Sunday, December 30, 2012

Barred Owl

Erika and I enjoyed today's Red Wing, Minnesota, Christmas Bird Count. The good news: a beautiful, sunny day. The bad news: temperature was 0 degrees F. I made squeaking sounds to attract a flock of chickadees, but, instead this owl flew up to investigate. The lack of "ear" tufts, large size, and dark eyes add up to Barred Owl. Note the odd, white, fluffy feathers above the eyes--perhaps downy feathers on a bird hatched this year?

Other notable birds of the 23 species we listed included two Golden Eagles and 17 Mourning Doves.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hudsonian Godwit

In the early 1900s, Hudsonian Godwits were thought to be among the rarest of North American birds. In the last half of the century, however, new breeding areas in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, staging areas in Saskatchewan, and wintering grounds in southern South America were discovered. Walker et al. (2011) warn that the species is still at risk, with total numbers only of 50,000 to 70,000 birds.

Hudsonian Godwits make nonstop migratory flights of several thousand miles. Possibly birds make landfall at traditional sites. One of these may be the Aberdeen, South Dakota region, where I regularly listed Hudsonian Godwits in the spring and where this photo was taken.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Upland Sandpiper

The late 1800s and all of the 1900s were tough for Upland Sandpipers. At first the birds were over-hunted. Boxcar loads of carcasses were shipped to bird markets. Sport hunters also took a high toll, since no seasons or limits existed. Perhaps more ominously, Upland Sandpipers are an “obligate grassland species” (Houston et al. 2011). To raise their young, these birds require healthy prairie-lands. Such habitat has been plowed for agricultural and financial purposes (even today, plowed land is often worth more when ranchers are forced to sell their acreage). Now they are a species of concern in at least 22 states and provinces.

Upland Sandpipers breed across the northern Great Plains (this photo was taken in south-central South Dakota). They also breed in Alaska and in northeastern North America. The sandpipers are rare in the northeast due to lack of prairie. There one of the best places to search is the grass along airport runways. I saw my first Upland Sandpiper from a plane at the Columbus, Ohio, airport. In South Dakota the species is fairly common in grassland habitat and it is only locally common across western Minnesota. Our birds winter in South America east of the Andes. (Birds spend more time outside North America, so calling them “ours” may be misleading.)

When I first saw this species in Columbus, we called it the Upland Plover, even though everyone knew it is actually a sandpiper. The common name actually has quite a history. In 1882 it was known as a Bartramian Tattler (commemorating William Bartram, an early American ornithologist; and tattler referring to a type of sandpiper). Later the same decade, the name was changed to Bartramian Sandpiper. Between 1910 and 1973, the official name became Upland Plover. Only since 1973 has the species been known as Upland Sandpiper (Houston et al. 2011).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Barn Swallow

I took a few Barn Swallow photos this summer. The first is of a male along Cannon Lake near Faribault, Minnesota. The photo is somewhat serendipitous—I was standing there with my camera and the bird was perched on a nearby dock. So I took the photo. At the time, I did not notice the beak was full of nesting material—probably a mud pellet mixed with grass. (I also did not notice the spider web hanging from the right wingtip.) Both sexes build the nests, which may contain up to 1400 pellets (Brown and Brown 1999). The inside of the nest is often lined with grass, horsehair, feathers, and/or lichen.
The next photos were taken later in the summer at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The middle bird is probably a female, but, in any case, well-worn after a summer’s work. She patiently waited for Erika and me to pass, before returning to her nest. Although males help at the nest, females usually do most of the work. Nest building takes a week or two. These swallows will often use nests from previous years. Nest refurbishing only takes about a week. Some nests from Nebraska are reported to be up to 17-years old (Brown and Brown 1999)!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Only three records for this warbler in the Dakotas or Minnesota are depicted on eBird maps. This bird breeds in the Pacific Northwest, the American Southwest, and in the intervening western Rocky Mountains; it winters in Mexico. Within its range, this warbler prefers pinon-juniper, pine and mixed oak-pine forests. In September 1986, George Prisbe and I found an out-of-range individual in a city park in Aberdeen, South Dakota. This photo was taken years ago in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument of southern Arizona.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

White-winged Crossbill

On Monday, John Holden and I were excited to band this female White-winged Crossbill. Although these crossbills often travel in flocks, we only saw this one. The bird flew confidently into the feeding station, looked around, and calmly walked into one of my banding traps.

