Bluebirds of Massachusetts (2 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 two species that can be found in Massachusetts with one being common and the other being a very rare visitor. Here is everything you need to know about the bluebirds of Massachusetts.

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 (Rare)

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.

In Massachusetts, Mountain Bluebirds are extremely rare but their wandering nature leads to them sometimes showing up outside of their normal range. For this reason, they are worth keeping an eye out for even in states on the east coast.

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

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 Massachusetts.

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

Grebes of Massachusetts (5 Species to Know)

Grebes are fascinating birds that look something like a cross between a loon and a duck. These small waterbirds have legs that are at the back of their body which are perfect for diving and maneuvering through the water.

In Massachusetts, there are four different species of grebes that usually make an appearance on an annual basis, with some of them being extremely common, and others being rare. Here is everything you need to know about these five species.

Eared Grebe (Uncommon)

Eared Grebes in Breeding Plumage – Photo by Tom Bunker
Eared Grebe Winer Plumage
Identification

Eared Grebes are compact looking members of the grebe family displaying a shorter neck than other species in the grouping as well as a shorter bill. In breeding plumage, this species is quite colorful with a black head, neck, and back, orangey brown colored sides, and golden feathers just behind their bright red eye. It’s also worth noting that they have a crested appearance. In nonbreeding plumage they are far less extravagant looking with a dark head and back, white sides, a white throat, and a white underside. Even in nonbreeding plumage, Eared Grebes still have a bright red eye but they do not appear as crested.

Range

Eared Grebes winter in Mexico and the Southwestern United States in addition to the Pacific coast. In spring, they move north and spend the summer in most of the Northern States west of the Mississippi River as well as Southwestern Canada. They have a habit of showing up farther east than expected during migration.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Eared Grebes eat an assortment of different small vertebrates and invertebrates including fish, shrimp, insects, and amphibians. Since they often live in water with a high salt content, brine shrimp are sometimes a staple food item.

Where to Find This Bird

Eared Grebes are typically found in shallow ponds and lakes. Often times, these birds gather in extremely large groups during migration and are regular visitors of salty bodies of water.

Horned Grebe

Transitional and Breeding Plumage Horned Grebes
Identification

Horned Grebes are fairly small members of the grebe family with a short bill. In breeding plumage, Horned Grebes have a black head and wings with rusty reddish brown sides, a bright red eye, and amber colored feathers near their eye, which somewhat resemble horns. Nonbreeding birds have a black top of the head, wings, and back of the neck, but are white everywhere else. They still have a bright red eye in ninbreeding plumage.

Range

Horned Grebes winter in the Southeastern United States, along the Atlantic Coast, and along the Pacific coast from Baja California all the way up to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. In spring, they move north and breed in Alaska, Western Canada, and some of the northern states that border Canada such as North Dakota and Montana.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Horned Grebes eat a very wide variety of aquatic creatures including small fish, crustaceans, tadpoles and many different species of insects. They will not only eat aquatic insects but also catch them out of the air.

Where to Find This Bird

Horned Grebes breed in shallow lakes and ponds with plenty of vegetation to hide in. During migration, they show up in many different bodies of water ranging from manmade lakes to ponds.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe
Identification

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small and distinctive looking bird with a brown body and white near the tail. The wings and top of the head are darker than the chest and underside. The term “pied-billed” means striped bill, and it’s certainly an apt way to describe the species as the black stripe on the short, wide bill is obvious in breeding adult birds. Nonbreeding birds look generally the same but without as noticeable of a stripe on the bill. One fascinating thing about Pied-billed Grebes is that they can actually control how much of their body is underwater. Sometime they will only have their neck and head above the surface.

Range

Pied-billed Grebes are extremely widespread across the Western Hemisphere with a year-round range in Southern South America, Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, and most of the United States. In summer, Pied-billed Grebes move north and breed in the Northeastern US, as well as the Midwest. They also can be found throughout Southern Canada in summer.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Pied-billed Grebes mostly prey on small fish and crustaceans, but they will also eat snails, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. These birds hunt for food by diving and catching prey items underwater.

Where to Find This Bird

Pied-billed Grebes can be found in slow moving water such as marshes, flooded fields, and ponds.

