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North American Loons

There are few sounds as thrilling as the wail of a Common Loon in the North Woods. But did you know that North America has four other species of loons? So what about their operatic abilities? Let’s just say they make worthy attempts, but with less consistent results. Have a listen in this short audio slideshow. Which is your favorite? Please tell us in the comments section below.

Visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ to discover more about loons.

Illustrated with beautiful photographs by Gerrit Vyn and audio recordings by Michael J. Andersen, Peter Paul Kellog and Gerrit Vyn

Macaulay Library audio assets used in this piece, available at http://www.macaulaylibrary.org/

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Category
Pets & Animals
License
Standard YouTube License

prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor)

The prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family. These birds have yellow underparts with dark streaks on the flanks, and olive upperparts with rusty streaks on the back; they have a yellow line above the eye, a dark line through it, and a yellow spot below it. These birds have black legs, long tails, two pale wing bars, and thin pointed bills. Coloring is duller in female and immatures.

Their breeding habitats are brushy areas and forest edges in eastern North America. The prairie warbler’s nests are open cups, which are usually placed in a low area of a tree or shrub. Incubation period is 12 to 13 days.

These birds are permanent residents in the southern parts of their range. Other birds migrate to northeastern Mexico and islands in the Caribbean.

Prairie warblers forage actively on tree branches, and sometimes fly around with the purpose of catching insects, which are the main food source of these birds.

Prairie warblers have two categories of songs, referred to as Type A and Type B. Type A songs are typically a series of ascending buzzy notes. The B songs are an ascending series of whistled notes that often contain some buzzy notes. Compared to A songs, the B songs are lower in pitch, have fewer, longer notes. The total song length is longer as well in Type B songs. The use of these two song categories is associated with certain contexts. A songs are sung throughout the day when males first arrive on their breeding grounds. Once males are paired they begin to sing B songs during the dawn chorus and then will intersperse A songs in their singing during the rest of the day. During this later period of singing A songs are typically used near females, near the nest, and in the center of their territories. In contrast B songs are used when interacting or fighting with other males and near the borders of their territories.

Part of their call note repertoire is a tsip call. During dawn, chorus B songs are interspersed with rapid loud “check” calls.

These birds wag their tails frequently.

The numbers of these birds are declining due to habitat loss; this species also suffers from nest parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird.

blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata), (Chara Azul), or (Geai Bleu) is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae, native to North America. It is resident through most of eastern and central United States and southern Canada, although western populations may be migratory. It breeds in both deciduous and coniferous forests, and is common near and in residential areas. It is predominantly blue with a white chest and underparts, and a blue crest. It has a black, U-shaped collar around its neck and a black border behind the crest. Genders are similar in size and plumage, and plumage does not vary throughout the year. Four subspecies of the blue jay are recognized.

The blue jay mainly feeds on nuts and seeds such as acorns, soft fruits, arthropods, and occasionally small vertebrates. It typically gleans food from trees, shrubs, and the ground, though it sometimes hawks insects from the air. Like squirrels, blue jays are known to hide nuts for later consumption. It builds an open cup nest in the branches of a tree, which both sexes participate in constructing. The clutch can contain two to seven eggs, which are blueish or light brown with brown spots. Young are altricial, and are brooded by the female for 8–12 days after hatching. They may remain with their parents for one to two months.

The bird’s name derives from its noisy, garrulous nature. It is sometimes called a “jaybird”.

The blue jay measures 22–30 cm (9–12 in) from bill to tail and weighs 70–100 g (2.5–3.5 oz), with a wingspan of 34–43 cm (13–17 in). Jays from Connecticut averaged 92.4 g (3.26 oz) in mass, while jays from southern Florida averaged 73.7 g (2.60 oz). There is a pronounced crest on the head, a crown of feathers, which may be raised or lowered according to the bird’s mood. When excited or aggressive, the crest will be fully raised. When frightened, the crest bristles outwards, brushlike. When the bird is feeding among other jays or resting, the crest is flattened on the head.

Its plumage is lavender-blue to mid-blue in the crest, back, wings, and tail, and its face is white. The underside is off-white and the neck is collared with black which extends to the sides of the head. The wing primaries and tail are strongly barred with black, sky-blue and white. The bill, legs, and eyes are all black. Males and females are almost identical, but the male is slightly larger.

As with most other blue-hued birds, the blue jay’s colouration is not derived from pigments but is the result of light interference due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a blue feather is crushed, the blue disappears because the structure is destroyed.[10] This is referred to as structural colouration.

The blue jay occurs from southern Canada through the eastern and central USA south to Florida and northeastern Texas. The western edge of the range stops where the arid pine forest and scrub habitat of the closely related Steller’s jay (C. stelleri) begins. Recently, the range of the blue jay has extended northwestwards so that it is now a rare but regularly seen winter visitor along the northern US and southern Canadian Pacific Coast. As the two species’ ranges now overlap, C. cristata may sometimes hybridize with Steller’s jay.

The northernmost subspecies C. c. bromia is migratory, subject to necessity. It may withdraw several hundred kilometres south in the northernmost parts of its range. Thousands of blue jays have been observed to migrate in flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coasts. It migrates during the daytime, in loose flocks of 5 to 250 birds. Much about their migratory behavior remains a mystery. Some are present throughout winter in all parts of their range. Young jays may be more likely to migrate than adults, but many adults also migrate. Some individual jays migrate south one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. To date, no one has concretely worked out why they migrate when they do. Likely, it is related to weather conditions and how abundant the winter food sources are, which can determine whether other northern birds will move south.

