This month’s bird of the month is the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Bald eagles are raptors. They are one of North America’s larger birds with a wingspan of over 6.5 feet! Bald eagles eat dead fish and other forms of carrion. Bald Eagles were previously an endangered species, however after the enacting of the Endangered Species Act and the global ban of the DDT pesticide, eagle numbers have improved dramatically.
Bald eagles are famous for being the emblem of the United States, and coincidentally they live or migrate through all US states except Hawaii. Why are we not featuring the bald eagle in July for Independence day? During this month eagles are often found in our area of Nevada circling overhead following cattle.
To learn more about Bald Eagles, click here:
This month’s bird is the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Red-tailed Hawks are raptors found throughout North America either as residents or migrating through for breeding. Red-tailed Hawks are a common sight in Northern Nevada. The hawk you saw circling in the sky or perched up on a telephone pole was probably a Red-tailed. The key way to identify the hawk in flight is by its namesake red tail feathers which spread outward from its back like a fabric hand-fan.
A great way to find Red-tails is to go on a drive on the highway out of Reno. Red-tails might be seen circling over large fields and plains, as they are hunting for rodents and other small mammals. Red-tails have been observed at most parks at one point or another, although they prefer parks such as Rancho San Rafael which have more open spaces and therefore more opportunities for hunting prey.
Click here for more information about Red-tailed Hawks and to hear their call.
This month’s bird is the Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens). Downy Woodpeckers are from a class of birds who use their beaks to peck holes in trees, usually to find insects inside the trees bark to eat or to make a hole to store food for later. Downy Woodpeckers are small, only about 7 inches tall.
Downy Woodpeckers can be recognized by their shrill cheep-like call or by rapid tapping they make when pecking a tree. The tapping sound is referred to as drumming.
A great way to encourage Downy Woodpeckers to visit your backyard is to put up a suet feeder, a preferred food for the bird. Downy Woodpeckers are often seen climbing trees, therefore they are occasionally observed in Rancho San Rafael Park, Davis Creek Park and Oxbow Nature Center.
Click Here to learn more about Downy Woodpeckers or to hear their call.
Information retrieved from Audubon and Allaboutbirds.org.
In celebration of Nevada Day, we are featuring an honorary bird of the month: our State bird the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides). Mountain bluebirds are a member of the thrush family. The male birds are a brilliant powder blue, while the females are ash gray.
You may have seen Mountain Bluebirds perched on fence posts or telephone wires where they are hunting for insects to eat. A perfect way to bring a Mountain Bluebird to your backyard is to put up a nest box in your yard. Mountain Bluebirds love using nest boxes, and can have several broods of chicks each Spring. Click here for more information about nesting boxes.
Mountain Bluebirds are a less common bird and enjoy areas with high elevation. They are sometimes seen at Galena Creek County Park and occasionally seen by the sides of rural roads through the Sierras.
Click here for more information about Mountain Bluebirds and to hear their call.
Information retrieved from Audubon and AllAboutBirds.org.
Our bird of the month for October is the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). Killdeer are a species of plover, which are a type of shorebird. Shorebirds are birds known for spending time near bodies of water foraging for food. Killdeer do not limit themselves to lakes and streams and can be found at many locations, such as gardens, athletic fields and golf courses.
Killdeer get their name from their shrill peep-like calls. When they feel threatened, especially if you are approaching their nest, they will prance around calling wildly to distract predators. They also perform the broken-wing act (photo on right), encouraging you to chase them before flying off in a clean getaway.
Currently, Killdeer may be found in Rancho San Rafael Park and at the shores of Virginia Lake.
Information from All About Birds and Audubon