Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What bird is that?... Questions and answers

Send your queries about Pacific Northwest bird identification or behavior or other topics. I'll do my best to figure out what you saw. I'll do some research. Then I'll write an article to answer your question. If you have a certain question, no doubt others will, too, and appreciate knowing the answer. My goal will be to do one Q & A article each week, answering all the questions I receive that week. I'll just use your first name and city in my answers. If you send photos I will likely use them (perhaps cropping and adjusting exposure for the web) so others can see what you are seeing.

Send questions to me using this link: PNWBB Q & A

This week's questions seem to have repeating themes. All four questions this week came from Washington, two from Bellingham, two were American Robins, and two were birds nesting in evergreen wreaths on the front door!




Question: "Our fresh Christmas [wreath] did great through the winter so we left it hanging on our front door. About 3 to 4 weeks ago I noticed activities of a robin around the wreath. I thought it was picking up tweaks to build its nest until later I found out that it was actually building a nest on the Wreath. There were 3 eggs in the nest and the mother bird has been with them at times... We restrained from using our front door but. The garage door is located in the front of the house. Every time the garage door opens and closes it still alarms the bird and it flies away. With the bird being gone so often and at times for a prolonged period of time would the eggs hatch? I thought about bringing the nest with the wreath to show my daughter's kindergarten class. I hesitated because she hasn't given up her eggs yet. Sound pretty silly questions but please educate me on this. Thank you!"

A mom in Olympia, WA

Answer: Robins are quite tolerant of human disturbance. Once the eggs are laid the mother bird will be less likely to leave the nest. You are correct, though, that the eggs may fail if they cool off too much while the adults are flushed away from their nest. Robins may attempt to renest up to 3 times in a season. It is their way of assuring offspring as, on average, only 2 nestlings live to adulthood to replace the parents every 4-6 years or so--the average life span of an adult bird. One thing to keep in mind, though. It is illegal to possess the nest, eggs, feathers, or body of birds in the US without a license. Thus, taking the old nest to your child's school, while an excellent nature lesson, is a bad citizen lesson! Perhaps you can find a volunteer at a local Audubon Society that has the proper permits and collection for a fun school assembly show-and-tell.




Question: "Hi Greg - I have a wreath on my front porch a small brown/beige bird has made a nest in. There are three blue eggs in the nest. Is there any way to identify what kind of bird it is? Thanks."

Linda in Seattle, WA

Answer: I believe your bird--if not an American Robin as above--is the House Finch. The female is all brown, while the male has a red forehead and breast. The eggs will hatch about 3 weeks after they are laid and the young will leave the nest about 3 weeks after that. See: In the backyard... House Finch.




Question: "I live in Bellingham and have heard a distinct pre dawn song for years. I used to listen it when I was burning the midnight oil in college, when I heard it I knew I needed to kick it up a notch to complete my paper. Recently I was walking to my car at 4:30 and noted the same measured warble. What bird would most likely produce this pre-dawn song in this area? I wish I had a recording of it but I don't."

W in Bellingham, Washington

Answer: The earliest riser and one of the first singers in spring, is the American Robin. See: In the backyard... American Robin. You can find a recording of the song on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's web site: All about birds: American Robin. Another bird that might sing early in the pre-dawn in April is White-crowned Sparrow.




Question: "Can you help identify a bird for us? We live in a rural area outside Bellingham and have several different types of birds from small to the larger Robins and even ducks and some geese. The bird in question is a "robin" sized greyish bird, that looks in many ways like a dove, with a distinctive black bib on its chest and robin red colors under its wings."

David outside Bellingham, WA

Answer: David, your bird is In the backyard... Northern Flicker.

2 comments:

  1. I live in the southern most part of Mendocino county. I saw a robin sized bird gray with a white v down it's neck. It was in profile atop a flagpole. A birder friend thought it might be a Phoebe?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Possibly the black-and-white Black Phoebe.

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