Bird Lady Blog

January 1, 2016

Bird Quiz


It’s been a while since we’ve done a birding quiz.  Let’s see how you do!  Answers to these questions are found somewhere else in the Pinewood News.

  1. What birds have a large nest on the top of a dead pine tree near Lake Odell? Turkey Vulture, Osprey, American Kestral, Common Raven.  Hint:  They catch and eat fish.
  2. Which Goldfinch species is common in Munds Park? American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Coconino Goldfinch?
  3. When a group of Turkey Vultures are soaring in the sky, what do ornithologists call them? Cast, Committee, Meal, Vortex, or Wake.
  4. Which finch has not been sighted in Munds Park (at least to my knowledge?) Black Rosy-Finch, House Finch, Cassin’s Finch.
  5. When is the least favorable time to be bird watching? Morning, High Noon, Late Afternoon.
  6. Are Acorn Woodpeckers best described as being: Communal or Solitary?
  7. What blackbird is not common to Munds Park? Lone-Pine Blackbird, Red-Winged Blackbird, Yellow-Headed Blackbird?
  8. What bird is often thought to be a duck, but is not? Mallard, American Coot, Blue-winged Teal
  9. About how many times a minute does a hummingbird’s heart beat? 400, 600, 1200.
  10. What is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to attract birds to your property? Cracked corn, green ham and eggs, dripping water into a bird bath, rock music played over back-yard speakers.
  11. What are the primary colors of a male Western Tanager?  Gray and Black; Red and Black;  Red, Yellow, and Black; Brown and Blue
  12. Which grosbeak is found regularly in Munds Park? Black-Headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, or Steller’s Grosbeak?
  13. What would be a favorite food of a Pygmy Nuthatch? Unshelled peanuts; nyger seed; black-oil sunflower seeds.
  14. Where do Western Bluebirds nest? In a triangular configuration of branches in a Ponderosa Pine; On the ground near a source of water; In a cavity such as in a tree or nest box; Under the eaves above your deck.
  15. Which swallow species has a long forked tail? Purple Martin; Barn Swallow; Blue-Green Swallow; Tree Swallow.

Answers:

  1. Osprey
  2. Lesser Goldfinch
  3. All of the choices
  4. Black Rosy-Finch
  5. High Noon
  6. Communal
  7. Lone-Pine Blackbird (I made that name up)
  8. American Coot
  9. 1200
  10. Dripping water into a bird bath
  11. Red, Yellow, and Black
  12. Black-Headed Grosbeak
  13. Black-oil sunflower seeds
  14. In a cavity such as in a tree or nest box
  15. Barn Swallow

Birds of Prey


Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-Tailed Hawk

The common names for birds of prey are eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, harriers, vultures, and owls.  In ornithology, “bird of prey” has a narrow meaning: those birds with very good eyesight for finding food, strong feet for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh.  Most birds of prey also have strong curved talons for catching or killing.  So as I recently discovered, a sea gull, which forages for fish with its beak, would not fall into the bird of prey category, but an osprey, which catches fish with its talons and then rips it apart with a curved beak, would.

In and around Munds Park we have several birds of prey, and I recently spotted a new one while I was golfing (again) one afternoon.  A single bird of prey was soaring above us at the 8th hole of Pinewood County Club, and it got low and close enough for a real good look through my binoculars.  My first thought was that it looked different from our Turkey Vulture, but not that different.  When it got closer I could see a distinctive white band across its tail and broader wings without the distinctive coloration of a Turkey Vulture.  Plus, it was solitary – whereas most of the Turkey Vultures soaring above the Golf Course are in a group.

I pulled out my trusty iPhone and used the bird ap iBird Plus 7.2 and whittled it down to two species:  Common Black-Hawk or Zone-Tailed Hawk.  Both are black-ish, with the underside wing pattern a bit similar to that of a Turkey Vulture, but where they live is different.  The Common Black-Hawk is found primarily in southern Arizona; the Zone-Tailed Hawk, according to my bird aps and books, has a preferred habitat of deep, wooded canyons and mountainous, rugged areas, hunting in grasslands or sparse forests.  So even though I only got one good look at this bird (in between golf shots), I am going to say that it was a Zone-Tailed Hawk.  I can remember what hole I saw the hawk on, but for the life of me I cannot remember what my next golf shot was like.  I guess I have my priorities straight.

