SIB “Bird of the Week” – Northern Parula

Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Length:  4.5″; Wingspan: 7″; Weight: 0.3 oz.

Northern Parula (Male) - Ed Konrad
Northern Parula (Male) – Ed Konrad

Northern Parulas are tiny, dainty birds and one of North America’s smallest wood-warblers.  These birds are very active and beautiful warblers that are sometimes hard to see because they love to forage in the dense foliage of mid to upper tree canopies.  Most birders hear their familiar rising buzzy trill with a final sharp note long before they get a glimpse of this warbler.  Click here to listen to their song.

On Seabrook Island we are fortunate to have these birds from late March through summer months while they are breeding.  Once you are familiar with their sound you will be amazed as you drive/walk around our island how many Northern Parulas make Seabrook their home.  In fact, we’ve been hearing them often as we golf both Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds.

These small birds are only 4.5” in length and weigh only 0.3 ounces. Male Parulas are mainly blue-gray above with two conspicuous white wing-bars and a partial white eye-ring.  They have a light greenish-yellow triangular patch on back; throat and yellow breast and white belly.  Adult males have chestnut and black bands across breast.  Female colors are similar to males but duller and generally lack breast bands. First-year (<1 yr old) birds are similar to females but more greenish on upper parts.

Northern Parulas are mainly insectivorous.  They feed mainly on spiders, damselflies, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, flies, wasps, and ants.  Regardless of season, caterpillars and spiders are consumed most often.  During the winter, the Northern Parula consumes more beetles and occasionally forages on berries, seeds, and nectar.

They are a monogamous species.  Their habitat during breeding is along swamps, ponds or lakes in humid woodlands where they can nest in Old Man’s Beard lichen or Spanish moss.  Pairs often return to same nesting site year after year.  Males sing during migration and throughout nesting season, even when feeding young.  Nestlings are fed mainly by females and the average rate of feeding: 1 trip/13.6 min. Over a 6-hour period, one female carried food 19 times.  When they are not breeding you might find Northern Parulas in pastures; dry or wet forests; and agricultural fields or plantations.

A group of warblers has many collective nouns, including a “bouquet”, “confusion”, “fall”, and “wrench” of warblers.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

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

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.

Update Gallery with pictures and range map

 

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Red Knot

Red Knot – Calidris canutus
Length:  10.5″; Wingspan: 23″; Weight: 4.7 oz.

Red Knots - Ed Konrad
Red Knots – Ed Konrad

Red Knots are the largest of the “peeps” in North America, roughly the same size as an American Robin.   It makes one of the longest yearly migrations of any bird, traveling 9,300 miles from its Arctic breeding grounds to Tierra del Fuego in southern South America.  Here on Seabrook Island, we are fortunate to see this bird on our beaches during the spring migration.

In winter, Red Knots are a pale gray with whitish flanks with dark barring and relatively short, dull yellow legs.  Their bill is relatively short and straight, tapering to a tip.  In the spring, individuals in the flock begin to attain their breeding plumage in which the head, neck and lower parts of the body become a pale salmon color.

Red Knots are a common yet exciting migrant through our area between  March and May.  Look for Red Knots feeding on invertebrates, especially bivalves, small snails, and crustaceans, at the edge of the surf and on mud flats in the inlet and river.  They are often found in large flocks during migration (hundreds of birds).  They feed actively, then move on to the next area as a group.  They may often be seen flying offshore in large groups >30 or so, fairly low to the water.  Knot flocks are tightly integrated and individuals wheel and turn with remarkable synchrony.

The Red Knot is a global species and they are in decline.  The populations wintering in South America dropped over 50% from the mid-1980s to 2003, and are listed as a federally threatened species in the U.S.  A 2012 study estimated the total number of all three North American subspecies at about 139,000 breeding birds.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List) lists Red Knot as a Near Threatened species. The occurrence of large concentrations of knots at traditional staging areas during migration makes them vulnerable to pollution and loss of key resources.  For example, Delaware Bay is an important staging area during spring migration, where the knots feed on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of the entire population of the Red Knot can be present on the bay in a single day. The reduction in food available to the knots because of the heavy harvesting of horseshoe crabs may be responsible for a decline in Red Knot populations.

A group of Red Knots has many collective nouns, including a “cluster”, “fling” and “tangle” of knots.

Make a trip to North Beach and walk towards the spit.  The Red Knots arrived on Seabrook Island a few weeks ago and we may see them as late as early May before they finish their journey to high Arctic islands, northern Greenland, and the west coast of Alaska to breed. (See the range map following the photographs below.)

