Loons of Missouri (3 Species to Know)

Loons are beautiful and majestic birds that spend almost their entire lives on the water. There are five species of loons in North America and three of them that can be found in Missouri with one being very common and the other two being quite rare. Knowing where to find them and what to look for in terms of identification can be incredibly helpful in knowing which of the three species you are looking at in the field.

Common Loon

Common Loon – Photo by Alan SChmierer
Identification

In breeding plumage, Common Loons have a black back, wings, neck, and head with white checkerboard markings on the wings, and a white “necklace” marking. The black on the head and neck is iridescent and can show a green sheen in the right lighting. Common Loons have a white underside and some thin black striping on the neck going down the sides. In nonbreeding plumage, this species is dark gray brown on the back, wings, and top of the head. They also have white on the throat and underside. The species still displays the white necklace marking even in nonbreeding plumage.

Range

Common Loons are extremely wide spread throughout North America. In winter, they can be found wintering along the ocean coastlines of both the Atlantic and the Pacific. They winter as far south as Mexico and as far north as the Aleutian Islands. In spring, the birds wintering in the Southern parts of the continent move north into the Northern United States and most of Canada where they spend the summer.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Common Loons feed primarily on fish but will also eat crustaceans and aquatic invertebrates. They are extremely good at diving for food and can stay underwater for considerable amounts of time. While some species are ambush predators such as herons, Loons are active hunters as they are very agile swimmers.

Where to Find This Bird

As their name would suggest, Common Loons are in fact common in most parts of the United States and Canada at least for some portion of the year. During winter, this species can be seen on the ocean coastlines, while in spring they tend to appear on inland lakes and ponds. During their breeding season, look for Common Loons in deep, clear lakes in the boreal forests where they prefer plenty of plant cover along the shores.

Pacific Loon (Rare)

Pacific Loon – Photo by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Identification

Pacific Loons are chunky birds with rather complex patterning when in breeding plumage. They have brownish black backs and wings with large white square-shaped markings along with white spots. They have a grayish head with a purplish front of the neck and white and black vertical stripes on the side of the neck. The underside of this species is white. In nonbreeding plumage, Pacific Loons are brownish gray with a white underside.

Range

The aptly named Pacific Loon winters all along the Pacific coast of the United States from Mexico to Alaska. In spring, they move to their breeding grounds in Northern Canada, Alaska, and Eastern Asia.

Diet and Foraging Habits

The vast majority of the Pacific Loon’s diet is comprised of fish. They will also eat crustaceans and aquatic invertebrates.

Where to Find This Bird

Look for Pacific Loons on the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean where they prefer areas with sandy bottoms as opposed to rocky bottoms. During breeding season, this species can be found in tundra ponds and lakes.

Red-throated Loon (Uncommon)

Red-throated Loon – Photo by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Identification

In breeding plumage, Red-throated Loons have a grayish brown back and wings. Most of their head and neck is gray with white striping on the back of the neck going up to the top of the head. They have a deep red colored throat which is where they get their name from. In nonbreeding plumage, Red-throated Loons have a white throat and underside. They also have a dark brownish gray back and head with white speckles.

Range

Red-throated Loons winter on the coasts of the United States and Canada. They don’t typically make it too far into Mexico or the Gulf Coast but will winter as far north as Southern Alaska. In spring, they move north across the continent making appearances in large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. They breed in Northern and Western Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Eastern Asia.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Red-throated Loons eat a wide variety of fish and invertebrates including squid, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and marine worms. Like other loon species, these birds dive for their food and actively hunt small creatures below the surface.

Where to Find This Bird

Red-throated Loons can be found in open waters along the coasts of oceans as well as larger bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. During migration, they can also be found on inland lakes.

Summary

Loons are fascinating divers that provide nice variety among other water-dwelling birds. Knowing the species that are expected in your state and region can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at in the field. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the loons of Missouri.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel.

Cranes of Colorado (1 Species to Know)

Cranes are among the largest and most noticeable birds in North America. These birds are always impressive to see when out birding and can turn up in some places you wouldn’t expect to see these tall, regal birds. In North America there are two crane species, and one of them can be found in Colorado. Here is everything you need to know about that species.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

Sandhill Cranes have a mostly gray colored body with tan color mixed in. During the warmer months they typically are more tan than they are gray. They have a long neck and bill with white cheeks and red on top of their head.

Sandhill Crane chicks are a yellowish tan color and can often be seen tagging along with the adult parents.

Range

Sandhill Cranes winter in a few different areas around North America including northern Mexico, southern Texas, Florida, parts of California, parts of southern Louisiana, and other areas across the Great Plains states. In spring, they start heading north to breed in the northern United States and southern Canada. There are a few places where Sandhill Cranes stage prior to migration where they can be seen in absolutely massive numbers. Most of these areas are in the upper Midwest in states such as Minnesota and North Dakota.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Sandhill Cranes eat a wide variety of different food items. Much of their diet consists of plant matter such as tubers, berries, and seeds, but they also eat small vertebrates, insects and other invertebrates. Sandhill Cranes forage in shallow water as well as in farm fields where they eat grains from crops.

Where to Find This Bird

Sandhill Cranes can be seen in many different places. Some of the most common areas to find this species are shallow water marshes and open fields. However, Sandhill Cranes also show up on lawns in neighborhoods and even in parking lots in cities where they casually stroll around, often to the surprise of humans.

Summary

Cranes are spectacular birds to see as an avid birder or just a casual observer. Knowing where to expect them and which species are likely to be in your state and region can make it much easier to find and identify them.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel.

Nightjars of Missouri (3 Species to Know)

Nightjars are very interesting birds that are characterized by their superb camouflage and nocturnal lifestyle. Many of these species are familiar due to the sounds they make at night rather than what they look like and play an important role in the symphony of nighttime sounds that people hear.

In Missouri, there are three nightjar species that can be found in the state. Knowing what these species look like, sound like, and some of their habits can be instrumental in knowing which one you have encountered.

Chuck-will’s-widow

Chuck-will’s-widow – Photo by Susan Young
Identification

Chuck-will’s-widows are camouflaged to look just like a tree branch with a base gray to brown color with darker and lighter patches of color mixed in. They have a short, flat, appearance with large eyes and a small bill. Males have light bands of color on their tail that are visible in flight.

Range

Chuck-will’s-widows are classic southern bird species that spend their summers in the Southeastern United States and can be found year-round in Southern Florida. Chuck-will’s-widows migrate south for the winter, residing in Eastern Mexico, Central America, Cuba, and Northeastern South America.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Chuck-will’s-widows are nocturnal hunters that feed primarily on insects, but have also been known to eat small birds and bats.

Where to Find This Bird

Chuck-will’s-widows can be found in scrubby or forested areas across their normal range. They are best found by listening for their call which sounds like they are saying their own name: “Chuck-will’s-widow.”

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk – Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie
Identification

Common Nighthawks are compact looking birds with brown, gray, and tan mottled patterning on their back, head, and wings. They have brown stripes on their lighter colored underside, large eyes, and a small bill. Some characteristic markings of Common Nighthawks are white on the wings and under the chin.

Range

Common Nighthawks winter in South America and migrate north in spring. They are widespread across the United States and Canada but do not usually go as far north as Alaska. This species also summers in Western Mexico and lives year-round in Cuba and the surrounding islands.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Common Nighthawks feed on flying insects which they catch out of the air. They often feed near streetlights and other sources of light during the night that are attractors for insects. This species also feeds during the later parts of the daytime as well as the night.

Where to Find This Bird

Common Nighthawks can be found most easily by watching for them during migration when they can sometimes be seen in large numbers flying over during the late afternoon and early evening. Other ways to see these birds are to look out for them near large lights such as streetlights and stadiums where they will be looking to feed on insects that are attracted to the lights. Even if it’s dark out, listen for the sharp “beer” call of these birds to know that they are around.

Eastern Whip-poor-will

Eastern Whip-poor-will – Photo by Susan Young
Identification

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are a base brown color with lighter tan, gray, and darker brown mottling, making this species look like a log or tree branch. They have darker barring on a light underside, large eyes, and a small somewhat downturned bill.

Range

Eastern Whip-poor-wills winter in Central America, Eastern Mexico, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. In spring, they move north to their breeding areas in most of the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. There are some parts of the Eastern United States that Eastern Whip-poor-wills migrate through but do not spend the summer in.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Eastern Whip-poor-wills feed on insects. They will leave their perches to catch moths, beetles, and other flying insects out of the air and then return to the same perch. Since this species has a surprisingly large mouth, they can eat insects that are fairly sizable.

Where to Find This Bird

Eastern Whip-poor-wills can be found in forests close to more open areas such as fields. The best way to find them is to go out at night and listen for their namesake “whip-poor-will” call.

Summary

Nightjars are enigmatic and mysterious birds that aren’t often seen due to their nocturnal nature. Knowing the species that are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you are looking at or hearing. Hopefully, this article has helped in answering some questions about the nightjars of Missouri.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel.

Cranes of Ohio (2 Species to Know)

Cranes are among the largest and most noticeable birds in North America. These birds are always impressive to see when out birding and can turn up in some places you wouldn’t expect to see these tall, regal birds. In North America there are two crane species, and both of them can be found in Ohio. Here is everything you need to know about those two species.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

Sandhill Cranes have a mostly gray colored body with tan color mixed in. During the warmer months they typically are more tan than they are gray. They have a long neck and bill with white cheeks and red on top of their head.

Sandhill Crane chicks are a yellowish tan color and can often be seen tagging along with the adult parents.

