Bird Lady Blog

May 19, 2012

Spring and the American Robin

Filed under: Migration,Robin Goldfinch Bluebird Chickadee — Munds Park Birding @ 1:11 pm
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Just as we are returning to Munds Park en masse, so are the birds, and “they’re here” with just as much as enthusiasm as we have, whether we are full-time Munds Park residents or summer happy-campers.  What was the first bird I saw after walking onto our deck on Friday, May 4th?  The American Robin, eye-level to me from our second-story deck and easily spotted in a tree that had yet to produce a full set of the season’s new leaves.

The American Robin is a very popular bird in the U.S., found in 49 of our 50 states.  It is a worm and grub-eating bird that you will see on front lawns, golf courses, and grassy areas in parks, and in general is found in woodlands as well as open farm areas and urban areas.  It is one of the first birds to breed in the spring and one of the first birds to sing at the break of dawn.  “The early bird catches the worm” does indeed seem to describe the American Robin, although my research shows that this saying was first recorded back in the 1600’s in a collection of English Proverbs.  The American Robin is a stately, upright bird with a red breast, gray-brown upper parts, and white lower-belly and undertail.  Do you know what three States have named the American Robin their official state bird?  The answer is Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

I spent most of the first weekend in May stocking the kitchen and freezer and golfing, but I did manage to see while on the Pinewood Country Club golf course quite a number of birds.  Here they are in alphabetic order:  American Coot, American Crow, American Raven, American Robin, Band-Tailed Pigeon, Barn Swallow, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Black Phoebe, Canada Goose, Common Grackle, Great Blue Heron, Great-tailed Grackle, Lesser Goldfinch, Mallard, Mountain Chickadee, Osprey, Red Shafted Flicker, Red-Winged Blackbird, Say’s Phoebe, and Violet Green Swallow.

I did see House Finches building nests at the top of the roof overhang at Petsmart in Flagstaff, and I heard them singing in Munds Park.  Lu and Don Cross took a great photo of a House Finch at their deck feeder near Lake Odell and submitted it to The Arizona Republic.  Their photo of the male House Finch and a reference to the bird in Munds Park was printed in the newspaper last month.  This year they also put up a nest box in the hopes of attracting either Western Bluebirds or Tree Swallows.  We will keep you posted if they are successful in getting a nesting pair on their property.

By the time you read this I will have come and gone to Wisconsin to the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival over Mother’s Day weekend.  This will have been the first time I had gone to a formal birding festival, and we had signed up for two guided tours and also to attend some workshops.  I will report what new birds I’ve seen and which ones we also see here in Munds Park in the next article.


Doves and Pigeons

I can always tell when the hot weather is about to hit Phoenix.  The White-Winged Doves migrate back and are constantly cooing from tree to tree, cactus to cactus, roof top to everywhere:  “Who Cooks For You?”, “Who, Who, Who?”.  That is what it sounds like, and after a while the phrase does seem to get stuck in your head.  The White-Winged Dove is found in the southwest, prevalent in the desert, and its call was highlighted in Stevie Nicks’ song, “On the Edge of Seventeen”.  If you are not an avid Stevie Nicks fan (she is an Arizona native) and don’t know the song I’m talking about, go to YouTube and search for “White Winged Dove Stevie Nicks” and you can listen to the song.

We do not have White-Winged Doves in Munds Park because we don’t have cacti or experience 110 degree temperatures.  While this species of dove thrives in three-digit temperatures, the rest of us enjoy Munds Park’s much cooler temperature as well as two other species from the dove/pigeon families:  Mourning Dove and the Band-Tailed Pigeon.

Mourning Doves can be found everywhere in the continental U.S. except in the deep woods.  You will hear or see them in Munds Park, but they are not nearly as prevalent as they are in the large urban areas in Arizona.  They are the most hunted bird in the U.S., in part because they are so widespread, but also because they are challenging as a game bird.  They have a very fast flight, making sudden up and downs while racing and dodging through the air.  You can see them on the ground or telephone wires. You can hear their mournful call, but you can also hear their flight, a sharp whistling or whinnying sound when they take off.  We will often have more than 50 mourning doves picking at grass seed on the golf course and driving range in Phoenix, and when they take off en masse, the sound is unmistakable.

The Band Tailed Pigeon, larger than the Mourning Dove, looks a lot like the common Rock Pigeon/Dove you think of a New Yorker tossing stale bread and popcorn to birds in Central Park or birds lined up on the top of billboards along I-17.  Unlike the Rock Pigeon, the Band-Tailed Pigeon is native to the U.S. and is found only in the West.  It has a white collar on its neck and a white band at the base of its tail.  It will definitely come to your feeder, and a few of them at a time will wipe out your bird seed in a morning.  I had to change one of our seed feeders by taking off the round bottom tray because the Band-Tailed Pigeons would monopolize it, tip it sideways with their weight, and prevent any other birds from landing.  I have since installed a second feeder, a square tray, and the Band-Tailed Pigeons now use that one, sharing with an occasional squirrel.

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