Red-necked Grebe (Uncommon)

Red-necked Grebe in Breeding Plumage – Photo by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Red-necked Grebe in Nonbreeding Plumage – Photo by Caleb Putnam
Identification

Red-necked Grebes are quite striking in breeding plumage when they have their namesake rusty red neck as well as distinctive gray and white cheeks. They also a dark gray to black cap, a long yellow bill with a dark tip, and a dark gray to black back. In nonbreeding plumage, this species is much more pale with only light traces of a red neck and white cheeks. In terms of grebes, the Red-necked Grebe is on the more slender side with a longer neck than many other species.

Range

Red-necked Grebes are widespread across the globe with most of North America, parts of Asia, and Europe serving as a native home to this species. In North America, these birds winter along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, then make their way into Alaska and Western Canada (in addition to some states in the continental US) to breed.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Red-necked Grebes eat a variety of aquatic animals, most commonly fish, crustaceans, and insects. They will also eat other aquatic invertebrates as well as reptiles and amphibians. This species takes a page out of the loon handbook when it comes to hunting as they will often use sight to locate food in clear water and then actively hunt for it.

Where to Find This Bird

During the breeding months Red-necked Grebes can be found in marshes and shallow lakes. Usually, their breeding areas have thick vegetation lining the shore, providing good places to hide. In winter, the coasts of the United States can hold large numbers of these birds just offshore.

Western Grebe (Rare)

Western Grebe
Identification

Western Grebes are slender looking waterbirds with a longer neck and bill than many other grebe species. They look the same in both breeding and nonbreeding seasons with dark gray to black on their back, wings, back of the neck, and top of the head. They have a white face and underside with a yellow bill and bright red eye.

Range

True to its name, the Western Grebe is a species of Western North America. They winter along the Pacific coast of Mexico and the United States all the way up to the most Southwestern part of Canada. In summer, they move into the Western half of the US and Canada to breed. Western Grebes are year-round residents in parts of Northern and Central Mexico.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Western Grebes primarily feed on fish, but they also eat other creatures found in the water including crustaceans, amphibians, and insects. This species actively dives for it’s prey and easily moves through the water while hunting.

Where to Find This Bird

In winter, look for Western Grebes in saltwater habitats along the Pacific Coast. In summer, this species utilizes large freshwater lakes to breed in.

Summary

Grebes are unique and fascinating waterbirds that don’t quite fit into any other category. 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. Hopefully, this article has helped in answering some questions about the grebes of Massachusetts.

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

Orioles of Indiana (2 Species to Know)

Orioles are beautiful birds well known for their bright coloration. There are many different oriole species that live in North America and two of them are regular visitors to Indiana. Here is everything you need to know about these two species.

Baltimore Oriole

Male Baltimore Oriole – Photo by USFWS Midwest Region
Female Baltimore Oriole – Photo by Judith Jackson
Identification

Male Baltimore Orioles have a bright orange chest, underside, tail, and patch on the shoulder. They have black wings with white wing bars and a black hood extending slightly into the upper chest. Females are slightly less colorful with a yellowish orange body and gray wings with white wing bars.

Range

Baltimore Orioles spend the winter in Northern South America, Central America, Southern Mexico and much of Florida. In spring they migrate north and summer throughout the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Baltimore Orioles eat a variety of foods and their diet varies seasonally. In spring and fall they readily feed on fruit and nectar but during summer they feed primarily on protein rich food items such as insects and other invertebrates. Baltimore Orioles are known to come to bird feeders if jelly or orange slices are placed out and may even come to hummingbird feeders.

It’s worth noting that there is debate over whether or not jelly is good for birds due to the high sugar content.

Where to Find This Bird

Look for Baltimore Orioles high up in deciduous trees. They prefer more open areas such as edge habitat and small groves of trees to thick forests. Also keep an eye out for orioles at bird feeding stations. To attract them, orange slices are often enough to entice them in.

Orchard Oriole

Male Orchard Oriole
Female Orchard Oriole – Photo by Andrew Weitzel
Identification

Adult male Orchard Orioles are a deep burnt orange color with a black head, back, wings, and tail. They have white edging on some of their wing feathers. Female Orchard Orioles are yellow with dark gray wings and look vastly different than the adult males.

Range

Orchard Orioles winter in Northern South America, Central America, and Southern Mexico. In spring, they start their migration north with their range expanding into much of the Eastern United States and a small portion of South-central Canada. Some part of the population summers in North-central Mexico.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Orchard Orioles eat many different types of foods including insects, fruit, and nectar. They have been known to dip their heads into flowers, feed at hummingbird feeders, and even priece certain types of flowers to get a meal.

Where to Find This Bird

Orchard Orioles are at home in open areas such as oak savannas, forest edges, and woodlands near prairies. They typically reside in the tree tops where it is sometimes easier to hear them than it is to see them. Listen for this species’ melodic song that sounds somewhat similar to an American Robin or Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Summary

Orioles are bright and exciting birds to see while out birding or while watching your bird feeder. Knowing which species to expect in your region can be incredibly useful in identifying these charismatic birds. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some of your questions about the orioles of Indiana.

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

Grosbeaks of New York (4 Species to Know)

Grosbeaks are birds that are known for their sturdy looking build and thick bill. While they all share a similar appearance, grosbeaks are actually comprised of birds from two separate groupings. Out of five species of grosbeaks that live in the continental United States , three of them are technically in the cardinal family along with birds like tanagers, and the other two are in the finch family.

In New York there are four species that can be found on an annual basis with some being extremely common and others being a bit tougher to find.

Grosbeaks in the Finch Family

Evening Grosbeak

Male Evening Grosbeak
Identification

Evening Grosbeaks are an extremely bright looking species. Males have electric yellow undersides, backs, and markings on their head just above the eye. They have black wings, a black tail, clean white wing patches, and an extremely thick bill. Females and immature birds are mostly gray with a yellow nape, black wings, and a black tail with white patches on them.

Range

The Evening Grosbeak’s range is somewhat misleading. They are year round residents of Southern Canada and some parts of the Western United States. Most maps show their wintering range covering most of Michigan, Wisconsin, and New England, but through my experience, most winters Evening Grosbeaks only inhabit the most northern parts of these areas. Evening Grosbeaks do have years in which they fly farther South during winter but in recent years they have not irrupted in the same way that records from the past show. Additionally, the range of this species seems to be receding farther north into Canada each year.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Evening Grosbeaks have different diets depending on the time of year. During summer, they feed primarily on insects and other invertebrates, most notably spruce budworm larva. Other times of the year, Evening Grosbeaks eat various types of seeds including seeds from fruits.

Where to Find This Bird

Evening Grosbeaks can be found in conifer forests. They also can be found near bird feeders in their native range. .

Badgerland Birding searches for an Evening Grosbeak in Milwaukee, WI

Pine Grosbeak

Male Pine Grosbeak
Identification

Male Pine Grosbeaks are a rosy reddish pink color with dark gray wings, two white wing bars, and a gray under tail. Females and immature males are mostly gray with yellow to orange coloration on the head, back, rump, and sometimes the chest. It’s worth noting that Pine Grosbeaks vary slightly in color based on region.

Range

Pine Grosbeaks live year round in the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. In North America, this species breeds in the forests of Canada along with some parts of the continental United States and Alaska. In winter, Pine Grosbeaks move south into states in the Midwest and Northeast.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Pine Grosbeaks primarily feed on fruits and seeds, but will also eat insects and other invertebrates when available.

Where to Find This Bird

To find Pine Grosbeaks, one must go to where their food source is. They show up at bird feeders as well as places with fruit trees. In winter, remaining crabapples and other ornamental trees are big draws for this species. Some places that often plant these types of trees are cemeteries and school campuses.

Grosbeaks in the Cardinal Family

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak – Photo by Alan Schmierer
Identification

As their name suggests, male Blue Grosbeaks are a deep blue color. They have a gray bill, small black mask, and two rusty wing bars. Females and immature males are orangey brown with faint wing bars still visible.