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

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” – Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Length:  5.5″; Wingspan: 9.25″; Weight: 0.43 oz.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Ed Konrad
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Ed Konrad

Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of the most common warblers in North America and abundant on Seabrook Island from fall through spring.  The Yellow-rumped Warbler is sometimes referred to as “Butter Butt” due to its bright yellow rump.  It was formally called Myrtle Warbler in the East because it is the only Warbler able to digest the wax-coated berries of the Wax Myrtles.  On Seabrook, Butter Butts are our most obvious and widely distributed winter Warbler.  They arrive in November and depart in April.  You will see them in small flocks in open woodlands and brushy habitats.  This bird constantly “chirps” which is a contact call that keeps the flock together.

The Yellow-rumped is medium-sized warbler with a long narrow tail and stout dark bill.  In winter, the females, males and young are a paler streaked gray-brown, have bright yellow rumps and usually yellow side patches.  In the spring before they leave Seabrook Island, the male is dark blue-gray upper parts; white throat, breast and belly are white and heavily streaked with black.  Its rump, crown and small area at the sides of the breast are yellow.  There are two broad white wing bars. The female is brownish with the similar patterns.

In winter, Yellow-rumped warblers can be found in open pine and pine-oak forests and dunes where bayberries are common.  During this time they mainly eat berries and fruits, particularly wax-coated berries of bayberries and wax myrtles.  This bird has unique gastrointestinal traits that allow it to subsist on this unusual food source.  This makes them a very winter hardy bird allowing them to winter farther north than other warblers.

In the spring/summer these warblers are found in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands feeding on insects including caterpillars, ants, leaf beetles, grasshoppers and spiders.  You might see them acting like Flycatchers as they leap off perches flying up to catch a passing insect.  They also eat wild seeds from beach grasses and goldenrod and may come to feeders to eat sunflower seeds, raisins, peanut butter and suet.

Yellow-rumped warblers are active and noisy birds.  They constantly chatter as they forage.  Their flight is agile and swift and the birds often call as they change direction.  Their yellow rump and white tail patches are very noticeable while flying.  Their song is a loose trill, but rising in pitch or dropping toward end and the call note is a loud “chek.”

A group of warblers has many collective nouns, including a “bouquet”, “confusion”, “fall”, and “wrench” of warblers.

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

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.

(click on a photo to view as a slide show)

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Goldfinch

This blog post is the first in a new 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.

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

How Do Birds Drink Water?

All birds, including this lesser goldfinch, need water. (Photo: Creative Commons)
All birds, including this lesser goldfinch, need water. (Photo: Creative Commons)

by Dawn Hewitt | Managing Editor, Bird Watcher’s Digest

Just like you and me, birds need water to survive. Most birds drink some water every day, but they don’t drink the way we mammals do. Their anatomy is obviously quite different from ours. For one thing, they don’t have cheeks and lips! With a few exceptions, birds lack the ability to suction liquid into their throats, as horses do. Most birds drink by filling their bill with water—often from morning dew on leaves—then tilting their head back, using gravity to send the liquid into their digestive tract.

Read the entire article at Bird Watchers Digest.

20 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Birds

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Taking Flight - Charles J Moore
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Taking Flight – Charles J Moore

by Anne Drew – Contributor, Bird Watcher’s Digest

How many bird species are alive today?  What is the fastest bird?  What is a group of owls called?

We thought you might be interested to learn the answers to these and other FAQ’s about birds here at BirdWatcherDigest.

Don’t forget to log your bird sightings into eBird to support the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) from February 12-15, 2016?

Win a pair of Zeiss Binoculars from eBird!

Do you have a smartphone?  Do you like birds?  If so, you could have a chance to win a free pair of Zeiss binoculars from eBird!

Just download the FREE eBird Mobile app onto your IOS or Android device and start recording the birds you see!  The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 15 complete (must have estimated number of each bird species with no “X”) checklists using eBird Mobile in February.  Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.  Read more about the contest here.

We (Flo & Nancy) can personally say this is a fabulous app!  It provides improved accuracy in counting, precise location selection, and overall birding information.  And no more paper tracking when we get home, sometimes days later.  Never used eBird?  Learn all about it on the eBird help site.

Not quite sure the name of the birds you see?  Another great and FREE app we recommend you load on your device is Merlin ID, found here.

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) next weekend, load both apps on your device and start identifying and counting birds today!

Submitted by Nancy Brown & Flo Foley

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