Monday, November 17, 2008

Two Little Green Birds

Sunday morning was wonderfully cold and still. When I got out of the house at about 7:30 the temperature was in the upper 30's and there was just a little bit of frost on the ground. One of the first sounds I heard outside was the typewriter-like call of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one of two small drab-green birds that spend the winter in our neighborhood. The other is the Orange-crowned Warbler. Right now is a great time to learn how to identify these 2 species since they have returned for the winter in strong numbers. I counted 15 Ruby-crowned Kinglets and 10 Orange-crowned Warblers yesterday morning. The Orange-crowned Warbler is almost uniformly green, sometimes brighter or duller, and sometimes with a grayish head. If you get a close look you can usually see a slight dark line through the eye and a yellowish line above the eye. And the breast is just slightly streaked. (You can almost never see the orange crown.) Here's a picture of a bright one I took on Sunday near Meadowheath and Stillforest. (Notice the rows of holes in the tree trunk. They were made by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.)

And here's another drabber bird I photographed back in January.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is told apart by its big white eye ring and 2 bright wing bars. Here's one of my best pictures of a kinglet in the neighborhood, which I took in March.

These differences are easy to see in these pictures. But usually these birds are actively foraging in the tree canopy, gleaning bugs from leaves and small branches. They almost never hold still. So the challenge is usually getting a good look at one through your binoculars long enough to identify it. Both species can be found by themselves or in mixed species foraging flocks that would likely include our year-round resident Carolina Chickadees.

I found 51 species of birds in the neighborhood on Sunday morning. Some other interesting ones were the first Dark-eyed Juncos and American Goldfinches I've seen this winter. And near the Parmer Lane bridge I saw 2 Monk Parakeets briefly land on a cell phone tower before about 30 European Starlings took flight and the parakeets left. I've only seen Monk Parakeets in the neighborhood once before.

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