Range

Blue Grosbeaks spend the winter in Central America and Mexico. Some of them stay in Mexico year-round while others move north into the United States where they can be found in the southern states as well as the Great Plains States for the duration of the summer.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Blue Grosbeaks eat a combination of insects and seeds. They will also eat other invertebrates such as spiders and snails.

Where to Find This Bird

Blue Grosbeaks are most at home in open areas such as scrub and desert. They are also fond of edge habitats where they can hide in trees and thickets while singing.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Identification

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are dapper looking birds with a thick bill. Males have a black head,  back, tail and wings with white markings also appearing on the wings. They have a white underside with their most noticeable feature appearing on their chest: A namesake bright red marking. Females have a mottled brown back with a yellowish underside and a white eye brow stripe.

Range

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate annually from Northern South America, Central America, and Southern Mexico into the Eastern United States. In summer, they end up in the Northeastern U.S. and parts of Southern Canada. 

Diet and Foraging Habits

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks feed on different food items depending on the time of the year. During spring and summer, insects make up a large portion of their diet. While in fall, berries and other fruits become more of a staple. They will also eat seeds and other plant matter.

Where to Find This Bird

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks live in a variety of habitats including deciduous and mixed conifer woods, forest edges, areas with streams and other water sources, and in backyards. They will also visit both seed and fruit bird feeders, so this is a species that can be attracted to parks, backyards, and nature centers. 

Summary

Grosbeaks are beautiful and popular birds to both birders and backyard bird lovers. Knowing more about the species that are expected in your area can be instrumental in finding and identifying them, especially since they have such irregular migratory patterns. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the grosbeaks of New York.

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 Indiana (2 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 two species that can be found in Indiana with one being common and the other being a very rare visitor. Here is everything you need to know about the bluebirds of Indiana.

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 (Rare)

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.

In Indiana, Mountain Bluebirds occasionally show up but are very rare. This species is known to wander out of its normal range so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.

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

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 Indiana.

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

Egrets of Massachusetts (3 Species to Know)

Egrets are elegant looking wading birds in the same family as herons. There are a four different species of Egrets that live in the United States and three species that can be found in Massachusetts. Here is everything you need to know about those three species.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret
Identification

Cattle egrets are medium sized white birds with a yellow bill, yellow legs and feet, and yellowish green coloration behind their eye. Breeding adults have peach coloration on their head, wings, and underside while nonbreeding adults are pure white. 

Range

Cattle Egrets are actually native to Africa but at some point made their way over to South America and then eventually spread north into Central America, Mexico, and the United States. In the US, they can be found year round in the Gulf Coast and some of the Southwestern states. In spring, they migrate north and breed in the Southeastern United States as well as seemingly random other parts of the country. Some of these more strange breeding locations are parts of the Dakotas, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, and even parts of Southern Canada.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Cattle Egrets have a widely varied diet which includes small mammals, amphibians, lizards, and even other birds. The majority of their diet however, is comprised of insects. Cattle Egrets have a habit of spending time near heards of cattle that kick up insects such as crickets and grasshoppers as they graze. The Egrets will also forage near heavy machinery in farm fields for the same reason. This species will feed alone or in large groups.

Where to Find This Bird

Cattle Egrets can be found in open fields, typically near grazing cattle. They can also be found on the edges of marshes and swamps. Sometimes, extremely large numbers of Cattle Egrets gather together to forage or roost.

Great Egret

Great Egret
Identification

Great egrets are large heron-shaped birds with a long neck. They are pure white with black legs. a yellow bill, and green coloration from the bill to the eye. They can also have more of a yellowish color behind their eye. Out of all of the egret species that live in the state, the aptly named Great Egret is the largest.

Range

Great Egrets live in South and Central America year round. They are also year long residents of the coasts of Mexico, both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the United States, and parts of California. In spring, they migrate north and breed in parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri along with other states in the region in addition to parts of Oregon.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Great Egrets are wading birds which means they will walk in shallow water and search for food. Their preferred food sources are small fish, frogs, small mammals, aquatic invertebrates, and essentially any living creature that they can get down their throat.

