Saturday, March 29

Friday Saturday Blog Birding: the Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian WaxiwingI'd never seen a bohemian waxwing before, but we'd been looking for them all winter: scanning flocks of waxwings, examining details, etc. Today, we were in search of a greater white-fronted goose, and had no luck whatsoever. On the drive, however, we spotted a flock of waxwings and decided to take a closer look. The entire flock was bohemians, which can be distinguished from cedar waxwings by rusty marks on the tail and forehead, a grayer underside (cedars have a lot more yellow on the stomach) and a distinctly different wing pattern.

Some key facts from Cornell:
  • The name "Bohemian" refers to the nomadic movements of winter flocks. It comes from the inhabitants of Bohemia, meaning those that live an unconventional lifestyle or like that of gypsies.

  • The Bohemian Waxwing does not hold breeding territories, probably because the fruits it eats are abundant, but available only for short periods. One consequence of this non-territorial lifestyle is that it has no true song. It does not need one to defend a territory.

  • Only three species of waxwings exist. The Bohemian and Japanese waxwings have white edges to the wing feathers, but the Cedar Waxwing does not. An unusual Cedar Waxwing was found with the ornate wing pattern, suggesting that the ancestor of all three species had a patterned wing.

Thursday, March 20

Wednesday, March 19

The Pileated Woodpecker: a giant among woodpeckers

Crossposted to Birding New England

The first time I ever saw a Pileated woodpecker, it was a breathtaking sight. The pair of them were feeding in the large maple in our yard and when they flew off, they were nearly silent.

It took me a few years before I managed to actually capture them in photo, but I'm glad I was able to pull it off. Since then, I've managed to get photos of them with limited success.

I think, though, that my favorite thing about the Pileateds is their range of sounds. They have a fairly standard woodpecker "laugh" (which I think of as more of a high-pitched rattle), but unlike the hairy and the downy woodpeckers, their call is a trill which remains constant in pitch. While the Hairy Woodpecker makes a call that you can hear trilling and then trailing off, changing pitch at the end, the Pileated's is constant throughout, making them easy to hear from a distance if you get the knack for it.

Then there's another call they make which is more like a staccato slow chatter that is such a *deep* pitch that it rattles the bones a bit.

I'm going to close with one more photo at the end. When Pileated's dig into trees, they do major excavating, creating huge holes in the trees, digging out large chunks of wood. The photo below is of a pileated in mid-excavation, with the actual piece of wood still in its beak:

As usual, all these photos are smaller versions. Clicking on them brings you to the site with the full sized versions and more details.