Bird of the Week … Osprey

I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.
Coriolanus Act 4 Scene 5

Osprey, Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica. Its breasts and belly are mostly white with some dark speckling; the female tends to have more of these darker feathers. The adult male is also slimmer and has narrower wings. White extends into the wings creating a mottled effect; the back is brownish black. The head has a distinctive white crest. Its face is bisected by a dark eye-stripe; and, check out those glowing yellow eyes checking you out. Its sharp hooked beak, while more slender than the eagle’s, gets the job done very well. When aloft the wings appear fairly white from below and are relatively long (50-71inches) with a bent wrist. Wing beats are slow and heavy, interspersed with glides giving the flight pattern an identifiable bounce.

Where the Osprey really shows its individuality are its uniquely adapted talons. The foot pad is rough and the toes can be held with three forward and one back or with two forward and two back. No other raptor has these characteristics which enable the osprey to catch and hold onto the slippery fish that are its main diet. Also aiding food sourcing are long legs, closable nostrils that keep out water during dives and dense, oily plumage to repel water.

The Osprey’s habitat is near bodies of water such as rivers, estuaries, salt marshes, and lakes where it can find fish in the 5-16 inch range. Prey is sighted about 30-130 feet above water. It hovers over its target and then plunges feet first capturing its fish. It has a good success record– usually scoring one in four attempts. The fish is held head first for the ride home (better aerodynamics!). Osprey will eat small mammals, reptiles and carcasses if no fish are available.

Osprey form pair bonds, usually mating for life. The male performs a vigorous sky dance as part of the mating ritual and then provides most of the heavy nest material—branches, twigs, sticks. The nest is lined with smaller twigs, bark, moss and grasses with the female putting in the finishing touches and rearranging things. Pairs use the same nest year after year, adding new material each year. Nests have been known to grow to seven feet wide and five feet deep and be used for as many as seventy years.

Typically, there are three eggs with both members of the clutch incubating the eggs for 38-43 days. They hatch over a period of days, establishing a pecking order that kicks in when food is scarce. The female stays with the hatchlings; the male brings home the ‘menhaden’ until the chicks can be left alone. Some studies report fledging time 44-59 days, others 8-10 weeks. In North America, great horned owls, bald eagles, and golden eagles are the only predators of osprey and their eggs where nests are built safely in tall trees or man-made platforms. Life span is typically 7-10 years, but some can survive for 20 years or more.

The formidable appearing Osprey has a high-pitched voice with a chirping song that can rise in intensity when threatened.

Osprey numbers were perilously low in the 1950-60’s due to shell-thinning and poisoning from pesticides. After DTT was banned in 1972, the population has continued to increase, especially throughout the eastern U.S. The proliferation of artificial nesting sites has also helped their comeback.

Osprey male & female, Bear Island WMA – Ed Konrad

A majority of North American Osprey winter south of the U.S border, but here in the Carolina Lowlands we often see them all year. A pair has taken up residence near the green of Hole 3 on Ocean Winds, and nesting pair on Mallard Lake and another has been nesting on the vacant corner lot at SIR and The Haulover(2017). Let us know if you have seen any other Osprey nests on Seabrook Island!

Article Submitted by:  Donna Lawrence

Re-posted from June 2017

Photographs by: Ed Konrad & Charles Moore

Free Webinar – Who’s Singing?

Cornell Lab recently updated their popular free bird identification app to include song identification. Below is more information from their web site. The webinar promises to be informational but several SIB members have successfully started using this new feature without the webinar.

Who’s Singing? How to Use Merlin Bird ID to Identify Bird Calls
July 27, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern 

Have you ever been mystified when hearing a bird you can’t see? Our Merlin Bird ID app now features amazing Sound ID—join our experts to discover how to use this powerful new tool. During this free webinar, the Merlin team will share how citizen science and machine learning combined to create Sound ID. They’ll also provide practical advice for how to bird by ear. Come join the conversation and learn how Merlin can help you better recognize birds by sound.
Register For Sound ID Webinar

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 matting 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

Republished from 2017.

Feeding Birds on Seabrook Island

Recently a question was asked on our neighborhood social media site about if it is safe to feed our wild birds. Earlier this spring there was an outbreak of avian salmonellosis in the southeast that affected pine siskin, purple finch, and American goldfinch. People in our area were asked to remove their feeders until the affected birds had migrated out. There is another outbreak of an avian disease, but, as of now, it does not appear to be in our area.

The linked article from Bird Watcher’s Digest reports where the outbreaks are and offers great suggestions on what we need to do as backyard bird enthusiasts to keep our birds safe.

Bird of the Week: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Have you seen this bird on Seabrook Island this summer?

Photo of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh on the roof of her garage on the evening of July 7, 2020.

