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

Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Most commonly found in the American tropics and subtropics, the Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) is a fairly large bird that generally nests around well-watered areas or lakes and rivers. Besides being found on the mainland of North America as far up as Rio Grand and the Californian coast through to Mexico, Central America and the southern parts of South America, it can also be found on smaller landmasses such as the Bahamas, Cuba and Trinidad. Most of these birds are permanent residents, though some do wander north in the warmer months. Because the bird is so widespread, some ornithologists prefer to treat those found north as one species and those found in the south as another species. However, they can also be grouped into the subspecies Phalacrocorax brasilianus mexicanus (the northern birds) and Phalacrocorax brasilianus brasilianus (the southern birds) and the two are therefore often grouped together as one species of cormorant. The Neotropic Cormorant was formerly known as the Olivaceous Cormorant.

Neotropic Cormorants usually have a body length of 64 cm with a wingspan of 100 cm. They can weigh between 1 and 1.5 kg and those found in the south are usually bigger than those found in the north. Neotropic Cormorants are somewhat slender compared to other cormorants and they have a long tail, hooked bill and long, thin neck, which it frequently holds in an S-shape. The Gular region is pointed and dull yellow in colour and there is a thin pale border around this area. The adult bird has dark plumage covering its entire body, though the throat becomes whiter during breeding season with white tufts appearing on the sides of the head. Immature Neotropic Cormorants have dull brown upperparts and pale underparts.

The Neotropic Cormorant is somewhat different from other cormorants in that it often perches on wires. When it does perch, it is usually with wings spread wide open to dry. These birds feed mainly on small fish and also eat tadpoles, frogs and aquatic insects. They obtain their food by diving underwater and using their feet as a means of propulsion. The Neotropic Cormorant may also forage in groups, beating their wings in the water to drive the fish into the shallows. When it comes to mating, the birds are monogamous and they breed in colonies. They usually build their nest out of sticks in a depression. The centre is usually lined with twigs and grass and cater to as many as five eggs. Both parents sit on the eggs for a period of 25-30 days and then both work together to feed the young until the chicks reach independence at 12 weeks of age. Neotropic Cormorants raise only one brood a year.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

February 9, 2009 by  
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For many, the turkey is simply a large bird that you eat traditionally at Thanksgiving dinner. Few realize that there are two different species of turkey and that the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is the heaviest of the two. The Wild Turkey is found naturally in North America and the other species – known as Ocellated Turkey – can be found in Central and South America. While the Ocellated Turkey is easily domesticated and has even been successfully introduced to Europe, it has been found that the best way to introduce Wild Turkeys to other regions is to capture wild groups and then release them at the desired location.

The Wild Turkey is a large, darkly coloured, ground-dwelling bird. The head and neck are bare and the head is bluish in colour while the throat is a strong red. These birds have a short, slightly down-curved bill and long, powerful reddish-orange legs. On the head there are a number of fleshy growths known as caruncles. There is also a fleshy flap on the turkey’s bill which expands and becomes engorged with blood when the turkey is excited. The average bird is between 110-115 cm long with a wingspan of 125-144 cm. The male is generally larger than the female and has red wattles on the throat and neck as well as spurs on their lower legs. Male turkeys may also have red, green copper, bronze and shiny gold on their feathers while females are quite dull. Turkeys have a long, fan-shaped tail with glossy bronze wings. The Wild Turkey of North America has a chestnut-brown tail while the Ocellated Turkey of Central and South America has a white tail. This makes it easy to distinguish between the resident wild birds and those re-introduced as a farm animal by European settlers who had bred with original Mexican stock in Europe.

While the most commonly recognised turkey sound is a ‘gobble’ noise, the bird is capable of making many other sounds. During breeding season, Wild Turkeys move out of heavily wooded areas to places with greater visibility. This may include pastures, fields, open woods and sometimes even quiet roads. These open areas give the birds a quick means of escape. The hens usually nest near the base of a tree or shrub, though they may also make use of tall grass. When they are not nesting, Wild Turkeys generally roost in trees. The males are polygamous and they may have as many as five hens in their territory. After performing several courtship rituals, the male mates with the females who then go off to search for nesting sites. Once they have found a suitable depression, the hen lays between 10-12 eggs which are incubated for 28 days. Being nidifugous, these young chicks quickly learn how to feed themselves and leave the nest between 12-24 hours later. Wild Turkeys are omnivourous and they feed on shrubs and small trees as well as acorns, nuts, berries, roots and insects. They may also eat snakes, frogs and salamanders.

