Monterey Bay Birding Festival

August 21, 2013 by  
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The 9th annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival offers birding enthusiasts the opportunity to explore one of the most spectacular birding and wildlife destinations in North America. With its amazing diversity of habitats, this area is home to Golden Eagles, California Condors, Warblers, Bushtits, Plovers, Shearwaters and much more. For more information on this exciting event go to the Monterey Bay Birding Festival 2013.

Dates: 12-15 September 2013
Venue: Monterey Bay
State: California

Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) is easily distinguished by its plumage, and the males and females can by determined by their coloring. Males have a cinnamon-red coloring over their belly, flanks, head and neck. Their backs are predominantly dark brown, with long bills and red eyes. The females have brown eyes, gray bills, and pale coloring over their heads. Their body plumage is somewhat mottled with browns and a dark back. They also have a light blue patch of plumage on the upper part of their wings. There is also a distinctive pale ring around their eyes. Juvenile males have a similar coloring to the females.

These dabbling ducks, are commonly found in western North America, including areas of California, Texas and Mexico. The Cinnamon Teals are always found in small flocks with female and male pairs. Flocks will generally frequent lakes, streams, small rivers and ponds. They need the water areas to have reeds or plants round the edges, as they feed in shallow waters and live off seeds, plants and on the odd occasion, insects. Cinnamon teals are extremely comfortable on the water, and can dive beneath the surface to find food and can also take off from the water, with quite astounding speed.

During the breeding period, females will find a suitable partner and swim in front of him. To attract the attention of the females, males will preen themselves to perfection and take quick flights to impress her. The female Cinnamon Teal takes care of building the nest, and uses plant stems, grass and other plant materials for construction. The nest is built with a tunnel that leads to it through the plants as she constructs her nest under reeds and plants to obstruct it from view. She will lay between nine to twelve eggs, and takes care of the three week incubation period. The chicks hatch already covered in down, which enables them to leave the nest within 34 hours of hatching. The female Cinnamon Teal will remain with her chicks until they fledge her protection, at the age of approximately one and half months.

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.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is found almost worldwide and it is very adaptable to its environment, living in desert, tropical rainforest and polar regions. Also known as the Common Gallinule in North America, this bird tends to favour well-vegetated lakes as breeding environments. The birds are usually reclusive, but have been known be become quite tame in certain areas. Those that live in areas where lakes and other bodies of water tend to freeze over in winter generally migrate to more temperate parts of the globe during the colder months.

This bird has quite distinctive markings. The adult’s head, neck, breast and belly are slate grey while its bill is red with a yellow tip. There is a red frontal shield above the bill and the upperwings are a brownish color. The upper flank has a clearly visible white stripe, while the feet are a greenish yellow. Interestingly, while a juvenile has many of the same characteristics, it has somewhat less color on its body and wings. The head and underparts are a pale gray-brown while the upperparts are a dark-grey brown. The bill is not yet bright red, though the stripe on the flanks and other colouring is more or less present. The average Common Moorhen has a body length of 10.5 inches and a wingspan of 21 inches. The wings and tail are fairly short in comparison to other duck-like waterbirds and the bill is thick and short. They are comfortable in the air, on the water and on land and the sexes are similar in appearance.

The Common Moorhen makes its nest on the ground in amongst dense vegetation. Their nests take the form of a roofed basket and they may lay between 8-12 eggs in it. Both parents work hard to incubate the eggs over a period of 3 weeks and then they take it in turns to feed the young. They are capable of producing more than one brood in a year and so, despite certain environmental changes and other negative conditions, the bird has been able to remain fairly common and widespread.

Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) is a lovely little bird which lives in North America. Although other Grosbeak species are found in Europe and Asia, the Evening Grosbeak is uniquely American. Originally the range of this sweet little finch was the Canadian Rockies, but today it is seen in Labrador and Newfoundland. Join us as we discover more about these wonderful birds.

Evening Grosbeaks are plump finches measuring about 7-8 inches in length. Most notable is their brilliantly adapted conical bill, relatively large for such a small bird. Male Evening Grosbeaks are an amazing yellow color with a gold band around the forehead which stands out. Feathers around the crown and neck are a glossy brown. Jet black feathers adorn the wings and tail of the male and white patches decorate the shoulder. Female Grosbeaks are much less striking. Their body feathers are a pale gray with yellow on the nape, rump and sides. Like the male, the wings and tail are black but have white patches. In the winter months the thick bill of the Evening Grosbeak is bone colored whilst in spring it transforms into a green color like that of newly showing deciduous buds. This provides ideal camoflage as it hides in the trees. Its little head resembles a young balsam cone. When in flight, the Evening Grosbeak can be spotted by its undulating flight pattern and rapid wing-beats. The little birds are very noisy and have an extensive call vocabulary.

