Monthly Archives: December 2016

Seasonal Movements: One Woodpecker

Male Pileated Woodpecker (photo by Dick Martin)

Range maps can obscure the seasonal movement of birds.

For instance, the range map for pileated woodpeckers, below, shows them in western Pennsylvania all year long but they're not everywhere. There are none in Schenley Park in the spring and summer.

Pileated woodpecker range map. Green means year-round. (from Wikimedia Commons)
Pileated woodpecker range map. Green means year-round. (from Wikimedia Commons)

However, a male pileated woodpecker comes to Panther Hollow for the winter.  He announces his presence when he sees me on the trail.

It's a treat to see him as I walk through Schenley Park.

 

(photo by Dick Martin, range map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the map to see the original image)

 

A Puzzle For Learning Ducks

Diving Ducks puzzle, preview and pieces (All About Birds Academy)
Diving Ducks puzzle preview from All About Birds Academy

If you like puzzles, here's one that helps you identify birds.

Cornell Lab's All About Birds Academy offers an online puzzle of male diving ducks.  Practice your ID skills while you put it together.

Click on the puzzle piece above or here to play.

 

(jigsaw puzzle pieces in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Diving ducks puzzle preview from All About Birds Academy)

He Wears A Royal Crown

Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, male, held by Cameron Rutt (photo courtesy Nemesis Bird)
Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, male, held by Cameron Rutt (photo courtesy Nemesis Bird)

Museum birds make me curious.

On a visit to Bird Hall at Carnegie Museum I saw this bird with an unusual crown that opens sideways!

Royal flycatcher, female, Bird Hall at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (photo by Kate St.John)
Royal flycatcher, female, at Bird Hall at Carnegie Museum (photo by Kate St.John)

Bird crests typically open front to back so that they're aerodynamic.  Cardinals, blue jays and tufted titmice can fly with their crests up.  This bird would have a problem.

The label on the pedestal says Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus), native from southern Mexico to southeastern Brazil.  Why does she have a sideways crest? And what is it used for?

Back home on the Internet, I found out that royal flycatchers rarely raise their crowns. They use them in perched displays with their mates and in agonistic encounters with other birds but normally keep them flattened.  The birds usually look like this.  Pretty boring except for the tail.

Royal flycatcher, Rio Tigre, Costa Rica (photo by Francesco Veronesi from Wikimedia Commons)
Royal flycatcher, Rio Tigre, Costa Rica (photo by Francesco Veronesi from Wikimedia Commons)

And then I found Cameron Rutt's blog and photos at Nemesis Bird with the gorgeous male shown above.  Males have red crowns, females have orange.  Wow!

Cameron encountered this flycatcher while banding birds in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.  As he held the bird, it opened its crest and beak and silently rotated its head back and forth 180 degrees in a mesmerizing display.  See Cameron's video below.

Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus) display

Read more about this surprising and wonderful encounter in Cameron Rutt's blog at Nemisis Bird.

I would never have learned this if I hadn't been curious about the royal flycatcher at Carnegie Museum.

The bird that wears a royal crown.

 

(photo credits:
Male royal flycatcher with red crest raised, still photo and video by Cameron Rutt linked from Nemesis Bird and Flickr.
Female taxidermy mount at Bird Hall, Carnegie Museum, photo by Kate St.John.
Boring royal flycatcher not showing its crest, from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original
)

Surf Scoter At Highland Park Dam

Surf scoters, female in background, male in front (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Surf scoter pair in Virginia, female in background, male in front (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Reports on PABIRDS just before Christmas say there's been a surf scoter on the Allegheny River upriver from the Highland Park Bridge.

The reports don't indicate whether it's a colorful male or a dull looking first-year male or female.

This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows a female and male to give you an idea of what to look for.  Notice the heavy triangular bill typical of scoters, and the white patch on the back of the head typical of surf scoters.

If you go looking for the bird, here's where: Allegheny River at Highland Park Dam

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons.Click on the image to see the original)

Light Outdoors, Flowers Within

Phipps Winter Light Garden (photo linked from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden)
Phipps Winter Light Garden (photo linked from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden)

When the holiday rush is over take some time to visit Phipps Conservatory's Winter Flower Show and Light Garden, open through January 8.

The Light Garden begins to glow at 5:00p and is open until 11:00p. Click on Phipps' photo above to see a 3D tour of the lights.

The flowers indoors are gorgeous as always, especially the Broderie Room.  This photo from Wikimedia Commons is even better at full size.  Click on the photo to get the full effect.

Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show 2015, Broderie Garden (Featured photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show 2015, Broderie Garden (Featured photo by Dllu on Wikimedia Commons)

For more details, visit Phipps' website for the Winter Flower Show and Light Garden.

 

(photo credits:  Light Garden linked from Phipps Conservatory website.  Broderie Room by Dllu is a Featured Photo at Wikimedia Commons.  Click on each image to see its original.)

Watch Birds In The Snow

Evening grosbeaks at Ontario Feederwatch, 15 Dec 2016 (screenshot from Cornell Lab video)
Evening grosbeaks at Ontario Feederwatch, 15 Dec 2016. Click on the image to watch the live camera at Cornell Lab

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

We won't have snow in Pittsburgh this Christmas and we certainly won't have evening grosbeaks but you can watch both -- live -- at Ontario FeederWatch.

The feeders are located in Manitouwadge, Ontario, a remote town that’s far away in the woods -- an 11.5 hour drive from Toronto and 8 hours from Duluth, Minnesota.

Manitouwadge is so far north that it has birds we never see here including evening and pine grosbeaks, gray jays and hoary redpolls.  There are also a lot of birds you'll recognize: black-capped chickadees, downy and hairy woodpeckers, crows and starlings.

Tune in to Ontario FeederWatch and watch cool birds in the snow.  (Click here or on the image above.)

 

Daylight: approximately 8:47am to 5:06pm EST.

(screenshot from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Ontario Feederwatch. Click on the image to watch the live camera)