Bzzzz January 29th, 2008

According to the bird experts, mourning doves are among the most abundant birds in the U.S. I can certainly vouch for that fact judging from the visitors at my backyard feeding station.

In fact, as part of my count for Project FeederWatch this past weekend, I counted 28 mourning doves at one time! So even though the average number of mourning doves in the FeederWatch program here in Maryland is five, they are, apparently, particularly abundant in my little part of the world.

Mourning-Doves.jpg Mourning Doves

It’s curious how their behaviors have changed since they have become accustomed to all the bird feeders. When I first started feeding and watching the birds, the mourning doves would arrive–usually in pairs–and feast on the ground below the feeders where seed would be spilled or dropped by the other birds. Over time, one of the birds became more bold and learned to land on the feeders-even the smaller feeders–to feast directly from the pickings. Then two birds, then three. After a while, all the mourning doves were eating directly from the feeders. Although they still feed from the ground when they are in large numbers, the feeders are often filled with mourning doves.

Did you know the whistling sound they make when they fly is actually from their wings?

Did you know that mourning doves are monogamous and form strong bonds as pairs? (More than you can say for many humans, eh?)

Did you know that the male mourning dove will escort his mate to potential nest sites for her to choose a location. (Real estate is, apparently, her decision.)

Did you know that more than 45 million mourning doves are killed by hunters each year, including in Wisconsin, where the mourning dove is also the official symbol of peace? (Wisconsin seems a bit confused.)

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Bzzzz January 24th, 2008

That was the headline today in the Project FeederWatch e-newsletter. I feel like I am on the edge of this breaking news story!

It was just in December that I saw a gross of Evening Grosbeaks at my hopper/platform feeder.

Evening-Grosbeak-3.jpg

Evening Grosbeaks at the Backyard Hopper/Platform Feeder

Project FeederWatch, which I posted about just a couple of days ago, noted that since the project began the data indicated that the Evening Grosbeak population had declined dramatically. But this year, more and more people are reporting seeing flocks of this beautiful and special bird.

I think that this finding underlines a couple of key points. First, conservation works. I will give credit to the vast movement of bird watchers who fill their feeders regularly and provide alternative housing for our avian friends. This makes a difference in their ability to find the resources they need to thrive. And second, the data points of average, ordinary people all over the U.S. helps researchers understand how our bird populations are changing. This data is another key indicator or the environmental condition and how it impacts wildlife.

Okay. Nuff of that. I also just think it’s cool that I actually SAW a bunch of Evening Grosbeaks and then read this story.

Project FeederWatch offers loads of fascinating information. For example, the top 25 birds reported at feeders in Maryland in the 2006-2007 season was:

Rank within region

Common Name

Scientific name

Mean group size (when seen)

FeederWatch Abundance Index

1

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis

5.32

3.72

2

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

3.61

2.96

3

Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura

4.64

3.20

4

Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee Poecile carolinensis/atricapillus

2.15

1.64

5

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor

2.13

1.42

6

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

1.28

0.68

7

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis

3.41

1.60

8

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens

1.61

1.08

9

House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus

3.74

2.06

10

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata

2.31

1.01

11

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

1.17

0.61

12

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

1.40

0.71

13

White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis

3.93

1.81

14

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

6.87

2.67

15

American Robin Turdus migratorius

2.82

0.34

16

European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

4.33

0.69

17

Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

1.53

0.42

18

Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula

5.71

0.43

19

Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

1.13

0.20

20

Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater

4.03

0.29

21

Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

4.67

0.32

22

American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

2.96

0.35

23

Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus

1.18

0.20

24

Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus

1.21

0.08

25

Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

1.02

0.06

You can find the top birds at your feeders and learn more about how they measure by visiting their data page here.

Happy bird watching!

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