Other birds of prey we can see here are Bald Eagles (occasionally spotted soaring or perched on the limbs of a dead tree), Red-Tailed Hawk (the most common hawk in the U.S.), Northern Harrier (I saw one hunting just one time in my 15 years here), Peregrine Falcon (occasionally) and our resident Ospreys.  The Ospreys used to have a nest on the east side of Lake Odell, but for the last two or three years have now built their nest at the top of a tall dead tree to the south of Hole 13 at Pinewood Country Club.   We have seen as many as four Ospreys at a time – presumably the parents and two offspring.  Other golf courses in the area that also have resident Ospreys with nests are Forest Highlands Country Club and Pine Canyon Country Club.

The bird of preys I haven’t seen in Munds Park are any kind of owls.  No sightings, no hearing their hooting – nothing.  I suppose there may be owls here, but for the life of me I don’t know where.  If anyone thinks they have seen or heard an owl, I would be interested in hearing from you.

June 16, 2013

Falcons, Ospreys, and “Oops”!


Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

I will start with the “oops”!  One of my golfing friends said to me after the last article was published, “We’ve been seeing these beautiful yellow and red birds you mentioned – you know, the Summer Tanagers.”  I replied, “Oh, you mean Western Tanagers”.  No, she countered:  “The birds you mentioned in the last Pinewood News – the Summer Tanagers.”  “Really?” I said.  So I went back and read and article and lo’ and behold, I realized I had goofed.  I meant Western Tanager but wrote Summer Tanager.

Maybe it’s because I wrote that article at 30,000 feet up flying back from the Horicon Marsh birding festival in Wisconsin.  Or maybe it was because I was thinking about spending the SUMMER in Munds Park.  Regardless, I goofed and apologize.  The Western Tanager likes coniferous forests.  The Summer Tanager can be found in Arizona, but usually not at an elevation as high as in Munds Park.  So if you see a slender, medium-sized bird with a brilliant red head and bright yellow body, black back, black wings with white wing bars, and a black tail – that would be the Western Tanager.  One did show up around our back deck and I hope it will again.  By the way, the first written record of it dated back to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

While golfing I spotted a Peregrine Falcon.  It was in the air, flying more than soaring, and then after a while took a dive down behind the condos off the 10th fairway.  The wing structure was right, the view from the bottom was just like that in my field guide, and the head had a black hood and sideburns.  So that is a first for me for Munds Park.  I’m glad I carry a pair of binoculars in my golf bag.

Peregrine Falcons were on the endangered species list for many years, almost decimated from exposure to DDT in insecticides.  They have had a successful recovery since DDT was banned and were taken off the endangered species list in 1999.  I have seen one of these birds during migration over the Grand Canyon (that was my first spotting) and also saw two way above the Chicago skyline when we were touring at the top of the old Sears Tower – about 100 stories up.  Peregrine Falcons do live in cities, preying on Rock Pigeons.  So just like the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, there are City Peregrine Falcons and Country Peregrine Falcons.

I was very happy to see the Osprey back.  You can find it at Lake Odell, flying and fishing, perched on the dead tree on the south side of the Lake, or perhaps in a nest.  The nest in past years has been on the east side of the Lake.  Since I don’t spend winters here, I have no idea how long the Osprey family stays in Munds Park.  If any of you year-round residents have seen it over the winter months, I would like to know.

The Osprey feeds entirely on fish.  When it takes a large fish to the nest or perch, it moves it around so that the head faces in the direction it is flying – presumably to increase the aerodynamics.  It’s all about survival of the fittest, and this species has its own techniques to increase its chances of success in the wild.

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