Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Here is my attempt at the same technique with a group of sandhills that
are closer to the road. Note how the birds blend right in with the surrounding landscape.Sandhill Cranes have a unique appearance. The adults have a red crown that is not covered in feathers, but bare skin. This skin is covered with small red bumps called papillae and short, hairlike bristles. The juvenile's crown will be feathered until their first molt.
These three areas make for a great day trip from Indianapolis. So, if you have the winter blahs, head south for some great wildlife watching!
Friday, February 15, 2008
I think the poor bird looks like it has mistakenly employed
the Heat Miser as its stylist. Talk about bad hair day!
The Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus, is Indiana's largest woodpecker. It is sixteen and a half inches in length, almost the size of a crow. It's size, sleek black back and wings, offset by a red crest, are obvious field marks. The males have a characteristic red "mustache", which is actually a stripe near the beak. The female's stripe is black. Another distinct field mark is the large white area under its wing which is viewed when the bird is in flight.
Male Pileated Woodpecker, photo by John Howard. Note the red "mustache".
Many a birder have quibbled over how to pronounce "pileated". Some lean toward "PIE-lee-ate-ed", while others say "PILL-ee-ate-ed". Actually, both pronunciations are accepted. Its disputed common name comes from the brilliant scarlet crest of feathers on the top of its head, called a pileum (PIE-lee-um). As a side note, in Ancient Rome, a pileus was a brimless felt hat worn by slaves that were freed by their master. The genus name, Dryocopus means "oak tree cutter", with druos meaning "oak tree" and kopos meaning "cutter".
Pileated Woodpeckers are known for the large holes or excavations they produce while foraging for food and producing their nest cavities. The holes can be greater than a foot in length. They have even been known to break smaller trees in half! They are searching for carpenter ants and wood-dwelling beetles, a favorite snack. During their quest, they produce large holes that are relied upon by many mammals, birds, and reptiles for shelter and nesting. They also will eat fruit and nuts.
Though Pileated Woodpeckers are not in any imminent danger, there is reason for concern. Pileated Woodpeckers rely heavily on big trees for their nest cavities. They prefer large dead trees within mature forests. With many areas losing large trees due to disease and clear-cutting, one should watch his species closely. Since so many other creatures depend upon this bird for survival, it would be devasting, if it was lost.
Pileated Woodpeckers will frequent feeders near a large woods. My friend, Andrew Mertz, has a feeding station right outside his patio door where as many as three Pileated Woodpeckers have been viewed at the same time. What is so surprising is Andrew lives in a apartment complex on the north side of Indianapolis, near the Castleton Mall!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
It's a great project because they use the results to track birds all over the United States. The site allows you to explore results from past years, all the way back to 1999, to see where a specific species has been observed. For instance, if you are interested in where all the Golden Eagles were spotted, it can generate a map that shows where they were discovered. Or you can generate a list of locations where they spotted Golden Eagles in Indiana during the count. Really simple and fascinating. Here is the map I generated showing where all the Golden Eagles were spotted during the count in 2007. At least one was spotted in southeast Indiana!
Have fun counting those birds! I know I will!
Monday, February 4, 2008
"I was so very fortunate to get that recording, at the Anhinga Trail parking lot in the Everglades National Park on March 14, 1989, back when I first started recording. It's the only time I've witnessed up close a group of cardinals involved in courtship and competition. Although I cannot say for certain exactly what was going on, nor which sex was making which sound, I can assure you that the sounds were made by cardinals. There were two males and two females in the vicinity. At one point, two if not three birds flew into a thick shrub and began making these sounds. I was very close (hence the immediacy of the recording), although I could not actually see what was going on. Attached is the raw field recording."
"Now, just to prove that cardinals do indeed make the churring sound, attached is an additional recording of a male singing in New York on April 22, 1990. Note the churr that he adds to the end of his song. I have other examples of this, although it is fairly rare and sometimes so soft that people will not notice it. As this recording proves, there's no doubt at all that at least the male cardinal can make such a churring sound (although it's a bit more animated in the courtship sequence)."
So, if anyone wants to hear these sound files, just let me know.
Male Hairy Woodpeckers have a red patch on the back of their head, like the Downy Woodpecker, that the females lack. They use this to display during courtship. The male will spy a lovely lady he is interested in, erect his red patch and spread wide his tail feathers in hopes of impressing her. If she is interested, they will then start a bounding display flight, with the birds following each other in great loops above and through the treetops.
An interesting tidbit is the females will do most of the egg incubation during the day, while the males will incubate the eggs during the night. Parents will feed the young by regurgitation, at first, then gradually offer whole insects to the young.
Now to tackle those identification differences between the Hairy and Downy that can be tricky. Here are a few of the field marks I like to use to tell the Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker apart.
The Hairy Woodpecker has a much larger, stouter bill than the Downy Woodpecker. The Hairy Woodpecker's bill is almost the same size as the width of its head from the side while the Downy Woodpecker's bill is one third the size of its head. The Downy's bill appears more delicate than the Hairy's bill. A good site that shows two drawings of the birds is Cornell's Great Backyard Bird Count. (I will cover this in an upcoming post, this event is next weekend!)
Male Downy with the solid red patch. Photo by Steve Moeckel.
Male Hairy Woodpecker with the divided red patch. Photo by Steve Moeckel.
Another shot of the Hairy Woodpecker with the divided red patch. Photo by Steve Moeckel.
Hairy Woodpeckers love suet, peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds. Keep an eye out for them at a feeder near you!