Bird Lady Blog

September 17, 2010

Mourning Doves and Great-tailed Grackles

Filed under: Mourning Dove and Great-tailed Grackle — Munds Park Birding @ 5:38 am

I for one do not want to rush the summer away, but it is inevitable – soon fall will be here and some of us will be headed to our residences away from Munds Park.  We’ll be “down in the Valley”, in Tucson, Yuma and maybe even further.  So in this article I decided to write about two species of birds that are found here as well as in our winter home towns.  I will also tell you about our trip to the Kachina Wetlands.

The Mourning Dove is very common across all of the United States and southern half of Canada.  There are not many here in Munds Park because they tend not to inhabit high forests, but on occasion I hear their four-syllable, mournful call or see one or two on the ground below our deck feeders, pecking at the dropped seeds.  Mourning Doves are very numerous in other parts of our state, including urban areas.  If you have one of those bird clocks that everyone (well, not “everyone”, maybe only birders) seemed to have received as presents a few years ago, the kind that on the hour “chimes” one of 12 bird calls, the Mourning Dove is probably one of those birds included on your clock.  It is a small, slender, long-tailed dove that is a strong flier, and it is the leading game bird hunted in the country.  One estimate I read stated that 40 to 70 million birds are shot each year in the U.S.  (Keep in mind that a single bird yields only about 2 ounces of meat, so why they are hunted as “game” is beyond me.)  In spite of that, Mourning Doves proliferate because a pair can have up to six broods a year.  The Mourning Dove has a “wing whistle” that is quite noticeable on landing and takeoff.  Back “in the Valley” when I am golfing, this is a very common bird on the golf course – especially when over seeding is taking place.  If you have a tube seed feeder, most likely the Mourning Doves will be below on the ground, eating the seeds that have dropped.

The Great-tailed Grackle is a noisy, large, long-tailed blackbird that thinks golf courses, irrigation ditches, and lawns with sprinkler systems were custom-made for them.  This is another species that is found in metro Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, and any other part of the state that has open to semi-open habitats, including farmland, marshes and wetlands, brushy forest edges, and suburban areas.  In Munds Park I have seen them only around the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course at the ponds and water ditches.  Great-tailed Grackles love being around water, and they have steadily increased in number in Phoenix, for example, because of irrigated lawns, golf courses, and grassy parks.  You will not find them in the real desert areas or mountain areas.  The males have glossy black feathers with an iridescent purple sheen, and in the spring they will strike a distinctive strutting pose to attract females.  The females are smaller and brown with a pale breast. Both the males and females always have yellow eyes.  There are two close relatives of the Great-tailed Grackles in the U.S.  Boat-tailed Grackles are found in Florida and along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.  Common Grackles are smaller than the other two species and are found primarily in the East and Midwest.  All three are rowdy, raucous, and somewhat aggressive towards other birds.  They are all significantly smaller than the Common Crow.  For our Arizona Great-tailed Grackles, look for the long, sleek, black, iridescent body and yellow eye.

 A couple of Sundays ago, two of us ventured to the Kachina Wetlands, which are just west of I-17, for a quick birding trip.  If you go, take the #333 Kachina/Mountainaire exit, then go north on the frontage road (Tovar Trail) on the immediate west side of the freeway all the way until it dead-ends.  The entrance is on the right.  There are eight wastewater treatment ponds, half of them filled with water, and the birding is good.  Highlights of this trip included Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a Sora, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and Ruddy Ducks. 

 Keep in mind the Hawk Watch is going on right now at the Grand Canyon.  For more information, go to www.hawkwatch.org.

 You can reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

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