These crossbills are highly nomadic. They travel in search of conifer cones. They use their crossed bills to efficiently open cone scales. Single birds can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds a day, although Benkman (2012) also comments that crossbill cone-opener bills make them “much less efficient than other finches at exploiting non-conifer seeds."

White-winged Crossbills normally breed across northern Canada. They are, however, unpredictable migrants and opportunistic breeders. They will breed at almost any time of the year if the birds find abundant conifer cones. One year Jacob Langslag and Jon Little even found a pair breeding in Rice County—the only confirmed breeding record from Minnesota!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prairie Warbler

About the most uncommon bird I have banded in Minnesota is the Prairie Warbler.  Eckert writes that the species is casual in southeastern Minnesota, with only about a dozen records. I caught this one near Dundas very early on the morning of 13 May 2009.  (The black backgrounds here and in my last post were due to the birds being flash-photographed early in the morning or at dusk.)

This bird is found in the East, with the closest normal breeding occurring in Illinois and Arkansas. The species usually inhabits abandoned fields with young pines or cedars. Originally Prairie Warblers were not common birds, but the species benefited from deforestation. Since 1970, however, the numbers have dropped, perhaps due to Eastern urbanization, reforestation, and/or habitat destruction in its Caribbean winter range (Nolan et al. 1999).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Worm-eating Warbler

Worm-eating Warblers breed in the southeastern United States and winter in Central America.  As near as they get to the Upper Midwest is usually in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Yet in my 30 years in Aberdeen, South Dakota, I banded this species twice, once on 2 May 1988 and again on 9 May 2005. The species is rare in southeastern Minnesota, with most records in May (Eckert). Presumably these spring birds are over-shooting their normal breeding range. Caterpillars, once known as “worms,” comprise the bulk of the Worm-eating Warbler’s diet: hence this warbler’s name (Hanners and Patton 1998).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are easily identified as adults, but see my last post on telling the immatures apart. Typically Yellow-crowns are birds of the south, inhabiting forested wetlands, swamps and bayous. There they specialize in taking crustaceans. Since 1945, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons have moved northward and now can occasionally be found here in the Upper Midwest. Curiously in the mid-1800s they could be found here too, but the species’ range contracted dramatically in the late 1800s (Watts 2011). The causes of these population fluctuations are unknown. This photograph is from the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Black-crowned vs Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is another widespread, common North American heron. We saw them more often when we lived in South Dakota then now in Minnesota. Especially away from their breeding colonies, these birds can be hard to locate—they tend to be nocturnal. Populations are reduced now compared with years past—they are top-level predators (eating mainly fish and whatever else they can capture) and tend to accumulate poisons in their tissues. DDT contamination led to population crashes in the 1960s; now wetland destruction threatens them. On the other hand, these night-herons are not picky about their choice of breeding locations and will tolerate human disturbance (Hothem et al. 2010).

Adult Black-crowned Night-Herons are not difficult to identify. Notice the tear-drop shaped stripes on the immature bird in the next photograph. Also the head is relatively large and the body shape is stocky. Birders often have trouble telling the immature birds from young Yellow-crowned Night-herons
The last bird is a young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Its back is more spotted than tear drop-shaped. Its head is slightly smaller and it appears to be longer-necked. I will post a photo of an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in my next post.  Both of the Black-crowned Night-Herons in this post are from South Dakota; the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is from the Everglades National Park in southern Florida.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks breed and feed in the turbulent white water of mountain streams of Labrador, Newfoundland, and the Rocky Mountains of Northwestern North America. After copulating, the males retire to the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans, where they loaf around until they are joined by the females and young late in the summer. The Upper Midwest is definitely out of this species’ range. Yet I have seen this duck in South Dakota and Minnesota. This photograph, taken a couple of winters ago, is from Prescott, Wisconsin, where a male (the same individual?) appeared for several winters. In Minnesota, Harlequin Ducks are more often seen along Lake Superior. Where did these birds breed? Because eastern populations are quite low—perhaps under 1500 birds—a good guess would be these birds are from somewhere in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Northern Hawk-Owl