Where to Find This Bird

Great Egrets can be found in places with slow moving or even standing water. They can be readily spotted standing on the edges of ponds, in shallow marshes, and in coastal estuaries. They are also common in man-made canals and in lakes.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret
Identification

Snowy Egrets are relatively small wading birds that are clean white with a black bill and black legs. They have yellow behind the bill and also have distinctive and noticeable yellow feet. They are significantly smaller than Great Egrets, so if the two are in the same vicinity, they are easy to tell apart based on size.

Range

Snowy Egrets are year round residents of South America, the Carribean Islands, Cuba, the coasts of Mexico, the Southwestern United States, The Gulf Coast, and the Southeastern Coast of the United States. Some of the population migrates north into the United States, most notably farther up the Atlantic Coast, and the Southwestern states. During migration, Snowy Egrets can be found in a wide variety of places in the United States including the Midwest.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Snowy Egrets feed primarily on aquatic creatures such as fish, frogs, and crustaceans among others. They will feed in both marine and freshwater environments, and typically catch prey by wading into the water and stirring up small creatures with their feet.

Where to Find This Bird

The best places to find Snowy Egrets are along ocean coastlines with shallow water. These birds can typically be seen wading into the water and searching for food. They can also be found inland in marshes and other places with shallow water and mudflats.

Summary

Egrets are quite beautiful birds that can be fun to observe as they go about their daily lives. Knowing the species that are expected in your state can be instrumental in identifying which one you’re looking at. Hopefully, this article has helped to answer some questions about the egrets of Massachusetts.

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 Ohio (2 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 two species that can be found in Ohio with one being common and the other being a very rare visitor. Here is everything you need to know about the bluebirds of Ohio.

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 (Rare)

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.

In Ohio, Mountain Bluebirds haven’t been reported in a number of years. However, this species is known to wander out of its normal range so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.

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

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 Ohio.

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

Grebes of Ohio (5 Species to Know)

Grebes are fascinating birds that look something like a cross between a loon and a duck. These small waterbirds have legs that are at the back of their body which are perfect for diving and maneuvering through the water.

In Ohio, there are five different species of grebes that usually make an appearance on an annual basis, with some of them being extremely common, and others being fairly rare. Here is everything you need to know about these five species.

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebes in Breeding Plumage – Photo by Tom Bunker
Eared Grebe Winer Plumage
Identification

Eared Grebes are compact looking members of the grebe family displaying a shorter neck than other species in the grouping as well as a shorter bill. In breeding plumage, this species is quite colorful with a black head, neck, and back, orangey brown colored sides, and golden feathers just behind their bright red eye. It’s also worth noting that they have a crested appearance. In nonbreeding plumage they are far less extravagant looking with a dark head and back, white sides, a white throat, and a white underside. Even in nonbreeding plumage, Eared Grebes still have a bright red eye but they do not appear as crested.

Range

Eared Grebes winter in Mexico and the Southwestern United States in addition to the Pacific coast. In spring, they move north and spend the summer in most of the Northern States west of the Mississippi River as well as Southwestern Canada. They have a habit of showing up farther east than expected during migration.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Eared Grebes eat an assortment of different small vertebrates and invertebrates including fish, shrimp, insects, and amphibians. Since they often live in water with a high salt content, brine shrimp are sometimes a staple food item.

Where to Find This Bird

Eared Grebes are typically found in shallow ponds and lakes. Often times, these birds gather in extremely large groups during migration and are regular visitors of salty bodies of water.

Horned Grebe

Transitional and Breeding Plumage Horned Grebes
Identification

Horned Grebes are fairly small members of the grebe family with a short bill. In breeding plumage, Horned Grebes have a black head and wings with rusty reddish brown sides, a bright red eye, and amber colored feathers near their eye, which somewhat resemble horns. Nonbreeding birds have a black top of the head, wings, and back of the neck, but are white everywhere else. They still have a bright red eye in ninbreeding plumage.

Range

Horned Grebes winter in the Southeastern United States, along the Atlantic Coast, and along the Pacific coast from Baja California all the way up to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. In spring, they move north and breed in Alaska, Western Canada, and some of the northern states that border Canada such as North Dakota and Montana.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Horned Grebes eat a very wide variety of aquatic creatures including small fish, crustaceans, tadpoles and many different species of insects. They will not only eat aquatic insects but also catch them out of the air.

Where to Find This Bird

Horned Grebes breed in shallow lakes and ponds with plenty of vegetation to hide in. During migration, they show up in many different bodies of water ranging from manmade lakes to ponds.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe
Identification

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small and distinctive looking bird with a brown body and white near the tail. The wings and top of the head are darker than the chest and underside. The term “pied-billed” means striped bill, and it’s certainly an apt way to describe the species as the black stripe on the short, wide bill is obvious in breeding adult birds. Nonbreeding birds look generally the same but without as noticeable of a stripe on the bill. One fascinating thing about Pied-billed Grebes is that they can actually control how much of their body is underwater. Sometime they will only have their neck and head above the surface.

Range

Pied-billed Grebes are extremely widespread across the Western Hemisphere with a year-round range in Southern South America, Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, and most of the United States. In summer, Pied-billed Grebes move north and breed in the Northeastern US, as well as the Midwest. They also can be found throughout Southern Canada in summer.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Pied-billed Grebes mostly prey on small fish and crustaceans, but they will also eat snails, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. These birds hunt for food by diving and catching prey items underwater.

Where to Find This Bird

Pied-billed Grebes can be found in slow moving water such as marshes, flooded fields, and ponds.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe in Breeding Plumage – Photo by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Red-necked Grebe in Nonbreeding Plumage – Photo by Caleb Putnam
Identification

Red-necked Grebes are quite striking in breeding plumage when they have their namesake rusty red neck as well as distinctive gray and white cheeks. They also a dark gray to black cap, a long yellow bill with a dark tip, and a dark gray to black back. In nonbreeding plumage, this species is much more pale with only light traces of a red neck and white cheeks. In terms of grebes, the Red-necked Grebe is on the more slender side with a longer neck than many other species.

Range

Red-necked Grebes are widespread across the globe with most of North America, parts of Asia, and Europe serving as a native home to this species. In North America, these birds winter along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, then make their way into Alaska and Western Canada (in addition to some states in the continental US) to breed.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Red-necked Grebes eat a variety of aquatic animals, most commonly fish, crustaceans, and insects. They will also eat other aquatic invertebrates as well as reptiles and amphibians. This species takes a page out of the loon handbook when it comes to hunting as they will often use sight to locate food in clear water and then actively hunt for it.

Where to Find This Bird

During the breeding months Red-necked Grebes can be found in marshes and shallow lakes. Usually their breeding areas have thick vegetation lining the shore, providing good places to hide. In winter, the coasts of the United States can hold large numbers of these birds just offshore.

Western Grebe (Rare)

Western Grebe
Identification

Western Grebes are slender looking waterbirds with a longer neck and bill than many other grebe species. They look the same in both breeding and nonbreeding seasons with dark gray to black on their back, wings, back of the neck, and top of the head. They have a white face and underside with a yellow bill and bright red eye.

Range

True to its name, the Western Grebe is a species of Western North America. They winter along the Pacific coast of Mexico and the United States all the way up to the most Southwestern part of Canada. In summer, they move into the Western half of the US and Canada to breed. Western Grebes are year-round residents in parts of Northern and Central Mexico.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Western Grebes primarily feed on fish, but they also eat other creatures found in the water including crustaceans, amphibians, and insects. This species actively dives for it’s prey and easily moves through the water while hunting.

Where to Find This Bird

In winter, look for Western Grebes in saltwater habitats along the Pacific Coast. In summer, this species utilizes large freshwater lakes to breed in.

Summary

Grebes are unique and fascinating waterbirds that don’t quite fit into any other category. 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. Hopefully, this article has helped in answering some questions about the grebes of Ohio.

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

Swans of Indiana (3 Species to Know)

Swans are iconic birds known for their elegance and grace. But did you know there are only 7 difference species of swans in the world, and only 3 species that breed in North America? All three species can be found in Indiana annually. Here is everything you need to know about these species.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan

Identification

Adult Trumpeter Swans are bright white birds with a black bill extending to the eyes. Their legs are black. They can be differentiated from Tundra Swans by having a more bell-shaped head, and a more “v-shaped” forehead when looking at the bird head on, compared to the “u-shaped” forehead of the Tundra Swan.

Range

Trumpeter Swans are common year round in select areas of North America and have a spotty wintering distribution that moves north in the summer to parts of northern North America.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Trumpeter Swans feed mostly on aquatic vegetation such as roots and stems of aquatic plants. They can often be seen with their heads underwater and backsides up as they feed.

Find this Bird

Look for Trumpeter Swans in or near water, in marshes, or in open or grassy fields, often in large flocks. They can also be found in mixed flocks with other swan species.

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan (Michael Schramm/USFWS)

Identification

Adult Tundra Swans are bright white birds with a black bill extending to the eyes. Their legs are black. They can be differentiated from Trumpeter Swans by having a more slender head and “u-shaped forehead when looking at it head on, compared to a more “v-shaped” forehead and bell-shaped head of the Trumpeter Swan. Tundra Swans will sometimes have yellow markings on their bill, but these should not be used as a sole identification marker since Trumpeter Swans and other swan species can have these as well.

Range

Tundra Swans winter in eastern and western North America, and migrate through northern North America to their breeding grounds in the far north.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Tundra Swans feed mostly on aquatic vegetation such as roots and stems of aquatic plants, as well as seeds, algae, and grains. They can often be seen with their heads underwater and backsides up as they feed.

Find this Bird

Look for Tundra Swans in or near water, in marshes, or in open or grassy fields, often in massive flocks during migration. They can also be found in mixed flocks with other swan species.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan
Identification

Mute Swans are large white birds with a long neck, black legs, orange bill, and black knob on the forehead.

Range

Mute Swans are native to Europe and Asia but have been introduced into parts of North America. Certain populations breed in North America while other individuals may be escaped pets or farm birds.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Mute Swans feed on aquatic vegetation, mussels, worms, small fish, frogs, and other small vertebrates.

Find this Bird

Mute Swans are normally seen as individual birds or in pairs and tower over smaller geese species. They can be found in marshes, open water lakes, or small urban ponds.

Summary

Swans are certainly impressive and elegant birds. Knowing which swans are likely in your state can be a major help when observing them in the field. Have you seen any of these swans before? Let us know in the comments below, and we hope you found this information helpful!

Be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding YouTube channel for videos on all things bird related.

Falcons of Ohio (5 Species to Know)

Falcons are the stealth fighter jets of the bird world. Recording some of the fastest speeds of all winged animals, these dynamic flyers are captivating to watch.

There are seven species of falcons that can be found in the United States on an annual basis and five that can be found in Ohio. Here is everything you need to know about those five species.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel
Identification

The American Kestrel is a small and colorful bird. Males have a rusty colored back as well as a lighter rusty colored underside. They have blue on their wings and the top of their head along with black markings near their eye. Females are lighter overall with rusty orange barring on their wings, back, and tail.

Range

American Kestrels live in both South America and North America. In North America, Kestrels are migratory and reside in Mexico in winter, then move into Canada during the breeding season. Throughout much of the United States, American Kestrels can be found year round.

Diet and Foraging Habits

American Kestrels eat small creatures including insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and rodents. In terms of the insects they eat, some of the most commonly consumed are grasshoppers, dragonflies, and cicadas.

Where to Find this Bird

American Kestrels are a common sight along roadsides and in open fields. They can be seen on telephone poles and wires or perched on dead trees and other structures. Kestrels can also be found in urban parks, pastures, and farm fields.

Gyrfalcon (Rare)

Gyrfalcon (dfaulder Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Gyrfalcons come in two different color morphs. Living in the high arctic is the white morph which essentially looks like someone took the look of a Snowy Owl and put it on a large falcon. They are pure white with black markings on their wings. The gray morph typically lives farther south and has a gray back and head with dark barring on the underside. They have dark teardrop markings underneath the eye.

Range

Gyrfalcons breed in the arctic with some migrating into the Northern United States to spend the winter. There is a population that lives in mid to Northern Canada and Alaska that most likely stay in the same area year round.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Gyrfalcons feed mostly on medium sized birds such as ptarmigans and seabirds. They will also eat mammals such as lemmings and typically dive onto prey from above.

