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American Tree Sparrows
Hi there! My mother, Camilla suggested that I write a series of posts about birds on my blog since I’ve been talking about them and learning about them. Please let me know if you have any bird books, CDs, or a website you’d recommend! Here is the part about American Tree Sparrows.
American Tree Sparrows are small, round-headed birds that often fluff out their feathers, making their plump bodies look even chubbier. Like other sparrows, they have fairly small bills and long, thin tails. Their color pattern is a rusty cap and rusty (not black) eyeline on a gray head, a streaked brown back, and a smooth gray to buff breast in both male and female American Tree Sparrows give an overall impression of reddish-brown and gray. A dark smudge in the center of the unstreaked breast is common.
Small flocks of American Tree Sparrows hop about on the ground, scrabbling for grass and weed seeds, calling back and forth with a soft, musical twitter that might make you twitter, sing, or dance. A single American Tree Sparrow may perch in the open top of goldenrod stalks or shrubs, or on low tree branches. Look for small flocks of American Tree Sparrows in the winter in weedy fields with hedgerows or shrubs, along forest edges, or near marshes except for Reno, NV. They readily visit backyards, especially if there’s a seed feeder.
American Tree Sparrows breed in the far north and are hardly seen south of northern Canada in the summer. 4-6, usually 5. Pale bluish or greenish, with brownish spotting often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, 11-13 days; male visits nest often, but does not incubate. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at age 8-10 days, when flight feathers not yet fully grown.
Parents may lure them away from nest by offering food. Young are able to fly at about 14-15 days after hatching; parents continue to feed them for about 2 more weeks. 1 brood per season, but may attempt to renest if 1st attempt fails. Diet in the winter is almost entirely seeds, from grasses, weeds, and other plants; also a few insects and berries.
In the summer, they eat mostly insects and other small invertebrates, plus a few seeds. Young are fed mostly insects. Pairs form shortly after birds arrive on breeding grounds. Male actively defends territory, chasing away other members of same species.
Nest site is on or near ground, in grass clumps beneath shrubs. Sometimes on hummock in open tundra; rarely up to 4′ above ground in willow or spruce. Nest is an open cup of twigs, grasses, moss, lined with fine grass and with feathers (usually ptarmigan feathers). Female builds nest in about 7 days.
All wintering areas are well to the south of breeding areas. Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Apparently, migrates mainly at night. On average, females winter somewhat farther south than males.
The American Tree Sparrow is a small sparrow with a long notched tail. The adult has a streaked back and wings, with two white wing bars, but is otherwise unstreaked, while the juvenile is streaky overall. Adults have an unstreaked gray-brown breast and belly, with a dark spot in the center. The tail, rump, and nape of the neck are all solid gray.
The upper mandible of the bill is dark and the lower is yellow. The head is mostly gray, with a rufous crown and eye-line. American tree sparrows (Spizella arborea) breed throughout almost all of Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest territories, the very north of Manitoba and Ontario, all of Labrador, and in northern Quebec. Their winter range includes a very small part of southern Canada and all of the United States except for the western most 250 miles, the southern most 450 miles and all of Florida.
American tree sparrows usually breed near the tree line in open scrubby areas with willows, birches, alder thickets or stunted spruce. They may also breed in open tundra with scattered shrubs, often near lakes or bogs. They spend the winter in open forests, gardens, fields, and marshes. Baumgartner followed birds for the first 22 days of development.
Order of hatching was not dependent on the order of laying. Earlier hatched birds took the lead in development. During the nine and one-half days in the nest, the four feather tracts of the birds (dorsal, ventral, alar, caudal) go from completely bare to the back covered, lower belly slightly bare, wings 2/3 grown, and tail still a stub, and the birds grow from 1.62 gm to 16.7 gm, while their length goes from 33 mm to 75 mm during the same period. They lose 1.5 gm the first day out of the egg but have gained 3 gm by day 21 (Baumgartner, 1968).
On the second day after hatching the young were able to stretch for food. On the fourth day their eyes were half open, after the fifth day, wide open. The first sounds were made on the fifth day but were very soft. Fear was acquired between 7.5 and 8 days as demonstrated by their raucous calls when touched by humans.
During the first 12 days of the fledgling period (which lasts until about a month after leaving the nest in (Spizella arborea) the birds showed a steady increase in both tail length (14-47mm) and wing length (46-68mm). At the end of the first 21 days the wings were still slightly shorter and the tails about 2/3 the length of mature birds. A tree sparrow was observed to fly 30 or 40 ft fifteen days after hatching, and a little before one month after hatching, the birds could fly all around their territory. American tree sparrows are monogamous (one male mates with one female).
Males and females form breeding pairs after they arrive at the breeding sites in the spring. Both males and female sing to attract a mate. Females become excited when males come to sing nearby. They call back to the male, making a “wehy” sound.
Males may show off for females by spreading their wings and fluttering them or darting to the ground in front of the female, then flying back up to a perch. American tree sparrows breed between May and September. They raise one brood of chicks each year. The females builds the nest alone.
The nests are built on the ground out of moss, grasses, bark and twigs. They are lined with fine grass and feathers.The female then lays about 5 eggs. She lays one egg each day.
She incubates the eggs for 10 to 14 days and broods the chicks after they hatch. The chicks are altricial (helpless) when they hatch, so they rely on the female to protect them and keep them warm. Both parents feed the chicks until 2 to 3 weeks after the chicks leave the nest (called fledging). The young fledge from the nest about 9 days after hatching.
In late summer, the families join larger flocks. We do not know when young American tree sparrows begin breeding.
American tree sparrows breed once per year. Females incubate the eggs and brood the chicks after they hatch.
Both parents feed the chicks until they are about 22 days old. The oldest known American tree sparrow lived at least 10 years and 9 months. Most American tree sparrows probably live about 2.3 to 3.4 years. American tree sparrows are migratory.
Though they are usually active during the day (called diurnal), they migrate at night. American tree sparrows are territorial during the breeding season. Males sing to claim territories and they defend their territories from others. Females occasionally chase intruders too.
American tree sparrows do not defend winter territories. During the winter, they form large flocks that forage together. Within these flocks, some birds are dominant over other birds. American tree sparrows move by hopping on the ground and on branches, and by flying.
They do not swim or dive, but they do bath frequently. They roost alone trees or shrubs, haystacks, cornfields, and marshes. In the winter, they might take shelter together under the snow. American tree sparrows are omnivorous; they eat many different seeds, berries and insects.
During the winter, American tree sparrows mainly eat grass and weed seeds. During the summer, they mostly eat insects and spiders. American tree sparrows search for food among plants on the ground and the branches and twigs of shrubs and trees. In Massachusetts, they are often seen in flocks, feeding at bird feeders.
American tree sparrows need to drink a lot of water each day. During the winter, they eat snow in order to get enough water. Known predators of American tree sparrows include northern goshawks, sharp-shinned hawks, screech owls, pygmy owls, Cooper’s hawks, American kestrels, weasels, foxes, and red squirrels. When approached by humans, American tree sparrows give a rapid series of “tset” calls.
It is unknown how American tree sparrows respond to other potential predators. American tree sparrows are very important members of the food chain. They eat many weed seeds and insects and spiders, and they are an important food source for their predators.
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Latest News: California Quail
Hi there! My mother, Camilla, suggested that I write a series of posts about birds on my blog since I’ve been talking about them and learning about them. Please let me know if you have any bird books, CDs, or a website you’d recommend! Here is the part about California Quail.
California Quail are plump, short-necked game birds with a small head and bill. They fly on short, very broad wings. The tail is fairly long and square. Both sexes have a comma-shaped topknot of feathers projecting forward from the forehead, longer in males than females. Adult males are rich gray and brown, with a black face outlined with bold white stripes. Females are a plainer brown and lack the facial markings. Both genders have a pattern of white, creamy, and chestnut scales on the belly. Young birds look like females but have a shorter topknot.
California Quail spend most of their time on the ground, walking and scratching in search of food. In morning and evening they forage beneath shrubs or on open ground near cover. They usually travel in groups called coveys. Their flight is explosive but lasts just long enough to reach cover.
You’ll find California Quail in chaparral, sagebrush, oak woodlands, and foothill forests of California and the Northwest. They’re quite tolerant of people and can be common in city parks, suburban gardens, and agricultural areas. The California quail is a small, plump bird with a short black beak. The male has a gray chest and brown back and wings. It has a black throat with white stripes and a brown cap on its head. The female has a gray or brown head and back and a lighter speckled chest and belly. Both the male and the female have a curved black crown feather on their foreheads. The male’s crown feather is larger than the female’s.
The California quail is sometimes called the valley quail. The California quail eats seeds, plant parts like buds and sometimes insects. They feed in flocks in the early morning. The California quail can be found from southern Oregon to southern California and east into Nevada. The California quail lives in grasslands, foothills, woodlands, canyons and at the edge of deserts. It likes areas with lots of brush. The California quail lives in coveys of 10 to 200 birds in the winter.
They will stay in these flocks until they pair off during mating season. Male California quails will perch on a tree or post and call out to claim their territory. The California quail will roost in trees to avoid danger and to rest. Males often compete for a mate. They will mate with only one female. Females usually lay between 12-16 cream and brown speckled eggs. Their nest is a shallow hollow or scrape in the ground that is lined with grass. The female incubates the eggs for about three weeks. Both parents will care for the chicks. The chicks leave the nest shortly after birth. They make their first attempts at flight when they are about 10 days old. They will stay on the ground for about a month and then will roost in trees with the rest of the flock.
The female usually has one brood a year. This sharply-marked bird with the curving topknot is common along the California coast and in a few other areas of the west. It has adapted rather well to the increasing human population, and is often found around well-wooded suburbs and even large city parks. California Quail live in coveys at most seasons, and are often seen strutting across clearings, nodding their heads at each step. If disturbed, they may burst into fast low flight on whirring wings.
The California Quail is a gray, ground-dwelling bird, more slender than most other quail. It has a light breast with scaled patterning, white streaks along brown sides, and black and gray scaling on the nape of the neck. The female has a tan head with a small feather plume. The male has a bold black face outlined in white, with a brown crown and a pendulous feather plume hanging forward from his forehead.
The California quail, California’s state bird, is a 9-11 inch hen-like bird with a distinctive teardrop-shaped head plume called a top-knot. Their plump bodies vary from grayish to brown with scaly markings on the lower breast and abdomen. Males are particularly elegant with a black throat, chestnut patch on the belly, a bluish gray breast, white speckles on its flanks, and a white stripe on the forehead and around the neckline. Females have a smaller top-knot and lack the male’s distinctive facial markings and black throat.
Her crest is dark brown and her body is brown or gray with white speckles on the chest and belly. The marked sexual dimorphism is believed to play an important part in breeding displays. Juveniles resemble the female, but have shorter and lighter colored crests. As ground dwelling birds, their short and powerful legs are well adapted for terrestrial locomotion. They can fly rapidly, but only for short distances. When alarmed they prefer to run, flying only as a last resort.
California quail are best adapted to semiarid environments, ranging from sea level to 4000 feet and occasionally up to 8500 feet or higher (Sumner 1935). As long as there is abundant food, ground cover, and a dependable water source, quail are able to live in a variety of habitats including open woodlands, brushy foothills, desert washes, forest edge, chaparral, stream valleys, agricultural lands, and suburb areas. Cover is needed for roosting, resting, nesting, escaping from predators, and for protection from the weather (Sumner 1935, Leopold 1977).
