Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What bird is that?... Questions and answers

Question: "We took a trip to the Oregon Coast (Otter Rock) and saw these birds on the beach at Otter Crest. We are unable to identify them. I know they are not loons (no red eyes and the breasts are black), but they don't look like grebes either. Thanks for the help."

Jody and Ed in Anchorage, Alaska

Answer: Your birds are Brant (formerly Black Brant), a type of small marine goose. They breed in Alaska, but on the west and north coasts. Then they migrate over the ocean almost directly to the mouth of the Columbia River. They winter on the West Coast. Thus, it is understandable that you haven't seen this goose in your Anchorage location. [Click photos above for larger view.]




Question: "Thank you for posting bird information on your website. I have a question regarding our state bird the Western Meadowlark. I don't ever remember seeing one and would like to find one. I live in the Portland metro area. Can you tell where and when to go to see our state bird?"

Diane in Portland, Oregon

Western Meadowlark Answer: Western Meadowlark was chosen as the State Bird of Oregon in 1927 by Governor declaration after a vote by Oregon school children. Rumor has it that they were "encouraged" to choose the meadowlark over perhaps more familiar birds. At that time meadowlarks were found in rural areas of western Oregon. Current agricultural practices prevent the Western Meadowlark from nesting in the Willamette Valley except in small numbers, more commonly in the less-populated southern end of the Valley. A few winter in short grass fields in the Portland vicinity and along the outer coast (in winter, try N Marine Drive in the Saint Johns area of Portland, near Smith and Bybee Lakes). However, they are quite common yet in the extensive sage flats of the eastern two-thirds of Oregon. Drive any road east of the Cascades from spring and summer and they will be singing from the fence posts. [Click photos above for larger view.]

There is apparently a movement underway to change the State Bird of Oregon from Western Meadowlark to Osprey.





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

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