Sunday, July 22, 2018

072218 Muskogee Edition, Birding Today

Boomer Lake's Juveniles and Shore Visitors

                                                                Green Heron Juvenile

                                                          Northern Mockingbird Juvenile

                                                  Second Northern Mockingbird Juvenile

                                                     Northern Cardinal During Molt

                                                               Spotted Sandpipers


July 2018

These are all birds of the month.  Our shorebirds have been returning, included our Killdeer which
have not been noticed breeding at Boomer Lake anymore, since the cement on the edges of the lake have been covered with plants, grass, and trees.  Spotted Sandpipers have been seen over the past few days, but I have not noticed any due to the recent heat wave keeping me away from my longer walks this year.

The last photo of the Green Heron is the one displayed above, as even they have departed Heron Cove.  My assumption at this point is that it could be heat related for them, both for breeding purposes, and possibly even food resources going elsewhere.

The Northern Cardinal is molting, which is why you see missing and indiscriminate down on him.

Stay cool if you can, and happy birding in the earliest part of the day.

072218 SNP Edition, Life at Boomer Lake

Mallee Emu Wren Makes Comeback in South Australia

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Oklahoma Breeding Bird Species Profile: Mississippi Kite

Thinking of the Mississippi Kite, one may visualize the sign of Batman and immediately think of that familiar call or whistle, "phee-phew!  phee-phew!  phee-phee!"

This migratory hawk of the south, as well as a growing northern spread is known by a number of colloquial names all over the southern states and beyond.  Some of these monikers, like the Square-tailed Kite, Locust Kite, Blue Darter, Grasshopper Hawk, American Kite, and others that bear a fictional status, like Pigeon Hawk, Rabbit Hawk, Blue Snake-Hawk form no bearing whatsoever on this insect consumer.

Though uncommon and local, the Locust Kite is often discovered where large trees are found in open areas including riparian corridors.  They forage high in the air seeking locusts, large beetles, cicadas, dragonflies and the like, and form small flocks during their slightly later migration.  As time goes, on they will be looking for more northern venues that suit them outside normal breeding ranges due to the rapid march of extreme heat.

                                                        Mississippi Kite Foraging

The Blue Darter is usually in central Oklahoma by late April to nearly mid May, and this is expected to be later as time goes on.  These South American migraters generally take three routes into the country.  The may choose across the Gulf of Mexico via the Yucatan, the Caribbean jaunt (across the islands), and the overland sprint, through Mexico and Central America.

Our beloved Grasshopper Hawk has most likely chosen his mate while still within the heart of South America.  Pairs likely mate for life, as they return to former nest sites, which can be within an assortment of taller trees.  They favor the bald cypress as they wish to be near water, which attracts their favored high protein insects.

Mississippi Kites line their flimsy stick nests with end branches of leaves, making a soft overlay upon their stick nests.  They often use living willow and cottonwood leaves, due to their texture, depending upon where they choose to nest.  This could be in conifers or deciduous trees, and they do enjoy riparian woodlands or piney forest.

As these kites usually choose insects for their food, many birds will nest in the same vicinity, as well as perch beside them after nesting season upon high wires.  These social birds also tend to roost together and will often taken their young together where there are high large insect concentrations, like Boomer Lake Park, so they may practice hunting on the wing.  They may choose either higher or lower altitudes for hunting, and will tend to stoop hunt, similar to a hawk, to close in upon their prey.  Several adults and juveniles will perch together on large bald cypress during this time period, so that the immature birds can develop strong hunting skills.  By the time they are seen frequently and in larger numbers, it is not long before they migrate.

                                                              Adult Mississippi Kite    

Kites have grown to adapt, like many generalist species, to human environs, and they are not as gentle as some city birds when it comes to protecting their territory.  There have been a number of instances where this species will react to unsuspecting folk that walk under their nests in parks and golf courses.  Aerial bombardments rarely cause injury, but they will frighten the unfortunate who happen to be in the wrong area at the wrong time.  These instances are usually avoided with the posting of signs and education, such as articles forewarning humanity about the activity.

Actions such as these will cease once young birds have fledged from the nest.

                                                             Juvenile Mississippi Kite
                                                             Fledged within two weeks

If there is reason to try to overwinter these birds, like in a rehab situation, chances are not good that the bird will survive long.  Their bodies can't handle our winters.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Unusual Andean Cock-of-the Rock

The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is the national bird of Peru, which is not to be confused with the Guinean Cock-of-the-Rock.  Not only is the red-orange color exquisite, but the males also have a fan shaped crest.

Shy birds by nature, this cloud forest dweller gathers with other males on communal leks, or courtship sites, to entice females and challenge other males.  The females spend their time on the nests incubating eggs on rock faces, under bridges, or cave entrances, solely building nests and rearing the young.  Nests are located near the lek sites.

It is possible to find these birds eating fruit at trees away from the lek, but they also consume army ants, amphibians, lizards, and occasionally, rodents.

These passerines reside in the Andean cloud forests of Boliva, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.  It is also a bird of least concern, and is visible between 0.3 mile and 1.5 miles in elevation.  The species is also dimorphic, with the female a rust colored version of the male, who has a bright orange coloring and a half moon-shaped crest.

Species Profile: Reddish Egret

A heron that is found in shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret is the most uncommon of all in the United States.  The species comes in two morphs, white and dark, both of which can be found in the same nest.

                                                            Dark morph Reddish Egret

Also the most acrobatic of the species, this wader runs, jumps, spins about, and is most famous for its canopy hunting technique.  Not only does it run with wings raised, it flies over shallow water seeking groups of fish, which are rapid movers, necessitating that it move in the same manner.  It takes about three years for a Reddish Egret to become skillful at this form of feeding.

Having a pink bill with a black tip, a medium to large sized bird, it also has blue-gray legs as a defining feature.  The white morph is just that with the same color scheme on the bill.  The dark morph is blue- or slate-gray with a reddish neck and head, and the immature is paler, but the red-brown neck could be missing.  It tales three years for the adult plumes, and the mature lores are bright violet, as is the bill and legs.  

                                                          White morph Reddish Egret

As many of our beautiful herons suffered greatly due to the millinery trade, this bird never really recovered, and the current difficulty is habitat degradation.  There remains only 1500 to 2000 pairs of this colorful bird, and they are coastal denizens nesingt in colonies with other herons.  Their lavish courtship displays are very animated, involving shaking the head, hooplike flight, bill clacking, and raising head, neck, and back feathers.

Reddish Egrets nest on stick platforms, as many other herons do.  It is suspected that some of them nest inland in Texas.

These birds are classified as near threatened.  They are found in the Caribbean, southern coastal, California coastal, and will migrate to the southeast coast of the US.  Most of the population resides in Texas, followed by Florida, then Louisiana.  This specialized heron likes barren and shallow flats that are quite salty.  The diet is mostly killifish and sheephead minnows, followed by crustaceans and frogs.

The sounds of the Reddish Egret, courtesy of Audubon.