The blue jay occupies a variety of habitats within its large range, from the pine woods of Florida to the spruce-fir forests of northern Ontario. It is less abundant in denser forests, preferring mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches. It has expertly adapted to human activity, occurring in parks and residential areas, and can adapt to wholesale deforestation with relative ease if human activity creates other means for the jays to get by.

The purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus)

The purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is a bird in the finch family, Fringillidae.

This species and the other “American rosefinches” are placed in the genus Haemorhous by the American Ornithologists’ Union but have usually been included in Carpodacus. It is included in the finch family, Fringillidae, which is made up of passerine birds found in the northern hemisphere and Africa. The purple finch was originally described by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789.

There are two subspecies of the purple finch, H. p. purpureus and H. p. californicus. H. p. californicus was identified by Spencer F. Baird in 1858. It differs from the nominate subspecies in that it has a longer tail and shorter wing. The plumageof both males and females are darker, and the coloration of the females is more greenish. The bill of C. p. californicus is also longer than that of the nominate subspecies.

Adults have a short forked brown tail and brown wings and are about 15 cm (5.9 in) in length and weigh 34 g (1.2 oz). Adult males are raspberry red on the head, breast, back and rump; their back is streaked. Adult females have light brown upperparts and white underparts with dark brown streaks throughout; they have a white line on the face above the eye.

Their breeding habitat is coniferous and mixed forest in Canada and the northeastern United States, as well as various wooded areas along the U.S. Pacific coast. They nest on a horizontal branch or in a fork of a tree.

Birds from northern Canada migrate to the southern United States; other birds are permanent residents.

The purple finch population has declined sharply in the East due to the house finch. Most of the time, when these two species collide, the house finch outcompetes the purple finch. This bird has been also displaced from some habitat by the introduced house sparrow.

These birds forage in trees and bushes, sometimes in ground vegetation. They mainly eat seeds, berries and insects. They are fond of sunflower seeds, millet, and thistle.

This is the state bird of New Hampshire.

spotted antbird (Hylophylax naevioides)

The spotted antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) is a species of bird in the Thamnophilidae family. In southern Central America, it is found in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; also Colombia and Ecuador of northwestern South America. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

A smallish bird, measuring 11 cm (4.3 in) and weighing 16–19.5 g (0.56–0.69 oz). The male spotted antbird’s plumage is a distinctive combination of large black spots on a white chest, chestnut back, grey head with black throat. The female is dull, but also distinctive with large chest spots and two wide buffy wing-bars.

Forages as individuals or pairs in lower levels of mature, humid forests. Found in lowlands and foothills up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
Spotted antbirds are known to follow army ant swarms to catch insects and other small animals trying to flee. They eat spiders, scorpions, cockroaches, katydids, crickets, centipedes, sowbugs, moths, beetles, caterpillars, ants, bristletails and, on occasion, lizards and frogs.

This bird is an open-cup nesting species that lays an average clutch of 2 maroon-splotched white eggs, which both adults incubate. The nestling period is 11 days.

green violetear (Colibri thalassinus)

green violetear (Colibri thalassinus) is a medium-sized, metallic green hummingbird species commonly found in forested areas from Mexico to northern South America.

The green violetear belongs to the order Apodiformes. Hummingbirds share this order with the swifts, such as the white-collared swift. The name Apodiformes is derived from the Greek words “a pous,” meaning “without foot.” While apodiforms do in fact have feet, they are quite small and their legs are short and relatively weak. Many birds in this order cannot walk, and thus rarely if ever land on the ground since quick escape from predators is virtually impossible. For this reason members of this order spend a majority of their time in the air.

ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata)

ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata)

The ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) is a species of turkey residing primarily in the Yucatán Peninsula. A relative of the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) The ocellated turkey lives only in a 130,000 km2 (50,000 sq mi) range in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico—which includes all or part the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, Yucatán, Tabasco, and Chiapas—as well as the northern parts of Belize and Guatemala.
The body feathers of both sexes are a mixture of bronze and green iridescent color. Although females can be duller with more green, the breast feathers do not generally differ and can not be used to determine sex. Neither sex possesses the beard typically found in wild turkeys. Tail feathers of both sexes are bluish-grey with an eye-shaped, blue-bronze spot near the end with a bright gold tip. The spots, or ocelli (located on the tail), for which the ocellated turkey is named, have been likened to the patterning typically found on peafowl. The upper, major secondary wing coverts are rich iridescent copper. The primary and secondary wing feathers have similar barring to that of North American turkeys, but the secondaries have more white, especially around the edges.
Both sexes have blue heads with some orange or red nodules, which are more pronounced on males. The males also have a fleshy blue crown covered with nodules, similar to those on the neck, behind the snood. During breeding season this crown swells up and becomes brighter and more pronounced in its yellow-orange color. The eye is surrounded by a ring of bright red skin, which is most visible on males during breeding season. The legs are deep red and are shorter and thinner than on North American turkeys. Males over one year old have spurs on the legs that average 4 cm (1.5 inches), which lengths of over 6 cm (2.5 inches) being recorded. These spurs are much longer and thinner than on North American turkeys.
Ocellated turkeys are much smaller than any of the subspecies of North American wild turkey, with adult hens weighing about 4 kg (8 pounds) before laying eggs and 3 kg (6–7 pounds) the rest of the year, and adult males weighing about 5–6 kg (11–15 pounds) during breeding season.