Pigeons and Doves

By Jim Gain

Learn 100 Common Valley Birds is a photo blog series highlighting the 100 most common Valley bird species.

Post #25 in the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series. (Species 39, 40 & 41/100)

Mourning Dove – Species #39

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.

Previous posts from the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series:

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #26

By Jim Gain

5/19/2023

  • Scientific Name: Campephilus guatemalensis
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Carpintero Pico Plateado
  • Name in Mayan: Kolonté
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: PBWO
  • Family: Picidae
  • Order: Piciformes
Pale-billed Woodpecker Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis) is a striking bird species found in Belize and other parts of Central America. This large, black and white woodpecker is named for its distinctive pale ivory-colored bill, which is longer than that of most other woodpecker species. Adults typically measure around 18 inches in length, with males being slightly larger than females.

Pale-billed Woodpecker Image © Jim Gain

The Pale-billed Woodpecker is a bird of mature, lowland forests and prefers areas with large trees and abundant dead wood. Its diet consists mainly of insects, especially beetles, which it finds by hammering and excavating holes in trees with its powerful bill. The species is also known for its distinctive drumming, a loud and sustained series of knocks that can be heard from a distance.

Pale-billed Woodpecker Image © Jim Gain

Breeding season for the Pale-billed Woodpecker in Belize typically occurs from March to June. They lay their eggs in natural tree cavities or holes excavated in dead trees, with both parents participating in the incubation and care of the young. The species is generally solitary or found in pairs, but may form small groups during the non-breeding season.

Pale-billed Woodpecker Image © Jim Gain

Despite being listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN, the Pale-billed Woodpecker has experienced some population declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts in Belize have focused on protecting and restoring mature forests, which are crucial for the survival of this and other important bird species.

>> Next Post on Sunday, 5/21/2023 – Social Flycatcher

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

Eye-ringed Flatbill

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #25

By Jim Gain

5/16/2023

  • Scientific Name: Rhynchocyclus brevirostris
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Mosquerito Pico Plano
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: ERFL
  • Family: Tyrannidae
  • Order: Passeriformes – Perching Birds
Eye-ringed Flatbill Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Eye-ringed Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris) is a small bird species found in Central America, including Belize. It belongs to the family of Tyrant Flycatchers and is commonly found in humid forest habitats. The Eye-ringed Flatbill is a small bird, measuring around 4 1/2″ in length and weighing approximately 1/3 oz. It is easily recognizable by the distinctive ring around its eye, which is bright in color.

Eye-ringed Flatbill Image © Jim Gain

The Eye-ringed Flatbill is an active bird, constantly flitting through the forest canopy in search of prey. Its diet mainly consists of insects, which it catches on the wing. The bird is also known to consume small fruits and seeds occasionally. It is a solitary bird, although pairs may be seen during the breeding season. The breeding season in Belize typically starts in March and ends in August.

The Eye-ringed Flatbill builds its nest in the fork of a tree branch, using materials such as moss, lichen, and spiderwebs. The female lays a clutch of 2-3 eggs, which are incubated for around 14 days. The chicks are altricial, meaning they are born naked and helpless and rely entirely on their parents for food and protection. The parents feed their young with small insects and other arthropods.

Eye-ringed Flatbill Image © Jim Gain

While the Eye-ringed Flatbill is not considered globally threatened, its populations are declining due to habitat loss and degradation. In Belize, the species is considered relatively common, although further research is needed to assess its population trends and status. Conservation efforts should focus on protecting its habitat and raising awareness of the species’ ecological importance.

>> Next Post on Friday, 5/19/2023 – Pale-billed Woodpecker

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

Yellow-billed Cacique

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #24

By Jim Gain

5/14/2023

  • Scientific Name: Amblycercus holosericeus
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Cacique Pico Claro
  • Name in Mayan: Wa’ay ko’ot
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: YBIC
  • Family: Icteridae – Orioles and Allies
  • Order: Passeriformes – Perching Birds
Yellow-billed Cacique Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus) is a medium-sized blackbird species that can be found throughout Central America, including Belize. The Yellow-billed Cacique is all black and has an ivory white bill that almost shines in the dark understory habitats preferred by this species.

Yellow-billed Cacique Image © Jim Gain

Heard much more often than seen, as pairs keep in touch with ‘question and answer calling.’ Creeps methodically in vines and tangles, and most frequently seen as it flies low across a trail or quiet road, usually with one member of the pair following shortly after the other. Note the pale ivory-yellow bill and staring yellow eyes, often striking even with a quick flight view.

Yellow-billed Cacique Image © Jim Gain

In terms of diet, Yellow-billed Caciques are omnivorous and feed on a variety of insects, fruits, and nectar. They are important pollinators for many plant species in their range, and their foraging habits also help to control insect populations. While they are not currently considered to be threatened, habitat loss and fragmentation are potential threats to their populations, particularly in areas where forested habitats are being converted for agriculture or other human uses.

Yellow-billed Cacique Image © Jim Gain

Overall, the Yellow-billed Cacique is an ecologically important and visually striking bird species that can be readily observed in Belize and other parts of Central America.

