and weighing about 1.4 kg (3.1 lb).[4] Depending on subspecies, the Great Horned Owl can weigh from 0.6 to 2.6 kg (1.3 to 5.7 lb).[5] Among standard measurements, the tail measures 17.5–25 cm (6.9–9.8 in) long, the wing chord measures 31.3–40 cm (12.3–16 in), the tarsal length is 5.4–8 cm (2.1–3.1 in) and the bill is 3.3–5.2 cm (1.3–2.0 in).[6]

There is considerable variation in plumage coloration but not in body shape. This is a heavily built, barrel-shaped species that has a large head and broad wings. Adults have large ear tufts and it is the only very large owl in its range to have them.[6][3] The facial disc is reddish, brown or gray in color and there is a variable sized white patch on the throat. The iris is yellow, except the amber-eyed South American Great Horned Owl (B. V. nacurutu). Its “horns” are neither ears nor horns, simply tufts of feathers. The underparts are usually light with some brown barring; the upper parts are generally mottled brown. Most subspecies are barred along the sides as well. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons, with some black skin peaking out from around the talons. The feet and talons are distinctly large and powerful and only other Bubo owls have comparably formidable feet. There are individual and regional variations in color; birds from the subarctic are a washed-out, light-buff color, while those from Central America can be a dark chocolate brown.[6]

Its call is a low-pitched but loud ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo; sometimes it is only four syllables instead of five. The female’s call is higher and rises in pitch at the end of the call. Young owls still in the care of their parents make loud, persistent hissing or screeching sounds that are often confused with the calls of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba).[6]

The combination of the species’ bulk, prominent ear-tufts and barred plumage distinguishes it through much of the range. However, the Great Horned Owl can be easily confused with the Lesser or Magellanic Horned Owl (B. magellanicus), with which it may have limited overlap in southernmost South America. The Magellanic was once considered a subspecies of the Great Horned, but it is markedly smaller with smaller feet and a smaller head and is generally more lightly barred on the underside.[6] Other eagle-owls may superficially be somewhat similar, but the species is allopatric with the exception of the Magellanic species. In North America, the Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) can be somewhat similarly marked and shares the feature of prominent ear tufts, but it is considerably smaller and more slender, with a grayish line running down the middle of the facial disc and with ear tufts located more closely to each other on the top of the head.[7]

Voice:

 

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Big, black, beautiful, irridescent, majestic, magically white eyed pains in the ass. I love how large, and beautiful; they are, but omg how they scare the other birds away…  The second picture i listed here, above, is either a mating dance, or a show of force… they are such interesting, and intrusive creatures. ❤

Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they’ve been slightly stretched. They’re taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. In flight their long tails trail behind them, sometimes folded down the middle into a shallow V shape.

Blackbirds
Blackbirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Common Grackles are large, lanky blackbirds with long legs and long tails. The head is flat and the bill is longer than in most blackbirds, with the hint of a downward curve. In flight, the wings appear short in comparison to the tail. Males are slightly larger than females.

  • Color Pattern

    Common Grackles appear black from a distance, but up close their glossy purple heads contrast with bronzy-iridescent bodies. A bright golden eye gives grackles an intent expression. Females are slightly less glossy than males. Young birds are dark brown with a dark eye.

  • Behavior

    You’ll often find Common Grackles in large flocks, flying or foraging on lawns and in agricultural fields. They strut on their long legs, pecking for food rather than scratching. At feeders Common Grackles dominate smaller birds. When resting they sit atop trees or on telephone lines, keeping up a raucous chattering. Flight is direct, with stiff wingbeats.

  • Habitat

    Common Grackles thrive around agricultural fields, feedlots, city parks, and suburban lawns. They’re also common in open habitats including woodland, forest edges, meadows, and marshes.

  • Voice:

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Th Downy Woodpecker. The top picture, is the male that visits my yard, and the one below it, is a female, whom i assume to be his spouse. I saw my frst one of these, in my neighbors yard, this year, and decided right there, when i tried to make friends and they ignored me, that i was going to pimp out our yard, which is now the BZ (Bird Zone, for those of you who do not KNOW…)

And now, i have BOTH of them, plus a million other amazing birds. This bird, is single wingedly responsible for the entirety of my ornithological rearranging this yer, bless his flighty little heart. ❤ Her, flighty little heart, since i saw the female first… but regardless. i love these guys.

And as usual, my copy paste of the Cornell information. I love them so much. :

  • Size & Shape

    Downy Woodpeckers are small versions of the classic woodpecker body plan. They have a straight, chisel-like bill, blocky head, wide shoulders, and straight-backed posture as they lean away from tree limbs and onto their tail feathers. The bill tends to look smaller for the bird’s size than in other woodpeckers.

  • Color Pattern

    Downy Woodpeckers give a checkered black-and-white impression. The black upperparts are checked with white on the wings, the head is boldly striped, and the back has a broad white stripe down the center. Males have a small red patch on the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are typically white with a few black spots.

  • Behavior

    Downy Woodpeckers hitch around tree limbs and trunks or drop into tall weeds to feed on galls, moving more acrobatically than larger woodpeckers. Their rising-and-falling flight style is distinctive of many woodpeckers. In spring and summer, Downy Woodpeckers make lots of noise, both with their shrill whinnying call and by drumming on trees.

  • Habitat

    You’ll find Downy Woodpeckers in open woodlands, particularly among deciduous trees, and brushy or weedy edges. They’re also at home in orchards, city parks, backyards and vacant lots.

  • Voice: