The Red-cockaded Woodpecker Is Still Endangered!

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker Is Still Endangered!


Red-cockaded Woodpecker

They’re only about the size of a cardinal, but they play a huge role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests.

Making their home in mature pine forests, preferably Longleaf pines, these birds excavate in living mature pine trees, usually around 80 years old, unlike other woodpeckers which bore out cavities in dead rotten and soft trees. The Red-cockaded  may take from 1 to 6 years to bore out a suitable cavity in these trees. 

Due to the widespread commercial timber harvesting, the European settlements and naval store/turpentine industry from the 1700s on through the mid 1900s, the longleaf pine ecosystem initially disappeared. Today many of the southern pine forests are young, which has made it difficult for the Red-cockaded to survive. 

I have seen in a few areas of North Carolina where many different measures are being put in place to protect these birds. Controlled burns are done to help thin out the forest making it healthier for the remaining trees to thrive. Keeping many Longleaf pine forests protected from harvesting so that these birds can continue to have a home.

These birds are rarely visible, you will typically hear them first. I will go birding in the Longleaf pine forests and I stop to listen ever so often, when I hear sounds of what some say is a squeaky toy, then I know that the Red-cockaded is around. Though be careful, the small Brown-headed Nuthatch has a similar squeaky toy sound, though a bit higher pitched.

These woodpeckers were once considered common throughout the longleaf pine ecosystem, with an estimated population of 1.5 million “groups” or family units. Currently there is estimated to be only 14,068 birds left in 11 states!!!

They will make several cavities in a cluster which may include 1 to 20 trees in a 3 to 60 acre area. They ones that they actively use will have small resin wells which exude sap. These smart Woodpeckers will keep the sap flowing as a defense mechanism against rat snakes and possibly other predators.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker play a vital role in the intricate web of life by building their nest cavities. At least 27 species of vertebrates have been document as using their cavities either for roosting or nesting. Such species include birds, snakes, squirrels, insects, frogs and lizards! Some species, like the wood ducks will only use the cavities that have been abandoned by the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, and have had the entrance enlarged by the Pileated Woodpeckers. However many other species can use the cavities without any alterations, such as the Brown-headed Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Redbellied Woodpeckers, Redheaded Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Great Crested Flycatchers and Flying Squirrels. 

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a valuable asset to our planet and should not be lost!



This California Western Tanager Is A Beautiful Bright Yellow

This California Western Tanager Is A Beautiful Bright Yellow


Western Tanager

Another day, another park in California… this time I was there looking for this bird and luckily I found it fluttering around in the tree tops.

These birds can be found from the northern parts of western Canada down south into Central America.

Take a closer look at this photo and you will see the insect which the bird is eating. I think it may be an ant or possibly a spider. Insects are their preferred diet, but they also eat fruits.

In the early part of the twentieth century, these birds were thought to pose a huge threat to the commercial fruit crops. In 1896 one person wrote that “the damage done to cherries in one orchard was so great that the sales of the fruit which was left did not balance the bills paid out for poison and ammunition.” Luckily today we have found ways to protect the fruit crops from birds and it is also illegal to shoot native birds, so the Western Tanagers are safer now!

Clark’s Grebe Vs.Western Grebe, It’s All In The Eyes…

Clark’s Grebe Vs.Western Grebe, It’s All In The Eyes…


Clark’s Grebe

The photos above and below are of Grebes that were once thought of as the same species. Up until the 1980s, the Clark’s Grebe was considered a “white morph” or a paler version of the Western Grebe. After some closer study of the two species, they were found to be definitely two different species. 

The major difference between these birds is around the eye. Can you see the eye or is it hidden by the black or dark gray? The Clark’s Grebe has a red eye that is surrounded by white, the black or gray area stops above the eye, while the Western Grebe has red eyes surrounded by black or gray that stops under the eye!

If you are out west and you come across one of these grebes and you are just not quite sure which one it is, since in winter the gray on the western grebes can become much lighter and make identification difficult, take a close look at their bills. The Clark’s Grebe has a bright yellow dagger-like bill while the Western Grebe’s bill is darker, somewhat olive-green or grayish. So look closely and you should be able to identify just which species you are looking at. 


Western Grebe

These birds can be found in North America from British Columbia all the way south into Mexico. They can be found on lakes or in wetlands, I’ve often seen them in the ocean just offshore the California coast.

They prefer to eat fish, but can be opportunist when it comes to the food they eat, and have been know to eat insects, worms, crustaceans and salamanders. Usually they will dive down into the water to forage for small fish.

So don’t panic if you see one of these grebes out west, just take some photos, take some field notes. If you can’t identify the species right there, then go home and do some “homework,” study your photos closely and you should be able to identify. 

Have fun and happy birding!

The Vermillion Flycatcher Is Soooo Pretty!

The Vermillion Flycatcher Is Soooo Pretty!


Vermillion Flycatcher 

As I was walking around a one of the parks in the Lake Piru Recreation Area In California, I suddenly saw a flash of red off to my side. I turned to look and there was this beautiful Vermillion Flycatcher! He was just perched on a grill, then he would fly off to try to catch an insect, then perch again. He wasn’t overly afraid of my presence, but he wouldn’t allow me to come too close… luckily my camera has a good zoom.

About the size of a sparrow, this brightly colored flycatcher is usually found in brush along streams or in woods or near ponds or in open country. They will perch, sometimes only a few inches from the ground, then fly out and grab an insect.

They breed from southeast California east to central Texas and south to Argentina. Spending the winters in the same areas. The females aren’t quite as pretty, they are brownish above with whitish underparts and buff or pinkish undertail coverts. Often times the Vermillion flycatchers will bob their tails like a phoebe.

Let Us Not Forget The American Robin

Let Us Not Forget The American Robin


American Robin

The Robin is a large bird, around 10 inches. They are very widespread, often found in gardens, parks, open areas as well as wooded areas. Breeds from Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to South Carolina, Texas and California. They winter from Canada down through Mexico.

You will often see them running around on lawns or parks, then they’ll stop and cock their heads to the side to search for food. Often seen stopped on a lawn pulling up a earthworm!

Their diet depends on the time of day, they tend to eat more earthworms in the morning. Later in the day they will eat more fruit. It is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning because it forages largely on lawns and parks that have been treated.

The photo above is of a Robin that I startled and it flew up into a tree, it was keeping an eye on me! The photo below is of two possibly immature Robins foraging along the grass in a park in California.


There Are Only 3 Phalarope Species And I Saw All In One Day In Central California!

There Are Only 3 Phalarope Species And I Saw All In One Day In Central California!

There are only 3 species of Phalarope and I saw them one day at the Santa Clara River Estuary in Ventura, California.  It was the first time that I ever saw any of the Phalarope species up close, I was very excited that I was able to watch them foraging for food. These birds are rather small, ranging from 7 to 9 inches, they remind me of sandpipers and yet they don’t…



Red-necked Phalarope 

You can find this delicate beauty migrating both on the ocean and through the interior West. They can form flocks of thousands on ponds and salt lakes. I saw a few hundred one day while I was at the estuary! It picks plankton from the water after swimming lightly around and spinning (probably stirring up the plankton)… Breeds in Alaska and North Canada.


Red Phalarope 

This one is the most pelagic of shorebirds, when they are not at the tundra breeding grounds they are almost always on the open water! Occasionally you will find them coming to shore and even rarely seen inland due to storms. They will forage by picking plankton from the surface. Breeds in Alaska and North Canada.


Wilson’s Phalarope 

This tall phalarope is not pelagic, it is better suited for wading than swimming. They breed in marshy potholes from Southwest Canada south to central California, Great Lakes Region and Great Plains. Mostly they will winter in South America. They will visit estuaries and freshwater habitats to forage.

5 Hummingbirds I Saw In Tucson, Arizona

5 Hummingbirds I Saw In Tucson, Arizona

If you are ever in the Tucson, Arizona area, you really must get over to the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds! They have multiple hummingbird feeders set up with a seating area for viewing. There is a webcam set up for viewing the hummingbirds online if you can’t get there. I saw a few lifers the day I went there, it certainly is a place that attracts various species of hummingbirds! There are also feeders for other bird species as well as a few water features, so be prepared to see plenty of other birds besides the hummingbirds. I ended up seeing several different species of hummingbirds as well as a few Lesser Goldfinches, a Gila Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak and a Gambel’s Quail.


Black-chinned Hummingbird

It was fun to just sit and watch the hummingbirds buzzing around they yard going from one feeder to the next, some playing nice in the sandbox, while others not so much… 


Magnificent Hummingbird

I’m not sure just which hummingbird is with the Magnificent at the feeder, but take note of the size difference! The Magnificent is a very big hummingbird!


Broad-billed Hummingbird

I found this one to be very colorful, and I actually think that it should have been given a different name, perhaps one based on its wonderful colors and not based on the fact that it has a broad bill!


Anna’s Hummingbird

I love to watch the hummingbirds hover in the air, it’s amazing! This one was coming in for a drink.


Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Oooohhhh! Such a beautiful bird! The colors are so brilliant! If you ever get a chance to see this bird, you’ll know what I mean. The blue is just so vibrant, you just sit there in awe of the sight! I consider myself very lucky to have seen so many wonderful hummingbirds the day I visited the Paton’s Center. Make sure to look them up online to see what birds are at the feeders today.

This Gila Woodpecker Enjoys A Few Seeds In Arizona, US

This Gila Woodpecker Enjoys A Few Seeds In Arizona, US


Gila Woodpecker

This one I found while watching the many hummingbirds at the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Arizona. They have lots of feeders up for the hummingbirds, but they also include other feeders for the various other species of birds that can be found at the center.

Their diet consists of a wide variety of insects, cactus fruit, berries, seeds, earthworms and small lizards. They will often drink sugar-water from the hummingbird feeders.

Forages on cacti and tree trunks or on the ground. In the trees they probe at the surface, hardly ever to they excavate for their food.

In the picture below the Gila Woodpecker is foraging for insects on a small tree.



This Is The First Time I Saw A Red-necked Phalarope Up Close!

This Is The First Time I Saw A Red-necked Phalarope Up Close!


Red-necked Phalarope

This tiny shorebird is at home along the shore as well as out in the open ocean. The females are brighter than males (it’s about time!)

The breeding birds are blue-gray with reddish wash on the neck. The females get into crazy fights over the males that they want to mate with, then they do absolutely nothing when it comes to raising the you. Often they will fight over another male and lay more eggs, then leave again!

The Phalarope forage mostly while swimming. They will often spin in circles in the shallow water stirring things up, helping to bring food closer to the surface. Then they will pick their prey from the water’s surface or just below it.

Their diet consists mostly of insects, mollusks and crusteaceans. During migration when they stop at lakes they may eat brine shrimp.