>> Next Post on Tuesday, 5/16/2023 – Eye-ringed Flatbill

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

Tree-creeping Birds

By Jim Gain

Learn 100 Common Valley Birds is a photo blog series highlighting the 100 most common Valley bird species.

Post #24 in the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series. (Species 38/100 + 2 BONUS birds)

White-breasted Nuthatch – Species #38

The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a small songbird with a distinctive black, gray and white coloration; a blue-gray back, and a white face and belly. The males and females are similar in appearance and can be difficult to distinguish without close observation. The bird’s bill is relatively long and straight, which helps it probe for insects and other small prey in tree bark.

In the Central Valley of California, the White-breasted Nuthatch can be found year-round in oak woodlands and mixed-conifer forests. It is a non-migratory species, so individuals do not typically leave their range during the winter months. The birds are known for their acrobatic foraging behavior, often creeping upside-down or sideways along tree trunks and branches in search of food.

They primarily feed on insects and seeds, but will also take advantage of suet and other backyard bird feeders when available. The White-breasted Nuthatch is a cavity-nesting species and will excavate its own nest in dead or decaying trees.

BONUS BIRDS – The following two bird species share very similar behavior characteristics as the White-breasted Nuthatch but are Uncommon in occurrence and therefore not official members of the 100 Common Species club.

Red-breasted Nuthatch – Species #38b

The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) is a small bird with a distinctive appearance and behavior that can be observed in the Central Valley of California. They are approximately four and a half inches long with a blue-gray back, a white face, and a rusty red breast. They have a short, straight beak that is perfect for extracting insects from tree bark, which is one of their primary food sources. These birds also have a habit of clinging upside down on tree trunks, using their sharp claws to support themselves as they search for food.

In terms of natural history, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is a year-round uncommon resident of the Central Valley, although they are more often seen during the winter months. They tend to nest in tree cavities, where they lay their eggs in a bed of bark, moss, and other soft materials. These birds are also known for their vocalizations, which include a distinctive yank-yank call that can be heard echoing through the trees. Overall, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is a charming and interesting bird that adds color and personality to the Central Valley’s natural environment.

Brown Creeper – Species #38C

The Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) is a small, slender bird found in the forests of North America. In the Central Valley of California, Brown Creepers are typically found in mature deciduous and mixed-coniferous forests, as well as in riparian woodlands. These birds are easily identified by their mottled brown plumage, which blends in perfectly with tree bark, allowing them to remain concealed while foraging.

Brown Creepers are insectivores and primarily feed on small insects and spiders found on tree trunks and branches. They use their long, curved bills to probe crevices and under loose bark for prey. Brown Creepers also use their stiff, pointed tail feathers to help them climb trees in a spiral motion, much like a woodpecker.

Previous posts from the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series:

Bat Falcon

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #23

By Jim Gain

5/12/2023

  • Scientific Name: Falco rufigularis
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Halcón Murcielaguero
  • Name in Mayan: K’ik’lis
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: BAFA
  • Family: Falconidae – Falcons and Caracaras
  • Order: Falconiformes – Falcons and Caracaras
Bat Falcon Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) is a small bird of prey that can be found in Belize, as well as throughout much of Central and South America. As its name suggests, this species primarily feeds on bats, which it hunts in flight at dusk and dawn. In addition to bats, the Bat Falcon also preys on other small birds and insects.

Bat Falcon Image © Jim Gain

The Bat Falcon is a striking bird with a distinctive appearance. Its upperparts are dark gray, while its underparts are black with white streaks. The head is black with a white throat. Juvenile birds are similar in appearance to adults, but with less distinct markings.

Bat Falcon Image © Jim Gain

The Bat Falcon typically nests in tree cavities or on cliff ledges, and will lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young. In Belize, the breeding season for Bat Falcons typically begins in March and lasts through July.

Bat Falcon Image © Jim Gain

Despite being a relatively common species, the Bat Falcon is threatened by habitat loss and persecution by humans. Efforts are being made to protect this species and its habitat, including through the establishment of protected areas in Belize and elsewhere in Central America.

>> Next Post on Sunday, 5/14/2023 – Yellow-billed Cacique

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

White-headed Woodpecker

A PhotoBlog Series by Jim Gain

Beautiful Birds of the Sierra Nevada Blog Post #1

ABOUT THIS SPECIES

The White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) is a striking bird species that inhabits the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It is a medium-sized woodpecker, measuring between 8 and 10 inches long, with a distinctive black and white plumage. As its name suggests, the White-headed Woodpecker has a white head, which contrasts with its black back, wings, and tail.

Males and females are similar in appearance, although males have a red crescent on the top of their head and a slightly longer bill.

The White-headed Woodpecker is a bird of lower and upper montane coniferous forests, where it feeds on insects, acorns, and pine seeds. It is a specialized forager, using its strong bill to pry off bark and search for food in crevices. The species is also known for its habit of storing acorns and pine seeds in crevices, a behavior known as “caching”.

White-headed Woodpecker is one of the least-studied woodpeckers in North America. In contrast to other parts of its range where populations are dropping, the species is more prevalent in California. The Sierra Nevada is particularly important for White-headed Woodpeckers as it is more often encountered here than anywhere else.