Range

Sandhill Cranes winter in a few different areas around North America including northern Mexico, southern Texas, Florida, parts of California, parts of southern Louisiana, and other areas across the Great Plains states. In spring, they start heading north to breed in the northern United States and southern Canada. There are a few places where Sandhill Cranes stage prior to migration where they can be seen in absolutely massive numbers. Most of these areas are in the upper Midwest in states such as Minnesota and North Dakota.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Sandhill Cranes eat a wide variety of different food items. Much of their diet consists of plant matter such as tubers, berries, and seeds, but they also eat small vertebrates, insects and other invertebrates. Sandhill Cranes forage in shallow water as well as in farm fields where they eat grains from crops.

Where to Find This Bird

Sandhill Cranes can be seen in many different places. Some of the most common areas to find this species are shallow water marshes and open fields. However, Sandhill Cranes also show up on lawns in neighborhoods and even in parking lots in cities where they casually stroll around, often to the surprise of humans.

Whooping Crane (Rare)

Whooping Crane – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

Whooping Cranes are absolutely massive, reaching heights of around five feet. They have a clean white body and red that covers their face and extends along the jaw line and on the top of the head. In flight, these cranes show black on the wing tips.

Range

The Whooping Cranes range is a bit complicated since they are actually split up into different populations. There are nonmigratory populations in Louisiana and Florida and migratory populations that winter in Florida and Texas and then migrate to Wisconsin and Canada respectively.

Diet and Foraging Habits

The large size of the Whooping Crane means they can eat many different types of animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. They not only eat animals however, but also various plant material, both aquatic and terrestrial.

Where to Find This Bird

Whooping Cranes are most commonly found in marshland where they wade into water in search of food. Along their migratory routes they are seen in fields and wet grasslands. During their wintering times, they also reside in coastal waters and saltmarshes.

Summary

Cranes are spectacular birds to see as an avid birder or just a casual observer. Knowing where to expect them and which species are likely to be in your state and region can make it much easier to find and identify them.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel.

Geese of Connecticut (8 Species to Know)

Geese can be loud, but also beautiful birds that can be found throughout North America. Since there are only a handful of species that call the United States home, geese can be a good group to start with if you’re just beginning to learn bird identification. Both males and females of these species look the same as far as plumage, and they do not have different colorations in different seasons.

Connecticut is home to many different goose species with some being common and others being rare. Here is everything you need to know about those species.

Brant

Brant
Identification

The Brant is a medium-sized goose that is smaller than a Canada Goose, but larger than a Mallard duck. They have a black head, stubby black bill, black neck and upper chest, with a brown and white body, white rump, and black wingtips. They have a characteristic white mark on their neck that can be variable in size and shape.

Range

Brants normally migrate through parts of the western and northeastern United States and parts of Canada, with some wintering populations on the east coast and in Alaska. They nest in the arctic wetlands of northern North America.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Brants feed mostly on vegetation such as grasses, sedges, and aquatic plants. In the winter, they eat mainly eelgrass and algae, although in some areas they will also eat other grasses if eelgrass is not available.

Where to Find this Bird

The Brant is rare in most midwestern states. Keep an eye out for this bird in flocks of other goose species, normally found near water or in open grassy areas or farm fields.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose
Identification

Adult Canada Geese are large birds with a black head and neck, white cheek, brown back and sides, black feet and legs, with a white stomach and rump. They are larger, have a longer neck, and a longer bill than the closely related Cackling Goose. It’s worth noting that there are many different subspecies of Canada Geese that can vary slightly in size and appearance.

Range

Common year-round throughout much of North America, the Canada Goose migrates south in the winter and north throughout the Northern U.S., Canada and Alaska in the summer. Once seen as a majestic migratory bird, many Canada Geese have spread to urban environments and can be seen hissing at those that get too close to them or their young.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

During spring, Canada Geese feed mostly on grasses, and during the fall and winter, they eat mostly seeds and berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Look for Canada Geese near water, in open or grassy fields often in large flocks. They can also be found in and near urban ponds. Look for them flying overhead making the classic goose “honk” and flying in a “V” formation.

Listen to the Canada Goose Call – Jonathan Jongsma (CC by 3.0)
A flock of birds illustrating the “V” formation flight pattern (Mussi Katz photo)

Cackling Goose

Cackling Goose (front) with Canada Goose (behind)
Identification

Adult Cackling Geese look very similar to Canada Geese, but with some key identification differences. They have similar color patterns with a black head and neck, white cheek, brown back and sides, black feet and legs, with a white stomach and rump, however they are smaller (about Mallard duck sized) with a stubbier neck, steep forehead, and smaller, more triangular shaped bill. They will often flock with Canada Geese, along with other geese species. These flocks can be extremely large during migration.

Click here to get more information on how to differentiate Cackling Geese from Canada Geese.

Range

The Cackling Goose spends winter in the central U.S. and Central America, with some populations near the East and West coasts. Their migratory route spans the central U.S. and west coast, and they migrate to northern North America to breed.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Cackling Geese feed mostly on plants and plant material such as grasses, sedges, seeds, and berries.

