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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Orioles are back in town

A female hooded oriole in Mission Viejo on 4/2/2020. Photo by J.J. Meyer
  Local birders have reported sightings of migrant orioles for several weeks. These striking songbirds return to breed in Southern California during the spring and summer. 
Hooded and Bullock’s orioles are the two most common species of orioles found in Orange County, although there have been rare sightings of Scott’s and orchard orioles in previous years.
Orioles are medium-sized songbirds, about 8-inches long with slender bodies and long legs and tails. They are coveted among backyard birders mostly because of their bright colors. Both hooded and Bullock's orioles are sexually dimorphic, with males being more brightly colored than females.
Hooded orioles are named for the orange hood of the male’s breeding plumage. Males have an orange or orange-yellow head, nape, rump and underparts with a distinctive black bib and narrow mask.  The tail is black. And wings are black with with two white wingbars. Females are mostly olive yellow with dusky gray wings and white wingbars. Hooded orioles have long, slightly curved bills.
Adult male Bullock’s are flame-orange with a neat line through the eye and a white wing patch; females are washed in gray and orange. They have straight, pointed bills. 
Manufacturers tend to make oriole feeders orange, because the birds are attracted to the color. Nectar feeders made especially for orioles can better accommodate the larger birds by providing longer perches and bigger feeding ports than are typically seen on hummingbird feeders. Orioles also have an affinity for fruit and even grape jelly.
It’s also possible to attract orioles by planting native shrubs with berries or flowering plants that invite caterpillars, one of their favorite foods. And encourage nesting by delaying trimming dead palm fronds until fall.  
Happy Birding!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Birds stay warm by fluffling their feathers

A mourning dove puffs up to keep warm on a chilly spring morning. Photo by J.J. Meyer

            The calendar might say it's spring, but it's been chilly during the night and early morning in Southern California recently.

When it's chilly outside, birds fluff their feathers to trap a layer of warm air against their body. The concept is similar to how humans keep warm under a pile of blankets.  It may be cold when we first snuggle in, but soon the air underneath the blankets warms up from our body heat. 
Mourning doves have the ability to look like a round ball. Some birds also tuck their legs and feet into their breast feathers to keep heat from escaping.  

Happy birding!

Monday, February 17, 2020

It's not yet spring, but nesting has begun!

Last year, a pair of Bewick's wrens nested on my patio. Photo taken March 26, 2019. Photo by J.J. Meyer

A pair of Bewick's wrens have returned to nest on our patio again this year. They've been shuttling nesting materials to an artificial ivy plant, which was surprising since these birds are typically cavity nesters. It was about this time when they started building their nest last year.

A tray holding a whisk broom and upside down dust pan created a suitable cavity for these birds last year. I watched carefully until the birds were away, then I removed the pan to get the above shot last March. Four of their five eggs hatched and all four fledged on April 13.

Happy birding!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Free video class on using eBird

A red-crested cardinal snapped with a cell phone in a parking lot on Oahu. Photo by J.J. Meyer

Be confident in using eBird as a tool to record your bird sightings with a free video class available from The Cornell Lab's Bird Academy. It takes about three hours to complete.

eBird is the largest biological citizen-science program, which gathers more than 100 million bird sightings each year. eBird can help you find more birds and keep track of your sightings. Collectively, these sightings are now empowering a global scientific community and helping answer pressing conservation questions.

These video tutorials will get you ready to confidently store and share your sightings with eBird.

Go to eBird Essentials to enroll.

Happy Birding!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Count birds for science

A common yellowthroat at Laguna Niguel Regional Park. Photo by J.J. Meyer

The Great Backyard Bird Count Starts Friday


Celebrate Valentine's Day with a long weekend of bird watching. The The Great Backyard Bird Count returns for its 22nd year this coming weekend, February 14–17, 2020. Count birds for as little as 15 minutes on one or more of the days of the GBBC from anywhere in the world, and help scientists get a snapshot of global bird populations.

Last fall, scientists reported a decline of more than one in four breeding birds in the United States and Canada since 1970, which makes keeping track of birds more important than ever.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

Happy Birding!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Birds are preparing for spring

A male Western Bluebird checks out a potential nest site. Photo by J.J. Meyer
            It might still be winter, but birds are looking for potential nest sites.  
            Western bluebirds are known to go house shopping. The male shows his mate several nest sites, but the female is the one who makes the choice. She then places a small twig in the cavity or nestbox to stake her claim.
Birds also use the boxes as a roosting site in cold weather. So if you have a nestbox, make sure it's cleaned out and ready for spring. 
Read more at Boxes serve as home to birds in the Orange County Register.
Happy birding!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Male turkeys are the gobblers

Wild turkey -- Meleagris gallopavo
From 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 locate the flock when 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 areas with nut-bearing trees such as oak and hickory. 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: The largest concentration of wild turkeys in Southern California is in San Diego County from Vista south to El Cajon and east to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Backyard Birder!!