Monday, December 11, 2017

Greater Roadrunner

Not very colorful, but oh so comical.

You don't have to be fan of the Roadrunner cartoon to be enamored with the carryings-on of the Greater Roadrunner.

All birds spend a good portion of their day searching for food, but the Greater Roadrunner always LOOKS to be LOOKING for food. He has an intensity of purpose to his look you cannot deny.

Catching critters like roaches is a piece of cake for the Greater Roadrunner.

Taking care to NOT become someone else's lunch is a major concern. As fast as he appears in the cartoons, a willy coyote is twice as fast.  The speedy ground hugging Greater Roadrunner is a not-so-adept flyer.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Friday, December 8, 2017

Costa's & Anna's Hummingbirds

On a chilly day for most of the USA, here are two jewels in the sunshine for your pleasure.
A Costa's Hummingbird gathers nectar from the last of the remaining Sonoran Desert flowers.

His radiance isn't a reflection of the flowers he's visiting. Purple iridescence is only visible when sunlight hits at a perfect angle. As he visits each flower his head intermittently lights up.

Purple 'gorgets' (gor-jets) are his trademark.  He uses them to attract females.

For a Costa's male it's the equivalent of a long mustache.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

The slightly larger Anna's Hummingbird also lives in this desert.

The two species don't get along, as is typical with rivals. They are in a constant battle for territory and resources.

What we perceive as elegance in these birds is more likely aggression.

It matters little to me.

I prefer to enjoy only their brilliance on a chilly day.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Monday, December 4, 2017


This flighty little Verdin often visits our backyard, mostly when I'm not present.

He is a welcome visitor though, but he's oh so skittish.

If I'm around when he stops in, I suspect he suspects that he isn't quite alone and this makes him nervous.

I must remain motionless.

A fixed stare in my direction leads me to believe I've been spotted.

Aware of the slightest movements, he's poised to flee should the need be.

The tiny desert dwelling Verdin is about the size of a chickadee or warbler.

According to the 2014 State of the Birds Report, the Verdin is a Common Bird in Steep Decline, mostly due to habitat loss.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Being wary is a good trait that has served him well up to this point.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
2014 State of the Birds Report

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Some birds are approachable while others fly away on sight.

The Phainopepla is one bird that lets you get closer, providing you respect his space.

(pronounced fay-no-PEP-la
from the Greek "shining robe')

This gleaming red-eyed black bird of the southwestern deserts seems fearless, though he may only be curious about your presence.

A dark black bird in a hot sunny environment may look out of place, but they are a fixture in the Sonoran Desert.

The lighter colored female Phainopepla, also with a red eye, is equally approachable.

This 1st year male was attracted to a water fountain. His juvenile feathers are starting to turn black, while orange eyes shift to red.

Adult males display a brilliant flash of under wing white as they fly. The white is hidden at rest.

When most birds flee your approach, it's welcoming to come upon a fearless Phainopepla in the treetops.

It's another reward for walking in the desert.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lewis's Woodpecker

A Lewis's Woodpecker closely watches the activity atop another utility pole to the north. An intruder just landed close by and s/he looks rather motley.

The second Lewis's Woodpecker is just as concerned as the first. S/he also glances back often.

They both have something to hide... pecans!

Woodpecker #1 grabs its pecan and moves it around repeatedly, seemingly NOT wanting to share.

Woodpecker #2 looks to have been in a fight while not itching to be in another.

More likely it's just a molt.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Molts happen!
They aren't pretty!
There is no good reason to go into battle when you're not looking your best.

A staring battle went on for 20 minutes, though. Then both Lewis's Woodpeckers got to enjoy their respective pecan.

It was all a bit trivial in the end as the fencerow below was littered with thousands of pecans.

They just seemed to be very protective of THEIR pecan.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crested Caracara

Proudly perched as regally as possible, this Crested Caracara somehow gives you permission to snicker.

Granted, this may be a first year juvenile that has yet to reach full adult potential... still s/he evokes a comic reaction.

Could it be a toupee of top feathers... no, yes?

An adult keeps an eye on a youngster as they travel throughout Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona, an agricultural area south of Phoenix.

The baking-hot land, only arable by irrigation, produces mainly cotton and alfalfa.

Crops and creatures now share this patchwork of green and dunn. The water attracts insect life all the way up to bird life.

Caracaras eat from eggs to insects, amphibians to mammals, and especially carrion.

Soaring low across the land is the preferred hunting tactic for this sharp eyed raptor of the falcon family.

Together at sunrise the two birds take off in search of sustenance. It may be alive or among the recently departed, but that doesn't matter to the Crested Caracara. It's all food.

In flight, s/he takes on a more splendid appearance. Perhaps that is why the ancient Aztecs revered as sacred the Crested Caracara.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley Guide to Birds

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Belted Kingfisher

A Belted Kingfisher cuts away sharply when she notices me.  She's was an exciting, yet, fleeting sight patrolling the Milwaukee River on a sunny October day.

She sits alone twenty feet above the water. I suspect, she and her mate have raised their young for this year and split, but I don't know their private story.

Belted Kingfishers are monogamous, but form new partnerships annually.

Next year she will find a new mate.

Belted Kingfishers are not rare, only uncommon. That's why it takes some searching to find kingfishers. They like their privacy and rarely let you near.

She is patient and particular. Whatever she catches must be 'bite-sized' in order to rise waterlogged from the river.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

A male Belted Kingfisher skims the surface for a seafood opportunity. Kingfishers sometimes hover in place before plunging head first into the water... eyes closed.

Female Belted Kingfishers are more colorful then their male counterparts. Females wear an additional 'belt' of chestnut coloring under their wings.

Kingfishers require open rivers and streams to live up to their namesake, so they will leave Wisconsin soon.

Cooling days and fall colors prompt them to head downstream to warmer weather.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds