SIB “Bird of the Week” – Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Length:  7.25″; Wingspan: 12″; Weight: 1.1 oz.

I just love Cedar Waxwings and they are one of my very favorite birds!  They are such a cool looking bird with that sleek brown crest that often lies flat over the back of the head.  Waxwings  are medium-sized gregarious birds that are silky brownish overall with a pale yellowish belly and white under its tail coverts.  Cedar Waxwings acquired their name as the adults have wax-like red droplets on the tips of their secondary feathers.  It looks like someone dipped these feathers in hot red wax. Their somewhat short, square tail has a bright yellow band at the tip and they have short broad bills with a slight hook for gripping and swallowing large berries. These “Batman” looking birds have black masks edged in white and a black chin patch.

Males and females look alike, however, immature Waxwings have lots of brown streaking on their chests, much smaller crests, no black chin patch and no black “Batman” mask.

Cedar Waxwings are very sociable birds and almost always travel in flocks while in search of berries. Flocks of these birds will suddenly appear in an area, stripping trees and bushes of the berries and then vanish quickly when the crop is exhausted.  In the winter and fall they feed on dogwoods, pokeweed, grape, mountain ash and apple.  One of their favorite foods is a juniper called the Eastern Red-cedar.  In the summer they eat strawberries, mulberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries and honeysuckle.  They also eat protein rich insects including mayflies, dragonflies, stoneflies and flower petals and sap.  Their insect catching behavior mimics a flycatcher as they leap off branches to grab insects in flight.

Cedar Waxwings inhabit deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands and like to nest in brushy areas near streams.  Scientists have discovered that Waxwings select mates of similar ages. During courtship males often pass a small item like a fruit, insect, or flower petal, to the female. After taking the fruit, the female usually hops away and then returns giving back the item to the male. They repeat this a few times until the female eats the gift.

Waxwings build cup-like nests in the fork of high tree branches.  The nests are constructed of twigs and grasses and lined with finer materials such as animal hair, pine needles, spider webs or moss.  Both sexes gather nesting material however the female does most of the nest construction. It takes 5-6 days to construct the nest and may take up to 2500, yes this isn’t a misprint, 2500 individual trips to the nest to build it.

Cedar Waxwings lay 4-5 eggs and incubation by the female happens in 12-14 days and the pair often nest twice in the summer.  Most Waxwings breed at 1 year old and they breed later than other birds as they time the hatching when there is a good supply of berries to feed their young. Adult Waxwings have a pouch in their throat and may regurgitate as many as thirty choke cherries at one time into their young bird’s mouths.  It has been said that Waxwings sometimes becomes intoxicated from eating fermented berries in winter.

Experts have seen several Waxwings sitting in a row passing a berry or insect from one to the other up and down the row until finally one bird decides to swallow it.

Waxwings are here on Seabrook Island in the winter, you just have to be on alert to hear their high pitched call. Most times you will hear Waxwings before you see them.  Once you get accustomed to their call you will be able to pick them out often.

Please watch the video below for a good overview of these fabulous birds!

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

Article submitted by:  Flo Foley 2017, resubmitted by SIB
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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 16″; Weight: 16 oz.

Pied-bill Grebe - Ed Konrad
Pied-bill Grebe – Ed Konrad

There are seven species of Grebes, but only four are mapped in Sibley’s as possible visitors to Seabrook Island.  However, only one of the four seems to be common to the Island.  That is the Pied-billed Grebe which may be seen bobbing around in our lagoons and lakes from October to March.  They will not likely to ever be seen on land.  This bird is compact, but shows a long neck.  Their coloration is largely a camouflage mix of brown shades with the darkest feathers being on the upper side of the wings.  While the stout beak is generally a yellowish brown, the male, in breeding plumage, has a silvery bill with a black ring around it.  This multi-colored bill provides the basis for the name Pied-billed Grebe.   These supurb swimmers and divers sit slightly low in the water and have lobed (as compared to webbed) feet.  Because they are more at home under the water’s surface, they are of the now-you-see-em-now-you-don’t sort.   Grebes slip underwater with little or no splash and can stay submerged for significant periods of time.   They don’t usually pop up near where they dove.  In contrast, Loons and Cormorants (both being long-necked swimmers and divers) are much larger and splashier birds.

