Monday, January 31, 2011

Citizen science - Focus on Feeders

Citizen science project offer the opportunity to regular people to contribute to on-going science projects being conducted all around the world. I will be posting various Citizen Science projects that might be of interest to you and your family.

If you have bird feeders in your yard, one local project you and your parents might like to participate in is Massachusetts Audubon's "Focus on Feeders Weekend" project. To participate, you check your feeders periodically throughout the weekend and note the number of species in view at any one time. At the end of the weekend, record the maximum number of birds observed at any one time for each species. You can submit your results on-line or mail in a data chart.
Observations from the bird watching public contribute to a growing database that can provide early warning signs on changes in abundance of bird species that visit feeders. For example, feeder watching in Massachusetts has helped document the decline of House Finch as a result of conjunctivitis, and the northward expansion of Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Wren in response to warmer winters.
For more information and details about this project, click on the link below.

Bird of the Week XlX - Monday, February 1st, 2011

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the House sparrow. The House Sparrow is not native to North America. It was introduced into Brooklyn, New York, in 1851 and has now spread successfully across North America. The House sparrow is the noisy sparrow-like bird you see nesting in store signs and in and around buildings. The House sparrow almost always stays near people and their buildings.

The House sparrow is a small, stocky songbird with a thick bill. It is about 6 -7 inches long with a wingspan of about 7 - 10 inches. It has wing bars and an unstreaked chest. The male has a black throat and white cheeks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bird of the Week XVlll - Monday, January 24th, 2011

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. If you are a back yard bird feeder, you have probably had a Sharped-shinned hawk zip through your yard attempting to catch a bird. The "Sharpies" are built to chase and catch small birds. They will hunt birds using a low, stealthy approach-flight or after a short chase. They use cover such as trees and bushes, and man-made structures like fences, to conceal approach. They will catch birds at bird feeders, too.

The Sharp-shinned hawk is a small hawk with a long, barred tail that ends with a square tip. Its wings are short and rounded. The adults have a blue-gray back and wings with reddish barring on their underparts.

The female Sharp-shinned hawk is about the size of a Blue Jay or a Mourning Dove, with the female bigger than the male.

Sightings of Sharp-shinned hawks in our area have dropped over the past 10 years. We are now seeing more Cooper's Hawks at feeders. It can be a challenge to tell the two species apart.

Listen to a Bird Note show about Sharp-shinned hawks.
Photos from All About Birds.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bird of the Week XVll - Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the American goldfinch. The Am. goldfinch is a small, colorful, abundant songbird. American Goldfinch is frequently found in weedy fields where it eats the seeds of weeds, flowers, and other plants. It is a common visitor to backyard bird feeders where it will often appear in flocks.
The Goldfinch is a small bird, about 4 - 5 inches long, with a small, pink, pointed, conical bill. It's wings are dark with large, white wingbars. The body is bright yellow to a dull brown and it's tail is short and notched. The breeding male is a bright yellow with a black cap and wings.

The American Goldfinch is one of the latest nesting birds. It usually does not start until late June or early July, when most other songbirds are finishing with breeding. The late timing may be related to the availability of suitable nesting materials and seeds for feeding young.

Photos from All About Birds.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bird of the Week - XVl Monday, January 10th, 2011

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the White-breasted nuthatch. The "upside down" bird is a common bird of deciduous forests and wooded suburbs. The White-breasted Nuthatch can be seen hopping headfirst down the trunks of trees in search of insect food. It frequents bird feeders and takes sunflower seeds off to the side of a tree, where it wedges them into a crevice and hammers them open. In winter, the White-breasted Nuthatch joins foraging(feeding) flocks of Chickadees and Tufted titmice. This behavior helps protect the flock of birds from predators.

The White-breasted nuthatch is about 5 -6 inches long and has a mass of between 18 - 30 grams. It's upper parts are blue-gray with a bright white face and underparts. It's long bill is straight or slightly upcurved. The males and females look alike with the male having a black cap and the female having a grayer cap. They eat insects, seeds, and nuts.  Its call is a yank-yank-yank.

A similar species is the Brown creeper.  Brown creepers move along tree trunks like nuthatches, however, they most often travel up the tree trunk while the White-breasted nuthatch usually climbs headfirst down the trunk.  The Brown creeper is also brown instead of gray, with a much longer tail.  The Red-breasted nuthatch is browner and has a white line through its eye.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bird of the Week - #15 - Monday, January 3rd, 2011

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the House finch. The House finch is a bright red and brown-striped bird of the cities and suburbs. The House Finch comes readily to feeders. It also breeds in close association with people, and often chooses a hanging plant in which to put its nest.

The House finch is a medium-sized finch, about 5 - 6 inches long with a wingspan of about 8 - 10 inches. The male is bright red on it's head, chest, and rump and the female is brown and striped. It has a short, thick bill that is rounded on the top edge. It has two, thin, white wing bars. The House finch can easily be confused with the less common, but similar looking Purple finch. Click here for an article about telling the 2 species apart.
The House Finch was originally a bird of the southwestern United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, and they quickly started breeding. They spread across the entire eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years. In the early 1990's, the House finch population was greatly reduced due to an avian (bird) form of conjunctivitis.

The House finch forages (feeds) in small flocks, usually in trees, but often on ground and uses bird feeders extensively. It will eat buds, seeds, and fruits.

Photos from All About Birds.