During the breeding season, the Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) can be found in coniferous forests along the west coast of Oregon, Washington, and California, in the Cascade mountains of western Oregon and Washington, and in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. This species winters in montane pine, pine-oak, and cloud forests of Mexico and Central America through Nicaragua. A small, insectivorous warbler, it has a yellow head, white underparts, and gray upperparts. Males have black throats, while females’ throats are grayish, with some black. The species is known to hybridize with Townsend’s Warblers, resulting in birds with plumage characteristics of both species. The Hermit Warbler is a habitat specialist. During breeding it is most often found in the interior of cool, moist, mature coniferous forests, from sea level into the mountains. It is most abundant in stands over 30 years old, and is not generally found in stands under 20 years old, or in stands that have been extensively thinned. As the Hermit Warbler usually resides high in the canopy, it is more often heard than seen. The male’s variable song is multi-part, consisting of 3 or 4 buzzy notes—“zeegle zeegle zeegle”—; followed by a rising-and-falling ending phrase—“zee-o-seet.” The Hermit Warbler is a State of the Birds western forest obligate species, meaning that it is dependent on coniferous forest habitats. It is also a Partners in Flight Watchlist Species. Partners in Flight’s Conservation Strategy for Landbirds in Coniferous Forests of Oregon and Washington identifies the Hermit Warbler as a focal species for mature, multi-layered, closed canopy forests. Through improving habitat conditions for Hermit Warbler, it is thought that other species that depend on older coniferous forest habitats will also benefit. There is concern that the Hermit Warbler may be declining due to extensive loss of mature forest habitats. The 2011 State of the Birds report indicates that National Forests support 51% of Hermit Warblers breeding in the United States. This high level of stewardship responsibility provides the U.S. Forest Service with a unique opportunity to reverse potential declines in Hermit Warblers through appropriate forest management that will, in turn, improve habitat conditions for a variety of western forest obligate species. Protecting and restoring the Hermit Warblers’ habitat throughout its breeding range will require collaborations among non-governmental organizations like KBO, the Forest Service, and other public and private forest mangers in Oregon, Washington, and California. Broader collaborations among international partners will also be necessary to ensure connectivity between Hermit Warblers’ breeding, migratory, and wintering habitats. This article appears in KBO’s Fall 2011 Newsletter.
This article can be seen in the Summer 2011 Newsletter. Sources: Altman, B. 2000. Conservation strategy for landbirds in lowlands and valleys of western Oregon and Washington. PIF; Gruson, E. S. 1972. Words for birds: A lexicon of North American birds with biographical notes. Quadrangle Books, Inc., New York, New York; Marshall et al, eds. 2003. Birds of Oregon: A general reference. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon; Rich et al. 2004. Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
Remember Flower Power – a slogan used as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violent ideology in the 1960s? The Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) is a big believer— flowers are very nearly all it eats! Studies have found that plant material makes up 95% to 97% of this songbird’s natural diet, with flowers comprising up to 50% of this. This large sparrow of the north country nests exclusively in Alaska and western Canada, on the ground in habitats above the treeline. It is found in western California, Oregon, and Washington only during the winter, spring, and fall seasons. The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a common feeder bird, though preferring to forage on the ground, often flocking with other sparrows. Dark-streaked brown upperparts, light-brownish underparts, a long tail, and a distinctive yellow (golden) crown distinguish it from others in the lowland brush or field edges it frequents. The yellow crown is bordered with dark stripes and is most bright in mature individuals. The scientific genus name Zonotrichia is Greek for “bird with bands,” an allusion to the crown stripes – from zone for band (or stripe), and trichias for small bird. The species name atricapilla is Latin for “black hairs”, coined from ater or atri for black and capillus for hair, referring to the black bordered crown. Although there is some evidence of this species increasing in number, there is concern that not enough is known, and that monitoring is insufficient in its northern range—an important challenge for researchers and land managers. The data that KBO collects from Golden-crowned Sparrows captured in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion during the migration and winter seasons contribute greatly to our understanding of this species’ conservation status in North America. Sources: Marshall et al., eds. 2003. Birds of Oregon: A general reference. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon; Gruson 1972. Words for birds: A lexicon of North American birds with biographical notes. Quadrangle Books, Inc., New York, New York; Martin et al. 1951. American wildlife and plants: A guide to wildlife food habits. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, New York; Rich et al. 2004. Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. This article appears in KBO’s Spring 2011 Newsletter.