Leopold (1977) separates California quail habitat areas into four major ecological zones arid ranges mostly in Southern California and Baja California, transitional ranges in the Sacramento Valley, humid forest ranges associated with the Coast and Cascade ranges, and interior Great Basin and Columbia Basin ranges. Of these the transitional ranges in the Sacramento Valley foothills provide the most stable quail habitat, characterized by mild winters, moderate rainfall, moderately dense ground vegetation, and generally adequate ground cover.
California quail are generalists and opportunists, so food intake varies by location and season. Their main food items are seeds produced by various species of broad-leafed annual plants, especially legumes. This includes plants such as lupine (Lupinus sp.), clover (Trifolium sp.), bur clover (Medicago sp.), and deer vetches (Lotus sp.) (Leopold 1977). Their bills are typical for seedeaters: serrated, short, stout, and slightly decurved.
Shields and Duncan (1966) studied California quail diet in the fall and winter during a dry year on the San Joaquin Experimental Range in the central Sierra Nevada foothills. They found that seeds comprised 82% of their diet, while green leafage contributed 18%. Duncan (1968) also studied quail diet in the same area and found that legume seeds were their most important food item. Quail also eat leafy materials, acorns, fruits and berries, crop residues, and some insects (Leopold 1977).
During the fall and winter, California quail are highly gregarious birds, gathering into groups, called coveys. In most situations, covey size averages about 50 birds, but under intensive management and protection, coveys can get as large as 1000 birds (Leopold 1977). In the covey, the quail tend to imitate one another and exhibit cooperative behavior. For example, when one bird finds a good supply of food it often calls the others to it. Likewise, when a member of the covey perceives danger it will warn the group with the appropriate call (Sumner 1935).
California quail communicate with 14 different calls (Leopold, 1977). This includes courtship, re-grouping, feeding, and warning calls. The most frequently heard location call has been described as “cu-ca-cow” or “chi-ca-go.” At the start of nesting season in early spring the coveys break up, as quail pairs spread themselves out into different habitat areas to nest and rear their young.
At the end of summer each new quail family rejoins the others to form a new covey where they will remain until the next breeding season. Emlen (1939) observed this seasonal movement in his study of California quail on a 760-acre farm in the vicinity of Davis, California. In the winter, four coveys, containing 21-46 birds, had home ranges of 17-45 acres, roughly one acre for each bird. The covey locations and range size depended on the amount of brush cover available. The four territories were separated by 350 yards to half a mile and contact between the coveys was infrequent.
The members of a covey tended to feed and roost together in mid-winter, but occasionally they broke up into smaller units. Winter movements were restricted with only 5 to 10 acres of an entire territory utilized by the covey on any one day. The same area would serve as a feeding ground for a few days to two or three weeks when the birds would move to another part of their territory. The California quail is common to states of the Pacific coast. They were first introduced into Utah in 1869.
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Mountain Blue Birds
Hi there! My mother, Camilla suggested that I write a series of posts about birds on my blog since I’ve been talking about them and learning about them. Please let me know if you have any bird books, CDs, or a website you’d recommend! Here is the part about Mountain Blue Birds.
Mountain Bluebirds are moderately small thrushes with round heads and straight, thin bills. Compared with other bluebirds they are slender and long-winged, with a long tail. Male Mountain Bluebirds are sky-blue, a little bit darker on the wings and the tail and a little bit paler on the belly, with white up under the tail. Females are pretty much gray-brown with tints of pale blue in the wings and the tail.
They occasionally show orange-brown throughout the chest. Mountain Bluebirds’ bills are completely black. Younger Mountain Bluebirds have fewer spots than the other young of little bluebirds. Unlike other bluebird species, Mountain Bluebirds often hover while foraging; they also pounce on their insect prey from an higher perch.
In the winter, the species often occur in large flocks wandering the landscape eating on berries, particularly some of those junipers. Mountain Bluebirds are mostly common in the West’s wide-open spaces, particularly at middle and higher elevations like mountains. They breed in native habitats such as prairie, sagebrush steppe, and even alpine tundra; anywhere with open country with at least a few trees that can provide nest cavities. They also readily take to human-altered habitats, often nesting in bluebird boxes and foraging in pastures.
