SIB “Bird of the Week” – Kites: Mississippi vs Swallow-tailed

Mississippi Kite – Ictinia mississippiensis
Length: 14″ Wingspan: 31″ Weight: 10 oz

Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus (endangered in South Carolina)
Length: 22″ Wingspan: 51″ Weight: 12 oz

Living at a beach community, I’m sure many people are accustomed to looking at kites in the sky along the beach – you know, the kind that Ben Franklin used.  But have you ever looked up to see either of these birds?

Mississippi Kite (left) & Swallow-tailed Kite (right) - Ed Konrad
Mississippi Kite (left) & Swallow-tailed Kite (right) – Ed Konrad

Both of these birds, the Mississippi and the Swallow-tailed Kites, can be seen on Seabrook Island and both within the past two weeks!  We’ve seen a Mississippi Kite pair flying over the community garden and over the marshes.

The two species look quite different from each other and are quite unmistakable from other birds.  Swallow-tailed Kites are large but slender and buoyant raptors. They have long, narrow, pointed wings, slim bodies, and a very long, deeply forked tail. The bill is small and sharply hooked. Swallow-tailed Kites are a sharp contrast of bright-white head and underparts and gleaming black wings, back, and tail. From below, the wing linings are white and the flight feathers are black. Its most unique characteristic is the elongated, forked tail (hence its name).  This large raptor is built like a glider with huge wings and small streamlined bodies. They rarely flap their wings; instead soar effortlessly, changing course with minute adjustments of their distinctive forked tails.  The species is now listed as endangered in South Carolina.

Mississippi Kites are a slender and much smaller raptor with long, pointed wings. The tail is fairly long and square-tipped. The strongly hooked bill is small and delicate.  They are an inky mix of gray and black, lightening to pale gray-white on the head and in the secondaries of the wings. The wingtips and tail are black. Juveniles are streaky, with brownish chests and underwings, and banded tails. Though known for their graceful, acrobatic flight, Mississippi Kites also spend time foraging on the ground and in shallow water.

Both species of kite feed on the wing, snatching dragonflies and other insects out of the sky and eating them while still in flight. They may also feed on small amphibians such as frogs, large insects, crickets, small birds and small mammals including bats. Swallow-tailed kites inhabit mostly woodland & forested wetlands near nesting locations. Nests are built in trees, usually near water. Both male and female participate in building the nest. Sometimes a high-pitched chirp is emitted, though the birds mostly remain silent.  Mississippi Kites breed in scattered areas of the southern and central United States, using very different habitats depending on the region. East of the Mississippi River, they nest in mature, diverse, low-lying forest—especially tracts that are large and unbroken but have nearby open habitat, such as pasture, cropland, waterways, country roads, or small lakes. They nest in almost any tree species, as low as a few feet off the ground to more than 115 feet high.

Both kites are creatures of the air, spending most of their day aloft and rarely flapping their wings. They tend to circle fairly low over trees as they hunt for small animals in the branches. At times they soar very high in the sky, almost at the limits of vision.

Swallow-tailed Kites once nested in 21 States. By 1940 after a sudden decline the Kite’s range shrunk to 7 States, from South Carolina to Texas. The species nesting habits have made the swallow-tailed Kite difficult to study. Researchers must come to them and climb high in Loblolly pine to observe nests. Nesting adults and their young are subject to predation by Great Horned Owls. They migrate North in the Spring across the Gulf of Mexico and can be swept off course by storms. During migration they may form large flocks.  Read this fabulous article featured in the April/May 2016 issue of Nature Conservancy.

If you see kites – researchers want to know about it. You should always document your bird sightings in eBird.  In addition, The Center for Birds of Prey, located in Awendaw, SC manages & tracks log sightings of the Swallow-tailed Kite. Visit www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org for more info. The website guides you through a series of questions about the location, number and activities of the bird or birds sighted.

A group of kites has many collective nouns, including a “brood,” “kettle,” “roost,” “stooping,” and a “string” of kites.

Look for both species of Kites in South Carolina during the spring and summer breeding months over swamps, marshes and large rivers. Besides Seabrook Island, Caw Caw Interpretive Center is a great location to view kites.  They nest high in the loblolly pines.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Notes from photographer Ed Konrad:  “These photos were taken at Skeen’s Farm, Glenville GA, which is an incredible place to see the Kites up close and in action. A very memorable photographic day. We see Kites at Caw Caw, and on the way to Seabrook in Allendale SC and at a cattle farm outside of Augusta. But not up close as at this farm.”

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Submitted by Nancy Brown with information from Janice Watson-Shada.
Photographs compliments of Ed Konrad

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Piping Plover

Piping Plover –  Charadrius melodus
Length:  7.25″; Wingspan: 19″; Weight: 1.9 oz.

Piping Plover - North Beach, Seabrook Island - Ed Konrad
Piping Plover – North Beach, Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

The Piping Plover is a small shorebird that has gotten a lot of attention at Seabrook. It doesn’t nest here, but Seabrook is an important stop for it in migration to feed. It’s feeding habitat has seriously declined since many coastal beaches have been lost to commercial, residential and recreational activities. This is one of the main reasons that the end of North Beach is protected from dogs. On our beach, it feeds on insects, spiders, crustaceans and mollusks. If you watch it carefully for a while, you will see it do a funny tapping with its foot as it looks for food. This is an interesting feeding ploy…tapping it’s foot against the sand to get prey to come to the surface so it is easier to see and capture. The Northern Great Plains plovers are classified as endangered and the Atlantic coast Piping Plovers are threatened by USFWS.

The Piping Plover is a small, stocky (6-7″ long) shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. It is named for it’s melodic mating call. It is pale, sand colored on it’s upper parts, with white underparts and a black or brown band around it’s neck. It’s legs are yellowish orange and in breeding, the adults have a black forehead, black breast band and orange bill. The female lays 4 eggs in a nest lined with pebbles and broken shells. Both male and female care for the eggs, and chicks can run around and feed themselves in hours. These birds never nest on Seabrook, they only stop here in migration.

When you see the Piping Plovers, they are usually in small numbers, often mixed in with a large group of Semipalmated Plovers. They stand out because they are very white. This past spring, we saw a high count of 9 Piping Plovers on Seabrook, which was very exciting and somewhat rare! And recently we had the first banded Piping Plovers from the Bahamas (where they winter), seen in SC. So keep your eyes out for our small visitor, often wearing a lot of “bling” (multi-colored bands)!

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

resubmitted by SIB

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Anhinga vs Double-crested Cormorant

Anhinga                                                    Double-crested Cormorant 
Anhinga anhinga                                                   Phalacrocorax auritus
L: 35″   WS: 45″  Wt: 43.3 oz                    L: 33″   WS: 52″   WT: 59.2 oz
When walking the Palmetto Lake trail, you often see a large, black bird perched on the Osprey platform or the alligator ramp with it’s wings spread. Most times, it is a Double-crested Cormorant, which are very common birds for Seabrook Island. But sometimes, you are lucky enough to see an Anhinga.
Male Anhinga drying wings - E Konrad
Male Anhinga drying wings – E Konrad

Anhingas roost in trees over water or on platforms, and on Seabrook, they are often solitary. They are about 35″ long and have a 45″ wing span. They are sometimes called the “snake bird” since they swim completely submerged with only their head exposed. They spear fish with their very pointed, long, thin and straight bill. They have a long, fan-shaped tail when perched, long pointed wings and a long neck. The most striking part about them is the whitish-silvery upperwing pattern which makes them look like they are wearing a snazzy jacket! If you see this pattern on the back of a large dark bird, it’s an Anhinga. The females have a velvety-buff upper body, as do the juveniles (until the 3rd year). The Anhinga has a striking blue-green eye ring in breeding plumage. Anhingas nest in small colonies, often with herons or egrets. They eat fish, frogs and often newly hatched alligators.

Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings - E Konrad
Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings – E Konrad

Double-crested Cormorant are nearly the same size, 33″ long  with a 52″ wing span. They are very common birds on Seabrook, often perched on the lake platforms or in large groups swimming in the inlet at North Beach. They may form large flocks and when we see them in flight, often flying in a large “V” formation. Their bills are orange, curved, hooked shaped, and thicker than an Anhinga. They use them to scoop and grasp their prey. Juveniles can also have buffy breasted color variations. Cormorants have a striking crystal like blue eye and a yellow-orange face patch. Cormorants nest in large colonies and are fish eaters.

Both birds do not have oil glands so their feathers are not water repellent. This lets them move more easily underwater for foraging.  That’s also why you often see them drying their non-waterproof wings spread open, when perched. Both birds make low nasal frog-like grunts. So a quick tip is this:

  • Slender, long-necked with a straight, pointy bill, wearing a snazzy jacket = Anhinga.
  • Shorter necked , hooked, curved and orange bill, wearing basic black = Cormorant!

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Article submitted by:
Photographs provided by:

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Belted Kingfisher – King of the Lagoon

Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 20″; Weight: 5 oz.

Belted Kingfisher - C Moore
Belted Kingfisher – C Moore

Along any of Seabrook Island’s lagoons, ponds, lakes or other waterways you may hear a very distinctive loud rattling call, a flash of blue and a splash of water as a Belted kingfisher plunges head first into the water catching an un-expecting fish near the surface. Occasionally you may also spot this beautiful medium-sized, brightly colored bird with a very distinct shaggy topknot sitting on an isolated tree branch or dead tree limb over the water’s edge surveying its kingdom.

A very territorial and fearless bird the Belted kingfisher will aggressively protect its territory. I witnessed a female belted kingfisher dive-bomb and chase off a juvenile eagle that dared to sit on a tree branch too close to its lagoon. At the same time these birds are very leery of humans and are difficult to get close to.

Over 90 species of kingfishers occur word-wide but only the Belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, is found throughout much of the United States and Canada. Here they breed and are year-round residents. It is even depicted on the Canadian $5 bill.

In winter they migrate south into Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. They occasionally travel great distances and frequent areas such as Colombia, Venezuela and have been recorded in Greenland, Ireland, Portugal, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

The Belted kingfisher is a stocky bird of about a foot in length with a wingspan of between 19 and 23 inches. It has a shaggy multi-pointed crest or topknot, a thick pointed bill and is one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male. Females are also slightly larger than males.

The head and body are slate blue. There is a white collar around its neck and a dark blue breast band on its white belly. Whereas all young birds have an orange or brownish-red band on the upper belly only the female keeps the band and as with all her plumage brightens as she matures.  Have you ever wondered why the female of this bird species has more coloration than the male?  Scientists have yet to answer the question, but here is one suggestion.

The Blue jay with its bright blue plumage is the only Seabrook Island bird somewhat similar in appearance. However, it is smaller, more slender, has a single pointed head crest, a smaller bill and a thin black collar around its neck.

Although primarily a fish eater the Belted kingfisher eats a wide variety of prey including insects, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles., mollusks and even small birds and mammals.

They nest near inland waterbodies in the spring, digging and excavating a long nesting burrow in the mud or sand along the waters’ edge. The tunnel angles up so that should the water rise an air pocket would protect the eggs and young birds. The female lays five to eight oval, pure white eggs and both sexes incubate the eggs.

Keep your eye out for this very unique bird along Seabrook Islands many waterways but you may hear its loud piercing and rattling call as it streaks across its kingdom long before you can spot it.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Clapper Rail

Clapper RailRallus longirostris
Length:  14.5″; Wingspan: 19″; Weight: 10 oz.

Clapper Rail eating a small crab on the mud flat - Ed Konrad
Clapper Rail eating a small crab on the mud flat – Ed Konrad

You may not be aware that hidden in dense cover in our salt marshes lurk a bird called Clapper Rail.  This slinking, secretive bird is a year-round resident on our island and often we only hear the loud clattering call as our clue that a Clapper Rail is even around.  Because they also rarely fly you are very lucky if you get a quick glimpse of one stalking mud dwelling prey along the edge of the marsh.

Are you familiar with the saying “thin as a rail”?  Well, this saying is attributed to the Rail’s lean body and the fact that this stealth bird has the ability to compress its body to such a degree that it can easily squeeze between stems of grass and plants almost melting into the vegetation and and barely causing a ripple.  This tactic allows them to quickly disappear to escape their predators.  Clapper Rails are so effective at maintaining a low profile that their major nonhuman predators are pike, black bass, and other predatory fish which feed on their young.

The Clapper Rail has a chicken-like appearance, with long unwebbed gray toes, strong legs and long slightly decurved bill. When it walks it twitches its short upturned white patched tail.  It has grayish brown upper-parts with vertical white-barred flanks, grayish cheeks and white throat.  Its eye color is red to reddish orange.  This bird is locally known as the Marsh Hen, Salt Water Marsh Hen and Mud Chicken.  Males are slightly larger than females but similar in coloration.

These birds feed mainly on crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasshoppers, seeds, slugs and small fish. They search for food while walking and probing with their long bills in shallow water or mud.

Nests are well built cups of grasses and sedges lined with finer material.  The nests are usually built on the highest, driest place in the marsh. During courtship the male points his bill down and swings his head from side to side.  He also may stand erect with neck stretched and bill open.  Nesting season is from April to June.

The eggs, 5-12, are creamy white with irregular brown blotching. The incubation is 20-23 days and the new young are covered with black down and leave the nest within one day to be fed by the parents.  Young can fly in about 9-10 weeks.  Both parents feed and guard the young until they are independent.  Since these rails are very territorial during feeding and breeding they can be quite belligerent when defending their nests.

A group of Rails is collectively known as a “reel” of rails.

In 1940 one hurricane left an estimated 15,000 of these rails dead in South Carolina, and in 1976 another storm killed some 20,000 in New Jersey.

Keep an eye ear out for Clapper Rails, as they live amongst us in the marshes all thoughout Seabrook Island.

Similar Species

  • King Rail: Habits similar to Clapper Rail.  Plumage is darker and more richly colored and more reddish. More distinct blackish centers on upper parts.
  • Virginia Rail: Smaller in size 9.5″L, 13″ wing span and 3 oz weight. Plumage bright reddish. Bill is more brightly colored

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Repost of Article submitted by:  Flo Foley
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad & Bob Hider

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Length:  8.75″; Wingspan: 12″; Weight: 1.6 oz.

We know many of our readers may be traveling and busy with family , so we thought when you have time you’d enjoy learning more about one of the favorite backyard visitors throughout eastern North America.  Among other things, the Northern Cardinal is said to symbolize hope, joy, health, rejuvenation and celebration.

Northern Cardinal - Ed Konrad
Northern Cardinal – Ed Konrad

Most people are very familiar with the Northern Cardinal, so today we will leave you with a few interesting facts and several articles you can read

Did you know …

  • Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage.
  • The Northern Cardinal is one of the few female songbirds that sing and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.
  • Have you ever seen a Northern Cardinal attacking its reflection in a window or mirror?  Both males and females do this, and most often in spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders.
  • The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states:  Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was a female, and was 15 years, 9 months old when she was found in Pennsylvania, although 28.5 years was achieved by a captive bird.
  • A group of cardinals has many collective nouns, including a “college”, “conclave”, “deck”, radiance”, and “Vatican” of cardinals.

Check out these articles:

Northern Cardinals know how to Shake Their Tail Feathers:  Have you seen the song dance of the Northern Cardinal during mating season?  Read more about it in the article.

Built to Sing:  The Syrinx of the Northern Cardinal:  Listen to this 3 minute 30 second video to learn more about the song of the Northern Cardinal and how they make it.

Why so Red, Mr. Cardinal? In this article, read about the theory of why the Northern Cardinal is red and doesn’t molt in the winter like most passerines.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & Charles Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Bird of the Week … The Night-Herons: Similar but Different

There are two species of night heron both of which are found on Seabrook Island and throughout much of the South Eastern United States; the Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Heron. A third species, the Bermuda Night-Heron, was endemic to Bermuda but became extinct about 100 years ago through human activity.

Similarities

Both Night-Heron species are medium sized birds and are one of the smallest herons at about 24 inches high and weighing approximately two pounds. Females are slightly smaller than males.

The adults are easy to distinguish. The Black-crownedNight-Heron has a black crown, black back, grey and white body, red eyes, and short yellow legs. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s body and back are smooth grey-blue, it’s head is black and glossy with white cheeks and a pale-yellow crown that extends from the back of its head between the eyes to the bill. Long thin white feathers extend from the back of the crown of both species during mating  season

As their name implies they are both active primarily at dusk and during the night.

They are both found in vegetated areas associated with shallow waters. They seek out both saltwater and fresh water areas such as marshes, lagoons, swamps, streams, lake shores and areas that are regularly flooded.

Foraging mainly at dusk and during darkness, the primary diet of both Night-Heron are crabs, crayfish, other crustaceans, insects, worms and small fish.

They both spend daylight hours perched on tree limbs and bushes generally over the water hidden by foliage.

Both birds nest in trees when available, often in small colonies, with both parents participating in nest building, laying 2 to 6 eggs. The young stay close throughout the breeding season.

Differences

The Black-crowned Night-Heron occurs, breeds and is a year-round resident throughout most of the world. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is found exclusively in the Americas and is a year-round resident only in those areas warm enough to allow for an abundance of crabs, their primary food source.  The breeding range of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron has recently (1925 – 1960) spread throughout much of the South Eastern United States.

Whereas the Black–crowned Night-Heron is easily disturbed by human activity, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron does not mind living near humans and is frequently found in wooded neighborhoods. In flight the legs of the Black-crowned Night-Heron are hidden and cannot be seen but the Yellow-crown Night-Heron extends it bright yellow legs straight below the tail feathers in flight as with most other herons and can clearly be seen.

Juveniles

The juveniles of both Night-Heron look nothing like their parents, often appearing larger that the adults and are so similar in appearance it is very difficult to distinguish the two species. Juveniles take up to three years to obtain adult plumage.

Black-crowned Night-Heron juveniles often sit hunched over, appear thicker bodied, the wings are brown with large white dots and the bill is a slightly thicker and is dark on top and greenish yellow on the bottom. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron juvenile appears slender, stands taller, has numerous small white dots on its wings and its bill is nearly black. However, as they are far more similar than different it is very difficult to distinguish the juveniles of these two night herons.

Article & Photographs Submitted by:  Charles Moore

Bird of the Week … Northern Mockingbird

Thomas Jefferson with his Mockingbird Dick.

Did you know our 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, had a pet Northern Mockingbird named “Dick.” He actually had several Mockingbirds at various times, but Dick was the only one he mentioned by name in his diary and apparently was his favorite. Jefferson often left the cage open in the White House and allowed him free range of his office (now the State Dining Room). Dick would perch on Jefferson’s couch or shoulder and sing or take a piece of food from Jefferson’s lips. When Jefferson played his violin, Dick would pour out his songs.

Northern Mockingbirds

Northern Mockingbird – Ed Konrad

Although maybe not the prettiest of all birds, Northern Mockingbirds certainly make up for looks with their beautiful extended repertoire of songs. These birds sing endlessly, and can learn up to 200 different songs. Both the male and female sing and can mimic many other bird calls, other animals and even mechanical sounds. There is a mockingbird near my house and he sounds exactly like a Red-tailed Hawk. Many of us have been fooled by these comical birds as they imitate Blue Jays, Orioles, Killdeer, frogs, dogs and even squeaky wheels. They tend to repeat phrases 2-6 times before shifting to a new sound. Unmated males will are the most insistent singers and may sing late into the night.

Northern Mockingbird – Charles Moore

Northern Mockingbirds are common on Seabrook Island year round. They are a medium sized bird that has gray upper parts with black and white wing feathers. Its tail is long, gray and edged with white. Its underside is light gray/white, their bill is black and the iris is yellowish-orange. They have prominent white patches on the wings that are especially visible in flight. These birds measure between 8-11 inches long and weigh 1.4-2 ounces. The sexes are similar although the male is heavier than the female.

These birds are generally monogamous. They breed in the spring and early summer on Seabrook and the female has 2-6 blue green eggs with brown splotches. The female incubates the eggs for 2 weeks and when they hatch, both male and female will assist in the feeding.  

Northern Mockingbird – Charles Moore

Northern Mockingbirds are omnivores. Their diet consists of insects, crustaceans and a variety of arthropods, especially beetles, ants, bees, wasps and grasshoppers. They also eat fruits and earthworms. You usually find them on SI foraging on the ground, on top of hedges, in open areas and forest edges. These birds are bold and territorial when defending their nests and will even attack intruders like cats, dogs, humans or other birds that venture too close.

Northern Mockingbird – Charles Moore

The lifespan of a Northern Mockingbird in the wild is eight years.  The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas.

Article Submitted by: Flo Foley 2017, resubmitted by SIB.
Photographs by: Charles Moore & Ed Konrad

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Goldfinch

American GoldfinchSpinus tristis
Length:  5″; Wingspan: 9″; Weight: 0.46 oz.

American Goldfinch - Charles J Moore
American Goldfinch – Charles J Moore

This small finch is commonly found in flocks on Seabrook Island during the winter months (November – March) on backyard feeders, along the golf courses or anywhere there are weed seeds.  It has a sharply pointed bill, a small head, long wings and a short, notched tail.

Those of you who are familiar with this bird during breeding season (when the male has a bright yellow body and black cap, wings and tail), may not recognize them in their winter plumage.  The winter male has olive-gray to olive-brown upper parts, paler underparts, yellow shoulder bar, white wing bar, dark conical bill and may show black on its forehead and yellow on its throat and face.  The winter female is duller with buff wing and shoulder bars and lacks yellow and black on the face and head.  This drastic change in plumage is a result of the American Goldfinch, the only member of its family, having two complete molts each year, one in the fall and one in the spring.

American Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect.  It feeds primarily on seeds, including seeds from composite plants (sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc), grasses and trees.  At feeders they favor nyjer and sunflower seeds (hulled).  In both situations it prefers to hang onto seed heads or feeders rather than feeding on the ground.

American Goldfinches are often described as active and acrobatic.  They are also easily identified by their undulating flight pattern of several rapid wing beats and then a pause.  Listen for their flight song while they are flapping, which sounds like po-ta-to-chip.

A group of goldfinches has many collective nouns, including a “007”, “charm”, “rush”, “treasury” and “vein” of goldfinches.

Keep an eye out for the American Goldfinch, as they will be leaving soon to head north to breed and will return when the weather up north gets cold again next fall. (See the range map following the photographs below.)

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About Birders: American Goldfinch and Birds of Seabrook Island: American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch in winter - Bob Hider
American Goldfinch in winter – Bob Hider
American Goldfinch spring molt - Bob Hider
American Goldfinch spring molt – Bob Hider
American Goldfinch spring molt- Bob Hider
American Goldfinch spring molt- Bob Hider
Range Map of American Goldfinch - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Range Map of American Goldfinch – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Length:  6.5″;  Wingspan:  9.75″;  Weight:  0.75 oz.

Aside from the Carolina Chickadee, this is probably the most likely visitor to a backyard feeder on Seabrook Island. It is silvery gray with a soft-colored orange just below its wing. It is a small bird but appears considerably bigger than a chickadee when they are next to one another, which they often are. Its crest is a good field mark.

During the summer months, titmice feed on insects but in the winter, they are particularly fond of sunflower seeds, and the bigger the better. If you have a feeder in your yard, you can watch as the titmouse picks out a large seed, holds it between its feet and pecks on it vigorously until the seed cracks open to release the tender heart inside. They are quite brave and will come to a feeder that is placed on a window providing a wonderful view for the homeowner.

The titmouse has a big sound for such a small bird. His main song sounds as though he is calling in a two-note descending minor third (for you musical folks) which is repeated usually three to four times: Peter Peter Peter. It’s a full, rich sound and quite distinguishable once you are familiar with it.

As the map below indicates, the Tufted Titmouse is here all year long. They build their nests in pre-existing tree cavities or sometimes in a bluebird box. They are quite territorial such that, even when breeding is finished, the male and female remain together and do not join with others as the chickadees do.

Tufted Titmouse pair nesting in a tree cavity.
Tufted Titmouse pair nesting in a tree cavity.

Watch for these little guys. They are not the biggest or the brightest (color, that is) but they grow on you! View this short video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to see the Tufted Titmouse.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad and File Photos

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

%d bloggers like this: