My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Birds of Michigan

American Woodcock, Scolopax minor

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

American Woodcock, Scolopax minor

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor), sometimes colloquially referred to as the timberdoodle, is a small chunky shorebird species found primarily in the eastern half of North America. Woodcocks spend most of their time on the ground in brushy, young-forest habitats, where the birds’ brown, black, and gray plumage provides excellent camouflage.

Because of the male woodcock’s unique, beautiful courtship flights, the bird is welcomed as a harbinger of spring in northern areas. It is also a popular game bird, with about 540,000 killed annually by some 133,000 hunters in the U.S.

The American woodcock is the only species of woodcock inhabiting North America. Although classified with the sandpipers and shorebirds in Family Scolopacidae, the American woodcock lives mainly in upland settings. Its many folk names include timberdoodle, bogsucker, night partridge, brush snipe, hokumpoke, and becasse.

The population of the American woodcock has fallen by an average of slightly more than 1% annually since the 1960s. Most authorities attribute this decline to a loss of habitat caused by forest maturation and urban development.

The American woodcock has a plump body, short legs, a large, rounded head, and a long, straight prehensile bill. Adults are 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) long and weigh 5 to 8 ounces (140 to 230 g).Females are considerably larger than males. The bill is 2.5 to 2.75 inches (6.4 to 7.0 cm) long.
The plumage is a cryptic mix of different shades of browns, grays, and black. The chest and sides vary from yellowish white to rich tan. The nape of the head is black, with three or four crossbars of deep buff or rufous. The feet and toes, which are small and weak, are brownish gray to reddish-brown.

Woodcock have large eyes located high in the head, and their visual field is probably the largest of any bird, 360° in the horizontal plane and 180° in the vertical plane.

The woodcock uses its long prehensile bill to probe in the soil for food, mainly invertebrates and especially earthworms. A unique bone-and-muscle arrangement lets the bird open and close the tip of its upper bill, or mandible, while it is sunk in the ground. Both the underside of the upper mandible and the long tongue are rough-surfaced for grasping slippery prey.

The primary breeding range extends from Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick) west to southeastern Manitoba, and south to northern Virginia, western North Carolina, Kentucky, northern Tennessee, northern Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Kansas. A limited number of woodcock breed as far south as Florida and Texas. The species may be expanding its distribution northward and westward.

After migrating south in autumn, most woodcock spend the winter in the Gulf Coast and southeastern Atlantic Coast states. Some may remain as far north as southern Maryland, eastern Virginia, and southern New Jersey. The core of the wintering range centers on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

Woodcock eat mainly invertebrates, particularly earthworms (Oligochaeta). They do most of their feeding in places where the soil is moist. They forage by probing in soft soil in thickets, where they usually remain well-hidden from sight. Other items in the diet include insect larvae, snails, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, snipe flies, beetles, and ants. A small amount of plant food is eaten, mainly seeds. Woodcock are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk.

Woodcock migrate at night. They fly at low altitudes, individually or in small, loose flocks. Flight speeds of migrating birds have been clocked at 16 to 28 miles per hour (26 to 45 kilometers per hour). However, the slowest flight speed ever recorded for a bird, 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour), was recorded for this species. It is believed that woodcock orient visually using major physiographic features such as coastlines and broad river valleys. Both the autumn and spring migrations are leisurely compared with the swift, direct migrations of many passerine birds.

In the North, woodcock begin to shift southward before ice and snow seal off their ground-based food supply. Cold fronts may prompt heavy southerly flights in autumn. Most woodcock start to migrate in October, with the major push from mid-October to early November. Most individuals arrive on the wintering range by mid-December. The birds head north again in February. Most have returned to the northern breeding range by mid-March to mid-April.

Migrating birds’ arrival at and departure from the breeding range is highly irregular. In Ohio, for example, the earliest birds are seen in February, but the bulk of the population does not arrive until March and April. Birds start to leave for winter by September, but some remain until mid-November

In Spring, males occupy individual singing grounds, openings near brushy cover from which they call and perform display flights at dawn and dusk, and if the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights. The male’s ground call is a short, buzzy peent. After sounding a series of ground calls, the male takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiralling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male’s outer primary wing feathers.

Males may continue with their courtship flights for as many as four months running – sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their broods and left the nest.

Females, known as hens, are attracted to the males’ displays. A hen will fly in and land on the ground near a singing male. The male courts the female by walking stiff-legged and with his wings stretched vertically, and by bobbing and bowing. A male may mate with several females. The male woodcock plays no role in selecting a nest site, incubating eggs, or rearing young. In the primary northern breeding range, the woodcock may be the earliest ground-nesting species to breed.

The hen makes a shallow, rudimentary nest on the ground in the leaf and twig litter, in brushy or young-forest cover usually within 150 yards (140 m) of a singing ground. Most hens lay four eggs, sometimes one to three. Incubation takes 20 to 22 days.

The down-covered young are precocial and leave the nest within a few hours of hatching. The female broods her young and feeds them. When threatened, the fledglings usually take cover and remain motionless, attempting to escape detection by relying on their cryptic coloration. Some observers suggest that frightened young may cling to the body of their mother, who will then take wing and carry the young to safety.

Woodcock fledglings begin probing for worms on their own a few days after hatching. They develop quickly and can make short flights after two weeks, can fly fairly well at three weeks, and are independent after about five weeks.

The maximum lifespan of adult American woodcock in the wild is 8 years.

The woodcock population remained high during the early and mid-twentieth century, after many family farms were abandoned as people moved to urban areas, and cropfields and pastures grew up in brush. In recent decades, those formerly brushy acres have become middle-aged and older forest, where woodcock rarely venture, or they have been covered with buildings and other human developments. Because its population has been declining, the American woodcock is considered a “species of greatest conservation need” in many states, triggering research and habitat-creation efforts in an attempt to boost woodcock populations.

Creating young-forest habitat for American woodcock helps more than 50 other species of wildlife that need young forest during part or all of their life cycles. These include relatively common animals such as white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, moose, bobcat, wild turkey, and ruffed grouse, and animals whose populations have also declined in recent decades, such as the golden-winged warbler, whip-poor-will, willow flycatcher, indigo bunting, and New England cottontail

On to my photos:

These photos were shot in April of 2017, near the headquarters for the Muskegon State Game Area.

American woodcock

 

American woodcock

 

American woodcock

 

American woodcock

 

American woodcock

 

This is number 202 in my photo life list, only 148 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Orange-crowned Warbler, Oreothlypis celata

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Orange-crowned Warbler, Oreothlypis celata

The orange-crowned warbler (Oreothlypis celata) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family.

These birds are distinguished by their lack of wing bars, streaking on the underparts, strong face marking or bright colouring, resembling a fall Tennessee warbler and a black-throated blue warbler, both of which are also members of the New World warbler family. The orange patch on the crown is usually not visible. They have olive-grey upperparts, yellowish underparts with faint streaking and a thin pointed bill. They have a faint line over their eyes and a faint broken eye ring. Females and immatures are duller in colour than males. Western birds are yellower than eastern birds.

Their breeding habitat is open shrubby areas across Canada, Alaska and the western United States. The nest is a small open cup well-concealed on the ground under vegetation or low in shrubs. The female builds the nest; both parents feed the young.

These birds migrate to the southern United States and south to Central America.

They forage actively in low shrubs, flying from perch to perch, sometimes hovering. These birds eat insects, berries and nectar.

Four to six eggs are laid in a nest on the ground or in a low bush.

The song of this bird is a trill, descending in pitch and volume. The call is a high chip.

On to my photos:

These photos were shot at the local park that I used to walk in daily when I had the time.

Orange crowned warbler

 

Orange crowned warbler

This is number 201 in my photo life list, only 149 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

The green-winged teal (Anas carolinensis or Anas crecca carolinensis) is a common and widespread duck that breeds in the northern areas of North America except on the Aleutian Islands. It was considered conspecific with the common teal (A. crecca) for some time but the issue is still being reviewed by the American Ornithologists’ Union; based on this the IUCN and BirdLife International do not accept it as a separate species at present. However, nearly all other authorities consider it distinct based on behavioral, morphological, and molecular evidence. The scientific name is from Latin Anas, “duck” and carolinensis, “of Carolina”.

This dabbling duck is strongly migratory and winters far south of its breeding range. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks. In flight, the fast, twisting flocks resemble waders.

This is the smallest North American dabbling duck. The breeding male has grey flanks and back, with a yellow rear end and a white-edged green speculum, obvious in flight or at rest. It has a chestnut head with a green eye patch. It is distinguished from drake common teals (the Eurasian relative of this bird) by a vertical white stripe on side of breast, the lack of both a horizontal white scapular stripe and the lack of thin buff lines on its head.

The females are light brown, with plumage much like a female mallard. They can be distinguished from most ducks on size, shape, and the speculum. Separation from female common teal is problematic.

In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.

It is a common duck of sheltered wetlands, such as taiga bogs, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing. It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. While its conservation status is not evaluated by IUCN at present due to non-recognition of the taxon, it is plentiful enough to make it a species of Least Concern if it were; it is far more plentiful than the common teal.[8] It can be seen in vast numbers in the Marismas Nacionales of western Mexico, a main wintering area.

This is a noisy species. The male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble quack.

The American green-winged teal breeds from the Aleutian Islands, northern Alaska, Mackenzie River delta, northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador south to central California, central Nebraska, central Kansas, southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the Maritime Provinces.

The American green-winged teal winters from southern Alaska and southern British Columbia east to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and south to Central America. It also winters in Hawaii

Nesting chronology varies geographically. In North Dakota, green-winged teal generally begin nesting in late April. In the Northwest Territories, Canada, green-winged teal begin nesting between late May and early July. At Minto Lakes, Alaska, green-winged teal initiate nesting as early as June 1 and as late as July 20.

Green-winged teal become sexually mature their first winter. They lay 5 to 16 eggs. The incubation period is 21 to 23 days.

Green-winged teals often fledge 34 to 35 days after hatching or usually before 6 weeks of age. Young green-winged teal have the fastest growth rate of all ducks.