Where to Find this Bird

Look for Cackling Geese near water, in open or grassy fields, and in mixed flocks. Also look for them flying overhead with other goose species, and keep an eye out for noticeable smaller birds, compared to Canada Geese.

Snow Goose

Snow Geese (2 blue morph left and 1 white morph, right) (Bill Grossmeyer photo)
Blue morph Snow Goose (Bill Grossmeyer photo)
Identification

Snow Geese are majestic birds that come in different color morphs. The adult white morph Snow Goose has an all white body, black wingtips, and a pinkish-orange bill with a black “grin patch”. A “grin patch” is a visible space between the upper and lower mandible of the bird seen when the bird’s bill is closed. A “blue morph” Snow Goose is the same size as the white morph with the same bill color, however the body is dark in coloration with variable amounts of white and darker colors along with a white head.

Range

Snow Geese breed in northern North America and migrate through much of North America. They winter in select areas of the United States and Central America, often in large flocks.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Snow Geese are vegetarians that feed on grasses, shrubs, seeds, berries and more. Sometimes they will eat entire plants.

Where to Find this Bird

Snow Geese can be found in large flocks, mixed in with Ross’s Geese, Canada geese, and Cackling Geese. They are often seen in or near water, or in fields. Keep an eye out for mixed flocks flying overhead in a “V” formation.

Ross’s Goose (Rare)

Ross’s Goose (Bill Grossmeyer photo)
Identification

Along with Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese also have multiple color morphs. Adult white morph Ross’s Geese have an all white body, black wingtips, and a pinkish-orange bill with a small or absent “grin patch”. A blue morph Ross’s Goose will be the same size as the white morph with the same bill color, however the body will be dark in coloration with variable amounts of white and darker colors along with a white head. A true blue morph Ross’s Goose is very rare, and many are actually hybrid Snow and Ross’s Geese. Keep on the lookout for signs of hybridization such as a bird with a small, triangular bill but a large, dark grin patch. Overall, Ross’s Geese will be smaller than Snow Geese with a smaller, triangular bill that has a gray-blue base, and a stubbier neck.

Range

Ross’s Geese breed in northern North America in colonies and migrate through much of central and western North America. They winter in select areas of the United States and Central America, often in large flocks.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Ross’s Geese are vegetarians that feed on grasses, shrubs, seeds, berries and more. Sometimes they will eat entire plants.

Where to Find this Bird

Ross’s Geese can be found in large flocks, mixed in with Snow Geese, Canada, and Cackling Geese. They are often seen in or near water, or in fields. Keep an eye out for mixed flocks flying overhead in a “V” formation.

Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose (Bill Grossmeyer photo)
Identification

Adult Greater White-fronted Geese (sometimes called Speckled Geese, or Speckle-belly Geese) are brown in color with a white rump, white stripe on their side, white forehead, black spots on their stomach and a bright pinkish-orange bill and legs. They can look similar to Greylag Geese, which are a domesticated species that can sometimes be seen in urban parks, but Greylag Geese will have a thicker bill, be larger and more stout, and have a striped neck.

Range

Greater White-fronted Geese breed in northern North America in colonies, and on the Alaskan tundra, and migrate through much of central and western North America. They winter in select areas of the western and southern United States and central America, often in large, mixed flocks.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Greater White-fronted Geese feed mostly on plant material such as grasses, berries, sedges, emergent vegetation, and tubers.

Where to Find this Bird

Greater White-fronted Geese can be found in large flocks, mixed in with Ross’s, Snow, Canada, and Cackling Geese. They are often seen in or near water, or in fields. Keep an eye out for mixed flocks flying overhead in a “V” formation.

Barnacle Goose (Rare)

Barnacle Goose (Photo by Caleb Putnam)
Identification

The Barnacle Goose can be identified by its white face, black top of the head and neck, gray stomach, and gray, white, and black back.

Range

Barnacle Geese breed in the arctic North Atlantic islands. They are not native to the United States but sometimes they show up as vagrants, especially in the northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada. Additionally, sometimes domesticated birds escape and are seen, therefore there should be some deliberation in considering whether the bird is wild or not.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Barnacle Geese feed mostly on vegetation such as grasses and aquatic plants.

Find this Bird

Barnacle Geese are extremely rare in North America. Keep an eye out for this bird in flocks of other goose species, normally found near water or in open grassy areas and farm fields.

Pink-footed Goose (Rare)

Pink-footed Goose (Alan Shearman photo, CC by 2.0)
Identification

The Pink-footed Goose can be identified by its brown head and tan neck, gray-brown back, white side stripe, buff and white chest, white rump, pink feet, and stubby bill.

Range

Pink-footed Geese are not native to the United States but they sometimes stray into Eastern North America. When they do, they are an extreme rarity.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Pink-footed Geese feed mostly on vegetation such as grasses and sedges.

Find this Bird

Pink-footed Geese are extremely rare in North America. Keep an eye out for this bird in flocks of other goose species, normally found near water or in open grassy areas and farm fields.

Which of these species have you seen? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading!

Terns of Missouri (5 Species)

Terns are some of the most sleek and acrobatic species of birds in the world. They swiftly swoop, hover, and dive through the skies across North America. With many terns having similar looking plumages, they can be difficult to tell apart. Fortunately, with a little knowledge about tern identification and where they are most expected, it becomes easier to tell them apart.

Missouri is home to five species of terns. Here is everything that you need to know about these five species.

Black Tern

Black Tern – Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region
Identification

In breeding plumage, Black Terns have gray wings with white on the shoulder area. They have an overall black body and head, black bill and legs, and white underside behind the legs. Nonbreeding Black Terns are much paler with a white head and body and just a small patch of black color near the eye.

Range

Black Terns winter in Northern South America and make their migratory journey north in spring when they spread out across most of Mexico and the continental United States. They breed in South-central Canada and the Northern United States.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Black Terns are very acrobatic as they forage for food and catch prey on the fly. They eat small fish and insects, usually by flying low over marshy areas. One interesting thing about Black Terns is that they do not plunge into the water to catch fish like many other tern species do.

Where to Find This Bird

In winter, Black Terns can be found around coastal habitats but in spring and summer, marshes and swamps become the best place to locate this species.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern
Identification

Caspian Terns are extremely large for terns. In fact, they are the largest tern species in the entire world. They are white with gray wings, black legs, and a chunky red bill. Caspian Terns also have a black cap in breeding plumage which fades in nonbreeding plumage and looks more like a black smudge near the eye.

Range

Caspian Terns are extremely widespread in not only North America but the entire world. This species got their name due to the fact that they were common around the Caspian Sea (which they still are to this day). Caspian Terns can be found along the coasts of Australia, Africa, Southern Asia, Europe, and North America.

In North America, Caspian Terns winter in Mexico, Souther California, the Gulf Coast, Florida, and along the Atlantic Coast. They migrate north in spring and nest in parts of Canada, the Western United States, and the Great Lakes.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Caspian Terns primarily feed on fish but will also eat crustaceans and insects. This species feeds in the same way that other terns do; flying above the water to search for food and diving headfirst into the water when they see something they want to catch.

Where to Find this Bird

Caspian Terns frequent ocean coastlines as well as the shores of large inland bodies of water. They are most easy to find during migration when they show up in fairly large numbers along beaches and can be seen and heard flying over the water. In the Midwestern states, the Great Lakes are a fantastic place to find this species.

Common Tern (Uncommon)

Common Tern – Photo by Michele Lamberti
Identification

In breeding plumage, Common Terns have a white head and body with gray wings, a black cap, an orange bill with a black tip, and orange legs. An important feature in Common Terns that separates them from the nearly identical Forster’s Tern is the color of the primary feathers in adults. In Common Terns they will be dark gray while in Forster’s Terns they will be light gray to white. Nonbreeding adults will not have a complete black cap but rather a partial cap with the front of the head showing white.

Range

Common Terns winter along the Coasts of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico. In spring they move north into Canada and parts of the Northern United States, including the Great Lakes states.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Common Terns eat primarily small fish but will also eat crustaceans and other marine and freshwater invertebrates. They will catch fish from the surface of the water while flying or dive into the water to catch prey.

Where to Find this Bird

Common Terns are birds of coasts and shorelines. They are typically found along large bodies of water such as the oceans and the Great Lakes. They can be seen resting on beaches and sandbars.

Forster’s Tern

Forster’s Tern – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer
Identification

Breeding plumage Forster’s Terns have a white body and white forked tail, orange legs, an orange bill with a black tip, and a black cap going from their neck to their bill. They have light gray wings and light-colored wingtips (which is an import thing to note when differentiating between Forster’s Terns and Common Terns).

Nonbreeding Forster’s Terns look almost the same as in breeding plumage but instead of a full black cap, they have a black streak that covers their eye.

Range

Forster’s Terns winter along the Southern coasts of the United States and Mexico. They migrate north during the spring and breed in Southern Canada, portions of the Western U.S. and specific places along the Great Lakes. Forster’s Terns are year-round residents of Eastern Texas and Southern Louisiana in addition to parts of the Atlantic Coast near North Carolina and Maryland.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Forster’s Terns feed primarily on fish which they catch in a very distinctive manor. These terns will hover above the water, and suddenly plunge themselves below the surface. In addition to fish, they will also eat insects.

Where to Find this Bird

Forster’s Terns can be found in both freshwater and saltwater marshes in addition to coastlines.

Least Tern

Least Tern – Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southwest Region
Identification

Least Terns are the smallest of all of the North American Terns. In breeding plumage, they have orangey-yellow legs as well as an orangey-yellow colored bill. One of their more distinctive features is their white forehead contrasting their black cap. Another thig to note is the black edging on the wings of this species. In nonbreeding plumage, they have a much darker colored bill, and their black cap turns into more of a black stripe. Immature birds show this black coloration as a smudge.

