"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Monday, November 24, 2014

Male turkeys are the gobblers

Photo by Lee Anne Russell --From the Cornell Lab website
Did you know that in the spring a male turkey's gobble can be heard a mile away?

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Male turkeys are called “gobblers” because of their famous call, which is their version of a rooster’s crow. It’s a loud, shrill, descending, throaty jumble of sound that lasts about a second. Males often gobble from their treetop roosts, where the sound carries better than on the ground. They use it to attract females and in response to other males—sometimes one male’s call can lead to a group of others joining in. Both males and females cackle as they fly down from roosts, give very short, soft purring calls while traveling on foot, and give a long series of yelps to reassemble a flock after it has become scattered. Young turkeys whistle three or four times to their flockmates when they’re lost.

To find wild turkeys it helps to get up early in the morning, when flocks of these large birds are often out foraging in clearings, field edges, and roadsides. Keep an eye out as you drive along forest edges, particularly forests with nut-bearing trees such as oak and hickory, and you may even see turkeys from your car. In spring and summer, listen for gobbling males; the calls are loud, distinctive, and they carry great distances. You’ll usually find turkeys on the ground, but don’t be surprised if you run across a group of turkeys flying high into their treetop roosts at the end of the day.

According to the observations listed on eBird: You can find wild turkeys in the Cleveland National Forest and other woodlands in San Diego County from Vista south to El Cajon and east to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Happy Thanksgiving from JJ The Backyard Birder!! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hummingbird nesting season starts early in Southern California

Find nesting material at local nature stores.

It may seem like the wrong time of year, but hummingbirds have begun nesting in Southern California. Here hummingbird nesting season runs late October through early June.

Female hummingbirds build the nest, sit on the eggs and care for the chicks without assistance from the male. And this hard-working mother has four or five clutches a season.  She typically lays two eggs per clutch, though not all eggs are viable and many chicks do not survive.  The eggs hatch within 16-18 days.  The babies fledge approximately 21-28 days from the date of hatching.

Please comment if you've already seen a nest this season.
Happy Birding!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Band-tailed pigeons are large but not in charge

A chunky body, white ring on nape and yellow bill and feet help distinguish the band-tailed pigeon from other species. Photo by J.J. Meyer
In case you missed my story in today's Orange County Register, here it is:

             Roger DuPlessis has recorded 53 different bird species that have visited his back yard since he began birding about 22 years ago. 
             “Not bad for a little 30-by-30 foot yard in residential Irvine,” DuPlessis said.
            Of all his avian visitors, his favorite is the band-tailed pigeon. It’s also one of the largest birds that have visited his yard.  Though they’ve been scarce lately, he said “five came like clockwork every morning and evening last spring and summer.”  The group included three adults and two juveniles.
He still tosses seed on the ground for them daily in hope they’ll return.
Though band-tailed pigeons are larger than most feeder birds and often travel in flocks, they’re not recognized as a threat so the smaller birds are not scared off, he said.
These large pigeons can measure up to 15.7 inches in length, which is slightly larger than a rock pigeon, but smaller than an American crow. They have stocky bodies with small heads; long, rounded tails with a wide pale band at the tip; pointed wings; a dark-tipped yellow bill and yellow feet and legs.  Though their plumage is pale gray overall, a purplish sheen is noticeable on the head and breast. A narrow, white band on its neck is absent in juveniles. They resemble rock pigeons in flight.
Though related, band-tailed pigeons are easy to distinguish from mourning doves because of their size.  Band-tailed pigeons are from the family Columbidae, which includes doves and pigeons.  They are strong, fast fliers, and tend to travel in large flocks in search of nuts, fruits, and seeds on the ground and in trees.  Their call is a slow one- or two-syllable coo, which can sound somewhat like an owl.
These birds can be found in oak or oak-conifer woodlands in the Southwest, but are becoming increasingly common in suburban residential areas.  They are year-round residents in California. Band-tailed pigeons that breed along the northern Pacific coast usually migrate to central California or farther south in the fall, while most individuals from the Southwest move south of the Mexican border.
Band-tailed pigeons are occasionally referred to as the “blue rock,” because of the blue-gray hue of its back and its resemblance to the closely related rock pigeon. The two species are similar in size, posture, movements and behavior. While the rock pigeon is a widespread introduced species, the band-tailed pigeon is native to western North America.
Band-tailed pigeons are attracted to berry bushes and fruit trees.  You can attract them to your yard by tossing white millet or sunflower chips on the ground. These birds can be somewhat skittish around people. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rare bird alert: Olive-backed Pipit

In the news from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology today:

This Olive-backed Pipit, the 2nd for California, has delighted hundreds of birders at Yorba Regional Park, Orange Co., CA, on Nov. 2. This photograph was taken by BJ Stacey.  

To see more photos and bird list go to eBird checklist.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Serve millet to attract ground feeders

White-crowned sparrow   Photo by J.J. Meyer

Millet eaters have moved back to Southern California for the winter.  If you're not offering millet, you may miss out on some wonderful visitors, such as white-crowned sparrows.

White millet is an easy-to-open, small round seed packed with carbohydrates. It's the preferred seed for many ground-feeding birds, including juncos, doves, quail, towhees and native sparrows.  Millet often comes in wild bird seed mixes. When placed in a feeder, perching birds tend to kick it to the ground while searching for their preferred seed: black oil sunflower. But the ground-feeders are happy to clean it up.

You can purchase bags of millet at nature and pet stores to use in a tray feeder or spread on the ground. Choose white proso millet over the red or golden millet.  But don't confuse white millet with spray millet, which is seed still on the stalk generally sold for caged birds.

Happy Birding!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Steller's jays, Northern flickers and mountain quail

Steller's jays and Northern flickers are common around Lake Tahoe. Photos by J.J. Meyer

My husband and I traveled to Lake Tahoe for a wedding last weekend. We didn't have much time for birding, but I managed to get a few shots of Steller's jays and mountain quail from the balcony of our hotel which looked out at the woods. The Northern flicker happened to be poking around in the grass in front of the clubhouse where the wedding was held.

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Whooo has owl sounds for Halloween?

What a hoot!

You can download eight owl calls for Halloween from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. Just log on and sign in to download the vocalizations of the great horned owl, Eastern screech-owl, Western screech-owl, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, snowy owl, barn owl and barred owl. Listening to these calls can help birders recognize these species that are often heard but not seen.

My personal favorite is the great horned owl duet! 

The owl sounds can also be used as ringtones if your device accepts MP3s (although you must download them to your computer before you can play them on your phone).

To download, go to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
Look for the above banner.

Happy Birding!