Looking through my blog, I am surprised I have not discussed the Northern Hawk Owl. This owl is rare but regular, mostly in northeastern Minnesota. They can be hard to find during years when they have not irrupted out of northern Canada, but good numbers can be seen when they invade. In 2001, I observed seven during a single afternoon. A few nesting records exist for northeastern Minnesota bogs (Eckert).

Hawk owls breed in northern forests of both the Old and New Worlds. Nevertheless, they are one of the least studied birds of North America. Almost no nests have been studied on our continent. These birds are atypical among owls in that they feed during the day and, in many ways, resemble Accipiter hawks. They often perch atop prominent trees. Unlike other owls, where the females are larger than males, hawk owl sexes are similarly sized.

Hawk owls can locate prey under up to 30 cm of snow cover (presumably by sound). Their invasions of southern areas are thought to be after periods of high reproductive success followed by severe winters with relatively few prey, but little is known about these population swings. These owls consume small rodents, grouse, ptarmigan, and rabbits (Duncan and Duncan 1998).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Least Bittern

Several years ago in South Dakota, a friend called and invited me on a birding trip to search for Least Bitterns. The problem is that, in the upper midwest, you don’t see that many Least Bitterns. It is not that they are rare—they can be quite common—nor are they particularly shy. They are extremely inconspicuous in their deep-water marshland habitat, and they are the smallest of the herons. If you get too close, they will often “burrow like rodents through dense vegetation”—they have extremely narrow bodies—or stand completely still with their beaks in the air and their feathers tights against their bodies (Poole et al. 2009). Only rarely will they fly—although I have seen roadkill on occasion in South Dakota and birds in flight in the winter in Louisiana.

Thus finding this Least Bittern was quite a surprise. It fed quite unconcerned about our presence in a marsh in Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Aberdeen. The bird stood perfectly still and then, in a flash, speared a small catfish. Where prey is abundant, Least Bitterns also build small platforms from which to feed. Satiated, this individual strolled deeper into the marsh, leaving my friend and me delighted with our discovery.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

White-lined Sphinx Moth


Yesterday I noticed something protruding from our garage light. Closer examination proved it to be a mummified White-lined Sphinx Moth. Extracting it from the light fixture damaged the thorax, but the moth was, nevertheless, beautiful.

This insect, often called a hummingbird moth, does not overwinter in Minnesota, but migrates, after massive population buildups, north in the summer. They feed in the evening, dawn, and at night (Restoring the Landscape.com). They feed on a variety of plants and are not specialists, although they are fond of Evening Primrose. The species is found across the United States and adjacent Canada south through Central America. They usually do not harm garden plants, but, in periods of overpopulation, these moths’ caterpillars have damaged crops like tomatoes and grapes (Butterflies and Moths.org). I have previously found these caterpillars in Northfield and have posted about them. Finally, these moths are attracted to artificial lights, like that in my garage.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

American Bittern

Eckert rates American Bitterns as uncommon throughout Minnesota, mostly in the west and western northeast. The bitterns I have seen or heard in the state have been in the Boundary Waters.  Bitterns are more common in eastern South Dakota, where I took this photograph. They also breed across the northern United States and southern Canada, where they inhabit wetlands with tall marsh vegetation. They are, therefore, often easier to hear than to see. They have trouble finding each other too, and locate each other with their unbird-like, loud, thunder-pumping calls (link courtesy of Thayer Birding Software).  Folk names for the species include "thunder-pumper” and “stake-driver” (Lowther et al. 2009). These authors comment, "because of this species’ secretive nature and inaccessible habitats, remarkably little is known about the basic aspects of its biology…” On the other hand, if surprised by observers, bitterns will occasionally freeze or play dead. American Bittern numbers are declining, mostly due to habitat degradation and destruction.