Evening Grosbeaks prefer coniferous forest but will also reside in mixed deciduous localities. As seed-eaters, Evening Grosbeaks dine on the seeds of cones from pine, spruce and balsam fir. They will also feast on deciduous plant seeds. Whilst feeding, the Grosbeak is adept at shearing husks from seeds. Carefully maneuvering the seed into the correct position they are able to munch on the tasty inner contents of the seed. Evening Grosbeaks have also been known to feed on budworms in their various life stages and are thus a great asset in pest reduction. These lively birds will often frequent bird feeders, devouring sunflower seeds.

Not much information is known about the Evening Grosbeak’s breeding habits. Nests are constructed out of twigs, grass, moss and so forth. About 3 to 4 green, splotched eggs are laid in breeding season. Be sure to look out for this cute little creature when bird watching.

Merlin (Falco colombarius)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Merlin or as it is scientifically know as, Falco colombarius, is a falcon that breeds in many different continents like North America, Asia and Europe. In North America it is known as a pigeon hawk, and the Latin part of its scientific name, “columba”, means dove also indicating the falcon’s popular food choice. But the name is incorrect in that it is not a hawk but a falcon and so the name is not often used.

The Merlin is a small bird of prey that breeds in open areas like moor lands, birch scrub and taiga or willow scrub, coasts and desert areas. When temperatures become too cold the Merlin, like its larger counterpart the Peregrine Falcon, will migrate to more temperate regions. These northern European birds will go over to North Africa or to southern Europe, whereas the North American birds will head to southern USA and to northern South America. If the bird is found in Great Britain, one of its milder breeding ranges, it will leave high grounds and move to lowlands and the coast.

In Europe the Merlin is a social bird and will roost communally in winter, many times with Hen Harriers. However, in North America, communal roosting is rare because the Merlin is known for its aggression and it will go so far as to attack any bird of prey, even eagles. Throughout the Merlin’s territory range they will nest on the ground, for instance in the United Kingdom they will usually look for a shallow scrape on the heather moor land. They also enjoy long heather but because of the regular burning in that area they tend to be over managed.

The male Merlin’s coloring is specifically blue-gray with orange-tinted under parts. The female and the juvenile differ and have a dark brown back and a white belly with brown spots below. The American subspecies go from pale in the Great Plains to dark brown, black in the Pacific Northwest. This particular species is small in size and has dark under parts, and is distinguished from the Peregrine Falcon by its facial features, which are not as strongly marked.

These falcons prey on small birds like pipits, larks and large insects and because of this they rely heavily on their speed and agility to hunt prey. Merlin Falcons hunt by flying low, about one meter off the ground, and very fast catching their prey by surprise.

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is the only harrier amongst North America’s hawks. Also known as the Marsh Hawk, the Northern Harrier is an exceptional hunter. Nothern Harriers are popular with farmers as pest killers and are no threat to their own animal stocks. These remarkable birds of prey have also featured in superstition. In the past, Europeans used to believe that if a harrier perched on a house it was an omen that 3 people would die. Native Americans on the other hand believed that if you saw one on your wedding day that you would have a happy, long marriage.

How are Nothern Harriers identified? These are medium-sized hawks, measuring about 16.5 inches in length with a long wingspan of 42 inches. The wings are somewhat rounded and the tail long. The hooked beak is short and dark in color. Male Northern Harriers differ from the females. They have pale gray plumage that becomes lighter at the underparts. His head is a darker gray. The flight feathers have black tips and the tail is barred with narrow dark strips. The female Northern Harrier has buff under areas with dark streaks. During flight you will see her dark barring on the flight feathers as well as a dark inner wing. Both genders have flat owl-like faces. They are also easily identified by their flying pattern as they course over fields with the wings held at an angle to the body.

Northern Harriers are found across North America, Europe and Asia. They chiefly reside in open areas such as tundra, steppes, grasslands, meadows, wetlands and agricultural zones. These harriers will feed on a variety of small mammals, insects, birds and reptiles, even occasionally dining on carrion. The harrier will glide down close to the ground, relying heavily on their sense of hearing, which is aided by their facial disk. After locating prey they will quickly swoop down in a surprise attack.

One of the most acrobatic raptors, the Northern Harrier displays before the female a most intricate courtship flight with clever maneuvering. Nests are built on the ground and are made of sticks and other vegetation. A clutch of 5 eggs is laid in the nest. Incubation is for 29 to 31 days during which time the male Northern Harrier provides the female with food. The offspring fledge after 30 to 40 days but are still dependent on their parents. Northern Harriers live for plus-minus 12 years.

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Purple Martin (Progne subis) is generally recognised as being the largest North American swallow. Its body measures about 20 cm in length and it has a wingspan of 39-41 cm. The Purple Martin is an incredibly acrobatic flyer. Today they are commonly found nesting in backyard birdhouses. The Purple Martin has been making use of nesting boxes in eastern North America for well over a century. This is the case because Native Americans once hung up empty gourds for these birds to use as homes, starting a tradition that European settlers continued on their arrival. While those birds found in the eastern part of the country use birdhouses almost exclusively, those in the west tend to prefer natural cavities.