If not in person, you might have seen the photos that appeared in the July 2020 edition of The Seabrooker (page 13). This is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and they have been seen this summer at SeaLoft’s Lagoon and at Camp St. Christopher, and as in the photo above on the garage roof of Lynn Maney-McIntosh in the 3100 block of Seabrook Island Road in 2020.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a beautifully marked bird with longish legs and neck, chestnut back and chest, black belly and underwing, electric pink legs and red bill. When it flies you can easily see the bold white stripe on top of its wings. They can nest on the ground or in tree cavities, more recently taking to nest boxes. They are a very noisy waterfowl and do sound like they are whistling. Listen for this noise.

In recent years, their range has been expanding north. This explains why there are more sightings documented in our area in eBird.org, a system which documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends through checklist data collected by millions of people across the world.

You should be on the lookout for them perching around shallow ponds; walking in the short grass of lawns and golf courses; and especially in agricultural fields, where these large ducks eat lots of grain. They feed nocturnally, so watch around sunset for large flocks to begin flying out to fields from their roosts. Or just look up on your roof like Lynn did! (Article re-posted from 2020)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck photo taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh in her backyard on July 5, 2020.

Welcome to American Oystercatcher Chicks DY & DZ

U5 and Family – Mark Andrews

Our American Oystercatcher chicks have flown the Nesting Area! One of the oystercatcher parents was U5, a bird that has frequented the Captain Sams Inlet for many years. Just before they could fly, they were banded to allow us to follow their progress and to contribute to what science knows about American Oystercatcher  behavior and habitat use. The many hours our SIB Shorebird Stewards spent educating and protecting the birds have paid off!

U5 – Mark Andrews

We have told the story of the North Beach Nesting Area in previous posts. Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers also nested inside the yellow signs but they struggled to maintain their nests against blowing & drifting sand. Both species re-nested, but only the Least Terns hatched chicks. In nature’s way, those chicks were probably lost to predators or tides and the colony has moved on. We never saw Wilson’s Plover chicks.

Meanwhile, American Oystercatchers U5 & his mate, hatched two chicks on May 18 that have thrived! On a rainy Sunday morning when the chicks were 26 days old, Janet Thibault, SCDNR Coastal Bird Biologist, banded the chicks with the assistance of Glen Cox & Karin King, who first spotted the oystercatcher nest, and Mark and Melissa Andrews. The chicks can now be identified from blue bands on their upper legs as, DY & DZ. Blue bands designate a bird banded in South Carolina as U5’s red bands tell us that he was banded in Georgia.

Before banding the chicks, Janet had to consider many key factors: the chick’s age, health and whether banding the chicks would provide useful information to science. Birds are banded to allow scientists to track their movements and follow them through their nesting and other behaviors. Those observations, known as resights, are collected  and sent to a registry both by biologists and citizen scientists like Glen Cox, Patricia Schaefer & Ed Konrad. In the case of oystercatchers, that registry is The American Oystercatcher Working Group.

Just like the biologists, we can learn a lot from the approximately 60 resights in U5’s registry.  In December 2008, U5 was banded as an adult on Little Saint Simons Island, Georgia. In his first few years, he spent most of his time on the Georgia coast with an occasional trip to Deveaux Bank or Captain Sams Inlet. After 2012, he was seen at the inlet far more than in Georgia.  Then around 2016, he became a year round resident of Captain Sam’s Inlet with 23 resights by Kiawah and Seabrook residents recorded in the last 5 years. Those reports proved that our community “followed” him and gave Janet confidence that we would report DY & DZ sightings as well. 

You have the opportunity to contribute to American Oystercatcher science by reporting your resights of U5, DY and DZ to this website. Please remember that resighting requires giving the birds their space – if the birds appear nervous or fly, you are too getting too close. We use binoculars, spotting scopes or long telephoto lenses on our cameras to keep our distance.

American Oystercatcher chicks often spend up to six months in their family group before joining non-breeding flocks. Apart from the quick trip from the Georgia coast to Deveaux Bank in 2009, U5 was seen repeatedly in 2010 & 2011 back in Georgia near where he fledged. With some luck, we might see DY & DZ hang around Captain Sams inlet for quite awhile, maybe with U5 and their mother!

Adult & Chick Flying – Mark Andrews
Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards- Melanie Jerome
Learn more about Seabrook Island’s Shorebird & Seabirds by accessing this QR code

Learn more about the American Oystercatcher here.