Please visit my Beautiful Birds of the Sierra Nevada Blog Site

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Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #22

By Jim Gain

5/9/2023

  • Scientific Name: Amazilia tzacatl
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Colibrí Cola Canela
  • Name in Mayan: X ts’unu’um
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: RTAH
  • Family: Trochilidae
  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) is a common species of hummingbird found in Belize. This species is sexually dimorphic, with males having a striking iridescent greenish-gold color on their head, back, and throat, and a rufous-colored tail, while females have a duller green coloration and a slightly shorter tail. Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds are small, measuring only about 4.5 inches in length and weighing less than half an ounce.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Image © Jim Gain

Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, gardens, and even urban areas. They feed mainly on nectar from flowers, but also consume small insects and spiders, which they catch in mid-air using their long, thin bills. During breeding season, males perform elaborate aerial displays to attract females, involving rapid wing flapping, dives, and loops.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Image © Jim Gain

Breeding typically occurs from March to July, with the female building a small, cup-shaped nest made of plant fibers and spider silk, which is attached to a tree branch or other structure. The female lays 2-3 eggs, which hatch after about 15 days. The young are cared for by the female for about 3 weeks before they fledge and become independent. Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds are considered to be of least concern in terms of conservation status, as they have a large range and are not currently facing any major threats.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Image © Jim Gain

>> Next Post on Friday, 6/12/2023 – Bat Falcon

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

Common Black Hawk

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #21

By Jim Gain

5/7/2023

  • Scientific Name: Buteogallus anthracinus
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Aguililla Negra Menor
  • Name in Mayan: Sak nej ch’úuy
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: COBH
  • Family: Accipitridae – Hawks, Eagles & Kites
  • Order: Accipitriformes – Diurnal Birds of Prey
Common Black Hawk Image © Jim Gain

About this Species

The Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) is a large bird of prey found throughout Central and South America, including Belize. Adults have a blackish plumage with a slightly paler head and neck, and yellow legs. They have a wingspan of about 120 cm (47″) and weigh around 900 grams (2 lbs.).

Common Black Hawk Image © Jim Gain

In Belize, the Common Black Hawk inhabits riparian forests and mangrove swamps along the coast, but they can also be found in forested areas inland. They are a common sight around rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, where they hunt for fish, crabs, and other aquatic prey.

Common Black Hawk Image © Jim Gain

These birds are typically solitary, and pairs maintain a territory of up to several kilometers in size. During the breeding season, which runs from February to June, they build nests of sticks and twigs in tall trees near water. Females lay one to two eggs, which both parents incubate for around 40 days. The chicks fledge at around 50-60 days old and stay with their parents for several months after that.

Common Black Hawk Immature Image © Jim Gain

Common Black Hawks are powerful and agile flyers, capable of capturing prey on the wing or diving into the water to catch fish. They are also known for their distinctive calls, which are a series of high-pitched whistles and screams. While they are not considered threatened, the destruction of their natural habitats through deforestation and development can affect their populations.

>> Next Post on Tuesday, 5/9/2023 – Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Previous posts from Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog

LBBs – Little Brown Birds

By Jim Gain

Learn 100 Common Valley Birds is a photo blog series highlighting the 100 most common Valley bird species.

Post #23 in the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series. (Species 36, & 37/100)

Oak Titmouse – Species #36

The Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus) is a small, non-migratory bird species native to the oak woodlands of California’s Central Valley. These birds are known for their distinctive gray-brown plumage and prominent black eyes. They also have a small crest on their head which they can raise or lower depending on their mood.

The Oak Titmouse feeds on insects, seeds, and acorns, which it forages for in the trees and shrubs of its habitat. The Oak Titmouse is a cavity nester and typically nests in old woodpecker holes or other natural cavities in trees.

It is known for its loud and distinctive calls, which include a buzzy “peter-peter-peter” and a whistled “see-see-see.” The Oak Titmouse is a non-migratory bird and does not typically travel far from its nesting site. The bird is considered an indicator species of the health of oak woodlands and is of conservation concern due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Bushtit – Species #37

The Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) is a small, round bird found in the Central Valley of California. They have a distinctive appearance, with fluffy, grayish-brown plumage that covers their entire body, except for their black eyes and tiny, stubby beak. Their tail is relatively short, and their wings are rounded, allowing them to maneuver easily through dense vegetation.

Bushtits are highly social birds, living in flocks of up to 40 individuals. They are also highly active, constantly flitting and hopping through bushes and trees, in search of insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. They build intricate, hanging nests made of spider silk, lichen, and other plant materials, often in clusters of up to a dozen, with each nest being occupied by a single breeding pair.

Bushtits are also known for their fascinating cooperative breeding behavior. In some cases, adult offspring from previous breeding seasons remain with their parents to help raise younger siblings. This helps to increase the survival rate of the entire family, and it also allows the older siblings to gain valuable experience for their own future breeding efforts. All in all, the Bushtit is a fascinating and charismatic bird, and it is an important part of the rich biodiversity of the Central Valley of California.

Previous posts from the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series,