Our lagoons and lakes, with the vegetated edges, provide favorite habitat.  The diet consists of aquatic insects, small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans.   On the other hand, they do not appear to be on the menu for the local alligator population.  While I have not knowingly heard a Pied-billed Grebe call, the literature says they make a gulping kuk-kuk-kuk sound.  Their summer nesting area extends northward from the Mason-Dixon line and into Canada.

Check out this short video of the Pied-billed Grebe

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

Article submitted by:  George Haskins
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

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” – American Robin

American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Length:  10″; Wingspan: 17”.Although generally this bird is thought to be a sign of spring in the more northern sections of North American, during the winter this migratory bird loves to hang in the warmer areas of the South gorging on our berries!

American Robin - C. Moore
American Robin – C. Moore

The Robin is among the most abundant bird species on the continent, with a population estimated at more than three hundred million. It lives in almost every habitat, from forest to tundra, from Central America to north of the Arctic Circle, from sea level to 12,000 feet.

The American Robin was mistakenly named after its smaller, orange-breasted European namesake by Early American colonists. The American Robin is not in the robin family but is actually a thrush, part of a group of songbirds that includes bluebirds, veeries, hermit and wood thrushes.  These birds often possess attractive plumage, spotted breasts (particularly in the young) and insectivorous diets. At ten inches long, the robin is the largest of the American thrushes and is often used to describe and judge sizes of other birds since it is so commonly recognized. Its orange breast sets off a black tail, a black head with white around the eyes, a yellow bill, black-and-white-streaked throat, grayish brown back and white undertail.  Male colors are bolder than those on the female and, true to form, juvenile robins have spotted breasts.  Look carefully the next time you see a robin and you will notice what a beautiful bird it is!

With autumn comes a southward migration, although some robins can be found wintering in even hostile climates, eating the berries remaining in wooded, densely vegetated areas. According to Lex Glover, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician, the population of robins in South Carolina swells each fall and winter, as robins move in from the northern states and Canada, sometimes on their way to Florida and the Gulf States.

“We can have pretty intense flocks of them, scattered through the coastal plain,” he says. “When we do Christmas counts, you’ll see large numbers of robins either first thing in the morning or the last thing in the evening, often going into bottomland hardwood areas where there is plenty of cover, and maybe cedars and evergreens so they have a place to roost. I have also seen them in plowed fields, with sparrows and blackbirds mixed in with them.”

Just before the New Year, one of our members, Ellen Coughlin, sent us the picture below to ask us to confirm the identification of the birds.  She said, “They were in the back yard and over the lagoon as well as fighting over the bird bath on Dec. 23.  There were easily 100-150 of them.  Flying around like they were drunk.  This is the second time this event has occurred.  The last time the birds were red winged blackbirds and it was about three years ago.  Same weird behavior, diving bombing us as we stood on the enclosed screened in porch.”  As you might remember from last weeks blog on Cedar Waxwings, some birds eat so many fermented berries they become “drunk.”  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, ” When Robins eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.”

American Robins - Ellen Coughlin
American Robins – Ellen Coughlin

In fact, just days before Ellen’s email, a birder staying at his parent’s house on Bohicket Creek reported, “I watched flocks of robins flying from Wadmalaw Island to Johns Island at dawn, and then again from Johns Island to Wadmalaw Island at dusk. I would guess the flyway was about a half-mile wide, so I couldn’t monitor the whole thing, but multiple estimates of the number of robins passing overhead in my binocular’s field of view led me to a count of 300 per minute for 40 minutes (the flight lasted somewhat longer) for a report of 12,000 robins.  I’m confident that estimate is low, though it’s easy to over-estimate the number of birds for species that fly in loosely-organized flocks.

Keep your eyes and ears open for these common winter birds on Seabrook Island.  We are still seeing flocks of them flying overhead or eating berries atop trees and bushes throughout the island!

