Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) is a fairly small bird that is commonly found in open subarctic coniferous forest and scrub during the breeding season. In winter it favours open woodland, scrub, weedy fields and suburban areas. It generally avoids dense forests, and displays an irregular migratory pattern, migrating only every few years during the winter months when wild food may be scarce on their normal winter grounds. Though they generally spend most of the time in the upper half of North America and Canada, they have been known to fly as far away as Europe and Asia.

This little bird is between 12-14 cm in length and has a wingspan of 19-22 cm. They weigh only about 11-20 grams and have highly variable plumage characteristics. Generally speaking, the Common Redpoll is a small finch with a small, conical-shaped yellow bill. It has a black chin and lores, red forehead and pale brown body with streaks. The eye line is dark and the cheeks are a paler in colour than the rest of the head and nape. The wings and tail are dark in colour and there are two white wingbars on each wing. Flight and tail feathers are grey with buff-colored edges while the rump is pale and also streaked with grey. Males may have a pink to deep rose wash across their chest. Females do not have this pink colouration.

The Common Redpoll feeds on a variety of small seeds such as birch, willow, alder, grasses and weeds. They generally feed on small branches, using their feet to hold the food down while they pick it off with their beaks. They also have foodpouches which they can use to temporarily store seeds, allowing them to gorge themselves quickly before they fly away to a safer spot to enjoy their food at leisure. The Common Redpoll has also been known to frequent bird feeders. Their nests are made of fine twigs, rootlets and grasses which they weave together into a cup-like shape. They may use feathers or hair to line the nest which is usually found in a small tree or shrub. The female may lay between 4-6 spotted eggs out of which small, helpless and fairly featherless chicks hatch a few weeks later. Once they have lost their down feathers, the immature Common Redpoll resembles the adult bird.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Also known as the ‘Redbird’ the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is one of the most popular birds in the United States. Easily identified by its bright red coloring, this pretty little bird is a common sight on snow-covered bird feeders across most of eastern USA. Its range even extends as far as southeastern Canada, Mexico, Belize and even Hawaii, though it has spread to New York, New England and Hawaii in more recent years. The less colorful female is generally more vocal than the male; however, both sexes sing and can be heard year round. The Northern Cardinal is a nonmigratory bird, though some movement may occur in summer and autum.

The Northern Cardinal is fairly easy to identify. It is a small bird with a length of 21-23 cm. The wingspan may vary between 25-31 cm and the bird weighs between 42-48 grams. In general the bird has a large, conical bill, a crested head and along tail. It is the male that bears the bright red plumage that is so commonly associated with the species. This plumage is dullest on the back and wings of the bird. The male has black coloration around his face and at the base of his bill. The bill is also a brilliant red. The adult female, in contrast, is mainly a greyish-tan color. Only her crest, wings, tail and bill show some red and this is much less bright than the red found on the male. Juvenile birds are similar to the female in colour but they have a darker bill and crest.

When it comes to nesting, it is the female that usually starts building the nest. The nest is reasonably small and made of small twigs and grasses. It is usually built in a shrub or brushy tangle and once it is built, the female will lay between 3 and 4 eggs in it. These are incubated by the female in just under two weeks. After this, the male shares in the responsibility of raising the young. A pair may raise as many as four broods in one breeding season with the male tending one brood while the female starts incubating the next one. Male Northern Cardinals are fiercely territorial and those with brighter red plumage generally have better breeding grounds and greater reproductive success.

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is located in the eastern regions of the United States, but there are indications that the population is beginning to spread to the northern regions as well. Conservationists can only assume that the growing numbers in these regions is due to humans feeding the birds. The Tufted Titmouse frequents bird feeders and will often chase other birds that try to use this convenient facility. This little Titmouse was originally only found along the Mississippi river basin and the Ohio river basin. Over the years, the sightings have been recorded as they started to spread across the country. The Tufted Titmouse is between 4.5 to 5.5 inches in length and both the males and females are similar in appearance. They have dark to black foreheads, gray heads and white plumage covers the under body parts such as their throats, faces and bellies. The flanks are a rusty color and the upper parts such as back and wings, are a light gray. Bills are short and black, and have dark eyes. The Titmouse will often be seen in small flocks.