Range

Least Terns winter along the northern coasts of South America, around the Carribean Islands, and the southern coasts of Florida. In summer they breed along both coasts of the continental United States and Mexico. Some Least Terns also spend the summer in the central part of the continental United States breeding on or around rivers.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Least Terns are primarily fish-eaters, but they will also feed on other small aquatic creatures such as shrimp, insects, and tadpoles.

Where to Find this Bird

Least terns can be found along the coasts, particularly near beaches and on barrier islands. Inland, these birds tend to gravitate toward sandy rivers, particularly. in and around larger rivers such as the Mississippi.

Summary

Terns are quick and acrobatic birds that can sometimes be difficult to identify since so many of them are similar looking. Knowing the species that are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you are looking at in the field. Hopefully, this article has helped in answering some questions about the terns of Missouri.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel.

Bluebirds of Colorado (3 Species to Know)

Bluebirds are affable members of the thrush family named for their coloration. There are three species of bluebirds native to Colorado, each with a different coloration, range, and habitat preference.

Eastern Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird
Identification

Male Eastern Bluebirds have a sky blue back, wings, tail, and head. They have a reddish orange chest and underside as well as a very faint eye ring. Females have a grayish colored head with blue wings and a darker orange underside with a more noticeable eye ring. Both males and females have white on their underside near their legs.

Range

Eastern Bluebirds live year-round in parts of Mexico, Central America, and the Southeastern United States. In summer, many of them move north into the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

The diet of Eastern Bluebird varies depending on the time of the year. When insects are available, they make up an extremely large part of their diet. Other times of the year this species eats an array of fruits.

Where to Find This Bird

Eastern Bluebirds can be found around open spaces near edge habitat. Prairies, fields, and pastures are all places where this species can be found regularly in addition to more forested areas as well as around ponds.

Badgerland Birding searches for Eastern Bluebirds

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird
Identification

Male Mountain Bluebirds are bright blue with a white under-tail, and lighter coloration on their lower underside. Females are blueish gray with brighter blue on their tail and wings. Both males and females have a light eye ring.

Range

Mountain Bluebirds are a species of Western North America with a wintering range that dips into Mexico, and a summertime range that reaches into the heart of Alaska. They can be found year round in states such as California, Utah, and Nevada, among others.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Mountain Bluebirds are mostly insectivorous and eat a variety of small invertebrates including grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders. They will also eat berries and other fruits including those of sumac and mistletoe.

Where to Find This Bird

Mountain Bluebirds can be found in open spaces such as the edges of prairies and fields. They can also be found in higher elevation places such as mountainsides and coniferous woodlands.

Badgerland Birding searches for a female Mountain Bluebird outside of its normal range

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird – Photo by Alan Schmierer
Identification

Male Western Bluebirds have a deep blue color on their head, wings, and tail. They have burnt orange on their chest, sides, and back just behind the neck. Females are blueish gray with brighter blue on the wings and tail. They have lighter orange on the chest and sides. Both males and females have an eye ring but females have an eye ring that is more noticeable.

Range

Western Bluebirds have two operate ranges in North America. One population spans from Mexico to the very southern portion of Colorado. Another population resides in Baja California all the way up to Southwestern Canada. Some birds in both populations stay in the same area year round while others move north for the breeding months.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Much of the Western Bluebird’s diet consist of insects and spiders. However, they will also eat certain types of fruits including blackberries, raspberries, chokecherries, and more.

Where to Find This Bird

Western Bluebirds live in conifer and mixed conifer woodlands including pinyon-juniper and ponderosa pine habitats. They are most comfortable in woodlands that are more open and have no qualms about living in ares that have been cleared or burned. This species can also be found along forest edges.

Summary

Bluebirds are typically birds that people are happy to see and happy to have in their yards. Knowing more about the species that are expected in your area can be instrumental in finding and identifying them. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the bluebirds of Colorado.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel

Cormorants of New York (3 Species to Know)

Cormorants are slender diving waterbirds with a distinctive shape and set of habits. While there are many cormorant species that live in North America, there are only two that can typically be found in New York, with one being extremely abundant and the other being quite rare. Here is everything you need to know about these three species.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant
Identification

Adult Double-crested Cormorants have a dark brown to black head, neck, back, underside and wings. Juveniles will be lighter brown in color with a lighter throat and underside. Both adults and juveniles have orange by the eyes and base of the bill as well as a turquoise colored eye. Breeding adult birds have two tufts on their head that can sometimes be hard to see, but these crests are what this species is named for.

Range

Double-crested Cormorants live year round along the Pacific Coast of North America from Northwestern Mexico all the way up to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. They also live year round in parts of Florida. This species winters in in the Southeastern United States and Northeastern Mexico. In spring, they move into the Northern United States and Southern Canada where they can be seen migrating in large flocks.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Double-crested Cormorants primarily eat fish which they catch by hunting them underwater. They will also eat other aquatic creature such as crustaceans and amphibians.