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

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown 2017, resubmitted by SIB
Photographs provided by:  Hud Coughlin, Ed Konrad, Charles Moore
Source:  South Carolina Wildlife

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” – Killdeer

Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Length:  10.5″; Wingspan: 24″; Weight: 3.3 oz.

Killdeer Chick - Ed Konrad
Killdeer Chick – Ed Konrad

I was birding at a horse pasture and was amazed to discover birds I had been searching for at the shore. They were Killdeer. I discovered that the Killdeer are the least water dependent of all shorebirds and can often be seen in farm fields where they can easily find insects. Killdeer also eat snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles and worms.

Killdeer in a field - Ed Konrad
Killdeer in a field – Ed Konrad

The Killdeer is easy to recognize with their double black neckband (that look like necklaces), rusty rump and white belly. It has a slim shape with long wing and tail feathers. It also has a bright red eye ring and thin beak.

The Killdeer’s nest is a scrape or bare depression in the ground. It may add rocks, shells and other materials to the nest. To protect their nests the Killdeer will fly a short distance away and appear to have a broken wing, luring the threat away.  Most noticeable among the Killdeer’s many calls is the high, plaintive kill -deer  sound the bird is named for.

When searching for a bird, go to the food source. In the case of the Killdeer, you can find it on the shore, a parking lot, or most often a field with plenty of insects.

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

Article submitted by:  Lydia McDonald
Photographs provided by: Charles Moore & Ed Konrad

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” – 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/ resubmitted 2022
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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – House Finch vs. Purple Finch

House Finch
Carpodacus mexicanus
Length:  6″
Wingspan: 9.5″
Weight: 0.74 oz.

Purple Finch
Haemorhous purpureus
Length:  6″
Wingspan: 10″
Weight: 0.88 oz.

Surprisingly, the House Finch was originally confined to the west and known as a Linnet until being introduced as a caged bird in several pet stores in Long Island in the 1940s. Currently it is one of the most common birds in North America surpassing even the House Sparrow. Although originally indigenous to the deserts and plains of the west, they are now equally happy perched on your bird feeders or the railings on your back deck. The male has a brown cap and a bright red to orange under the beak and on the front of the head. The female is predominantly grayish brown with 2 narrow whitish buff bars on her wings. In the winter, the birds assume a more worn look with a strong muting of their distinctive colors.

The song of the male is longer than the female and has a varied high-pitched scratchy warble composed of chiefly three-note phrases, many ending with rising inflections.

House Finch love sunflower seeds, millet and thistle.

Similar to the House Finch is the Purple Finch. They belong to the same family Fringillidae but the species name is  Haemorhous purpureus. They are about the same size as the House Finch but are migratory and can be found in our area only in the winters at our bird feeders. They are chunkier than the House Finch and are (like their name) predominantly purple. The females on the other hand are more brownish gray than the female House Finch and have a whitish eye line.

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” Aija Konrad says that the Purple Finch looks like it “fell into a glass of red wine”.  Which description do you relate to best?

The Purple Finch song sounds like this.

Click on the images below to learn more about the visual differences between these two species of finch and read all about them in the article on Audubon’s website.

HOUSE FINCH

PURPLE FINCH

To learn more about each of these birds, visit the sites below:

Article submitted by:  Ron Schildge
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad & Audubon

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” – 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 for Backyard Birding at Cat Tail Pond *correction*

December 1 st , 9am – 11am

Come join us in Paula and Bob’s Adamson’s back yard. They live right on the golf course and have 6 feeders plus a birdbath and 2 bluebird boxes. They even have 2 owl boxes. Many birds can be seen from the deck or the yard.  In addition to birds,  Paula says they have lots of  turkeys, squirrels, bunnies raccoons and possums.

As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.  

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $15 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/.   or you may pay the Guest Fee of $10.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Monday November 29th  at 10am.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Wednesday, November 30.

REGISTER 

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 16″; Weight: 16 oz.

Pied-bill Grebe - Ed Konrad
Pied-bill Grebe – Ed Konrad

There are seven species of Grebes, but only four are mapped in Sibley’s as possible visitors to Seabrook Island.  However, only one of the four seems to be common to the Island.  That is the Pied-billed Grebe which may be seen bobbing around in our lagoons and lakes from October to March.  They will not likely to ever be seen on land.  This bird is compact, but shows a long neck.  Their coloration is largely a camouflage mix of brown shades with the darkest feathers being on the upper side of the wings.  While the stout beak is generally a yellowish brown, the male, in breeding plumage, has a silvery bill with a black ring around it.  This multi-colored bill provides the basis for the name Pied-billed Grebe.   These supurb swimmers and divers sit slightly low in the water and have lobed (as compared to webbed) feet.  Because they are more at home under the water’s surface, they are of the now-you-see-em-now-you-don’t sort.   Grebes slip underwater with little or no splash and can stay submerged for significant periods of time.   They don’t usually pop up near where they dove.  In contrast, Loons and Cormorants (both being long-necked swimmers and divers) are much larger and splashier birds.

Our lagoons and lakes, with the vegetated edges, provide favorite habitat.  The diet consists of aquatic insects, small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans.   On the other hand, they do not appear to be on the menu for the local alligator population.  While I have not knowingly heard a Pied-billed Grebe call, the literature says they make a ‘gulping kuk-kuk-kuk‘ sound.  Their summer nesting area extends northward from the Mason-Dixon line and into Canada.

Check out this short video of the Pied-billed Grebe

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

Article submitted by:  George Haskins
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

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 “Birds of the Week” – Hooded Merganser & Bufflehead

Hooded Merganser  Lophodytes cucullatus L: 18″, WS: 24″ WT: 22.4 oz.
Bufflehead  Bucephala albeola  L: 13.5  WS: 21″ WT: 13 oz

For winter birding at Seabrook, I always look forward to the arrival of two of my favorite ducks….the Hooded Merganser and the Bufflehead. Both are winter visitors for us. On a quick look, the males of these species can look pretty similar, but they are quite different when studied closely. Both ducks have disproportionately large heads with white patches on the sides. But look carefully and you will see the differences.

Heather Island Road, Jenkins Point - Hooded Merganser (male & female) - Ed Konrad
Heather Island Road, Jenkins Point – Hooded Merganser (male & female) – Ed Konrad

The Hooded Merganser is one of our most beautiful ducks. The male “Hoodie” has striking white on the head , a black back and it’s sides are coffee brown with two black vertical lines, or “spurs,”that cut diagonally through the white breast. In courting behavior, which begins mid-winter, the males flare their crests, and the females “head-bob and pump.” The female is a chocolate brown and very plain, but I think very classy! When I was researching this article, one source online said “it looks like she blow dried her hair in a jet engine,”because of the swept back crest. HA!

Hoodies feed on crustaceans, fish and insects. They are about 18” long and one of the smaller ducks. On Seabrook, I most often see them on Jenkins Point (the first pond is a fav) and on Palmetto Lake. I am sure they are on many other ponds on the island.  They usually arrive in November and leave in March.

North Beach - Bufflehead (male & female) - Ed Konrad
North Beach – Bufflehead (male & female) – Ed Konrad

The Bufflehead also has a striking male and a plain female. The male has a large head with a big white-wedge patch. It is a small (14″) squat duck and the head looks oversized.  The remainder of the head looks black, but if you look carefully it is an iridescent green/purple. It is mostly found in coastal bays (the old cut area had 2 last week) but can also be found on lakes. The sides of the male are clear white, whereas the Hoodie is brown. The female is a plan gray/brown with a distinctive white patch on it’s cheek.

Buffleheads are usually found in the area of the old cut and the river, often close to the ocean. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans and insect larvae, diving frequently because of their very high metabolism. They are a “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of duck. When swimming, they bob up and down like little rubber duckies.

So keep your eye out for our very own feathered “snowbirds” on Seabrook this winter!

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

Article submitted by: Aija Konrad 2016, resubmitted by SIB
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad and 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.

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