Purple Martins are not as easily identified as other bird species due to the fact that they display a lot of variance until about two years of age. The adult bird is a large swallow with a large head, thick chest and broad, pointed wings with a slightly forked tail. The male’s entire body is a bluish black while the underparts of the female are light in colour. Males approaching adulthood look similar to females but with solid black feathers randomly erupting on their chest. Females approaching adulthood do not yet have a steel blue sheen on their backs. While most of these birds are found in eastern North America, some can also be found between British Columbia and Mexico on the west coast. Those living on the west coast generally make use of woodpecker holes and cactus cavities as nesting sites. They are also somewhat paler than their eastern relatives.

Unfortunately Purple Martins are often targeted by House Sparrows and Common Starlings – two invasive species which kill Martins in order to make use of their nest cavities. In order to have these beautiful little birds breed successfully, these invader species must be actively controlled and removed from their nesting site. Purple Martins are migratory and they generally fly to the Amazon basin in the winter months. They feed mainly on insects which they usually catch in mid flight. They also drink their water by scooping it up whilst flying.

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Also known as the Common Pheasant, the Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) originated in Asia but was introduced to North America and is now well established over much of the continent. It was also taken to Britain in the 10th century but had to be reintroduced in the 1830s as the original birds died out in the 17th century. Today it is also well established in that country. It is generally regarded as being a game-bird and is often bred for hunting purposes. However, there are several breeding facilities which not only supply hunters but restaurants with these birds. Since the meat can be tought and dry, farm-raised birds are prefereable for consumption.

Generally speaking the Ring-necked Pheasant is a distinctive and colorful species. Its body usually measures between 50-90 cm with the tail often accounting for half the total length. The bird has a chunky shape, round wings and a long tail. The head is small and set on a thin neck. The adult male has a green head with a pale bill and red facial skin around the eye. There is a bold white ring around its neck from which its name is derived. The rest of its plumage is somewhat golden in color with blue and green iridescence as well as black spotting randomly dispersed all over its body. The tail has long, pointed golden feathers with black barring while the legs are spurred. The adult female’s head and underparts are a buffy brown. Her back is dark brown and she has black spots and bars scattered around her head, neck and flanks. Her tail has no barring and she also does not have any spurs. Juveniles resemble females until about two months of age.

Generally speaking this ground-bird prefers cultivated agricultral lands that are interspersed with marshes, hedges and brushy groves. They prefer to run rather than fly and have a short wingspan of only 56-86 cm. Ring-necked Pheasants feed on seeds, grasses, leaves, roots, nuts, wild fruit and insects. They usually nest on the ground in amongst tall grass or weeds in a scrape which is sparsely lined with vegetation. The female may lay between 7-15 eggs in her nest and her chicks are able to leave the nest and feed themselves shortly after hatching. Males are polygynous and usually defend their harem of females from other males quite fiercely. When they are not nesting, Ring-necked Phesants usually roost in trees.

Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) has features similar to a chicken with a small black bill. The tail is a square shape and it is between 11 to 16 inches long. The Ptarmigan’s legs and toes are feathered, which helps them walk through the snow and keep warm without a problem. During the summer periods the male Ptarmigan has as whitish belly and wings with a dappled grey and brown back. The male bird has a red comb that falls over their eyes. The females on the other hand are completely dappled grey and brown. In winter the Rock Ptarmigan’s coloring completely changes to a snow-white color, excepting for a black tip on its tail and a black line over its eyes.

The Ptarmigan’s territory is circumpolar, which means it spreads in a circle around the arctic. In North America they can be found in Northern Canada and Alaska and in other places like Scandinavia, Greenland, Finland and Russia. Their habitat is mainly in upland tundras that have willows, thickets and heath, and in alpine areas. They eat insects now and again but their diet is mainly made up of a variety of different plant parts, which include twigs, buds and berries.

The adult Rock Ptarmigan will look for a suitable breeding territory and once he has selected one he will protect it from other male birds. The male Ptarmigan will protect his territory with aerial displays, by chasing other males or by calls. Aerial displays consist of the male leaping into the air while flapping his wings; he flies straight up, then fans his tail out and gently glides back to the ground.

The Rock Ptarmigans‘ courtship is something to watch, the male will drag one of his wings on the ground, fan his tail out, raise his red comb and basically circle the female he is interested in. The female will make a nest out of a sheltered hollow and line it with pieces of moss and grass. Here she will lay between six and ten eggs. The male and female will stay paired up until incubation reaches half way, from then on the female Ptarmigan is on her own. After just under a month the chicks will hatch. A day after the chicks have hatched they are already searching for food in amongst the tundra. The chicks fledge after two weeks and are completely independent from about three months.

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