Black-throated Blue Warbler
April 29, 2007
Male Black-throated Blue Warblers are one of the more conspicusous wood warblers due to their striking plummage. Female exhibit some sexual dimorphism as they are a drab olive with lighter underparts. They prefer dense forests of deciduous trees as they forage for insects, gleaning from them from the undersides of leaves. I was lucky enough to see a male(aside from the male that I prepared as a specimen) come through my tiny Chicago back yard one spring. Now that I have a greater idea of the risks an urban area poses for migrating birds, I think back on that little guy and hope that he was able to make it north okay to breed.
Black and White Warbler
April 27, 2007
Yet another tiny participant in the almost endless parade of warblers. Mniotilta varia is a feisty warbler that is easily spotted due to its striking black and white plumage (both male and female), and its tree creeping behaviors. Similar to nuthatches and brown creepers, they can be seen scaling and creeping along tree trunks and branches collecting insects from bark and leaves. They're fairly common in summer throughout the eastern US, and their winter range reaches into northern South America. When I was little my cat taught me a tough lesson with this bird. The only time I have seen one of these was in the mouth of my tabby. Growing up, we lived in a fairly rural area and let our cat roam free. This was before we had a clear understanding of the devasting impact roaming pet cats and feral populations have on wild bird populations. These days I live in a much more urban area, but the cats stay inside unless joined by my company in the back yard.
April 25, 2007
For many years poplulations of this bird were declining. In recent years, however, it has been experiencing a resurgence. This is due in no small part to agressive conservation programs that have placed bluebird nesting boxes in proper habitat. I saw my first Eastern Bluebird in Glacial Park just outside of Ringwood, IL, and now see them quite often when I venture out of the city. Bluebirds are considered thrushes along with robins, the spotted thrushes(Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, and Townshend's Solitaire amongst other species.
April 24, 2007
It's true: it's not the most glorious of names. Cowbirds along with blackbirds, meadowlarks, and orioles, are in the family Icteridae. They are known as brood parasites: meaning they do not construct their own nests and raise their young, but leave that up to the host species and nest of which they have sneakishly layed their egg. The host species is oftentimes a smaller bird, such as a warbler. If cowbirds were human, they would definitely go the nanny route. Despite its parasitic ways, the cowbird has a beautiful irridescent sheen to it's "black" plummage.
The Bay-Breasted Warbler that I prepared did not have the bold coloring of the one depicted here. It was much more pale by comparison. It was either a breeding female, or a non-breeding male, but I don't remember what was eventually ascertained regardings its gender. Bay-Breasted Warblers are in the genus Dendroica and in the family Parulidae with most other wood warblers. Many warblers are coming through the Chicago area right now. Unfortunately, I only see the ones that won't be making it through, but I'm still astounded by the variety of these little insectivores.
April 04, 2007
When I think of all the warblers there are, my head begins to spin. There are Old World Warblers (families Sylviidae and Cisticolidae), Wood Warblers or New World Warblers (family Parulidae), and Australian Warblers (family Acanthizidae). Our little friend here, being that he is found on our continent would fall into the family of New World warblers. Judging by the name, you would think this is a resident of its namesake. Well you're wrong! They don't actually breed in that state; just passing through, thank you very much. They were first "discovered" in Connecticut. I prepared a little male. Males have a fairly well pronounced grey hood.
I saw a colony of these in Seattle's Sound Garden once. There were dozens of them, and they had stuck their mud nests under a metal awning on a building. They were gregarious and in constant flittering motion. Cliff Swallows are in the genus Petrochelidon which also includes the Cave Swallow. These 2 birds along with barn swallows (genus Hirundo) all create their nests out of mud. Although they can nest solitarily, colonies may range from hundreds to thousands of nests! They breed as far north as Alaska, and winter in South America.