Male green-winged teal leave females at the start of incubation and congregate on safe waters to molt. Some populations undergo an extensive molt migration while others remain on or near breeding grounds. Females molt on breeding grounds.

Green-winged teal are among the earliest spring migrants. They arrive on nesting areas almost as soon as the snow melts. In early February, green-winged teal begin to depart their winter grounds, and continue through April. In central regions green-winged teal begin to arrive early in March with peak numbers in early April.

In northern areas of the United States, green-winged teal migrating to wintering grounds appear in early September through mid-December. They begin migrating into most central regions during September and often remain through December. On their more southerly winter areas, green-winged teal arrive as early as late September, but most do not appear until late November.

Green-winged teal inhabit inland lakes, marshes, ponds, pools, and shallow streams with dense emergent and aquatic vegetation. They prefer shallow waters and small ponds and pools during the breeding season. Green-winged teal are often found resting on mudbanks or stumps, or perching on low limbs of dead trees. These ducks nest in depressions on dry ground located at the base of shrubs, under a log, or in dense grass. The nests are usually 2 to 300 ft (0.61 to 91.44 m) from water. Green-winged teal avoid treeless or brushless habitats. Green-winged teal winter in both freshwater or brackish marshes, ponds, streams, and estuaries. As they are smaller birds, they tend to stay in the calmer water.

Green-winged teal, more than any other species of duck, prefer to seek food on mud flats. Where mud flats are lacking, they prefer shallow marshes or temporarily flooded agricultural lands. They usually eat vegetative matter consisting of seeds, stems, and leaves of aquatic and emergent vegetation. Green-winged teal appear to prefer the small seeds of nutgrasses (Cyperus spp.), millets (Panicum spp.), and sedges to larger seeds, but they also consume corn, wheat, barley, and buttonbush (Cephalanthus spp.) seeds. In marshes, sloughs, and ponds, green-winged teal select the seeds of bulrushes, pondweeds, and spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.). To a lesser extent they feed upon the vegetative parts of muskgrass (Chara spp.), pondweeds, widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima), and duckweeds (Lemna spp.). They will occasionally eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Occasionally during spring months, green-winged teal will gorge on maggots of decaying fish which are found around ponds.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot at the Muskegon County wastewater facility over the past few years.

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca in flight

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca in flight

 

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

This is number 200 in my photo life list, only 150 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Black Tern, Chlidonias niger

 

The black tern (Chlidonias niger or Chlidonias nigra) is a small tern generally found in or near inland water in Europe and North America. As its name suggests, it has predominantly dark plumage. In some lights it can appear blue in the breeding season, hence the old English name “blue darr”.

Adults are 25 cm (9.8 in) long, with a wingspan 61 cm (24 in), and weigh 62 g (2.2 oz). They have short dark legs and a short, weak-looking black bill, measuring 27 mm (1.1 in), nearly as long as the head. The bill is long, slender, and looks slightly decurved. They have a dark grey back, with a white forewing, black head, neck (occasionally suffused with grey in the adult) and belly, black or blackish-brown cap (which unites in color with the ear coverts, forming an almost complete hood), and a light brownish-grey, ‘square’ tail. The face is white. There is a big dark triangular patch in front of the eye, and a broadish white collar in juveniles. There are greyish-brown smudges on the ides of the white breast, a downwards extension of the plumage of the upperparts. These marks vary in size and are not conspicuous. In non-breeding plumage, most of the black, apart from the cap, is replaced by grey. The plumage of the upperparts is drab, with pale feather-edgings. The rump is brownish-grey.

The North American race, C. n. surinamensis, is distinguishable from the European form in all plumages, and is considered by some to be a separate species.

In flight, the build appears slim. The wing-beats are full and dynamic, and flight is often erratic as it dives to the surface for food; similar to other tern species.

Its call has been described as a high-pitched “kik”; the sound of a large flock has been called “deafening”.

Their breeding habitat is freshwater marshes across most of Canada, the northern United States and much of Europe and western Asia. They usually nest either on floating material in a marsh or on the ground very close to water, laying 2–4 eggs.

In England the black tern was abundant in the eastern fens, especially in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, until the early nineteenth century. The English naturalist Thomas Pennant in 1769 referred to “vast flocks” of black terns “whose calls are almost deafening”. Extensive drainage of its breeding grounds wiped out the English population by about 1840. Intermittent attempts by the species to recolonise England have proved unsuccessful, with only a handful of English breeding records, and one in Ireland, in the second half of the twentieth century.

North American black terns migrate to the coasts of northern South America, some to the open ocean. Old World birds winter in Africa.

Unlike the “white” Sterna terns, these birds do not dive for fish, but forage on the wing picking up items at or near the water’s surface or catching insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and fish as well as amphibians.

On to my photos:

These photos were shot at the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary over the past few years during my vacations to the area in May of each year. Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances, all my photos of this species are when they are in flight and the light was not that good.

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black terns in flight

Black terns in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

This is number 199 in my photo life list, only 151 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

The grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola), known as the black-bellied plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in Arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding.

They are 27–30 cm (11–12 in) long with a wingspan of 71–83 cm (28–33 in) and a weight of 190–280 g (6.7–9.9 oz) (up to 345 g (12.2 oz) in preparation for migration). In spring and summer (late April or May to August), the adults are spotted black and white on the back and wings. The face and neck are black with a white border; they have a black breast and belly and a white rump. The tail is white with black barring. The bill and legs are black. They moult to winter plumage in mid August to early September and retain this until April; this being a fairly plain grey above, with a grey-speckled breast and white belly. The juvenile and first-winter plumages, held by young birds from fledging until about one year old, are similar to the adult winter plumage but with the back feathers blacker with creamy white edging. In all plumages, the inner flanks and axillary feathers at the base of the underwing are black, a feature which readily distinguishes it from the other three Pluvialis species in flight. On the ground, it can also be told from the other Pluvialis species by its larger (24–34 mm (0.94–1.34 in)), heavier bill.

Their breeding habitat is Arctic islands and coastal areas across the northern coasts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. They nest on the ground in a dry open tundra with good visibility; the nest is a shallow gravel scrape. Four eggs (sometimes only three) are laid in early June, with an incubation period of 26–27 days; the chicks fledge when 35–45 days old.

They migrate to winter in coastal areas throughout the world. In the New World they winter from southwest British Columbia and Massachusetts south to Argentina and Chile, in the western Old World from Britain and southwestern Norway south throughout coastal Africa to South Africa, and in the eastern Old World, from southern Japan south throughout coastal southern Asia and Australia, with a few reaching New Zealand. Most of the migrants to Australia are female. It makes regular non-stop transcontinental flights over Asia, Europe, and North America, but is mostly a rare vagrant on the ground in the interior of continents, only landing occasionally if forced down by severe weather, or to feed on the coast-like shores of very large lakes such as the Great Lakes, where it is a common passage migrant.

Young birds do not breed until two years old; they typically remain on the wintering grounds until their second summer.

They forage for food on beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. The food consists of small molluscs, polychaete worms, crustaceans, and insects. It is less gregarious than the other Pluvialis species, not forming dense feeding flocks, instead feeding widely dispersed over beaches, with birds well spaced apart. They will however form dense flocks on high tide roosts.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot on a number of my visits to the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility over the past few years.

Black-bellied plover, winter plumage

Black-bellied plover, winter plumage

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

This is number 198 in my photo life list, only 152 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

The common tern (Sterna hirundo) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a circumpolar distribution, its four subspecies breeding in temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. It is strongly migratory, wintering in coastal tropical and subtropical regions. Breeding adults have light grey upperparts, white to very light grey underparts, a black cap, orange-red legs, and a narrow pointed bill. Depending on the subspecies, the bill may be mostly red with a black tip or all black. There are a number of similar species, including the partly sympatric Arctic tern, which can be separated on plumage details, leg and bill colour, or vocalisations.

Breeding in a wider range of habitats than any of its relatives, the common tern nests on any flat, poorly vegetated surface close to water, including beaches and islands, and it readily adapts to artificial substrates such as floating rafts. The nest may be a bare scrape in sand or gravel, but it is often lined or edged with whatever debris is available. Up to three eggs may be laid, their dull colours and blotchy patterns providing camouflage on the open beach. Incubation is by both sexes, and the eggs hatch in around 21–22 days, longer if the colony is disturbed by predators. The downy chicks fledge in 22–28 days. Like most terns, this species feeds by plunge-diving for fish, either in the sea or in freshwater, but molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrate prey may form a significant part of the diet in some areas.

Eggs and young are vulnerable to predation by mammals such as rats and American mink, and large birds including gulls, owls and herons. Common terns may be infected by lice, parasitic worms, and mites, although blood parasites appear to be rare. Its large population and huge breeding range mean that this species is classed as being of least concern, although numbers in North America have declined sharply in recent decades. Despite international legislation protecting the common tern, in some areas populations are threatened by habitat loss, pollution or the disturbance of breeding colonies.

The  common tern is 31–35 cm (12–14 in) long, including a 6–9 cm (2.4–3.5 in) fork in the tail, with a 77–98 cm (30–39 in) wingspan. It weighs 110–141 g (3.9–5.0 oz). Breeding adults have pale grey upperparts, very pale grey underparts, a black cap, orange-red legs, and a narrow pointed bill that can be mostly red with a black tip, or all black, depending on the subspecies. The common tern’s upperwings are pale grey, but as the summer wears on, the dark feather shafts of the outer flight feathers become exposed, and a grey wedge appears on the wings. The rump and tail are white, and on a standing bird the long tail extends no further than the folded wingtips, unlike the Arctic and roseate terns in which the tail protrudes beyond the wings. There are no significant differences between the sexes. In non-breeding adults the forehead and underparts become white, the bill is all black or black with a red base, and the legs are dark red or black. The upperwings have an obvious dark area at the front edge of the wing, the carpal bar. Terns that have not bred successfully may start moulting into non-breeding adult plumage from June, but late July is more typical, with the moult suspended during migration. There is also some geographical variation, Californian birds often being in non-breeding plumage during migration.