This summer KBO is implementing its third season of aquatic bird surveys as part of the OregonCoordinated Aquatic Bird Monitoring Program. As part of this coordinated monitoring effort, KBO is focusing on seven species of marsh-nesting, colonial aquatic birds, including the Eared Grebe—Podiceps nigricollis. The Eared Grebe is the most abundant grebe species in North America, with an estimated population of 3.7 million. In its breeding plumage the Eared Grebe is black with chestnut flanks, bright white underparts and a scarlet iris. Its most distinguishable feature is a fanshaped, reddish-orange tuft that extends from the eyes to the back of the head. Eared Grebes typically winter in saltwater estuaries along the Pacific Coast and breed in freshwater habitats. In Oregon the majority of breeding areas are in Klamath, Lake and Harney counties, while breeding occurs in California in the east-central and northeastern portion of the state. Eared Grebes nest in large colonies, sometimes numbering in the thousands, in shallow water one to four feet deep. KBO survey crews have found Eared Grebes at more than 40 sites in southcentral Oregon. The status of Eared Grebes is of interest in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion in part because the region’s many lakes are subject to year to-year water level fluctuations which can impact Eared Grebe’s nesting habitat. Understanding water level impacts on Eared Grebes on their breeding habitats will be key to maintaining their abundance. Note: The Oregon Coordinated Aquatic Bird Monitoring Program is part of a large, multi-partner effort to determine the status of aquatic birds through the Western United States and to better inform waterbird management and conservation decisions. Source: Marshall, David B., Matthew G. Hunter and Alan L. Contreras, eds. Birds of Oregon: A General Reference. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003. This article can be found in KBO’s Summer 2010 Newsletter.
This article can be found in KBO’s Spring 2010 newsletter.
One of the first warblers to arrive in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California each spring is the Black-throated Gray Warbler. Starting in late March, you may see this elegant migrant, returning from its wintering grounds in Mexico. This striking species summers in a variety of habitats in the western United States and as far north as southwest British Columbia. Spanning thousands of miles and multiple cultures in its travels, this species is truly a “bird for all” in North America. This warbler is distinguished from its close relatives, Townsend’s and Hermit warblers, by its gray and white plumage, lack of yellow plumage except for a spot of yellow in front of the eye, and bold white wings bars. Identifying this bird by its’ song can be a challenge. Listen for a series of sharp, buzzy notes usually followed by a descending slurred note. This species is usually an active insect feeder of the mid-canopy. In our region, it can be found in a variety of habitats, from the canyon live-oak woodlands and chaparral habitat of the Klamath Mountains to the mixed-oak/conifer transition zone of the western Cascade foothills. The Black-throated Gray Warbler is often one of the last migrant warblers to leave its breeding grounds in the fall, so look for it in the region well into October. References: Birds of Oregon. Corvallis: Oregon State University Books, 2003. A Field Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guide Series). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997. This article appears in KBO’s Fall 2009 Newsletter.
This article appears in KBO’s summer 2009 newsletter, click here to view the full newsletter.
First you hear the high-pitched hum of his two inch wings, flapping 52 to 62 times per second. Then he zips past, a streak of bronze and green, tzzew zupity tzupity tzuping at another bird in aggressive defense of his territory. During the breeding season, this male Rufous Hummingbird will perform elaborate J-shaped diving displays to attract females.Often times indistinguishable from Allen’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbirds tend to have more rufous-colored backs, though up to five percent of them are mostly green. Females have greener backs than males with rufous at the base of their tails. This “extremist” hummingbird migrates the farther north than any other hummingbirds in its family. Its journey is, relative to its body length, the longest known avian migration in the world! They spend the winters as far south as southern Mexico and breed throughout the Pacific Northwest, into Alaska. Spring migration seems to be timed to follow the blooming of flowers, leading them through California in March and April, north to their breeding grounds by mid-spring. Considered a valuable indicator species, the Rufous Hummingbird is viewed as a gauge of environmental health by researchers. Highly associated with western shrublands, they are also found in coniferous forests and riparian areas. Recent studies have shown a positive association with young broadleaf forests. Population trends for these birds are of high concern, with nearly a four percent reduction per year for the past 42 years. According to Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan, the Rufous Hummingbird is of particular concern due tovulnerability from a limited non-breeding distribution as well as a limited breeding distribution. The continental objective calls for an emphasis to increase this population by 100%. Along with Partners in Flight, the Western Hummingbird Project addresses hummingbird conservation issues in North America through habitat restoration and enhancement, monitoring, research, and education and outreach. KBO contributes to this project through collaboration with the US Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Program, the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, and many partners. References: Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan, 2004, by Terrill Rich et al.; The Birds of North America, first edition 2005, edited by Dr. Alan Poole and Dr. Frank Gill. This article appears in KBO’s Spring 2009 newsletter.
This article appears in the Fall 2008 KBO newsletter References: Birds of Oregon, first edition 2003, edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; Complete Birds of North America, 2006, edited by Jonathan Alderfer Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2007, 2008, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.Tree Swallow Photo: James Livaudais