(All resights for U5 were obtained from the American Oystercatcher Working Group Band Database. Wilmington: Audubon North Carolina; Retrieved from The American Oystercatcher Working Group Band Database Website http://www.ancperch.org/amoy/index.html)

Article submitted by Mark Andrews
Photos provided by Mark Andrews, Glen Cox, Melanie Jerome, Ed Konrad & Patricia Schaefer

Loons of Mount Desert Island, Maine

Common Loon and chick, taken by Nancy Brown, Maine, summer of 2014

For me, summer normally means traveling to Maine to see family, friends and nature! Growing up, one of my most favorite birds to hear and see was the Common Loon. The sound of a Common Loon can instantly transport me to a lake in Maine. Although I won’t be visiting Maine this summer, I surely enjoyed this video, created by the Laman Family during the pandemic summer of 2020 and published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, about Common Loon families of Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Experience a loon hatchling take to the water for the first time (@1:55), an adult male yodel (@2:35) and loon parents feeding their young (@5:23). While I won’t see the Common Loon this summer, I look forward to our winter here on Seabrook Island, SC, where I can often see them in the ocean just off the shore of our beach.

Learn more about the Common Loon here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Loon/overview

Submitted by: Nancy Brown

Ask SIB: What is this Bird and How Can I Prevent Birds from Flying into Windows?

QUESTION: Hi! This beautiful bird has been visiting at regular times every day for a month. He keeps flying into the same two windows – we’ve tried using reflectors, etc., but he’s undeterred. He usually hangs out with the Northern Cardinals, but oddly, he never joins them at our nearby feeders!

Thanks for any info!

Jenni Hesterman, SIB Member

ANSWER: Hi Jenni – This beautiful bird is a Great-crested Flycatcher. They are not known as a feeder eating bird. See the description below from the app iBirdPro for their feeding and foraging habits.

“Great Crested Flycatcher: Eats variety of large insects, including beetles, crickets, katydids, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies; also eats fruits and berries; forages by flying from a perch to snatch insects from foliage, mid-air, or on the ground.”

Learn more about the Great-crested Flycatcher here: 
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Crested_Flycatcher/overview#

There are many suggestions on how to prevent birds from flying into your windows. Understandably, many of us do not want to give up our views by installing heavy draperies or applying sticky notes every two inches. If you are serious about finding alternatives, there are some less obtrusive solutions. Check out the link below for some ideas and also read the comments from other bird enthusiasts. Some people have had success by simply moving the location of their feeder or not cleaning their windows. Now, that’s a win-win! 

Nancy Brown & Joleen Ardaiolo, SIB Board Members

“Discovery on Deveaux Bank!” – SIB’s July The Seabrooker

In case you don’t receive it, or haven’t had a chance to read it yet, we hope you will enjoy The Seabrooker’s July 2021 page 14. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page. The story this month:

  • Enormous Whimbrel Flock Discovered on Deveaux Bank!Learn about the the incredible discovery of nearly 20,000 migrating shorebirds on this beautiful estuarine island seen off the coast of Seabrook Island.

Thanks to Judy Morr and Joleen Ardaiolo for editing the SCDNR press release published on June 15, 2021, and to photographer Ed Konrad for sharing his photos of Whimbrel taken on Seabrook Island and serving as our graphic designer of the page.

If you have not yet watched the video about this spectacle produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, take ten minutes to watch it now!

And don’t forget, to learn more about SIB’s Shorebird Steward Program, open up this QR code (this Quick Response code is a bar code which will open a webpage when a phone camera is focused on it.)

SIB Movie Matinee – July 13th via Zoom

Movie Matinees

Movie Matinee | The Spinal Column

As we continue to social distance, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled a “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom on the second Tuesday of each month. If you would like to join us for a Seabrook Island Birder’s “Virtual Movie Matinees” you must REGISTER to attend. Then we will email you the Zoom link the day prior to the event. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the  show together (generally an hour), and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions. Sign up  then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

July Movie – Register Here

Tuesday July 13, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm
David Allen Sibley – “What It’s Like To Be A Bird”

A birder since childhood, Sibley is an ornithologist and the award-winning author and illustrator of perhaps the most comprehensive avian field guide available, The Sibley Guide to Birds. His new book, geared for novice and younger birders as well as more experienced naturalists, is a beautiful large-format volume that focuses on more than 200 species, ranging from familiar backyard visitors like blue jays, nuthatches, and chickadees, to seashore favorites such as the Atlantic puffin. In each entry Sibley answers frequently asked questions, presents details about behavior that have not previously been gathered in one place, and provides precise, colorful drawings—some reproduced in life size—of birds in action.​

Produced by Tom Warren

You are invited to a Zoom meeting. 
When: Jul 13, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIsf-CvqzItGNOCTfBfTt96IxXhuFLpvTwV

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Mark your Calendars for our Upcoming Movies

Tuesday August 10, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm – TBD

Tuesday September 14, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm – TBD