Now every morning we awake to birdsong. All the singers are male, right? Well … not really.
When I took a class on birdsong years ago I learned that female birds don’t sing. This information came from centuries of bird observations made in Europe and North America. Charles Darwin even used it to describe how song evolved in male birds to attract mates and compete for territory.
The flowers are ahead of schedule and so are some migratory birds. This week in Schenley Park I found four new arrivals.
Brown creepers (Certhia americana) spend the winter in the central and southern U.S. so they know about our warm weather and can decide to migrate early. I saw several brown creepers and heard their high pitched, squeaky song along the Bridle Trail on Thursday.
Two very tiny birds, smaller than chickadees, arrived on Tuesday. It’s unusual to see them together.
Golden-crowned kinglets (Regulus satrapa), at left below, have a winter range similar to the brown creeper’s and usually migrate through before their ruby-crowned cousins show up. I found both birds on March 29 when I heard the ruby-crowned kinglet singing “Stay away!” as the golden-crowned chased him. I’ve never seen these two species fighting!
Golden-crowned kinglet (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ruby-crowned kinglet (photo by Steve Gosser)
Ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) spend the winter in the southern U.S. and even in eastern Pennsylvania but they’re a big deal here. An appearance on March 29 is two weeks earlier than I expect them.
Here’s the ruby’s song and, at the end, the “chack” he makes when annoyed.
On Tuesday I heard a lone chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) along the Bridle Trail but couldn’t find him for two days. He was hanging out with a flock of dark-eyed juncoes. Bob Machesney says that in the North Hills the dark-eyed juncoes are gone before the chipping sparrows arrive. This solo bird isn’t playing by the rules. 😉
Chipping sparrow in May (photo by Steve Gosser)
Here’s the chipping sparrow’s song:
Watch for the first three birds in the days ahead. Only the chipping sparrow will stay to nest in Schenley Park.
Florida scrub-jay on Joan Tague’s hat (photo by Chuck Tague)
On Throw Back Thursday:
Last week in Florida with Chuck and Joan Tague we found these brainy birds on Merritt Island. On a similar trip in 2009 a jay was so bold that he perched right next to a replica of himself — a Florida scrub-jay pin on Joan’s hat.
Spot-breasted oriole (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Here on the east coast of Florida I’m looking for a Life Bird. I’ve been to this part of the country so often that I’ve seen all the easy ones, but there’s a bird in Broward County that fits the bill.
Spot-breasted orioles (Icterus pectoralis) are native to Mexico and Central America but were introduced to the Miami area in the 1940’s. Since then they’ve raised families, spread out a bit and become so established that they’re “count-able” according to American Birding Association rules. I found out they’re at Markham Park in Broward County where I heard that a western spindalis was hanging out with them in January.
The western spindalis is gone (alas! not reported since January 31) but the spot-breasted orioles are still there so I’m going to seek them out.
If I see one, I can count him.
(*) “Countable”: When a new species is introduced to North America it can’t be counted as a wild bird on ABA Life Lists until the ABA determines that it’s become established on its own. Of course I have my own list of exceptions that count for me but aren’t official. Click here for the ABA rules and here for the ABA checklist.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
p.s. Alas! Bad luck. I didn’t find the spot-breasted orioles even though two were seen on Sunday.
The phrase “The First Robin of Spring” is misleading. We think it means that robins leave for the winter. Not so in Pittsburgh. We always have robins in December.
American robins (Turdusmigratorius) are very versatile birds. They change their diet for the season, eating invertebrates in summer and fruit in winter. They take advantage of invasive species, especially earthworms and bush honeysuckle. They move quickly to places where we’ve changed the landscape, adopting our farms and suburbs. And they’re flexible on migration.
Studies have shown that American robins migrate an average of 300-750 miles but that average doesn’t tell the whole story. Some flocks head directly south, arriving in Florida by early December. Others take their time, pausing when they find abundant food along the way. Still others stay home or travel less than 60 miles from their breeding grounds especially in the last two decades as the climate warms.
Every December, huge flocks of robins feed and roost in Allegheny County. In 2008 Scott Kinsey discovered 100,000 of them roosting in Carnegie. The flocks stay through the month and are counted on the Christmas Bird Counts. Then, when the fruit is gone, the ground freezes, or there’s snow cover the robins move on.
In Pittsburgh they normally don’t leave until January.