This exciting wildlife festival includes two birding trips to Mexico and five trips in the Southern Arizona region where birders will have the opportunity to see a host of nesting migratory birds, particularly hummingbirds, along with permanent feathered residents. For more in formation visit www.santacruznatureheritage.org
Dates: 2-5 May 2013
Venue: Rio Rico
Country: United States
Organized by the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance, the Yucatan Birding Festival offers birders the opportunity to view the birds of the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Home to the American Flamingo and more than 300 bird species (resident, migratory and endemic), the reserve boasts tropical forest, sand dune vegetation and mangrove forest habitats. For more information visit www.travelwithmea.org
Dates: 13-18 December 2012
Venue: Celestun Biosphere Reserve
Known for their beautiful songs Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) are more often heard than seen. These delightful birds are a medium-sized thrush and are the only member of the genus Hylocichla. They are migratory, and while their breeding grounds are in eastern North America, they generally fly south at night in mid-August. They may stop on the Gulf Coast for a few days in inclement weather before attempting to fly across the Gulf of Mexico to the tropical forests of southern Mexico and Central America. Wood Thrushes have been found in Western Europe but this is a rare occurrence and these birds are usually vagrants.
The typical Wood Thrush is 18.5 cm long and weighs about 48 grams. Their crowns, napes and upper back are a rusty-brown colour while their underparts are white with random black or dark-brown spotting. The rest of their upperparts are brown and they have a white eye ring and streaked cheeks. The bill is short and pointed with pink colouration near the corners and black colouration on the tip. The legs are also pink. All in all it is quite an attractive bird and both sexes are similar in appearance. The juvenile bird has pale spots on its upperparts but is otherwise difficult to distinguish from the adult. Wood Thrushes are famous for their beautiful flute-like voices and they are capable of combining two notes at once. Their singing is usually stronger and more elaborate just before sunrise and at dusk though they may sing throughout the day during mating season. They usually stop singing by the end of July.
Wood Thrushes generally favour well-shaded areas near water. They feed on beetles, flies, millipedes, earthworms, spiders and sow bugs which they usually find by overturning fallen leaves on the moist soil. They also feed on small fruits and berries. In the springtime, males return to their breeding grounds early to establish their territories. Before long, their beautiful songs attract a mate and a nesting sight that is well concealed and has plenty of shade is chosen. The female will usually build the nest in a fork in a tree, using mud, dead grass and dead leaves to create the structure. Once the nest is built, she will lay 3-4 greenish-blue eggs in it which she will incubate herself. She may have two broods in one season. Once the Wood Thrush chicks are hatched, both parents help to feed the nestlings.
The Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a relatively common bird species found in habitats extending from Oregon, California and Western Mexico, right through to the highlands of Central America as well as the Colombian Andes. Described as having a clown-face, the Acorn Woodpecker is a very social creature, with groups living together in a complex social system. A fascinating bird, the Acorn Woodpecker is worth looking out for.
Acorn Woodpecker’s can be quickly identified by the following distinctive features: a white eye ringed by black; black around the classic woodpecker bill; white on the cheeks and forehead; a red crown and a soft yellow throat. Other physical characteristics to look out for are the white rump, white belly with thin dark streaks along the flanks, a black tail and a body length of 8 inches. An adult male Acorn Woodpecker’s red cap merges directly with its white forehead. The females differ in that there is a black section separating the white forehead from the red cap.
As implied by its name, the Acorn Woodpecker’s preferred diet consists of acorns. They will also dine on insects, fruit, sap and nectar. They have also been known to feed on grass seeds, bird eggs and lizards. Foraging typically takes place near the tree canopy and the woodpecker species will seldom be found on the ground. The bird will either remove single acorns from a tree or they may remove an entire twig with up to 3 acorns attached. Sap is eaten as a group with all family members gathering at the sapsucking holes. Acorn Woodpeckers are known for storing acorns for the winter months. The nuts are carefully stored in what is referred to as a granary. A granary tree may be a dead tree or a very old tree with thick bark. Holes are drilled into the tree, some trees have had as many as 50,000 holes counted on them. By living in groups, the Acorn Woodpeckers are able to gather large quantities of nuts as well as defend their stash.
Due to their diet and method of storage, Acorn Woodpeckers are usually found in pine-oak woodlands, riparian corridors, hardwood forests and suburban areas with many trees. They are permanent residents and therefore do not migrate at all. Reproduction rituals can be quite complicated amongst Acorn Woodpeckers. Whilst some are monogamous, other groups engage in cooperative polygyny. Groups may have up to 7 breeding males and 3 egg-laying females. Females will lay their eggs in a joint nest cavity. Nest cavities are located within trees and are gently lined with wood chips. Eggs are white and elliptical in shape numbering up to 6 in a clutch (that of the entire group). The incubation period of Acorn Woodpecker eggs is 11-12 days with both females and males involved in incubation. Nestlings are ready to leave the nest cavity after 30-32 days.
The Ashy Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) is a relatively rare little bird that can be found in colonies on small islands off the coast of California and Mexico. The bird is part of the storm-petrel family Hydrobatidae and it is currently an endangered species. The Ashy Storm-Petrel is also one of 6 species of storm-petrel which feed off the California Current system. Both sexes are similar in appearance and they are fairly easily confused with other storm-petrel species.
The most notable difference between Ashy Storm-Petrels and other storm-petrels is that the Ashy Storm-Petrel does not have a white rump. They are also smaller in size with shallower wingbeats than Black Storm-Petrels, while the Least Storm-Petrel has even shallower wingbeats than the Ashy, and a wedge-shaped tail. The Ashy Storm-Petrel is medium-sized with a length of 7 inches and a wingspan of 16 inches. Its body coloring is a sooty brown – hence the name – and it has a dark rump and forked tail. The underwings are somewhat paler than the rest of the bird and the bill is dark in color with a tube on top. The Ashy Storm-Petrel has a somewhat ‘fluttering’ style of flight and its upstroke is not as high as certain other members of the storm-petrel family. It feeds on a variety of sea creatures such as cephalopods, fish, krill and other organisms which might be found near the sea’s surface.
Ashy Storm-Petrels are nocturnal and they have a long breeding cycle. They make their nests in rock burrows on offshore islands and it takes about five months from the time the egg is laid to fledging. Both male and female tend to show fidelity, mating with the same mate for many years. They usually only change their mate if they change their nesting site. Records show that the Ashy Storm-Petrel is a relatively long-lived bird with current records allowing for a lifespan of approximately 30 years. Currently most Ashy Storm-Petrel breeding colonies fall within protected areas and wildlife refuges whose legislative protection has helped to ensure the survival of this beautiful little endangered bird.