Friday, November 30, 2012

White-faced vs. Glossy Ibis

White-faced and Glossy ibis are difficult to tell apart. If you are close enough in the breeding season, note the white feathers lining the White-faced Ibis’s bare, red facial skin. The legs are pinkish-red. The first photograph shows a White-faced Ibis from Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Glossy Ibis, on the other hand, do have white on the face, but the white lines do not meet behind the eye. Furthermore, this white color is not feathered, but a skin color. The facial skin is otherwise dark or bluish. If you are really close, eye color differs (red in Glossy, brown in White-faced). Finally the legs are dark on a Glossy Ibis. The lower photo was taken in Florida. In non-breeding plumage, the two species can be almost impossible to separate.
Some ornithologists consider the two ibis to be only racially distinct. The ibis interbreed in captivity. In the wild, in Louisiana and Alabama, where their ranges overlap, the two ibis nest in the same colonies but do not interbreed (Ryder and Manry 1964). Glossy Ibis are found along Eastern and northern Gulf coasts and in Florida; White-faced Ibis are western birds. Both species tend to wander, with Glossy and White-faced ibis occasionally seen well away from their expected ranges.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Merlin

While birding on Tuesday, John Holden and I came upon this Merlin in Rice County, Minnesota. The name Merlin comes from the Old French, "esmerillion." In North America, Merlins used to be called Pigeon Hawks. Although they take small birds, Merlin’s are falcons.

As did other raptors, Merlins suffered serious declines when DDT was in wide use. But the species is recovering, even colonizing urban areas. Three races of Merlins inhabit North America (and the species is found across all of the Northern Hemisphere). These races are the Black Merlin from the Pacific Northwest, the Taiga Merlin from the northern forests, and the Prairie Merlin from northern prairies and aspen parklands. Black Merlins are not found in Minnesota. The other two races are to be expected here and are often easily identified; intermediate-plumaged individuals can be encountered. This individual gave me pause and may well be intermediate. I finally decided that its overall dark coloration, creamy eye-stripe, and buffy breast add up to a taiga bird. Prairie Merlins are much paler birds and are rare in eastern Minnesota.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Golden-Plovers

Ornithologists have determined that the three populations of golden-plovers are actually three distinct species—where they overlap, they do not interbreed.

The first photo is of an American Golden-Plover. Older field guides refer to this bird as the Lesser Golden-Plover. In the photograph, note that the under-tail feathers and the flanks are black in this breeding-plumaged bird. In the other two species, these areas are either white or splotchy. The fact that this picture was taken in South Dakota also supports an identification of American Golden-Plover, as the other two species are rarely found inland.

The second photo is of a Pacific Golden-Plover. This shorebird used to be considered a race of the American Golden-plover. The Pacific occurs in greater numbers than the American and breeds in western Alaska and eastern Siberia. Both species winter in South America. In the United States, Pacific Golden-Plovers migrate along our Pacific Coast. A few winter in California, like this bird that I found on the beach at La Jolla. The prominent dark ear spot helps to distinguish winter-plumaged Pacific Golden-Plovers. Their backs are also brighter than American Golden-Plovers, which have duller backs (which can lead to confusion with Black-bellied Plovers). The fact that American Golden-Plovers are unknown from our country in the winter also helps with identification.

The third species is called the European (or Greater) Golden-Plover. I have listed it in France, but I lack a photograph. The species is occasionally reported from Newfoundland and Greenland but not elsewhere in North America.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plovers breed in the Arctic of the New and Old Worlds. In this hemisphere, they winter along most coasts of the United States and south along the South American coasts. During migration they fly across the Great Plains. These photos were taken in Florida in the winter. Usually this species is not difficult to identify. Their backs are grayer than those of golden-plovers—indeed these birds are called Grey Plovers in Europe. Identification is clinched when you see their black “arm pits.”

