New bird

'the new bird'

I saw a new bird in my neighborhood recently. I believe it is either a Gray Catbird or a Northern Mockingbird. It is about the size of a lean Robin & gray all over. I couldn’t get a very good look because it would hide in thick clusters of leaves high up in a tree (I did not get to hear it sing either). Hopefully it’ll come back again soon so I can have a better look at it. I’m leaning toward gray catbird, but I’d have to see it more clearly. They come to MN in summer to breed, but then leave in the fall. 

Female Grackles

'common grackle feeding'

There have been Common Grackles in my yard for a while now, but it seems as though the males came first & the females followed. The females look nearly identical to the males, but if the light’s right, it’s possible to see that they are actually more brown than black, & they are slightly smaller. They are also slightly less glossy. The birds are ground foragers, but I see them quite often up on the birdfeeder, scaring away the other birds, & eating all the bird seed in a few minutes. They like sunflower seed especially, & often 3 or 4 of them will be on the birdfeeder, all trying to eat at the same time. (If there isn’t enough room in the feeder, they perch on top waiting for a chance at the seed.) Grackles are very aggresive, they have been known to raid nests, & kill & eat other adult birds. However the birds here sort of enjoy them, because they kick tons of seed off the feeding platform when they land to eat.  

Mourning doves returning!

'mourning doves often sit in large groups on telephone wires'

The Mourning doves are back from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S. & Central America. They are hard not to notice with their loud, persistent cooing. Click on the link to hear it: http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/163/overview/Mourning_Dove.aspx. They are milky brown colored birds with darker flecks on their back & wings, & have long gray beaks. They like to visit my feeder, but prefer to stay on the ground & eat the dropped seeds rather than perch on the feeder. Mourning doves are quite common in cities & yards, & often perch in huge groups on telephone wires in front of my house. I often see them in mixed groups with Rock doves (also known as common pigeons). Most of these birds live to be a year & 1/2 old, but the oldest mourning dove ever was 19.3 years old. 

Red-winged blackbirds

'red-winged blackbird wing'

Today there was a Red-winged blackbird in my yard. These medium-sized black birds with red & yellow stripes on their wings usually only hang out in ponds & lakes with marshes, but there must have been something in my yard they liked – 2 of them were walking around in the grass hunting for food. I guess they don’t really go for sunflower seeds; I didn’t once see them fly up to my bird feeder. They like flies & other insects instead. Their only distinguishing feature is the red patch on their wing with a yellow stripe just below it. Sometimes you can’t see the red part of the wing until the bird is in flight, which can make it hard to identify, but if it only has yellow on it’s wing, it’s still the same bird. The female is mottled brown with no colors on her wing. They also have a loud, unique call, click on the link to hear it: http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/144/_/Red-winged_Blackbird.aspx.

Spring flocks

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mississippi river near my home (it’s just a couple of streets away), I saw two huge black birds flying overhead. They turned out to be a pair of turkey vultures, & they were wheeling & swooping over the river, close enough that I could see their bright red naked heads & black feathers. Evidently there was an appetizing bit of rotting flesh down there. Vultures have naked heads because it keeps them clean when they feed. If they had feathers on their heads the feathers would get very dirty when they fed, & possibly make them sick. These birds have, lately, become common around here. Turkey vultures must get something from the river they can’t get elsewhere; whenever I see them, they are heading to the Mississippi.

A few days ago I looked out my window & there was a Common Grackle at the feeder. These shiny black birds are hard to miss, they are at least twice as large as other common feeder residents, such as finches & chickadees. They will eat sunflower seeds, but they seem to scare the other birds away. When a grackle’s in my yard, it’s the only bird there. Brown-headed cowbirds seem to be getting more numerous too. I don’t see them that often, but every few years there’ll be a spring where they’re all over. What’s interesting is that when that happens, common grackles start to appear more too.

The house finch that was at my feeder a few days ago has come back, & he brought his girlfriend with him. I see them almost every day now. The female isn’t terribly colorful, & I often mistake her for a sparrow, as she has no red, but the pattern of stripes on her back is different, & she’s almost never without her mate. I also recently saw an American Goldfinch. I have never seen one in MN before, although they’re supposed to live all over America. They are tiny but beautiful birds, with their neon yellow feathers & black markings. The one I saw was such a bright color, I could barely see it in all the yellow-green leaves of the just-blooming trees.

House Finch

Yesterday I saw a house finch flitting around my bird feeder. It’s bright red head & chest stood out among all the other sparrows at my feeder, with their feathers of brown & gray. House finches don’t come to my yard a lot, probably because it isn’t their preferred habitat, but I see them now & then. The female house finch looks much the same but lacks the red. The house finch has many different warbling calls & songs, click on the link to hear them: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Finch/sounds. It has some neat info about house finches too. House finches look quite a bit like the purple finch & red crossbill, but have less red & a straight beak. They are widespread & pretty common in most parts of the U. S., & if you set out sunflower seed (their favorite food) & water, they may come to your yard bringing a flock of as many as 50 other house finches with them.

Crow town

 

"American Crow"

Crows are becoming more & more numerous as the weather warms up. Big flocks of them fly around, especially over the highways, looking for road kill. They fly in HUGE flocks. You’ll see a couple hundred fly overhead, & they’ll flap noisily away, until you can barely see them, & just when they’re about to disappear, a few hundred more show up. They do that until there must be about a thousand of them, & then they finally disappear. Crows are quite intelligent, & some, if raised by humans, can imitate human voices. The crows most common call is a series of harsh CAWs, but actually they have at least 20 different calls. (Although they all sound pretty close to the same thing to me.)Click on the link to hear them. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/sounds. See See what you think.