Bird Lady Blog

July 7, 2010

Black-crowned Night-Heron and Dark-eyed Junco

Filed under: Black-crowned Night-Heron and Dark-eyed Junco,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 4:20 am

Summer has again arrived, and most of our birds are in the midst of raising their fledglings, watching out for predators, and delighting us with their visits to our feeders, bird baths, and if we are lucky, our nest boxes.  Speaking of fledglings, we have at least one juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron growing up in Munds Park, seen frequently at the pond to the left of the 1st green at Pinewood Country Club.  I hadn’t seen a Black-crowned Night-Heron before this summer in Munds Park, but given that this species is typically feeding at dusk or night, I’m not too surprised as I am usually dining versus birding towards the end of the day.  The Black-crowned Night Heron is the most widespread heron in the world, breeding on five continents, including in Africa, Japan, and Europe.  The first time I saw Black-crowned Night-Herons was at closing time coming out of the Phoenix Zoo around the entrance pond.  I have also seen many of them nesting in trees outside of apartment homes and condos near Solano Beach in southern California.  I have a feeling the human residents were reminded constantly of the birds’ presence by the loud, noisy sound they make plus the little “presents” they drop onto the sidewalks below.

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a short, stocky heron, and when mature it has a black crown and back, with the remainder of the body white or gray, and red eyes.  When I looked through my binoculars at the juvenile bird in our Munds Park pond a few days ago, the red eyes, in addition to its body type, were the first clues.  These birds are omnivorous, feeding on fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, small rodents, small reptiles, small birds, and occasionally plant material.   The juvenile we saw looked like it was learning to hunt by foraging in the shallower water, and it was pulling out vegetation as well.  Young birds hunt more during the day to stay away from competing adults.  Let’s hope this one has had some success and will become a regular resident of our community.

One of the birds that came back this summer and visited our bird bath is the Dark-eyed Junco.  These are sparrow-like birds but with a neat, flashy look.  You can see the whites on both sides of their tail when they fly, which is thought to be a signal to others in the flock when it is time to quickly take flight.  An adult will generally have a gray head, neck, and breast, and a large rust area on its back.  However, there are many variations of Dark-eyed Juncos in the U.S. – some with pink sides and some with a black hood. 

When not at your feeder, Dark-eyed Juncos are found mostly foraging on the ground.  These Juncos are a very abundant forest bird in North America, and during the winter they are a very common bird at feeders.  In fact, in the 1996/1997 Project Feeder Watch season, this was the most common bird reported.  They are sometimes are referred to as “snow birds” because their frequent and welcome visits to feeders during the winter in much of North America.  However, in Arizona overall the top feeder bird reported has been the House Finch.

Listen for their song – a ringing, metallic trill on the same pitch.  When Dark-eyed Juncos flock together they keep in contact as they spread by constantly calling a “tsick” to each other.  You can attract Dark-eyed Juncos with a bird bath and with cracked corn, peanuts, and nut meats in a tray feeder close to the ground.  I am going to try a tray feeder hanging from my deck and see if I can attract them there as well.   I’ll let you know what success I have.

Munds Park residents who are interested in birds will hold an informal get-together on Saturday, July 10th, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in one of the meeting rooms at Pinewood Country Club.  Come as you are, share some of your favorite sightings if you wish, and get to know some of your bird-loving neighbors.  Thanks in advance to Pinewood Country Club for accommodating our group.

You can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments, if you are so inclined, at


Black Phoebe and Say’s Phoebe and Bad News/Good News

Filed under: Munds Park Birding,Phoebes — Munds Park Birding @ 4:11 am

There are two species of Phoebes that are regularly found in Munds Park.  These Phoebes are small flycatchers.  But before we get to them, I would like to share early season birding news.  The Bad Birding News is that I am getting reports of birds crashing into windows, and I’d like to remind everyone again that there are steps you can take to prevent these accidents.  I just saw a photo of a dead Red-faced Warbler that crashed into a window of a house on Stallion Drive that sits up against the canyon.  The owners of the home of course felt terrible, and they immediately ordered the Window Alert halogen stickers.  There are several steps you can take to prevent birds crashing into your windows.  The most extreme, in my opinion, is to put netting or screens on all your windows.  That is probably a very unrealistic solution for most of us.  Or you could quit washing your windows and they could get so dirty and dusty and full of pine pollen that there would be no forest reflection in them to see and confuse birds.  And that solution is probably not your first choice, either, even though the price is right.  So I suggest you consider what the Arboretum at Flagstaff does, which is to hang strips of halogenic tape across windows, or what I do, which is purchase a few Window Alert stickers and place them on windows. 

There are other ideas beside the decals if you don’t want to spend the $7 or so to purchase four decals per window.  Learn more at Bird Watcher’s Digest: or read another useful article at  Place feeders and bird baths away from windows, and if you don’t want to do that, then make sure you use one of the prevention methods mentioned here or in the referenced articles so you can minimize chances of bird strikes.  You can find halogenic tape sold on the Internet or at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.  And if you want to learn even more, go to to read about additional scientific research on this topic.

Now back to the Phoebes.  I am lucky enough to see both the Black Phoebe and the Say’s Phoebe regularly on the PWCC Golf Course.  Both species, however, are found in different places on the course.    

The Black Phoebe is a small black and white flycatcher found primarily in the Southwest.  It has strongly contrasting plumage – black above and below with a white breast and under tail.  Black Phoebes are almost always found around water, so you can also spot them at the edges of Lake Odell, for example, or you may notice one when you are trying to retrieve the golf ball you just miss-hit into a golf course pond.  The Black Phoebe perches on branches, fence posts, and golf course posts indicating water hazards, and it flits down to catch an insect and then flies back to the spot it left.  I have also seen Black Phoebes in southern California and fairly often in Phoenix when around water, and once even in our own back yard perched on the pool diving board. 

The Say’s Phoebe is found throughout the West, all the way from Alaska to Arizona.  Like the Black Phoebe, it is also a flycatcher and is commonly found around people, but it avoids water and dense forests.  When I see the Say’s Phoebe in Munds Park, it is almost always on the golf course, and it is on the holes that do not have water, such as #s 13, 14, 15, and 16.  You can sometime see it sitting on one of the white sticks indicating out-of-bounds or on the fencing that surrounds smaller trees to prevent elk damage.  It flies low to the ground to pursue flying insects.  Sometimes it flutters near vegetation to pick insects off the plants.  The coloring on the Say’s Phoebe is a gray-brown head and upperparts and a pale rufous belly and undertail coverts. 

There is a lot of Good Birding News in Munds Park as well.  Nest boxes are being used, babies are being hatched, birds are visiting us at our feeders, and some folks are taking steps to prevent window strikes.  We are even going to have a first meeting of birders in Munds Park.  We will hold an informal get-together on Saturday, July 10th, 3:00 p.m., in one of the meeting rooms at Pinewood Country Club.  Come as you are and get introduced to other bird watching folks in our neighborhood and share some of your favorite sightings if you wish.  Thanks in advance to Pinewood Country Club for accommodating our group.

And as a mentioned in the last article, the Arboretum at Flagstaff is having a Hummingbird Festival from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26th.  Read more at  You can reach me at, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments, if you are so inclined, at

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