SIB “Bird of the Week” – Confusing Big White Birds

This is an exciting time of year at Seabrook Island as we see many “Big White Birds” starting their courtships and nesting throughout the island.  But are you still trying to figure out the difference between a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a White Ibis?  Have you ever seen a Snowy Egret to only be later told it was a Cattle Egret or an immature Little Blue Heron?

We have found a great article for you to read!  It is an excerpt from Better Birding: Tips, Tools & Concepts for the Field, by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan (Princeton University Press).  The new book is not a field guide—it’s an exploration of the fine points of identification that anyone can learn with some patient study of similar species. The full volume contains 24 chapters, each focusing on a different group, from sparrows to swans and hawks to cormorants.

Take a few minutes to read the article and review the pictures here!

Another resource to review is our own SIPOA Wildlife Portal page focused on this same subject.  Click here for a quick comparison.

We really think these two sites will help you feel more comfortable next time you see those “Big White Birds.”

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

 

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Sightings of Banded Birds on Seabrook Island

(As reported in the April edition of The Seabrooker ; with additional follow-up notes at the end of the story)

Spring is here and the birds are returning in force to our feeders, woodlands and beaches.

Recently Patricia Schaffer noticed a green flag on the leg of a Red Knott she had photographed at North Beach on January 31. By enlarging the photograph, she was able to read the tag number (25-P). Soon after reporting her sighting Patricia received a Certificate of Appreciation and letter from the North America Bird Banding Program informing her of when and where her bird was tagged, how old it was and other related information.

Melanie Jerome, of Creek Watch Villas reported that a Mocking bird with a silver leg tag was regularly visiting her yard during the first week of March.

Bob and Marcia Hider frequently see Painted Buntings with brightly colored leg bands at their bird feeder at Green Heron Drive.

Recently I accompanied Janet Thibault, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist, on a survey of Piping Plovers at North Beach. We observed several Red Knots and one Wilson’s Plover with leg tags and one multi-banded Piping Plover.

An estimated 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904 and more than 4 million have been reported or recovered.

Information obtained from banded bird recoveries help researchers study the dispersal, migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth of many species of birds.

There are many types of bird bands, the most common are small silver or colored bands placed on various locations on a leg, but flags attached to a leg or wing are also utilized. Bands are typically engraved with an identification number and may have information as to how and where to report a sighting.

There are numerous federal, state, university and private foundations that band birds. All bird banding is regulated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, or transport any migratory bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

Permits for banding birds are issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Bird Banding Laboratory was established by USGS in 1936 and is located at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Patuxent, Maryland.

REPORTING A BAND BIRD

Sightings of a banded bird (or should you find a dead bird with a band) should be reported to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory at www.reportband.gov or you may call 1 (800) 327-BAND (2263).

Banded shorebirds on Seabrook Island beaches may be reported directly to SCDNR at waddingbirds@dnr.sc.gov.

You may also want to report your sighting to the Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) at www.seabrookislandbirders.org .

Submitted by:  Charley Moore
Environmental Committee & SIB President

Follow-ups to the story:

Patricia Schaefer wrote to SIB:  “I spotted an oystercatcher with a leg band today (4/3) and I took pictures and reported it.  I got the record on the bird and this is the 3rd time I reported him. First on 12-28-13, then 1-17-15 and now today. In between the last signing he was spotted in Altamaha Sound Georgia on 9-21-15. He was first reported on in 2008.

On Tuesday, April 5, Nancy Brown & Flo Foley spent a few hours as part of their Master Naturalist course with Aaron Givens, Town of Kiawah Biologist, learning and assisting with the banding of Marsh Sparrows.   Along with their two instructors and nine other students, they flushed sparrows from the high shrubs in the marsh at Kiawah River bridge into nets.  In total they recorded information about eight birds, seven Seaside Sparrows and one Saltmarsh Sparrow.  Four birds had previously been tagged by Aaron and four received a band.  Learn more about bird banding at Kiawah:  http://kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.com

Charley Moore reported his first sighting of the Painted Buntings at his feeders on Tuesday, April 5.  Be on the lookout for these beautiful birds!

A multi-banded Piping Plover, a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act, scurries along North Beach on March 9th feeding on small invertebrates in the sand. (Photo by Charley Moore)
A multi-banded Piping Plover, a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act, scurries along North Beach on March 9th feeding on small invertebrates in the sand. (Photo by Charley Moore)
2)Several Red Knots, including three with green leg flags feed along the waters edge at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. (Photo by Charley Moore)
2) Several Red Knots, including three with green leg flags feed along the waters edge at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. (Photo by Charley Moore)
A male Painted Bunting with four brightly colored leg bands. (Photo by Bob Hider)
A male Painted Bunting with four brightly colored leg bands. (Photo by Bob Hider)

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

 

Bird Sightings on Seabrook Island – Week Ending March 27, 2016

SIB will publish this regular blog post to report interesting or unusual bird sightings on Seabrook Island.

Name:  Nancy Brown & Flo Foley
Date & Time of Sighting:  3/26/16 8:30am
Name of Bird Species:  Wood Stork
Number of Birds Sighted: 1
Location of Sighting:  Observed a single Wood Stork flying over the Lake House


Additional Sightings (see pictures below)

SIB held its second “Learning Together” bird walk Thursday March 24th on North Beach led by three SIB committee members (Marcia Hider, Flo Foley & Nancy Brown).  Twenty SIB members, many new to birding, participated on the beautiful morning and birded from the parking lot, along the boardwalk and on the beach.
As we left the parking lot, we could hear the high-pitched, trilled bzeee of a flock of Cedar Waxwings perched in a tree.  After a loud construction sound, the flock lifted into the air and we saw two other large flocks in the distance take off with a total of more than 50 birds!
On the beach, we saw several large clusters of shorebirds.  Using the scopes, we observed a Greater Yellowlegs dancing in a small pond of water as it fed on small minnows.  And further down the beach we watched three American Oystercatchers fly in and hang at the shoreline. The team thought they had a large flock of Red Knots on the beach, but after further investigation determined it was a mixed flock of Dunlins, Sanderlings and Plovers.  Thanks to Judy Morr for helping to identify various birds.
In total the group saw more than 20 species, including:
Brown Pelican
Osprey
American Oystercatcher
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Sanderling
Dunlin
Western Sandpiper
Black Scoters
Laughing Gull
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
Fish Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Please enjoy these photos taken by Dean Morr!
(click on a photo to view as a slide show)

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.

Bird Sightings on Seabrook Island – Week Ending March 23, 2016

SIB will publish this regular blog post to report interesting or unusual bird sightings on Seabrook Island.  In the past week, we received these pictures and comments from one of our members and we’d like to share it with you.  As you will notice, spring has arrived!
 
Name: Glen Cox
Date & Time of Sighting: 3/23/2016
Name of Bird Species: Osprey
Number of Birds Sighted: 2
Location of Sighting: “I captured these photos in my backyard earlier this evening. My home is on the 6th fairway of Crooked Oak.  The nest is located in a large pine tree on the right side at about the 150′ marker.”
Please enjoy these photos taken by Glen Cox!
(click on a photo to view as a slide show)

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)