American Kestrel (Falco sparverious)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The American Kestrel (Falco sparverious) can be easily identified by its unique markings. They have a wingspan of 21 inches and measure 8.5 inches in length. The American Kestrel has a short, hooked beak, and the adult males have rust patches on their crown, tail, breast, back and nape. Their bellies are pale in color, and have dark feathers at intervals, which creates a spotted effect. Black spots can also be found on the wings coverts, flanks and on the scapulars. The immature males have streaked breasts and have predominantly rust and black coloring on their backs. The female American Kestrels are streaked with brown across their chests, and their wings and back are predominantly black. This tiny little falcon might not be colorful, but is the most commonly found raptor in North America.

American Kestrels can generally be found in the stretch of land between Alaska and Tierra de Feugo. These North American birds are also comfortable living in populated areas. American Kestrels are extremely interesting birds when it comes to their hunting tactics. A suitable perch to view the ground from is preferable, but they are not dependant on seating arrangements. These North American birds are very graceful during flight, and can reach high speeds quite rapidly. If an American Kestrel is hunting without being able to perch themselves, they are able to hover over a specific area. Hover-hunting is not favorable though, as they are easily spotted by their prey. American Kestrels are raptors, and therefore their prey usually consists of rats, mice, young squirrels and bats. They will also eat other birds, worms, beetles, crickets and dragonflies. Small reptiles and amphibians may also make it onto the American Kestrel’s menu.

During the winter months, it is believed that the females migrate south first, giving them the opportunity to find and establish territories during the winter months. The females prefer the open habitats, and the males are usually found in the more wooded areas. It seems that their winter homes are not by choice, but having to take whatever area is left unoccupied by the females.

The nesting period for American Kestrels starts approximately during mid-March, with the females laying their eggs, usually four to six, in the beginning of April. The incubation period for a female American Kestrel
is between 28 to 30 days. During this time, the male will hunt on behalf of the female. Another strange attribute exclusive to the American Kestrel, is its nesting habits. They are known to squirt feces on the walls of the nest cavity, which is left to dry. The feces together with the remains of half eaten prey does not make this nest the best smelling home in North America, and it is no surprise that the young kestrels decide to fledge the nest after 28 to 30 days.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

February 9, 2009 by  
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Considered by many to be the most beautiful of all waterfowl, the colorful Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) is somewhat unique in that it is one of the few North American ducks that nest in trees. Also known as the Carolina Duck, the Wood Duck can be found in eastern North America and the west coast of the US, as well as in western Mexico. They usually select wooded swamps, marshes, ponds or shallow lakes as a breeding habitat and will nest in tree cavities close to water. Despite their popularity, these birds are shy and skittish and they are quick to make an escape if disturbed or threatened.

The average Wood Duck is 47-54 cm in length with a wingspan of 66-73 cm. This makes them a medium-sized duck with long, broad wings. They also have a crest on their heads and a long tail. The male is most spectacular during breeding season. Between fall and summer he has a red bill, red eye and green head with striking white stripes around his face and chest. These stripes start as a white throat patch which then grow into ‘finger-like’ extensions which can be found at the base of the neck and the bottom of the cheek. His breast becomes a strong chestnut colour and there is a white vertical strip at the lower margin. His flanks are a golden colour which are bordered at the top with a white flank stripe. His belly is also white and his wings and back become a shiny dark green-blue. There is also an iridescent blue-green speculum on the rear of his wings with a white edge. When he is not breeding, the male looks quite similar to the female, except that he retains his distinctive white neck patch and red bill. The adult female is much less colourful and has a grey bill, a white teardrop patch around her eye and a white throat. Her head and neck are a grey-brown colour and her grey-brown breast is stippled with white which fades into a white belly. Her back and wings are a dark brown.

Generally speaking, the Wood Duck eats seeds, acorns, fruit and both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. They peck and dabble on the surface of the water and may dive under for food. When they nest, they may make use of nesting boxes if these are available. The nest is lined with down from the female and she lays between 6 and 15 eggs in a clutch. Soon after hatching, the down-covered ducklings jump out the nest and make their way to the water where they put their natural swimming talent to good use.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Eastern or American Goldfinch, Latin name Carduelis tristis, is a member of the finch, Fringillidae, family. It is a typical North American seed eating bird and so only starts nesting in mid to late summer, when weed seeds are available. Because they are late breeders the goldfinch stays in a flock for much longer than other species of birds that have already formed pairs and have begun breeding. Due to late nesting, only one single brood is raised every year.

The goldfinch is about 11 to 13 cm long, smaller than a sparrow. These little birds breed all over southern Canada and from Newfoundland to British Columbia, as well as in the northern and southern states of America. They like open spaces with trees spotted around, like orchards and alongside the road.