The powder-blue male Mountain Bluebird is among the most beautiful birds of the West. Living in more open terrain than the other two bluebirds, this species may nest in holes in cliffs or dirt banks when tree hollows are not available. It often seeks its food by hovering low over the grass in open fields. They lay 5 to 6 eggs, sometimes 4 to 8 eggs.
Pale blue, unmarked (occasionally white) are their colors. Incubation is by female for about 13 to 17 days. Young birds: Both parents feed nestlings. Young birds leave the nest about 17 to 23 days after hatching, and are protected by their parents for another 3 to 4 weeks.
They have 2 breeds each year. Mountain Bluebirds feed heavily on insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, ants, bees, and others. They also eat some berries, including those of mistletoe, hackberry, and other plants. Berries are very important in their diet in the wintertime.
Sometimes interbreeds with the Eastern Bluebird where their ranges overlap. Nest: Apparently the female selects the site for the nest. The site is in a cavity, usually a natural hollow or old woodpecker hole in tree, or in a birdhouse. Sometimes nests in holes in dirt banks, crevices in cliffs or among rocks, holes in sides of buildings, old nests of other birds (such as Cliff Swallow or Dipper).
Nest in cavity (probably built by both genders) is a loose cup of weed stems, grass, twigs, rootlets, pine needles, and maybe even lined with animal hair or animal feathers. Mountain bluebirds migrate relatively late in the fall and early in the spring. Winter range varies from year to year, depending on the food supplies. Flocks sometimes wander east on the Great Plains, and lonely stray birds occasionally go as far as the Atlantic Coast.
The mountain bluebird is six to seven inches in length. The mountain bluebird breeds from east-central Alaska, southern Yukon and western Manitoba, south in the mountains to southern California, central and southeastern Nevada, northern and east-central Arizona, southern New Mexico and east to northeastern North Dakota, western South Dakota and central Oklahoma. In winters, the birds go from Oregon south to Baja California, Mexico and southern Texas, and east to eastern Kansas, western Oklahoma and central Texas. The males or females arrive at the breeding site first.
The mountain bluebird breeds in high mountain meadows with scattered trees and bushes and short grass. In winters, they live at lower elevations in plains and grasslands. The lovely mountain bluebird (Sialia arctcia) was made the official state bird of Idaho in 1931. The male mountain bluebird is a brilliant sky-blue, the female is gray with blue on her wings and tail.
The bluebird family is especially common in Idaho’s mountains. Idaho recognizes two bird symbols; the peregrine falcon is the official state raptor. The mountain bluebird is currently the state bird of Nevada. The Mountain Bluebird has a large range, estimated globally at 4,400,000 square kilometers.
Native to Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the mountain bluebirds prefer grassland, forest, and shrubland ecosystems. The global population of this bird is estimated at 5,200,000 individuals and does not show signs of decline that would necessitate inclusion on the IUCN Red List. For this reason, the current evaluation status of the Mountain Bluebird is Least Concern. The Mountain Bluebird is most likely to be confused with other bluebirds.
Male Mountain Bluebirds lack any reddish coloration on their underparts unlike Eastern and Western Bluebirds. Females are more difficult to separate. Eastern Bluebirds have a brownish throat and white belly while Mountain Bluebirds have gray throats and bellies. Western Bluebirds are browner on the breast than Mountain Bluebirds and have thicker bills.
Male Mountain Bluebirds might be confused with other all blue birds like Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks but these birds have much thicker, conical bills.
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Books I Recommend: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Hi there! Here’s the 7th book recommendation list!
1. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
2. Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
3. The Littles Give a Party by John Peterson
4. Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers
5. The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch
6. Our Library by Eve Bunting
7. Time and the Tapestry by John Plotz
8. Durinda’s Dangers by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Please note that Annie’s Adventures are supposed to be here since I read it long time ago.)
9. Mirabelle by Astrid Lindgren
10. Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
11. Lily by Holly Webb
(amazon affiliate links above)