Southeast Arizona is home to the endangered Elegant Trogon. It is one of the most sought-after species by bird watchers in the United States and only regularly breeds in the Atascosa, Chiricahua, Huachuca, and Santa Rita mountain ranges in Arizona. The habitat needs of the trogon are essentially unknown1. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has classified the bird as a “Candidate IV” sensitive species.
A wide range of insects, particularly large ones like katydids, cicadas, walkingsticks, and huge caterpillars, are consumed by the Elegant Trogon during its feeding period. Additionally, it eats little lizards. The trogon consumes a variety of other tiny fruits and berries, particularly in the late summer and early fall, including chokecherry and wild grape.
When nesting in Arizona, Elegant Trogons behave differently from other Neotropical Trogonidae members. Insects are fed to the nestlings instead of fruit.
The Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans) is a medium-sized bird of prey that is found throughout Mexico, Central America and South America, including Belize. This species is easily recognized by its distinctive call, which sounds like a raucous laugh. The Laughing Falcon has a striking plumage that contrasts buffy white head, neck, and underparts with a brown back and a black face mask and collar.
The diet of the Laughing Falcon is heavily focused on snakes, with up to 90% of its diet consisting of these reptiles. The bird is known for its unique hunting strategy, which involves using its wings to create a “tent” over a snake before swooping down to grab it. This method allows the falcon to catch snakes that are hiding in bushes or other vegetation.
The natural history of the Laughing Falcon in Belize is closely tied to the country’s tropical forests and savannas. These habitats provide ideal hunting grounds for the bird, and it is often seen perched on tall trees or soaring over open areas. The falcon is also known for its breeding behavior, which involves building a nest of sticks in a tree or on a cliff ledge. The female lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for around 35 days before hatching. The young fledge after about 40-45 days.
>> Next Post on Friday, 6/2/2023 – Rose-throated Tanager
The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is an uncommon year-round resident that is more frequently found in Lower and Upper Montane biotic zones usually not far from water. It is a species of bird belonging to the plover family, Charadriidae.
The Killdeer is a medium-sized shorebird with a distinctive appearance. It measures around 23-28 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of approximately 46-48 centimeters. Its plumage is primarily brownish-tan with bold black and white patterns on the upperparts and face, including two black bands across its breast. It has a long, thin black bill and pink legs. The species is known for its loud, shrill call, often described as its name, “kill-deer.”
Killdeer are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as insects, worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. They forage in open areas, including meadows, fields, agricultural lands, and shorelines. In the Sierra Nevada, they can be found in a range of habitats, including grasslands, wet meadows, lake edges, and even in suburban areas near water bodies.
Killdeers are ground-nesting birds and create their nests in open, gravelly areas with minimal vegetation, such as riverbanks, shores, gravel bars, or even parking lots. Their nests are shallow depressions in the ground, lined with small rocks, twigs, or grass. One interesting behavior of the Killdeer is its “broken-wing” display, where it feigns injury to distract potential predators away from the nest or young. This behavior is a clever tactic to lead predators away from the vulnerable nest or chicks.
The Killdeer has a wide range and a stable population, and it is not currently considered a species of concern. It is listed as a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, like many bird species, it can face threats from habitat loss, pollution, and predation. Conserving and protecting its preferred habitats, such as wet meadows and grasslands, is crucial for the continued well-being of the Killdeer and other avian species in the Sierra Nevada and beyond.
The Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum) is a small bird that can be found in Belize and other parts of Central and South America. They have a distinctive black head, dark back and wings, with a yellow throat and breast. Their beak is short and thin, perfect for catching insects, which make up the bulk of their diet.
In Belize, Common Tody-Flycatchers are most commonly found in humid forests and woodlands, where they can be seen flitting around in the underbrush or perching on low branches. They are also known to inhabit gardens and other urban areas with plenty of vegetation. During breeding season, which occurs from February to August, males will sing a series of high-pitched notes to attract mates.
These birds are monogamous and will typically lay two eggs in a cup-shaped nest made of plant fibers, mosses, and spider webs. The eggs are incubated for around 16 days before hatching, and the chicks fledge after about two weeks. Common Tody-Flycatchers are generally non-migratory, but some populations may move to lower elevations during the winter months. Overall, they are an important part of Belize’s diverse avian community and a fascinating species to observe in their natural habitat.
>> Next Post on Tuesday, 5/30/2023 – Laughing Falcon
The Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) is a small migratory bird that can be observed in the Central Valley of California during the spring and fall migration seasons. Like other phalaropes, it is a polyandrous species in which sex roles are reversed; breeding females are distinguishable by brighter plumage than males and by slightly larger body size. This bird measures around 7 inches in length and has a distinctive appearance, with a dark back, white belly, and reddish neck and throat. During the breeding season, the female takes on a brighter plumage than the male, with a more intense red neck and a darker back.
The Red-necked Phalarope is a highly specialized bird that spends most of its life at sea. It is known for its unique feeding behavior, where it spins in circles on the water’s surface to create a whirlpool, which draws in small prey, such as crustaceans and plankton. During migration, these birds can be found in shallow wetlands, flooded fields, and other areas with shallow water, where they forage for food.
In Basic (nonbreeding) plumage of both sexes includes a white head with a conspicuous black line through and behind the eye, a dark patch on the back of the crown or nape, white underparts that occasionally have gray smudges on the sides of the breast and flanks, and gray upperparts with white fringes along the scapular and mantle margins.
Red-necked Phalaropes breed in the Arctic tundra and migrate long distances to their wintering grounds in the Pacific Ocean. The Central Valley of California serves as an important stopover site for these birds during their migration, providing a critical source of food and habitat as they travel between their breeding and wintering grounds.
Wilson’s Phalarope #43
The Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is a unique and beautiful shorebird species that can be found in the Central Valley of California during its annual migration. Adults have a distinctive plumage with a grayish-brown back and wings, white underparts, and a reddish neck and breast. However, during breeding season, the females become more colorful, with a bright rusty-red back and wings.
Wilson’s Phalaropes are well-adapted to their wetland habitats, where they feed on small aquatic invertebrates by spinning in circles on the water’s surface, creating a vortex that draws prey towards their bills. They are also notable for their breeding behavior, where females take on a more dominant role, courting and defending multiple males while the males incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.
While the Central Valley of California provides important stopover habitat for Wilson’s Phalaropes during migration, this species faces threats from habitat loss and degradation due to agriculture, drought, and climate change. Conservation efforts such as wetland restoration and protection are crucial to ensuring the survival of this unique and fascinating bird.
The Yucatan Woodpecker (Melanerpes pygmaeus) is a small woodpecker species that is found only in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Northern Belize. They have distinctive black and white plumage, with a red crown and nape. They measure around 6 1/2 inches in length and have a wingspan of around 12 in. This woodpecker species is very similar in appearance to the Golden-fronted Woodpecker, but has a smaller bill and a distinct call.
In Belize, the Yucatan Woodpecker can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, savannas, and agricultural areas. They are most commonly found in areas with tall trees, where they can forage for insects and nest in tree cavities. They are also known to feed on fruits and seeds.
During breeding season, which can occur between March and June, Yucatan Woodpeckers are monogamous and territorial. They typically lay between 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for around 12 days. Once the chicks hatch, both parents take turns feeding and caring for them until they fledge at around 30 days old.
The Yucatan Woodpecker is not considered to be a threatened species, and its population is thought to be stable. However, habitat loss and degradation can impact their population, so it is important to preserve their natural habitats to ensure their long-term survival. In Belize, visitors to the country’s many protected areas can enjoy watching and listening to these fascinating birds in their natural habitats.
>> Next Post on Sunday, 5/28/2023 – Common Tody-Flycatcher
The Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) is a large wading bird found in Belize and throughout much of Central and South America. Adults are typically between 26-31 inches in length and have a wingspan of 43-47 inches. As the name suggests, this species has a bare, orange-yellow throat that is distinctive in the field. The rest of the body is a rich chestnut-brown with fine black and white striping on the nape and throat.
Bare-throated Tiger-Herons can be found in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, rivers, and forests, but they are most commonly associated with slow-moving bodies of water. They are typically solitary or found in pairs, and are often seen standing motionless in the water, waiting for prey to come within range. They feed on a variety of aquatic prey, including fish, frogs, and crustaceans, which they catch with their long, sharp bills.
Breeding typically occurs between February and July, with the birds building a nest platform of sticks in a tree overhanging the water. Clutches of 2-4 eggs are laid, which hatch after around 30 days. The young fledge after 50-55 days and become independent soon after.
The species is generally considered to be of least concern, although it is threatened by habitat loss and degradation in some areas.
>> Next Post on Friday, 5/26/2023 – Yucatan Woodpecker
The Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) is a small, active bird that is commonly found in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. This species is migratory, and its range extends from Alaska to the southernmost regions of the United States. The Golden-crowned Kinglet is a primarily insectivorous bird, and it feeds on a wide variety of insects, including spiders, flies, and beetles. This bird is also known to consume small fruits and seeds, particularly during the winter months when insects are scarce.