Titmice will feed on a large variety of foods that include blackberries, nuts, acorns and sunflower seeds, and insects such as ants, wasps, caterpillars, spiders and snails. Insects will mostly be eaten in the warm summer months, while fruits and nuts will be eaten in the winter months.

Breeding season for the Titmouse is from April to July. The Tufted Titmouse will mate for life and will build their nests in the cavities in trees that are left by Woodpeckers, natural hollows or created by a fungus. Nests are constructed from almost anything they can find. Building materials can include cloth, grass, moss, bark, leaves, hair and feathers. Titmice feel no shame in ripping some fur from a passing squirrel or even plucking a few strands from a human head, to complete their homes. The female will lay five to six eggs that are white in color and are speckled with brown. The incubation period takes approximately fourteen days and both parents will assist in the feeding of the chicks until they are ready to fledge the nest at 16 days.

Attracting Birds

February 9, 2009 by  
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Attracting birds to your garden can be a most rewarding activity, providing countless opportunities to enjoy bird watching in your own back yard. There is no need for a bird cage to gain pleasure from viewing and listening to these beautiful winged creatures.

There are three basic requirements for attracting birds to your garden, namely: Food, water and shelter.

Food for garden birds can be provided in two complimentary ways. First, is by the use of a bird feeder or a bird table. Consider the species you would like to attract to your garden and provide feed accordingly. A variety of bird feeders spread throughout the garden will encourage a wider variety of birds to visit. Consider a bird table for ground feeding birds; a hanging feeder for perching birds and a suet feeder for insect eating birds. Pet shops, garden centers and even some supermarkets will sell a range of bird feeders as well as a variety of foods suitable for different types of birds. Consult a good bird guide to get an idea as to what certain birds will be interested in i.e. are they seed eaters, insect eaters, nectar eaters etc. Secondly, consider planting a bird-friendly garden. Visit your local garden centre and look for indigenous plants that will produce berries, nuts, seeds and other food all year round. Such plants will meet the needs of local garden birds. Indigenous plants will also attract insects on which insect-eating birds can feed. Avoid the use of insecticides as these may end up poisoning the very birds you have invited to your garden.

Next to consider is water. Birds will thoroughly enjoy splashing around in a water feature. A bird bath will be just as much appreciated. When purchasing a bird bath, ensure that the surface is rough so that the birds will have something to grip onto. Remember to keep the bird bath or water feature clean so that the bird’s health will not be adversely affected.

Shelter can be provided in the form of a bird house (nesting box) or by planting indigenous trees and shrubbery. Pet shops and garden centers should be able to provide you with a suitable bird house for the different species.

By meeting these three basic requirements, you can enjoy bird watching from the comfort of your home.

Wild Birds

February 9, 2009 by  
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Wild birds are found throughout the world. They vary in shapes and sizes from tiny finches to the majestic condors of America.

Each species of wild bird is adapted to thrive in its own evironment. For example, hummingbirds are adapted to feed on nectar from tubular flowers, while eagles are adapted to prey on animals using their strong talons. Ducks are adapted to swimming and vultures are adapted for flight by using thermals.

Wild birds also differ in how they nest. Weaver birds will create intricately woven nests that hang from the branches of trees. Certain birds, such as plovers, will build nests on the ground. Doves will often build very messy nests. Wild birds need to protect their nests and themselves from predators. They will do this by swooping down upon predators whilst issuing alarm calls to other birds in the area. Wild birds will sometimes form mob attacks on predators.

When it comes to breeding season it is important for male birds to establish and maintain their territory. This is done by means of song. Males will also attack intruders into their territory. Wild birds have many strange and wonderful mating displays. Male birds of paradise will perform an intricate dance to attract females. They will sway and bend or stand upright, and certain species will even hang upside down.

It is likely that the wild birds you will see will be those in your garden. To attract more wild birds to your backyard, you may want to provide a variety of feeders and types of food, some shelter and a bird bath.

In increasing number of people are joining the ranks of enthusiastic birders and taking pleasure in viewing wild birds. Perhaps you too would enjoy this popular activity.

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