Where to Find This Bird

Double-crested Cormorants can be found in a variety of places with all of them usually being near bodies of water. Look for this species in trees lining lakes and ponds as well as in marshes. Often times, Double-crested Cormorants will congregate in large groups on islands or other places with adequate perches as they dry their wings and survey for prey.

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant – Caroline Jones Photo
Identification

Great Cormorants are larger than other Eastern Cormorant species. They look different depending on the region with some subspecies having more white on their head and neck. The birds in Eastern North America are glossy dark brown to black with white on their flanks and throat. They also have an orangey colored gular patch. Birds in nonbreeding plumage are a chocolatey brown color.

Range

Great Cormorants are extremely wide spread with the species being found in North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. In North America they reside on the East Coast from Southeastern Canada all the way south to Florida and even the Gulf Coast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Great Cormorants are specialists at hunting for and eating fish. They are known to specialize in bottom dwelling fish that they pull from crevices in rocks. They typically forage in shallower water under 50 feet in depth.

Where to Find This Bird

In the United States, look for Great Cormorants on rocky coasts in the states along the Atlantic Ocean. In particular, the more Northern States in New England are some of the places this species is most common.

Neotropic Cormorant (Uncommon)

Neotropic Cormorant – Photo by Alan Schmierer
Identification

Neotropic Cormorants are small members of the cormorant family. Adult birds are a shiny black color with white feathers on their head, back, and wings. They have a white triangle on the base of the bill known as a gular. Neotropic Cormorants have yellowish orange on the base of the bill and a turquoise colored eye. Juveniles are lighter in color overall, sporting brown coloration instead of black.

Range

Neotropic Cormorants live year-round in South America, Central America, much of Mexico, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. While much of the population is not migratory, some birds move north in spring and have a habit of turning up north of their normal range.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Neotropic Cormorants eat mostly fish, but will also consume insects, crustaceans, and amphibians. These birds are sight feeders and search for prey underwater where their streamlined bodies make them adept swimmers.

Where to Find This Bird

Neotropic Cormorants live in a wide variety of places including inland lakes, saltmarshes, and along ocean coastlines. They can often be seen perched in branches and other structures near water keeping watch for food.

In New York, Neotropic Cormorants are very rare visitors and only show up sporadically. They can sometimes be found in marshes, near ponds, or along the shores of the Great Lakes. Keep an eye on large flocks of Double-crested Cormorants for a smaller looking cormorant.

For information on how to differentiate a Double-crested Cormorant from a Neotropic Cormorant click here to read an article on the subject or check out the video below.

Neotropic vs. Double-crested Cormorant

Birds that are Similar to Cormorants

There is one North American bird species that technically is not a cormorant, but is similar enough to include it on the list.

Anhinga (Rare)

Anhinga
Identification

Anhingas look extremely similar to cormorants with a long snake-like neck and a long pointed bill. They have longer tails than most cormorant species and show white on their wings. Overall, Anhingas are dark colored with dark brown to black bodies and lighter colored necks.

Range

Anhingas are year-round residents of the northern half of South America, the coasts of Central America and Mexico, and the southeastern coast of the continental United States. In summer, they move farther north and have a tendency to move pretty far north into the eastern United States.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Anhingas primarily feed on fish which they actively hunt for underwater and spear with their sharp, pointed bill. They will also eat crustaceans and other small invertebrates.

Where to Find This Bird

Anhingas can be found in areas with slow moving freshwater such as marshes, bayous, and general wetlands. Look for them drying their wings on perches or swimming in the water, sitting low mostly with just their head and neck above the waters surface.

Summary

Cormorants are unique, lanky birds that are a common sight near the water. Knowing the habits, range, and key identification features of each of these species can be incredibly useful in knowing what to look for in the field.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.

Bluebirds of Maine (1 Species to Know)

Bluebirds are affable members of the thrush family named for their coloration. There are three species of bluebirds native to North America, and only one species that can be found in Maine. Here is everything you need to know about that species.

Eastern Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird
Identification

Male Eastern Bluebirds have a sky blue back, wings, tail, and head. They have a reddish orange chest and underside as well as a very faint eye ring. Females have a grayish colored head with blue wings and a darker orange underside with a more noticeable eye ring. Both males and females have white on their underside near their legs.

Range

Eastern Bluebirds live year-round in parts of Mexico, Central America, and the Southeastern United States. In summer, many of them move north into the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

The diet of Eastern Bluebird varies depending on the time of the year. When insects are available, they make up an extremely large part of their diet. Other times of the year this species eats an array of fruits.

Where to Find This Bird

Eastern Bluebirds can be found around open spaces near edge habitat. Prairies, fields, and pastures are all places where this species can be found regularly in addition to more forested areas as well as around ponds.

Badgerland Birding searches for Eastern Bluebirds

Summary

Bluebirds are typically birds that people are happy to see. Knowing more about the species that are expected in your area can be instrumental in finding and identifying them. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the bluebirds of Maine.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel

Cormorants of Ohio (3 Species to Know)

Cormorants are slender diving waterbirds with a distinctive shape and set of habits. While there are many cormorant species that live in North America, there are only three that can typically be found in Ohio, with two being abundant and the other being quite rare. Here is everything you need to know about these three species.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant
Identification

Adult Double-crested Cormorants have a dark brown to black head, neck, back, underside and wings. Juveniles will be lighter brown in color with a lighter throat and underside. Both adults and juveniles have orange by the eyes and base of the bill as well as a turquoise colored eye. Breeding adult birds have two tufts on their head that can sometimes be hard to see, but these crests are what this species is named for.

Range

Double-crested Cormorants live year round along the Pacific Coast of North America from Northwestern Mexico all the way up to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. They also live year round in parts of Florida. This species winters in in the Southeastern United States and Northeastern Mexico. In spring, they move into the Northern United States and Southern Canada where they can be seen migrating in large flocks.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Double-crested Cormorants primarily eat fish which they catch by hunting them underwater. They will also eat other aquatic creature such as crustaceans and amphibians.

Where to Find This Bird

Double-crested Cormorants can be found in a variety of places with all of them usually being near bodies of water. Look for this species in trees lining lakes and ponds as well as in marshes. Often times, Double-crested Cormorants will congregate in large groups on islands or other places with adequate perches as they dry their wings and survey for prey.

Great Cormorant (Rare)

Great Cormorant – Caroline Jones Photo
Identification

Great Cormorants are larger than other Eastern Cormorant species. They look different depending on the region with some subspecies having more white on their head and neck. The birds in Eastern North America are glossy dark brown to black with white on their flanks and throat. They also have an orangey colored gular patch. Birds in nonbreeding plumage are a chocolatey brown color.

Range

Great Cormorants are extremely wide spread with the species being found in North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. In North America they reside on the East Coast from Southeastern Canada all the way south to Florida and even the Gulf Coast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Great Cormorants are specialists at hunting for and eating fish. They are known to specialize in bottom dwelling fish that they pull from crevices in rocks. They typically forage in shallower water under 50 feet in depth.

Where to Find This Bird

In the United States, look for Great Cormorants on rocky coasts in the states along the Atlantic Ocean. In particular, the more Northern States in New England are some of the places this species is most common.

Neotropic Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant – Photo by Alan Schmierer
Identification

Neotropic Cormorants are small members of the cormorant family. Adult birds are a shiny black color with white feathers on their head, back, and wings. They have a white triangle on the base of the bill known as a gular. Neotropic Cormorants have yellowish orange on the base of the bill and a turquoise colored eye. Juveniles are lighter in color overall, sporting brown coloration instead of black.

Range

Neotropic Cormorants live year-round in South America, Central America, much of Mexico, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. While much of the population is not migratory, some birds move north in spring and have a habit of turning up north of their normal range.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Neotropic Cormorants eat mostly fish, but will also consume insects, crustaceans, and amphibians. These birds are sight feeders and search for prey underwater where their streamlined bodies make them adept swimmers.

Where to Find This Bird

Neotropic Cormorants live in a wide variety of places including inland lakes, saltmarshes, and along ocean coastlines. They can often be seen perched in branches and other structures near water keeping watch for food.

In Ohio, Neotropic Cormorants are very rare visitors and only show up sporadically. They can sometimes be found in marshes, near ponds, or along the shores of the Great Lakes. Keep an eye on large flocks of Double-crested Cormorants for a smaller looking cormorant.

For information on how to differentiate a Double-crested Cormorant from a Neotropic Cormorant click here to read an article on the subject or check out the video below.

Neotropic vs. Double-crested Cormorant

Birds that are Similar to Cormorants

There is one North American bird species that technically is not a cormorant, but is similar enough to include it on the list.

Anhinga (Rare)

Anhinga
Identification

Anhingas look extremely similar to cormorants with a long snake-like neck and a long pointed bill. They have longer tails than most cormorant species and show white on their wings. Overall, Anhingas are dark colored with dark brown to black bodies and lighter colored necks.

Range

Anhingas are year-round residents of the northern half of South America, the coasts of Central America and Mexico, and the southeastern coast of the continental United States. In summer, they move farther north and have a tendency to move pretty far north into the eastern United States.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Anhingas primarily feed on fish which they actively hunt for underwater and spear with their sharp, pointed bill. They will also eat crustaceans and other small invertebrates.

Where to Find This Bird

Anhingas can be found in areas with slow moving freshwater such as marshes, bayous, and general wetlands. Look for them drying their wings on perches or swimming in the water, sitting low mostly with just their head and neck above the waters surface.

Summary

Cormorants are unique, lanky birds that are a common sight near the water. Knowing the habits, range, and key identification features of each of these species can be incredibly useful in knowing what to look for in the field.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel.