Friday, February 14, 2014

Mixed Winter Flocks and More--Birding Adventure, Week 4

In the winter months, birds often gather into large, mixed-species flocks. When you think about it, it's not such a bad idea! They can keep one another warm, find food together, and protect one another from predators (like the birds of prey discussed in the last blog). Many of these birds are repeats from the first week of class because common winter birds are often found in mixed flocks. Let's take a look at some of the ones we haven't discussed yet!

Belted Kingfisher
The Belted Kingfisher is on the list for this week, thought it is not a winter bird. These awesome creatures make their nests in the banks near bodies of water and fish (as their name suggests) on lakes, ponds, and rivers, so when the ground freezes and the lakes ice up, they have to migrate. They're still pretty amazing, though, and if you learn them now you'll be able to spot them right away when they get back in the spring. Often, I hear them before I see them; their call is a really neat rattle that is very distinctive.

The other birds that are new on the list this week include the
Northern Flicker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Northern Flicker. These are both types of woodpeckers that will be coming back very soon! The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker looks almost like a Hairy Woodpecker, but it has more red on its head and a yellow wash on its belly. The Northern Flicker, however, has a black "bib" below its chin and polka-dots on its chest and belly.

My very favorite of this bunch has to be the Pileated Woodpecker. It is one of the largest, most iconic forest birds in North America, and while it is not endangered, it can still be difficult to find. We went out to the UW Arboretum to go birding as a class for the first time this semester earlier this month. It was snowing the whole time and the temperature was around -5 degrees, but we found a patch of open water. Not only did we see a Great Blue Heron (which usually migrate south in the winter), but we got a good look at a Pileated Woodpecker! It was our first time out, and already I was able to see one of my "life birds." A "life bird" is a species that you have not yet seen in your life. Most birders keep a running list of all the species they have seen and what they most want to see, and now I can add the Pileated Woodpecker to my life list!

Pileated Woodpecker

Coraciiformes: Alcedinidae
Belted Kingfisher

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker

Passeriformes: Corvidae
Blue Jay
American Crow

Passeriformes: Paridae
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse

Passeriformes: Sittidae
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Passeriformes: Certhiidae
Brown Creeper  

As usual, the list of birds for this week and links to their informational pages can be found above. Start looking for woodpeckers in your back yard--Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are especially common, and I have seen quite a few Red-bellied Woodpeckers lately.

Happy Birding!
Nature Net Intern 

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