In terms of habitat preferences, the Golden-crowned Kinglet is typically found in coniferous forests, particularly those dominated by fir and spruce trees. These birds are adapted to living in cold environments and can withstand temperatures well below freezing. They often occupy the upper branches of trees, foraging in small groups and flitting about from branch to branch in search of food.
One interesting behavior of the Golden-crowned Kinglet is its habit of puffing up its feathers to trap warm air and retain heat, which helps the bird to survive in cold environments. This species is also known for its high-pitched, trilling song, which can be heard throughout its range.
In terms of nesting, the Golden-crowned Kinglet builds its nest in coniferous trees, typically in the upper branches. The nest is constructed from moss, lichens, and spider webs, and is lined with soft materials such as feathers and animal hair. This bird typically lays between 5 and 12 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about two weeks.
The Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) is a small passerine bird found in the tropical forests of Belize. It is a member of the tyrant flycatcher family and is characterized by its distinctive yellow underparts and dark wings and tail. They are known for their aggressive behavior towards other bird species, and will often chase them away from their territory.
These birds have a varied diet that consists primarily of insects, but they also feed on small fruits and berries. They are particularly adept at catching flying insects, and will often catch them mid-air. Social Flycatchers are also known for their unique nesting habits, as they often build their nests on top of wasp nests. The wasps act as a form of protection for the birds, as other animals are less likely to approach a nest that is surrounded by wasps.
Social Flycatchers are typically monogamous and breed during the rainy season in Belize, which typically runs from May through November. During this time, males will engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract a mate. The female will then build a cup-shaped nest, which is typically made from grass, twigs, and other plant materials. Both parents will incubate the eggs and care for the young, which will fledge after around two weeks. Overall, the Social Flycatcher is a fascinating bird that plays an important role in the ecosystem of Belize’s tropical forests.
>> Next Post on Tuesday, 5/23/2023 – Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a medium-sized bird that is widespread throughout the Central Valley of California. It is a slender, tan or grayish-brown bird. It has a long, pointed tail that is often held up in a distinctive “V” shape when the bird is in flight.
Mourning Doves are commonly found in open grasslands, fields, and desert scrub habitats, and are known for their distinctive mournful cooing calls. They are primarily seed-eaters, but also feed on fruits, insects, and snails. They typically build their nests in trees, shrubs, or other vegetation, and may lay up to six eggs per clutch.
Mourning Doves are non-migratory, and can be found throughout the Central Valley of California year-round, although their numbers may increase during the breeding season in the spring and summer. They are a popular game bird and are also enjoyed by birdwatchers for their peaceful and soothing cooing calls.
Rock Pigeon – Species #40
The Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) is a common bird species found in the Central Valley of California. They are medium-sized birds, typically measuring around 12-14 inches in length and weighing around 9-13 ounces. Rock Pigeons have a plump body with a small head, short neck, and broad wings. Their feathers are typically gray with iridescent green and purple tones on their necks and wings, and two black bars on each wing.
Rock Pigeons are highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments, including urban and rural areas. They are known for their ability to navigate and find their way back to their roosting site even from great distances. They typically breed throughout the year and can lay up to six eggs per clutch. Their diet primarily consists of seeds and grains, but they may also eat insects and small invertebrates. Due to their adaptable nature, Rock Pigeons have been introduced to many parts of the world, becoming one of the most widespread bird species globally.
Eurasian Collared-Dove – Species #41
The Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is a bird species that has rapidly expanded its range across North America in recent decades, including the Central Valley of California. They are easily recognized by their distinct features, such as a buff-colored body, a black crescent-shaped collar on their nape, and a long, square-tipped tail. Adults measure about 12 inches in length and weigh around 6-8 ounces.
These doves are known for their adaptability and resilience, which have allowed them to thrive in urban and suburban environments. They feed on a variety of seeds, fruits, and grains, and can often be found foraging on the ground or perching on rooftops or telephone wires. They also have a unique courtship behavior, where the male performs a series of flights and calls to attract a mate.
The Eurasian Collared-Dove’s natural history in the Central Valley of California is still being studied, but they are believed to breed throughout the year, with peaks during the spring and fall. Their nesting sites are typically located in trees or shrubs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young. These birds are considered a non-native invasive species in California, and their rapid expansion has raised concerns about their impact on native bird populations and agricultural crops.