Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

A new hummingbird!

Phil spotted the first hummingbird of the season at our Hummingbird Mint. It is different than the Broad-tailed hummingbird Phil photographed last year. Today’s was a bright yellow, with rufous (reddish-brown) underparts and a speckled throat.

My best guess is that it is a female Rufous hummingbird. The Rufous is very hard to tell from the Allen’s hummingbird, but I believe that the Allen’s range is much more limited and does not seem to come even close to Colorado.

Some interesting facts about the Rufous:

  • A territorial hummingbird known to be aggressive with other, larger hummingbirds.
  • It makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size: 3,900 miles from Alaska to Mexico, equivalent to 784,500 body lengths.
  • It has a heart rate of 480 beats per minute when resting, up to 1,260 beats per minute when excited.
  • It feeds on nectar a minimum of sixty times a day, at 13 licks per second, playing an important role in pollinating at least 129 plant species.

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Floundering Fledgling

Phil and I were putting together some new outdoor rocking chairs in the lawn when I heard a noise in the lawn behind me. I turned around to find a baby bird, although alive for a change!

This little bird had feathers and was hopping around rather awkwardly and chirping.

Baby bird

Baby bird

While observing the bird and trying to decide a course of action, Phil spotted a mourning dove, perched on the lines above our fence. Could this be a parent, watching over the youngster from a safe distance?

Mama bird

Adult bird

By pure chance, I had recently read a couple of things about finding baby birds on the ground.

Number one, I knew that it was a myth that one ought not touch a baby bird because the mother will reject it if it smells like humans. I had read that it is better to scoop it up and put it back in its nest.

But I didn’t know where the nest was.

Plus, I remembered something about fledglings. Fledglings are young birds that have just gotten their feathers and are about ready to fly. They can hop around. This seemed to fit the description of my little friend.  It seems that one should NOT try to put a fledgling back in its nest (even if I knew where it was).  And the fact that we had spotted a possible parent so nearby made me think that the best thing to do would be to take the dog inside and let her swoop in and save the day. I don’t know how, but that’s what I thought.

According to a bit of research, I think I did the right thing. The tricky part is deciding if it was, indeed, feathered.  It looks a bit fuzzy about the face. I also don’t know if the young bird is the offspring of the adult or not. It’s hard to tell from the photograph. The more I study it, the less the youngster looks like a mourning dove to me.

We had to leave the house shortly afterwards, and both adult and baby were not to be found when we returned that night.

Here’s a bit about the mourning dove. Factoids of note include:

  • Mourning doves have the longest breeding season of all North American birds.
  • Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young.
  • When young mourning doves tap on their parent’s bills it stimulates regurgitation of crop milk, produced by both male and female parents, and the sole source of food in the babies’ first 3-4 days.
  • Adult mourning doves usually live to about 1.5 years old in the wild, but can live up to 19 years.
  • During migration these birds may fly over 1000 miles to reach their winter resting spot.

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Here’s a little bird sharing Charlie’s water bowl. I believe it to be a House Sparrow.

According to Wikipedia, this bird was once known as a “Phillip Sparrow” because of its song.

Further, Animal Diversity Web informs us that it is, in fact, not a sparrow but rather a member of the Weaver Finch family, originally from Africa.

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Rockin’ Robin

As always, ol’ Hawkeye Phil has kept me abreast of news in the yard while I run around like a chicken with its head cut off. This time, he has discovered an American Robin‘s nest built on the downspout of one of our decrepit gutters. I got a shot of her sitting in it on May 13.

Also, here’s a short video of the robin in the process of making the nest. You can see her using her breast and legs to shape the inside of the nest.

Our robin comes and goes, sitting on the nest for two days straight and then disappearing for days. One day when the robin was gone, I saw a squirrel come down from the roof and sniff around the nest. We thought she wouldn’t come back. But she did. Here she is on May 21:

By Phil

At the time of this post, she has been gone again for 2 days and there are still no eggs in the nest.


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Back with a vengeance

May is here and the yard is teeming with life (and visited by an occasional death).

The Big Tree got a good pruning over the winter, and it’s shaping up fabulously. Our honey bees have been very active already, and we’ve already seen a couple more baby squirrels there.

I’ve turned my attention to trying to document some of the bird species we have here, which has only met with mediocre photographs. I’ll share some anyway.

Here’s a Common Grackle posing in one of our apple trees. I’d really like to catch one in the act of anting, but here it’s just checking out the landscape.

And here’s a European Starling in the Big Tree, calling as you can see by its throat feathers. I found it interesting to read that this bird was introduced to Central Park in the 1890s by a fellow who wanted to establish in the US all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

Check back soon for news on Phil’s latest discovery: a robin building her nest!

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More on the hummingbird…

I found this cool site that helped identify our little nectar lover as a Broad-tailed hummingbird. The key was noticing that her underparts are pale orange-brown and her throat is speckled.Hummingbird Close-Up

(If I’m wrong, please comment and let me know!)

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Phil has succeeded where I failed. He camped out on the hammock and waited for the hummingbird to return. It was well worthwhile, he got some really great shots. These two are my favorites. Hummingbird by PhilHummingbird 2 by Phil

After a bit of research I’m still unsure about the species, but I’m pretty sure it’s a female. The less-than-stunning throat, visible in the top picture, and the white tips on the tail, especially visible in the lower picture, are good clues.

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