Where to Find this Bird

Gyrfalcons are most typically found in the continental United States in winter. They like open spaces such as tundra and coast lines where they can survey for prey.

In most parts of the United States species is quite rare and seems to show up even less often than it used to. They can sometimes be found in parts of the Northern United States but tracking one down is even more difficult than it used to be since specific locations of Gyrfalcon sightings are hidden on eBird.

Merlin

Merlin (Bill Thompson photo)
Identification

Merlins are very small members of the falcon family looking similar in size to a Mourning Dove. They have a blueish gray to black back, wings, and head, and a buffy to brown streaked underside. Merlins can differ in color based on region but always maintain a somewhat similar appearance. Most of the time they will have a white eye brow stripe.

Range

Merlins winter in Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, the Southeastern United States, and most of the Western United States. In spring they migrate north ending up in only the most Northern parts of the U.S. and much of Canada and Alaska. There is an area from the Northwestern part of the United States to the Southwestern part of Alaska where Merlins live year-round. Some individuals stay all winter in Northern states as well.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Merlins primarily eat small birds such as waxwings, sparrows, and even shorebirds. In addition to birds, they also eat insects and rodents.

Where to Find this Bird

Merlins can be tricky to find as encountering one typically seems like a matter of luck. They can be found in wooded areas as well as in open areas where they will be surveying for food. Sometimes the easiest way to see them is in flight when they will be moving at high speeds.

Personal Experience: It seems like if I ever go out intentionally trying to find Merlins there aren’t any around. Each year I typically find one by chance while out birding. It seems that even though they aren’t necessarily supposed to winter in the northern U.S. that is when I see them most.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Betsy Matsubara Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Peregrine Falcons are iconic birds with a dark back, wings, head, and neck. They have a light underside with dark barring and noticeable bright yellow legs. This species has interesting facial markings that some people refer to as “sideburns” and are essentially dark coloration coming down below the eye onto the cheeks of the bird.

Range

The Peregrine Falcon’s range in North America is complicated with a general pattern of wintering in the Southeastern United States and Mexico, summering in Northern Canada, and migrating throughout the rest of the continent. However, there are many places in the continental United States that Peregrine Falcons breed in during summer (such as along Lake Superior) and live year round (such as most of the Pacific Coast, and around the Great Lakes).

This species not only lives in North America, but every other continent as well with the exception of Antarctica.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Peregrine Falcons are the fastest fliers in the entire animal kingdom reaching normal speeds of around 70 miles per hour and a diving speed of around 200 miles per hour. They use this incredible speed to hunt medium sized birds such as doves and ducks, but they have been observed taking on an extremely wide array of different bird species. Peregrine Falcons will also eat fish, and mammals.

Where to Find this Bird

Peregrine Falcons have adapted well to human habitation and use skyscrapers as nesting sites. In more wild areas they will use cliffs as nest sites. Peregrine Falcons can be reliable sights in places where people have placed nest boxes specifically for the species to breed in. Often times these places have corresponding nest cams that can be viewed online.

Prairie Falcon (Rare)

Prairie Falcon (Charles Gates Photo – CC by 2.0)
Identification

Prairie Falcons have a light brown back, wings, and head with a white underside barred with brown. They have a different facial pattern than the Peregrine Falcon with a brown teardrop marking below the eye that contrasts the pure white of the cheeks and chin.

Range

Prairie Falcons are birds of the Western United States, living year round in most states west of Minnesota and Louisiana. They also live in parts of Mexico and Southwestern Canada year round. In winter, some individuals move east into more of the Great Plains states.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Prairie Falcons eat many different small mammals in addition to insects and birds. Like most falcons, they have quite a varied diet in terms of the bird species they eat.

Where to Find this Bird

True to their name, Prairie Falcons live in open spaces such as grasslands, fields, tundra, and farmland. They nest in places with bluffs and cliffs but are most easily seen hunting. Prairie Falcons are often on the move and cruise the open spaces looking for food. They can also sometimes be seen perched on branches or telephone poles.

Summary

Falcons are always entertaining to see, and knowing which ones to expect in your state can be a key part of correctly identifying the bird you are seeing.

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