Juvenile common terns have pale grey upperwings with a dark carpal bar. The crown and nape are brown, and the forehead is ginger, wearing to white by autumn. The upperparts are ginger with brown and white scaling, and the tail lacks the adult’s long outer feathers. Birds in their first post-juvenile plumage, which normally remain in their wintering areas, resemble the non-breeding adult, but have a duskier crown, dark carpal bar, and often very worn plumage. By their second year, most young terns are either indistinguishable from adults, or show only minor differences such as a darker bill or white forehead.

The common tern is an agile flyer, capable of rapid turns and swoops, hovering, and vertical take-off. When commuting with fish, it flies close to the surface in a strong head wind, but 10–30 m (33–98 ft) above the water in a following wind. Unless migrating, normally it stays below 100 m (330 ft), and averages 30 km/h (19 mph) in the absence of a tail wind. Its average flight speed during the nocturnal migration flight is 43–54 km/h (27–34 mph) at a height of 1,000–3,000 m (3,300–9,800 ft).

The common tern breeds in colonies which do not normally exceed 2,000 pairs, but may occasionally number more than 20,000 pairs. Colonies inland tend to be smaller than on the coast. Common terns often nest alongside other coastal species, such as Arctic, roseate and Sandwich terns, black-headed gulls, and black skimmers. Especially in the early part of the breeding season, for no known reason, most or all of the terns will fly in silence low and fast out to sea. This phenomenon is called a “dread”.
On their return to the breeding sites, the terns may loiter for a few days before settling into a territory, and the actual start of nesting may be linked to a high availability of fish. Terns defend only a small area, with distances between nests sometimes being as little as 50 cm (20 in), although 150–350 cm (59–138 in) is more typical. As with many birds, the same site is re-used year after year, with a record of one pair returning for 17 successive breeding seasons. Around 90% of experienced birds reuse their former territory, so young birds must nest on the periphery, find a bereaved mate, or move to another colony. A male selects a nesting territory a few days after his arrival in the spring, and is joined by his previous partner unless she is more than five days late, in which case the pair may separate.

The defence of the territory is mainly by the male, who repels intruders of either sex. He gives an alarm call, opens his wings, raises his tail and bows his head to show the black cap. If the intruder persists, the male stops calling and fights by bill grappling until the intruder submits by raising its head to expose the throat. Aerial trespassers are simply attacked, sometimes following a joint upward spiralling flight. Despite the aggression shown to adults, wandering chicks are usually tolerated, whereas in a gull colony they would be attacked and killed. The nest is defended until the chicks have fledged, and all the adults in the colony will collectively repel potential predators.

Pairs are established or confirmed through aerial courtship displays in which a male and a female fly in wide circles up to 200 m (660 ft) or more, calling all the while, before the two birds descend together in zigzag glides. If the male is carrying a fish, he may attract the attention of other males too. On the ground, the male courts the female by circling her with his tail and neck raised, head pointing down, and wings partially open. If she responds, they may both adopt a posture with the head pointed skywards. The male may tease a female with the fish, not parting with his offering until she has displayed to him sufficiently. Once courtship is complete, the male makes a shallow depression in the sand, and the female scratches in the same place. Several trials may take place until the pair settle on a site for the actual nest. The eggs may be laid on bare sand, gravel or soil, but a lining of debris or vegetation is often added if available,[44] or the nest may be rimmed with seaweed, stones or shells. The saucer-shaped scrape is typically 4 cm (1.6 in) deep and 10 cm (3.9 in) across, but may extend to as much as 24 cm (9.4 in) wide including the surrounding decorative material. Breeding success in areas prone to flooding has been enhanced by the provision of artificial mats made from eelgrass, which encourage the terns to nest in higher, less vulnerable areas, since many prefer the mats to bare sand. The common tern tends to use more nest material than roseate or Arctic terns, although roseate often nests in areas with more growing vegetation.

Terns are expert at locating their nests in a large colony. Studies show that terns can find and excavate their eggs when they are buried, even if the nest material is removed and the sand smoothed over. They will find a nest placed 5 m (16 ft) from its original site, or even further if it is moved in several stages.

The peak time for egg production is early May, with some birds, particularly first-time breeders, laying later in the month or in June. The clutch size is normally three eggs; larger clutches probably result from two females laying in the same nest. Egg size averages 41 mm × 31 mm (1.6 in × 1.2 in), although each successive egg in a clutch is slightly smaller than the first laid. The average egg weight is 20.2 g (0.71 oz), of which 5% is shell. The egg weight depends on how well-fed the female is, as well as on its position in the clutch. The eggs are cream, buff, or pale brown, marked with streaks, spots or blotches of black, brown or grey which help to camouflage them. Incubation is by both sexes, although more often by the female, and lasts 21–22 days, extending to 25 days if there are frequent disturbances at the colony which cause the adults to leave the eggs unattended, nocturnal predation may lead to incubation taking up to 34 days. On hot days the incubating parent may fly to water to wet its belly feathers before returning to the eggs, thus affording the eggs some cooling. Except when the colony suffers disaster, 90% of the eggs hatch. The precocial downy chick is yellowish with black or brown markings, and like the eggs, is similar to the equivalent stage of the Arctic tern. The chicks fledge in 22–28 days, usually 25–26. Fledged juveniles are fed at the nest for about five days, and then accompany the adults on fishing expeditions. The young birds may receive supplementary feeds from the parents until the end of the breeding season, and beyond. Common terns have been recorded feeding their offspring on migration and in the wintering grounds, at least until the adults move further south in about December.

Like many terns, this species is very defensive of its nest and young, and will harass humans, dogs, muskrats and most diurnal birds, but unlike the more aggressive Arctic tern, it rarely hits the intruder, usually swerving off at the last moment. Adults can discriminate between individual humans, attacking familiar people more intensely than strangers. Nocturnal predators do not elicit similar attacks, colonies can be wiped out by rats, and adults desert the colony for up to eight hours when great horned owls are present.

Like all Sterna terns, the common tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, from a height of 1–6 m (3.3–19.7 ft), either in the sea or in freshwater lakes and large rivers. The bird may submerge for a second or so, but to no more than 50 cm (20 in) below the surface. When seeking fish, this tern flies head-down and with its bill held vertically. It may circle or hover before diving, and then plunges directly into the water, whereas the Arctic tern favours a “stepped-hover” technique,[86] and the roseate tern dives at speed from a greater height, and submerges for longer. The common tern typically forages up to 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) away from the breeding colony, sometimes as far as 15 km (9.3 mi). It will follow schools of fish, and its west African migration route is affected by the location of huge shoals of sardines off the coast of Ghana, it will also track groups of predatory fish or dolphins, waiting for their prey to be driven to the sea’s surface. Terns often feed in flocks, especially if food is plentiful, and the fishing success rate in a flock is typically about one-third higher than for individuals.

Terns have red oil droplets in the cone cells of the retinas of their eyes. This improves contrast and sharpens distance vision, especially in hazy conditions. Birds that have to see through an air/water interface, such as terns and gulls, have more strongly coloured carotenoid pigments in the cone oil drops than other avian species. The improved eyesight helps terns to locate shoals of fish, although it is uncertain whether they are sighting the phytoplankton on which the fish feed, or observing other terns diving for food. Tern’s eyes are not particularly ultraviolet sensitive, an adaptation more suited to terrestrial feeders like the gulls.

On to my photos:

These photos were shot in May of 2015 at the channel at Grand Haven, Michigan.

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

 

 

This is number 197 in my photo life list, only 153 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck. This chest band is usually thicker in males during the breeding season, and it’s the only reliable way to tell the sexes apart. The bird is difficult to see when it is standing still, as it blends well with open, sandy beach habitats. It typically runs in short spurts and stops.

Total population is currently estimated at about 6,510 individuals. A preliminary estimate showed 3,350 birds in 2003 on the Atlantic Coast alone, 52% of the total. The population has been increasing since 1999.

Their breeding habitat includes beaches or sand flats on the Atlantic coast, the shores of the Great Lakes, and in the mid-west of Canada and the United States. They nest on sandy or gravel beaches or shoals. These shorebirds forage for food on beaches, usually by sight, moving across the beaches in short bursts. Generally, piping plovers will forage for food around the high tide wrack zone and along the water’s edge. They eat mainly insects, marine worms, and crustaceans.

The piping plover is a stout bird with a large rounded head, a short thick neck, and a stubby bill. It is a sand-colored, dull gray/khaki, sparrow-sized shorebird. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck during the breeding season. During nonbreeding season, the black bands become less pronounced. Its bill is orange with a black tip. It ranges from 15–19 cm (5.9–7.5 in) in length, with a wingspan of 35–41 cm (14–16 in) and a mass of 42–64 g (1.5–2.3 oz).

Flight call is a soft, whistled peep peep given by standing and flying birds. Its frequently heard alarm call is a soft pee-werp, which the second syllable lower pitched.

Piping plovers migrate from their northern range in the summer to the south in the winter months, migrating to the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and the Caribbean. They begin migrating north beginning in mid-March. Their breeding grounds extend from southern Newfoundland south to the northern parts of South Carolina. They begin mating and nesting on the beach in mid-April.

Males will begin claiming territories and pairing up in late March. When pairs are formed, the male begins digging out several scrapes (nests) along the high shore near the beach-grass line. The males also perform elaborate courtship ceremonies, including stone tossing and courtship flights featuring repeated dives. Scrapes, small depressions in the sand dug by kicking the sand, are often in the same area that least terns choose to colonize. Females will sit and evaluate the scrapes, then choose a good scrape and decorate the nest with shells and debris to camouflage it. Once a scrape is seen as sufficient, the female will allow the male to copulate with her. The male begins a mating ritual of standing upright and “marching” towards the female, puffing himself up and quickly stomping his legs. If the female had seen the scrape as adequate, she will allow the male to stand on her back and copulation occurs within a few minutes.

Most first-time nest attempts in each breeding season are 4-egg nests which appear as early as mid-to-late April. Females lay one egg every other day. Second, third and sometimes fourth nesting attempts may have only three or two eggs. Incubation of the nest is shared by both the male and the female. Incubation is generally 27 days and eggs usually all hatch on the same day.

After chicks hatch, they are able to feed within hours. The adults’ role is then to protect them from the elements by brooding them. They also alert them to any danger. Like many other species of plovers, adult piping plovers will often feign a “broken wing display”, drawing attention to themselves and away from the chicks when a predator may be threatening the chicks’ safety. The broken wing display is also used during the nesting period to distract predators from the nest. A major defense mechanism of the chicks is their ability to blend in with the sand. It takes about 30 days before chicks achieve flight capability. They must be able to fly at least 50 yd (46 m) before they can be considered fledglings.

To protect the nests from predators during incubation, many conservationists use exclosures, such as round turkey-wire cages with screened tops. These allow the adults to move in and out but stop predators from getting to the eggs. After the chicks hatch, many areas will put up snow fencing to restrict driving and pets for the safety of the chicks. Threats to nests include crows, cats, raccoons, and foxes, among others. Exclosures are not always used, as they occasionally draw more attention to the nest than would occur without the exclosure. Natural hazards to eggs or chicks include storms, high winds, and abnormal high tides; human disturbances can cause the abandonment of nests and chicks as well. It is best to stay away from any bird that appears distressed to prevent any unintended consequences.

Migration south begins in August for some adults and fledglings, and by mid-September most piping plovers have headed south for winter.

Inconspicuous birds of dry sandy beaches, plovers breed in open sand, gravel, or shell-strewn beaches and alkali flats. Each nest site is typically near small clumps of grass, drift, or other windbreak. In winter, these birds prefer sand beaches and mudflats. Migrants are seldom seen inland, but occasionally show up at lake shores, river bars, or alkali flats. Individuals forage visually in typical plover fashion, employing a run-stop-scan technique. Plovers capture prey by leaning forward and picking at surfaces; they also employ a “foot-tremble” feeding method, causing prey to move and become more conspicuous. Feeding by day and night, they eat a wide variety of aquatic marine worms, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Seldom found in large numbers except at a few favored wintering or staging sites where numbers sometimes reach 100 or more, plovers are more typically seen in pairs or in groups of 3 or 4. When approached, they more often run than fly.

The piping plover is globally threatened and endangered, it is uncommon and local within its range, and has been listed by the United States as Endangered in the Great Lakes region and Threatened in the remainder of its breeding range. While it is federally threatened, the piping plover has been listed as state endangered in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

On to my photos:

These photos were shot in July of 2015 at Muskegon State Park, where a pair of the plovers had nested. The photos are of a juvenile piping plover, I was hoping that an adult would show up also, but since they are an endangered species here in Michigan, I didn’t want to be in the same area as the chick for very long.  I’m sure that I’ll eventually photograph an adult, but I’ll post this one now anyway, then add the adult when I find one.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Ha, it turns out that the day after I posted this one, I found the adults.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

This is number 196 in my photo life list, only 154 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Common eider (Somateria mollissima)

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Common eider (Somateria mollissima)

The common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).

The common eider is both the largest of the four eider species and the largest duck found in Europe and in North America (except for the Muscovy duck which only reaches North America in a wild state in southernmost Texas and south Florida). It measures 50 to 71 cm (20 to 28 in) in length, weighs 0.81 to 3.04 kg (1.8 to 6.7 lb) and spans 80–110 cm (31–43 in) across the wings. The average weight of 22 males in the North Atlantic was 2.21 kg (4.9 lb) while 32 females weighed an average of 1.92 kg (4.2 lb). It is characterized by its bulky shape and large, wedge-shaped bill. The male is unmistakable, with its black and white plumage and green nape. The female is a brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks, except other eider species, on the basis of size and head shape. The drake’s display call is a strange almost human-like “ah-ooo,” while the hen utters hoarse quacks. The species is often readily approachable.

This species dives for crustaceans and molluscs, with mussels being a favoured food. The eider will eat mussels by swallowing them whole; the shells are then crushed in their gizzard and excreted. When eating a crab, the eider will remove all of its claws and legs, and then eat the body in a similar fashion.

It is abundant, with populations of about 1.5–2 million birds in both North America and Europe, and also large but unknown numbers in eastern Siberia.

Eiders are colonial breeders. They nest on coastal islands in colonies ranging in size of less than 100 to upwards of 10,000-15,000 individuals. Female eiders frequently exhibit a high degree of natal philopatry, where they return to breed on the same island where they were hatched. This can lead to a high degree of relatedness between individuals nesting on the same island, as well as the development of kin-based female social structures. This relatedness has likely played a role in the evolution of co-operative breeding behaviours amongst eiders. Examples of these behaviours include laying eggs in the nests of related individuals and crèching, where female eiders team up and share the work of rearing ducklings.

A particularly famous colony of eiders lives on the Farne Islands in Northumberland, England. These birds were the subject of one of the first ever bird protection laws, established by Saint Cuthbert in the year 676. About 1,000 pairs still nest there every year. Because St. Cuthbert is the patron saint of Northumberland, it was natural that the eider should be chosen as the county’s emblem bird; the birds are still often called Cuddy’s ducks in the area, “Cuddy” being the familiar form of “Cuthbert”.

 

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot in March of 2015 at the Muskegon Lake channel to Lake Michigan. I was holding off doing this post, hoping for better photos, and possibly getting photos of a male, but this species is such a rare visitor to Michigan that it is highly unlikely that I’ll ever see this species again. In fact, it wasn’t even on the list from the Audubon Society that I’m working from originally, I had to add it to the list.

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

Common eider

Common eider

 

This is number 195 in my photo life list, only 155 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

The orchard oriole (Icterus spurius) is the smallest North American species of icterid blackbird.

The breeding habitat is semi-open areas with deciduous trees. The orchard oriole breeds in spring across eastern North America from near the Canada–United States border south to central Mexico. A 2009 study also found breeding in the thorn forest of Baja California Sur and the coast of Sinaloa during the summer “monsoon”. This region had previously been thought to be only a migratory stopover (Rohwer, Hobson, and Rohwer, 2009). These birds enjoy living in shaded trees within parks along lakes and streams. The nest is a tightly woven pouch attached to a fork on a horizontal branch. Their nests tend to sit close together.

While in breeding season, they eat insects and spiders. When the season changes, their diet also includes ripe fruit, which quickly passes through their digestive tract. During the winter, their diet consists of fruit, nectar, insects and seeds.

When in flight, orchard orioles generally swoop close to the ground and fly at or below treetop level

During courtship, females display themselves in three ways. The first is by bowing their head and torso toward the male. Seesawing, the second courtship display, involves repetitively alternating lowering and raising the head and tail. The third display is begging, which is fast-paced fluttering of wings halfway extended, followed by a high whistle.

 

On to my photos:

The photos of the adult male were shot in May of 2015 at the Muskegon County wastewater facility. They aren’t very good, but they are enough to make a positive ID of the species. The female and juvenile were shot around home here the past few years. Why I never see an adult male around home when the species is obviously around baffles me.

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Adult male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Juvenile male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Female Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Juvenile male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Female Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Juvenile male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Female Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Female Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Juvenile male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

 

Female Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

Juvenile male Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius

This is number 194 in my photo life list, only 156 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is a medium-sized sea duck of the genus Bucephala, the goldeneyes. This bird was named after Sir John Barrow.

Adults are similar in appearance to the common goldeneye. Adult males have a dark head with a purplish gloss and a white crescent at the front of the face. Adult females have a mostly yellow bill. The male Barrow’s goldeneye differs from the male common goldeneye in the fact that the common goldeneye has a round white patches on the face, less black on the back of the bird, and a larger bill. For the females, the common goldeneye has a less rounded head, and a bill in which only the tip is yellow.

Their breeding habitat consists of wooded lakes and ponds primarily in northwestern North America, but also in scattered locations in eastern Canada and Iceland. Females return to the same breeding sites year after year and also tend to use the same nesting sites. The males stay with their mate through the winter and defend their territory during the breeding season, then leave for the molting site. Mating pairs often stay intact even though the male and female are apart for long periods of time over the summer during molting times. The pair then reunites at wintering areas.

They are migratory and most winter in protected coastal waters or open inland waters. Barrow’s goldeneye, along with many other species of sea ducks, rely on urbanized, coastal estuaries as important places on their migration patterns. These estuaries provide excellent wintering and stopping places during the ducks’ migration.

These diving birds forage underwater. They eat aquatic insects, crustaceans and pond vegetation. The main staples of the bird’s diet are Gammarus oceanicus and Calliopus laeviusculus, which are both marine crustaceans. A large part of their diet consists of mussels and gastropods.

The Barrow’s goldeneye is considered an arboreal bird species because much of its nesting is done in cavities found in mature trees. The birds will also nest in burrows or protected sites on the ground. Barrow’s goldeneyes tend not to share habitat with the much more numerous common goldeneye. Barrow’s goldeneye tend to be territorial towards other birds venturing into their domain. This is especially true among the drakes. Confrontations may occur in the form of fighting. Drakes often do a form of territorial display along the boundaries of their territory. This is both true on land and in the water. These territorial displays average about 6 minutes in length and often trigger other males to perform their own show.

Very little is known about the breeding sites and patterns of the Barrow’s goldeneye. After the breeding season, the birds migrate to specific molting sites to undergo molting, the loss and regeneration of feathers which causes them to be flightless for anywhere from 20–40 days. These molting sites are often wetlands that are more drought resistant and plentiful in food, along with being less influenced by humans and predators.

The Barrow’s goldeneye was greatly affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. The spill greatly impacted the bird’s wintering areas, and numbers of the birds in these areas decreased after the spill. The birds’ exposure to the oil spill mainly occurred in the shallow water mussel beds along the coast.

The Barrow’s goldeneye is a relatively quiet bird that generally only makes vocalizations during the breeding season and courtship. These can include low volume squeaks, grunts and croaks. During flights, the fast movement of the bird’s wings creates a low whistling sound

 

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot way back in February of 2014 at the channel that runs from Muskegon Lake to Lake Michigan. These aren’t very good, but they are enough to make a positive ID of the species.

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

 

This is number 193 in my photo life list, only 157 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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