Saturday, May 29, 2010

Exotics, Part 1

Missouri Exotics

Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
European Starling
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

These introduced species have, for the most part, been extremely successful in colonizing North America. The one exception in Missouri is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow which is confined mainly to the St. Louis area.

The House Finch could also be considered an "exotic", although it was introduced from within the United States. Originally a bird of western deserts, grasslands and forests, it was introduced to New York in 1940 and has rapidly spread its range westward.

Rock Pigeon
Columba livia

House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus

Barn Swallow

This is the bird most people think of when they think of swallows. If you have a barn or other open outbuilding, chances are you have Barn Swallows. They also like to nest in boat docks, shelter houses, or car ports.

The Barn Swallow and the Cliff Swallow can be easily confused. Unlike Barn Swallows, Cliff Swallows prefer to nest colonially under bridges or under the eaves of large buildings. I used to have a colony outside my window at a previous job.

The easiest way to tell these two swallows apart is tail shape. The Barn Swallow has a large deeply forked tail, while the Cliff Swallow has a shorter rounded tail and a pale patch on the back above the tail (rump).

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Ring-Billed Gull

The most common gull seen regularly in Missouri is the Ring-Billed Gull. It is found most frequently near lakes and rivers, but like most gulls it will go anywhere the food is, especially garbage dumps. Although they're really only considered to be residents of Missouri in winter, I've seen them year-round at Lake of the Ozarks.

Another common gull seen in Missouri is the Herring Gull, which is considerably larger and lacks the distinctive ring around the bill.

This series of pictures was taken in February 2009 at Blue Springs Lake.

Ring-Billed Gull Larus delawarensis


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Barred Owl

One of my favorite sets of pictures is this encounter with a Barred Owl from spring 2009. I was hiking along the Little Blue Trace trail with a group of Boy Scouts from my troop.

Another adult pointed out the profile of a large bird off in the distance. We snuck down there and found a Barred Owl perching on a downed tree in broad daylight. It was very approachable, and only flew off to a tree after I approached it to within 10 yards or so. We continued on our hike and on the return, there it was again. Again, it let me approach very closely and was very patient with me while I snapped away.

Chances are you've heard a Barred Owl, even if you've never seen one. It's the owl that sounds like it's saying "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all".

Barred Owl Strix varia


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Double-Crested Cormorants

I mentioned in a previous post that there had been hundreds of Double-Crested Cormorants in the backwaters of Blue Springs Lake. Here are a few pictures taken on April 21, 2010. That many cormorants must eat a lot of fish! I suspect they were in the area because the shad were spawning. Cormorants take a lot of heat for eating game fish, but I suspect they look for easier pickings. Anyway, most of them have sinced moved on, since the last time I was in that area, there were only a few left.

Double-Crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus

Of course, there were plenty of birds to see here. There are almost always turkey vultures taking advantage of the updrafts around the dam, as well as many types of swallows.

The song of this Eastern Meadowlark tipped me off to his presence.

Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna

Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias

From a distance and based on the profile, I thought this was a Hooded Merganser. As I got closer, I saw the yellow tufts and dug out the trusty Sibley Guide. The Horned Grebe is not a resident in Missouri, but passes through on migration. This is the first time I've seen one.

Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus


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For the complete Flickr set, click here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Winter birds at the feeders

One of the good things about birding is that you can do it in the winter from the comfort of your heated house. All you need is some feeders. I've found that adding suet and peanut butter feeders brings in a lot more birds.

Winter lasted a long time this year in the Kansas City area. It snowed in April!

Red-Winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus

Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

American Goldfinch Spinus tristis

Harris's Sparrow Zonotrichia querula

Dark-Eyed Junco Junco hyemalis

White-Throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis

American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea

Northern Cardinal
Cardinalis cardinalis

Monday, May 24, 2010

More break time birds

It's great having a park (Longview Lake) right down the road from my job. The only time I had to get out of the car was for the Cliff Swallows. As usual, they were from a nesting colony under a bridge.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Meadowlark

Cliff Swallow

Eastern Phoebe


Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus


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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

I have been chasing this species for 2 years and never got a single good picture until today! I was talking up Summer Reading Program at the middle school. I had a gap of about an hour between classes so I took a quick run around the corner to Longview Lake. And there it was, sitting in the middle of the road...

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus


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