Category Archives: Spotlight On Ohio Birds

The familiar, and not so familiar look at Ohio’s birds.

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Nelson Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)

Family:  Emberizidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description: 

  • Small, stocky songbird.
  • Orange-yellow face.
  • Gray ear patch.
  • Smudgy streaks on breast and flanks.
  • Short, rounded tail with pointed tail feathers.

Voice:  Song a steady hissing buzz.

Habitat:  Freshwater marshes and wet meadows in interior and brackish marshes along coast; in winter in salt and brackish marshes.

Nesting:  Open cup of grass stems and blades, lined with finer grass blades and sometimes built up on sides to form partial covering.

Range:

ammo_nels_AllAm_map

FYI’s:  The Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow formerly was considered the same species as the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, collectively known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow. The two forms have separate breeding ranges that barely overlap in Maine. They differ in genetics, songs, and subtle plumage characters.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

 

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Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)

Family:  Scolopacidae

Order:  Charadriiformes

Description:  Length 8 1/2″ ADULT SUMMER Beautifully marked with chestnut on crown and ear coverts, broad pale supercilium, and otherwise dark-streaked face and neck. Underparts have distinct dark bars; feathers on back have dark centers. ADULT WINTER Has mainly gray upperparts and white underparts; note the pale supercilium. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but feathers on back have cleaner-looking pale margins.

Voice:  Call a soft “jeew.”

Habitat:  Very common locally high Arctic breeding species, from northern Alaska to Hudson Bay. Common on Atlantic coast during fall migration. Winters mainly in Central and South America, but small numbers remain on Gulf coast.

Range:

cali_hima_AllAm_map

FYI’s: The main southward migration route of the Stilt Sandpiper passes through the middle of the continent, west of the Mississippi River. From here, in fall the species migrates over water to the Caribbean or northern South America, where many birds interrupt their migration to molt flight feathers before continuing to winter haunts in inland central South America.

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Indigo Bunting ( Passerina cyanea )

Family:  Cardinalidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  5 1/2″ (14 cm) ADULT NONBREEDING MALE Has blotchy brown and blue plumage (caused by brown feather edges); resplendent again by spring. ADULT FEMALE Has brown plumage overall, darker above than below and with two faint wing bars and faint streaking on underparts. JUVENILE Recalls adult female; by first spring, male acquires some blue elements of adult’s plumage, but still looks blotchy.

Voice:  Male Indigo Buntings whistle a bright, lively song of sharp, clear, high-pitched notes that lasts about 2 seconds. They are voluble, singing as many as 200 songs per hour at dawn and keeping up a pace of about one per minute for the rest of the day. Notes or phrases are often repeated in pairs: “what! what! where? where? see it! see it!” This pattern is recognizable, although the precise tune varies from place to place. Young Indigo Buntings learn their songs from males near where they settle to breed, and this leads to “song neighborhoods” in which all nearby males sing songs that are similar to each other and that are different from those sung more than a few hundred yards away.

Habitat:
Indigo Buntings breed in brushy and weedy areas. They’re common on the edges of woods and fields; along roads, streams, rivers, and powerline cuts; in logged forest plots, brushy canyons, and abandoned fields where shrubby growth is returning. While migrating and in winter, Indigo Buntings forage in fields, lawns, grasslands, rice fields, as well as in shrubs, and trees.

Nesting:  The female Indigo Bunting builds the nest alone—a process that takes up to 8 days early in the season and as little as 2 days later in the summer. The male may watch but does not participate. The nest is an open cup woven of leaves, grasses, stems, and bark, and wrapped with spider web. The inside of the cup is lined with slender grasses, tiny roots, strips of thin bark, thistle down, and sometimes deer hair. The cup is about 1.5 inches deep inside, with an outside diameter of 3 inches and an inside diameter of two inches.

Range:

pass_cyan_AllAm_map

FYI’s:

  • Indigo Buntings migrate at night, using the stars for guidance. Researchers demonstrated this process in the late 1960s by studying captive Indigo Buntings in a planetarium and then under the natural night sky. The birds possess an internal clock that enables them to continually adjust their angle of orientation to a star—even as that star moves through the night sky.
  • Indigo Buntings learn their songs as youngsters, from nearby males but not from their fathers. Buntings a few hundred yards apart generally sing different songs, while those in the same “song neighborhood” share nearly identical songs. A local song may persist up to 20 years, gradually changing as new singers add novel variations.
  • Like all other blue birds, Indigo Buntings lack blue pigment. Their jewel-like color comes instead from microscopic structures in the feathers that refract and reflect blue light, much like the airborne particles that cause the sky to look blue.
  • Bunting plumage does contain the pigment melanin, whose dull brown-black hue you can see if you hold a blue feather up so the light comes from behind it, instead of toward it.
  • Indigo and Lazuli buntings defend territories against each other in the western Great Plains where they occur together, share songs, and sometimes interbreed.
  • The oldest known wild Indigo Bunting was 8 years, 3 months old.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

http://www.audubon.org

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Family:  Hirundinidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  5-6 1/4″ (13-16 cm) ADULT Has blackish upperparts, but in good light note the blue-green sheen on the cap, back, rump, and wing coverts. Dark elements of plumage on head form a complete and discrete cap that extends below the eye. Underparts, including throat, are white. First-year females have browner upperparts, reduced sheen (or none at all) and white tips to tertials. JUVENILE Similar to dull adult (i.e. upperparts are brownish and no sheen is visible); often shows a faint gray-brown breast band.

Voice:  Call and song comprise a series of whistling chirps.

Habitat:  Common summer visitor (present mainly Apr-Sep) to a range of open habitats. Often feeds over water, where flying insects are typically abundant, and often nests in the vicinity of marshes and lakes. Winters across southern U.S. and Central America.

Nesting:  The female does most of the nest building, taking between a few days and two weeks to finish the job. She collects material on the ground near the water’s edge, usually within 100 feet of the nest site. The nest is often made entirely of grass, but may include pine needles, mosses, rootlets, aquatic plants, animal hair, and artificial materials like cellophane or cigarette filters. Within the cavity, the female presses her body against the nest material to shape it into a cup, about 2–3 inches across and 1–2 inches deep, and lines it with many feathers of other bird species. In some populations the male gathers most of the feathers, and in others the male and females split the duty evenly.    Tree Swallows nest in natural cavities of standing dead trees, old woodpecker cavities, or nest boxes. On occasion they nest in hollow stumps, building eaves, Wood Duck nest boxes, holes in the ground, old Cliff Swallow burrows, or other unconventional sites.

Range:

tach_bico_AllAm_map

FYI’s:

  • Migrating and wintering Tree Swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset and form a dense cloud above a roost site (such as a cattail marsh or grove of small trees), swirling around like a living tornado. With each pass, more birds drop down until they are all settled on the roost.
  • Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.
  • The Tree Swallow—which is most often seen in open, treeless areas—gets its name from its habit of nesting in tree cavities. They also take readily to nest boxes.
  • Tree Swallows have helped researchers make major advances in several branches of ecology, and they are among the best-studied bird species in North America. Still, we know little about their lives during migration and winter.
  • The oldest Tree Swallow on record was at least 12 years, 1 month old when it was captured and released by an Ontario bird bander in 1998.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

http://www.audubon.org

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)

Family:  Parulidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  4 -5″ (10 – 13 cm)  ADULT MALE Has mainly olive-green back, with darker flight feathers and tail. Head and neck are mostly blue-gray, but note rufous crown patch and white eyering; throat and underparts are bright yellow. Legs are dark. ADULT FEMALE Similar to male, but less colorful, with dull underparts, browner head, and reduced crown patch. IMMATURE Similar to adult female, but even paler, with whitish throat and belly and no crown patch.

Voice:  Song is in two parts, first bouncy and whistling, second rapid and trilling: t’se-t’se-t’se-t’se, se’se’se’se’se; call is a thin tsip.

Habitat:  Common summer visitor (mainly May-Aug) to deciduous and mixed, brushy woods; often in secondary growth. Winters in Central America.

Nesting:  A neat cup of moss, bark, leaves, and grasses, lined with fine grass, pine needles, hair, or other fiber. Located on the ground under brushy vegetation or small trees.

Range: 

nashville_warbler

FYI’s:

  • The Nashville Warbler sometimes uses porcupine quills as nest material.
  • Most first-year Nashville Warblers migrate along the Atlantic coast, while adults tend to migrate along inland routes.
  • The Nashville Warbler does not regularly breed near Nashville, Tennessee, but was first observed there in 1811 by Alexander Wilson, who named the species.
  • The western population of the Nashville Warbler was once considered a separate species, called the “Calaveras Warbler.” It is slightly brighter than eastern birds, with a brighter yellow rump, more extensive white feathers on the lower belly, and a slightly longer tail.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

http://www.audubon.org

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Family:  Parulidae

Order:  Passeriformes

Description:  5 1/2″ (14 cm)  SPRING ADULT Eastern breeder has mostly olive-buff upperparts with faint streaking on back and two very faint, pale wing bars. Head has extensive chestnut crown, yellow supercilium, olive cheeks, and yellow throat with dark malar stripe; underparts are otherwise bright yellow, with rufous streaks on flanks. Western breeder has grayer back and wings; yellow is restricted to throat and undertail coverts. FALL ADULT AND IMMATURE Less colorful than their respective spring adult counterparts, lack rufous crown and streaks on flanks, are only lightly streaked above and have faint buff wing bars. Eastern breeder has yellowish supercilium and yellow wash to underparts; western breeder has white supercilium and gray underparts except for yellow undertail coverts.

Voice:  Song a weak trill. Call a thin “tsip” or a sharp “chip.”

Habitat:  Breeds in bogs, open boreal coniferous forest, and partly open situations with scattered trees and heavy undergrowth, usually near water. Found in migration and winter in a variety of woodland, second growth and thicket habitats, on the ground in savanna and open fields, and in mangroves.

Nesting:  4-5 eggs that are creamy white with dark speckles around large end.      Open cup of weed stalks, grass, sedges, bark shreds, rootlets, and ferns, lined with fine grasses, bryophytes, and occasionally hair and feathers. Placed in sphagnum moss at base of short tree.

Range:

palm_warlber

FYI’s:

  • The Palm Warbler is found in two different forms. Birds that breed in the western part of the range are duller, and have whitish bellies. Those breeding in the eastern part of the range are entirely yellow underneath.
  • Despite its tropical sounding name, the Palm Warbler lives farther north than most other warblers. It breeds far to the north in Canada, and winters primarily in the southern United States and northern Caribbean

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com

http://www.audubon.org