#500 Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

18 July

Swamp Sparrows nest only in wetlands. In the northern parts of the range, they use fens and bogs that have patches of open water, especially those dotted with shrubs. They also nest in peat bogs with little open water. Through most of the breeding range, look for them in freshwater marshes with cattail, sedges, and other tall reeds, rushes, or grasses; these areas often have willows or alders around their edges. In the mid-Atlantic states, “Coastal Plain” Swamp Sparrows (the nigrescens subspecies) nest in brackish marshes in tidal rivers, mostly in the higher portion of the marshes where salt-meadow hay is dotted with small shrubs like marsh elder and groundsel. During migration, large numbers of Swamp Sparrows mix with Song, Lincoln’s, and White-throated Sparrows in the East, especially in coastal locations prone to “fallouts” of migrants. In such cases, the birds might be a considerable distance from the nearest wetland.

#492 Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

10 July

A bird in the family Mimidae, which also includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds. The brown thrasher is abundant throughout the eastern and central United States and southern and central Canada, and it is the only thrasher to live primarily east of the Rockies and central Texas. It is the state bird of Georgia.

As a member of the genus Toxostoma, the bird is relatively large-sized among the other thrashers. It has brown upper parts with a white under part with dark streaks. Because of this, it is often confused with the smaller wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), among other species. The brown thrasher is noted for having over 1000 song types, and the largest song repertoire of birds. However, each note is usually repeated in two or three phrases.

The brown thrasher is an omnivore, with its diet ranging from insects to fruits and nuts. The usual nesting areas are shrubs, small trees, or at times on ground level. Brown thrashers are generally inconspicuous but territorial birds, especially when defending their nests, and will attack species as large as humans.

(*Image from Wikipedia)

#491 Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

9 July

Not to be confused with the more common Cedar Waxwing – distinctively the lower belly is a rich chestnut colour and there are cinnamon-coloured areas around the mask.. The breeding habitat is coniferous forests, usually near water. The pair build a lined cup-shaped nest in a tree or bush, often close to the trunk. Many birds desert their nesting range in winter and migrate farther south. In some years, large numbers of Bohemian waxwings irrupt well beyond their normal winter range in search of the fruit that makes up most of their diet.

In some years, this waxwing irrupts south of its normal wintering areas, sometimes in huge numbers. The fruit on which the birds depend in winter varies in abundance from year to year, and in poor years, particularly those following a good crop the previous year, the flocks move farther south until they reach adequate supplies. They will stay until the food runs out and move on again.

(* Picture from Wikipedia)

#481 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – (Polioptila caerulea)

29 June

Breeding habitat includes open deciduous woods and shrublands in southern Ontario, the eastern and southwestern United States, and Mexico. Though gnatcatcher species are common and increasing in number while expanding to the northeast, it is the only one to breed in Eastern North America. They migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, northern Central America.

They forage actively in trees or shrubs, mainly eating insects, insect eggs and spiders. They may hover over foliage while snatching prey (gleaning), or fly to catch insects in flight (hawking). The tail is often held upright while defending territory or searching for food.
(* Image from Wikipedia)

#473 Black-throated Green Warbler – (Setophaga virens)

21 June

The breeding habitat of the black-throated green warbler is coniferous and mixed forests in eastern North America and western Canada and cypress swamps on the southern Atlantic coast. These birds’ nests are open cups, which are usually situated close to the trunk of a tree.

These birds migrate to Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and southern Florida. forage actively in vegetation, and they sometimes hover (gleaning), or catch insects in flight (hawking). Insects are the main constituents of these birds’ diets, although berries will occasionally be consumed.

The song of this bird is a buzzed zee-zee-zee-zooo-zeet or zoo-zee-zoo-zoo-zeet. The call is a sharp tsip.

This bird is vulnerable to nest parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird.
(* Image from Wikipedia)

#472 Black-backed Woodpecker – (Picoides arcticus)

20 June

Uncommon but every couple of years one is observed in the further corners of the Morgan Arboretum.

Their breeding range is boreal forest across Canada, Alaska, the north-western United States, as well as northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Upper Michigan. In particular the species is a burnt-forest specialist, feeding on the outbreaks of wood-boring beetles that feed on recently burnt trees. The most important wood boring beetles taken are in the families Cerambycidae and Buprestidae, along with engraver beetles and Mountain pine beetle. Most food is obtained by pecking, a smaller proportion is obtained by gleaning off branches. Black-backed woodpeckers are generally non-migratory but historically have undertaken intermittent irruptions.

Nest excavation occurs in April and May; a fresh nest is drilled each year into the sapwood of dead trees. Abandoned nests are used by other species of bird to nest in. The female lays three or four eggs, and incubation duties are shared between both parents, although the male alone incubates during the night. Upon hatching the altricial chicks are brooded until the nestling phase. Both parents feed the chicks, which take about 24 days to fledge.
(* Image from Wikipedia)

#471 Black Tern – (Chlidonias niger)

19 June

Rare in the vicinity of the town but occasional seen along the river reasonably nearby. Their breeding habitat is freshwater marshes across most of Canada, the northern United States and much of Europe and western Asia. They usually nest either on floating material in a marsh or on the ground very close to water, laying 2–4 eggs.

In England the black tern was abundant in the eastern fens, especially in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, until the early nineteenth century. The English naturalist Thomas Pennant in 1769 referred to “vast flocks” of black terns “whose calls are almost deafening.” Extensive drainage of its breeding grounds wiped out the English population by about 1840. Intermittent attempts by the black tern to recolonise England have proved unsuccessful, with only a handful of English breeding records, and one in Ireland, in the second half of the twentieth century.

North American black terns migrate to the coasts of northern South America, some to the open ocean. Old World birds winter in Africa.

Unlike the “white” Sterna terns, these birds do not dive for fish, but forage on the wing picking up items at or near the water’s surface or catching insects in flight. They mainly eat insects and fish as well as amphibians.
(* Image from Wikipedia)

#470 Barn Swallow – (Hirundo rustica)

18 June

The most widespread species of swallow in the world. It is a distinctive passerine bird with blue upperparts and a long, deeply forked tail. It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In Anglophone Europe it is just called the swallow; in Northern Europe it is the only common species called a “swallow” rather than a “martin”.

A bird of open country that normally uses man-made structures to breed and consequently has spread with human expansion. It builds a cup nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight. This species lives in close association with humans, and its insect-eating habits mean that it is tolerated by humans; this acceptance was reinforced in the past by superstitions regarding the bird and its nest. There are frequent cultural references to the barn swallow in literary and religious works due to both its living in close proximity to humans and its annual migration

(* Image from Wikipedia)

#469 American Black Duck – (Anas rubripes)

17 June

Interbreeds regularly and extensively with the mallard, to which it is closely related. The female lays six to fourteen oval eggs, which have smooth shells and come in varied shades of white and buff green. Hatching takes 30 days on average. Incubation usually takes 25 to 26 days, with both sexes sharing duties, although the male usually defends the territory until the female reaches the middle of her incubation period. It takes about six weeks to fledge. Once the eggs hatch, the hen leads the brood to rearing areas with abundant invertebrates and vegetation.

(* Image from Wikipedia)

#467 American Wigeon (Mareca americana)

15 June

A species of dabbling duck found in North America. Formerly assigned to Anas, this species is classified with the other wigeons in the dabbling duck genus Mareca. It is the New World counterpart of the Eurasian wigeon.

The American wigeon is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some taller vegetation, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing, which it does very readily. While on the water, wigeon often gather with feeding coots and divers, and are known to grab pieces of vegetation brought to the surface by diving water birds. For this reason, they are sometimes called “poacher” or “robber” ducks. Wigeon also commonly feed on dry land, eating waste grain in harvested fields and grazing on pasture grasses, winter wheat, clover, and lettuce. Having a largely vegetarian diet, most wigeon migrate in the fall well before northern marshes begin to freeze.

(*Image from Wikipedia)