American Goldfinches have been studied quite extensively and it has been found that when they migrate they often hesitate before they fly over water, with some even returning to the mainland. It takes the main leader of the group to head out over the water before the others, one by one, will follow along. It won’t be long before they will return to the water’s edge, chatting away noisily to each other almost as if they are gathering courage. Again they will try head over the water and those that remain will return to land until winter forces the birds to complete their migration.

The breeding male is bright yellow in colour with a white rump and a black forehead. The wings and tail are black with a white outer edge; the wings differentiate from the tail because of having an extra splash of yellow on the bend of each wing. The male and female have a dull olive-gray winter coat with black wings, tail and white stripes on their wings. When spring comes around again the goldfinches lose all their dark winter feathers and once again regain their striking orange bill. The male American Goldfinch differs from the female in that the rest of his body goes a canary yellow with a black cap.

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The impressively large and passive Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) is a waterbird that was formerly called the Wood Ibis, with the name change coming about because it is not actually an ibis at all. Wood Storks are the only stork native to North America and the only stork that breeds in this country, though they are generally found in the extreme southern parts of the country and their range extends as far south as Argentina in South America as well as into the Caribbean. Wood Storks are wetland birds and so they are commonly found near water sources such as swamps, marshes and ponds. They feed by wading in the shallows and eat small fish, tadpoles and crayfish. There is a small population which breeds in southern Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and it is this population which is considered to be endangered. However, those found between Mexico and Argentina are far more abundant and are not considered to be endangered.

Wood Storks measure around 85-115 cm in length, with a wingspan of 150-175 cm. They have long legs and are almost completely white in colour with a long, thick, down-curved bill. The head and top of the neck is black and bald and the white wings have black flight feathers. The tail is usually also black and their legs are peach in colour. Both sexes look alike and are capable of gliding for long periods of time. Juveniles are similar in appearance but with duller beaks and browner necks. Since they have no vocal muscles, they are fairly silent birds that only produce soft noises once in a while. It is interesting to note that they cool themselves off by urinating on their legs. When gliding, they are capable of diving and flipping, though they do look somewhat awkward when they flap their wings.

Nesting season for the Wood Stork is always dry. At this time of the year, lakes shrink and food is forced into smaller areas that are more easily waded. Because the catch is higher, the chicks stay well fed. At this time of year, these birds begin to make their nests in the top of tall trees. More than one bird may nest in the same tree and these birds usually nest in colonies called rookeries. The nests are made from moss, vines and twigs and hold 4-5 eggs. Incubation lasts about 30 days and usually only about two chicks survive the breeding season. The babies are fed by their parents for the first nine weeks during which time the parents take turns watching the nest and hunting for food. After this nine-week period, the juvenile Wood Storks are able to live on their own.

Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) is one of the most popular bird species in North America. This cute little bird with its cheerful hop can be seen frequenting bird feeders throughout the year. A marvelous little bird, the Black-Capped Chickadee has a number of fascinating behaviors and is a delight in any garden. Living throughout Canada, the range of the Black-Capped Chickadee extends from Newfoundland through to British Columbia and up to Yukon all across the North-west Territories. Be sure to look out for this lively bird when in those areas.

The Black-Capped Chickadee is a small bird species measuring about 5 inches, or 12 cm. They have a short bill and distinctive black crown and bib with bright white cheeks. The upper parts of the bird are gray whilst the wing coverts are edged in white. A rusty color marks the flanks whilst the underparts are gray-white. Black-Capped Chickadees have complex calls, forming their own language. Chickadees travel in small flocks and have a distinctive hierarchy. The more aggressive the bird, the higher the bird’s rank. High ranking birds receive privileges such as the best food, safest areas and they tend to have greater survival rates. Pairing also takes place according to rank.

Foraging begins at sunrise for Black-Capped Chickadees. Hopping along through the trees the little birds seek out tasty creatures in all the little cracks and holes. Their diet includes insect eggs, larvae, weevils, sawflies and other little creatures. During summer and fall, the Black-Capped Chickadees begin storing food, hiding it under bark, in lichen patches and so forth. These remarkable birds are able to remember thousands of hiding spots. In colder times they will dine on seeds which provide more energy.

Black-Capped Chickadee courtship begins in February and March. Slowly the flock pairs off in search of a nesting place. Males rigorously defend the area against intruders. The nest is made in a hole that the pair dig in a dead stump or rotting wood. The female chickadee will lay 5 to 10 eggs. Incubation lasts 13 to 14 days, and within 16 to 17 days, the young Black-Capped Chickadees can leave the nest, while being fed by their parents for another 2 to 3 weeks.

Black-Capped Chickadees are great garden pest controllers and friendly creatures to have around, so why not make efforts to protect this hardy bird species.

Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina)

February 9, 2009 by  
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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.

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.

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