Birds of the Week # 21
The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a bird in the finch family Fringillidae. It is native to western North America and has been introduced to the eastern half of the continent and Hawaii. House finches forage on the ground or in vegetation normally. They primarily eat grains, seeds and berries, being voracious consumers of weed seeds such as nettle and dandelion; included are incidental small insects such as aphids. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders throughout the year, particularly if stocked with sunflower or nyjer seed, and will congregate at hanging nyjer sock feeders. The house finch is known to damage orchard fruit and consume commercially grown grain, but is generally considered an annoyance rather than a significant pest.
The Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea), is a medium-sized North American passerine bird in the cardinal family Cardinalidae. It is mainly migratory, wintering in Central America and breeding in northern Mexico and the southern United States. The male is blue with two brown wing bars. The female is mainly brown with scattered blue feathers on the upperparts and two brown wing bars. The blue grosbeak nests in a low tree or bush or a tangle of vegetation, usually about 1–2.5 m (3.3–8.2 ft) above ground, often at the edge of an open area.
The Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) is a large New World sparrow. The taxonomy of the towhees has been under debate in recent decades, and formerly this bird and the spotted towhee were considered a single species, the rufous-sided towhee. Breeding begins in spring and continues to late summer. Reports of eastern towhees nesting as early as late March in Florida and Georgia, in mid- to late April in some midwestern states, and as late as mid-May in northern New England were summarized in a literature review. Literature reviews also report nest construction by the female, which takes about three to five days.
The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a mockingbird commonly found in North America. These birds forage on the ground or in vegetation; they also fly down from a perch to capture food. While foraging, they frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches. There is disagreement among ornithologists over the purpose of this behavior, with hypotheses ranging from deceleration to intimidation of predators or prey.
The European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), also known simply as the starling in Great Britain and Ireland, is a medium-sized passerine bird in the starling family, Sturnidae. Large flocks typical of this species can be beneficial to agriculture by controlling invertebrate pests; however, starlings can also be pests themselves when they feed on fruit and sprouting crops. Common starlings may also be a nuisance through the noise and mess caused by their large urban roosts. Introduced populations in particular have been subjected to a range of controls, including culling, but these have had limited success, except in preventing the colonization of Western Australia.
The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a small, obligate brood parasitic icterid native to temperate and subtropical North America. It is a permanent resident in the southern parts of its range; northern birds migrate to the southern United States and Mexico in winter, returning to their summer habitat around March or April. The brown-headed cowbird is typical for an icterid in general shape, but is distinguished by its finch-like head and beak and smaller size. The adult male is iridescent black in color with a brown head. The adult female is slightly smaller and is dull grey with a pale throat and very fine streaking on the underparts.
The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a small North American bird in the finch family. It is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from just south of the Canada–United States border to Mexico during the winter. The American goldfinch is a granivore and adapted for the consumption of seedheads, with a conical beak to remove the seeds and agile feet to grip the stems of seedheads while feeding. This finch has also been known to eat garden vegetation and is particularly fond of beet greens. It is a social bird and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating.
© HJ Ruiz – Avian101