In mixed shorebird flocks, Black-bellied Plovers act as sentinels. They are “wary and quick to give alarm calls” (Johnson and Conners 2010). Due to this wariness, Black-bellied Plovers better survived the market hunters of the early 1900s than did other large shorebirds.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bald Eagle

Very late in the afternoon during John Holden's and my swan expedition down the Mississippi River, the fog finally lifted. The Mississippi in southeastern Minnesota is a great place to watch Bald Eagles. Eagles are so inspiring that the species was adopted by the American congress for the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. Most birders are aware that Benjamin Franklin was not pleased by this decision. Although he did not express his opinions elsewhere, he wrote the following paragraphs to his daughter in 1784:

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District… 

"For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” This quote is reported in http://www.greatseal.com/symbols/turkey.html and only slightly edited in this post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tundra Swans

Yesterday pea-soup fog greeted John Holden and me along the Mississippi River south of Brownsville, Minnesota. We birded the riverside in search of Tundra Swans, which use this region as a staging area during their migration to the Chesapeake Bay area. Despite the uncooperative weather, I was able to take a few interesting—or, at least, different—photos.
In the middle photo a swan is using its toes for landing gear. In the fog, I am not sure of the relative position of the flying and swimming swans. In the final photo, two young swans are following an adult. For more information on swans, see my posts of 7 November 2010 and 10 November 2010.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawks can be identified, of course, by their red tails; but also by the neckless of dark streaks across their lower breasts. Last week Gerry Hoekstra and I took a photo of this raptor just west of Faribault in Rice County, Minnesota. All three photos are of the same bird (but they are not sequential). I have previously blogged on Red-tailed Hawks on 9 January 2011.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rusty vs. Brewer’s Blackbirds

On Tuesday Gerry Hoekstra and I discovered a dozen Brewer’s Blackbirds among some 75 Red-winged Blackbirds, all feeding in a recently fertilized corn field. Brewer’s Blackbirds are common in northern Minnesota, but less so elsewhere. According to Eckert, Brewer’s Blackbirds are less often seen during migration than are other blackbirds. Rusty Blackbirds, on the other hand, are common fall migrants in Minnesota. 

These two species can be difficult to tell apart (especially males in breeding plumage). In these fall birds note the uniformly dark wings of the Brewer’s Blackbird in the first photo. The winges of the Rusty Blackbird have chestnut edgings, as you can see in the lower photo. The Rusty Blackbird’s supercilliary stripe is much bolder than the face of the Brewer’s. Finally note the habitat—Rusty Blackbirds favor swampy or wet areas whereas Brewer’s are often found in dry fields and feedlots. I took the Rusty Blackbird’s photograph on 26 October at the Bass Ponds near the Minneapolis Airport.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch

This year large numbers of Pine Siskins are invading Minnesota from Alaska and northern and central Canada. The species is an “unpredicrtable” winter visitor—sometimes absent, sometimes abundant. Dawson (1997) writes, “presumably this pattern is related in some way to annual variation in the distribution and abundance of the seeds that make up…its diet.” After these invasions, wintering siskins occasionally breed in their wintering grounds before heading north.  Dawson concludes that Pine Siskins are opportunistic and indifferent to the constraints of time and space.

Yesterday, 12 November 2012, we banded 36 Pine Siskins at the thistle feeder. We also tagged 12 American Goldfinches. Among the goldfinches we encountered five already ringed individuals. All had be previously banded at the banding station: 2640-60456 banded 6 January 2012; 2430-16891 banded 6 December 2010; 2640-60451 banded 30 December 2011; 2640-60388 banded 21 November 2011; and 2640-60801 banded 12 November 2012 (same day as being banded). I can not prove it, by it is my impression that these goldfinches were not among our summer goldfinches, but, rather, are migrants from the north returning to spend the winter (see also my blog of 31 January 2012).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gray Partridge

Gray (or Hungarian) Partridge were introduced into North America from the Old World in the early 1900s. Where hedgerows are left standing, partridge flourish—these game-birds enjoy high reproductive rates (but with short lifespans and hight mortality rates). They suffer in areas with industrial agriculture and high pesticide use. Hunting does not seem to adversely affect population growth. The main threats to this species include predators and weather (Carroll 1993). I am surprised to read that partridges are increasing out of the northern Great Plains into Nebraska and Missouri. Most ecology textbooks tell you that Gray Partridges prefer cold, dry northern climates and do poorly in warm, humid areas. Perhaps the species is adapting to these southern climates. (This photo was taken in western South Dakota.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

White-necked Stilt

After avian geneticists investigate, another bird I may add to my life list is the White-necked Stilt. I took the first photo many years ago near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Currently this bird is considered to be a race of the Black-necked Stilt, the common stilt of North America. The second photo is of a Black-necked Stilt taken several years ago in South Dakota.

White-necked Stilts are found in southern South America. White-necked Stilts have the white collar on their necks and more white on the top of their heads than do Black-necked Stilts. In the northern parts of the range, White-necked Stilts may interbreed with Black-necked birds. The two races have also interbred in captivity. Captive Black-necked Stilts have also interbred with American Avocets, which are clearly different species (Robinson et al. 1999).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hammerkop

The Hammerkop, another odd bird, is often classified near the storks, but might be closer to pelicans and cormorants. The species is found in Africa and is attracted to wetlands, even those that are created by people. I took this photo in Kenya in the early 1960s.

When courting, up to 10 birds run circles around each other. Often they practice “false mounting,” but they might not be mates and they may not actually copulate. Hammerkops build nests among the heaviest of all birds—the nests can weight up to 110 pounds! The nests are often over 1.5 meters in diameter and contain some 10,000 sticks cemented with mud. The nests are decorated with bright objects and built in trees or on the ground. They build up to five of these monster nests, even when the birds themselves are not breeding (Wikipedia).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red-billed Tropicbird

Tropicbirds, found in tropical seas around the world, are gull-like birds with greatly elongated central tail feathers. Erika discovered this Red-billed Tropicbird because the long tail feathers tickled her ankles as she walked by the bird’s nest under the rocks in the Galapagos Islands.

Tropicbirds are yet another member of the order Pelicaniformes (along with pelicans and cormorants) because of all their toes being webbed. The order, however, is under revision by geneticists, who are finding that the various families in the order are not closely related. Expect to see changes in the taxonomy of these birds. Recently researchers suggested that tropicbirds are actually most closely related to sunbitterns (heron-like birds of the American tropics).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yellow-rumped Cacique

Yellow-rumped Caciques are South American blackbirds found north into Mexico. This photo was taken in eastern Peru. The species is common and noisy in cultivated areas with large trees. It eats insects and fruit. These caciques breed in compact colonies, containing up to 100 hanging nests, usually built around an active wasp nest. The wasps may protect the birds from nest predators; the birds may alert the wasps to the presence of wasp-eating predators.

According to Wikipedia, Peruvian folklore reports that a boy, who always wore black pants and a yellow jacket, started a false rumor about an old woman. But the woman was a witch who turned him into a noisy, wandering bird. I do not know if Yellow-rumped Caciques were ever little boys, but, if you look closely, you may notice that these caciques have bright blue eyes, a trait uncommon among birds.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Green Heron

Here are a few Green Heron photos I found filed in various folders in my computer. The first, taken last May, is from Lake Byllesby in Dakota County; the second is from the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum; the third is from the Old Highway 77 Bridge near MSP Airport. The last two photos were taken several years ago.
Green Herons are among the few birds that use tools. They occasionally make fishing lures! They lay bait to attract fish—bread crumbs, mayflies, worms, pieces of sticks, and even feathers. Baiting works best for adults and birds that use live bait (Davis and Kuslan 1994). When not fishing with bait, Green Herons are opportunistic feeders. The previously cited authors list dozens of prey species, ranging from insects, spiders, amphibians and fish. Fish, however, are favored. The authors conclude, "Will exploit a superabundant resource, e.g., grasshoppers in California...and frogs in New York.” Add to that statement, frogs in Minnesota!