The Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) is the only black and white flycatcher found in North America. Thus, they are easily distinguished by their mostly black body and white belly. Eastern Kingbirds and Eastern Phoebes, similarly, are dark above and pale below, but are generally grayer and also have a pale throat and breast. Additionally, the range of the Black Phoebe barely overlaps the ranges of these two species. The range of the Say’s Phoebe, however, does overlap that of the Black Phoebe, but the gray-brown upper parts and rust-colored belly of the Say’s Phoebe make it difficult to mistake for a Black Phoebe. When Black Phoebes are perched they are often seen “wagging” their tails, a characteristic shared by both the Say’s and Eastern Phoebes. The Black Phoebe’s range extends north from western South America through most of Central America and Mexico, and into the United States. In the United States, they are predominantly found in the southwestern states, historically breeding and wintering along western California into the Rogue Valley in Oregon. In the late 20th century, the Black Phoebe’s range expanded north to Curry County, where they are now considered year-round residents, and Coos County, where winter sightings are becoming more common. Due to their ability to cohabitate with humans, the Black Phoebe’s range continues to expand in Oregon, with irregular reports in the Umpqua and Willamette Valleys. As with other flycatchers, Black Phoebes are primarily insectivorous. They feed by sallying from their perch and catching airborne insects, or by gleaning insects from plants. Small insects are consumed on the wing, while larger insects are carried back to a perch where they can be killed and then consumed. Occasionally, Black Phoebes will dive into the water to capture minnows and other small fish! Black Phoebes are most often found along streams, ponds and marshes, typically perched on the lower branches of riparian trees or low-lying manmade structures. When it comes to nesting, male Black Phoebes hover near potential nest sites whereas females choose the final site and construct the nest. Their open-cup nests, made of mud and vegetation, are cemented to cliff faces, bridges, and other manmade structures, and resemble Barn Swallow nests. This article appears in the Winter/Spring 2013 Newsletter. Sources: Marshall, D.B., M.G. Hunter, and A.L. Contreras, Eds. 2003. Birds of Oregon: A General Reference. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR. 768 Pp.; Wolf, B.O. 1997. Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). In The Birds of North America, No. 268 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. The Black Phoebe is a nearly all black bird with a white belly. Photo © Jim Livaudais 2013.
excellent article about the book. The Klamath Bird Observatory is pleased to be hosting Harry Fuller’s first book signing event from 630-730pm on Wednesday, February 27th at the KBO Offices (320 Beach St., Ashland, OR). We hope to see you there. The book, published by Living Gold Press, is available for $21.95 and proceeds from this event will be donated to the Klamath Bird Observatory. Light refreshments will be provided. Harry Fuller is an experienced birding guide in the Pacific States and a KBO Board Member. This is Harry’s first book.
By Harry Fuller, on 25 Dec., 2012 (This article first appeared on Harry’s Towheeblog) For anybody who’s birded in the Bay Area in the past 50 years, there has always been one human name that was respected, even beloved. Rich Stallcup. Sadly he just died from leukemia. Among his many achievements was co-founding of the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory some 48 years ago. Rich was as much bird as man, having dropped out of school at 14 to go birding. He never went back to school and he never stopped studying birds. For those of us who had the joy and wonder of watching Rich in the field it was unforgettable. Sharp of eye and ear, softly smiling, tireless in explaining to those of us who could see only part of the picture. I love to tell of the time I showed up for one of his field trips at Five Brooks near Pt. Reyes. Standing in the parking lot I watched him drive up, open the trunk of his jalopy, stick his head in to arrange his gear and begin calling off birds from their chips notes. Rich had 14 species, with his head in the trunk, never once glancing up. At one time his beat-up vehicle sported a bumper sticker that read, “Let the buffalo roam, whistle back the swan.” If only there was a way to whistle back the swan-like soul of Rich Stallcup. One of his famous dicta: “Sure you’ve seen lots of Robins, but have you ever seen THAT Robin?” Every living thing from grass to Grasshopper Sparrow was imbued with vitality and complexity when you got to share the vision with Rich Stallcup. Rich’s quiet demeanor, gentle knowledge and keen love for all things wild and natural was infectious. His deep knowledge of American birds was a resource every other birder valued. When there was some disagreement over a difficult identification of some rare or puzzling bird, the ultimate, accepted judgement would hinge on, “What does Richie think?” Dick Ashford is a friend of mine and President of the Klamath Bird Observatory, one of many institutions inspired by PRBO, one of Richie’s great contributions to bird science. Here is how Dick remembers his friend, Rich Stallcup: “I (we) lost a dear friend over the weekend. Rich Stallcup was my longtime friend and mentor, my guide into the “field of wonder” (Rich’s term for the natural world). For years, I have begun my talks with one of his quotations, “There are no experts, no masters, just students. It is as it should be”. When I called Rich to ask his permission to use it, he choked up. I am choked up as I write this. I have wonderful stories to share, and memories to keep…” Below is an apt tribute written by Jon Winter, another wonderful birder who taught the first bird class I ever took. That would have been 1978, a night course at College of Marin. “Rich has the soul of a poet, the mind of a scientist, and the spirituality of a shaman. This is not a combination of talents often found in a birder. If Rich hasn’t seen the vision, he sure as hell knows where to look for it while the rest of us mortals are stumbling around trying to find out what the hell it is all about. You always felt like a contact hitter when birding with Rich. You always knew at any moment he could put one out of the park. I suspect that it is the same feeling professional athletes get when they are in the same game with a Barry Bonds, a Jerry Rice, or a Michael Jordan. You know that you are in the presence of someone extraordinary; someone that has an ability that completely transcends that of an ordinary player. Rich’s influence goes well beyond just identifying birds, he has become a part of the flow of life itself, part of the essence of what animates the natural world, and he understands that world from that very unique perspective. Placed in that context, the ability to identify birds isn’t really very important, it is all rather clinical. To those who have been fortunate enough to know him, Rich leads you to a higher purpose through birding; an understanding of your spirit.” Here’s one more memory of Rich, the consummate birder and teacher, from Doug Shaw of Santa Rosa, CA: “I remember some years back I ran into Rich with a small group of about 6 birders at Point Reyes walking back to the parking lot from the lighthouse during Fall Migration. A couple of us asked him Anything Good? and got the Rich stare. He kindly responded, “all birds are good,” which gave us a different outlook on the chasing aspect of birding. I have remembered that quote many times over the years. Also, if another birder reported some thing out at the point that was misidentified he was always very respectful and would kindly educate you rather than criticize you.”
Brandon M Breen, Klamath Bird Observatory Outreach and Communications Specialist
This article appears in the Summer 2012 Newsletter. Sources: Marshall, David B. et al, eds. Birds of Oregon: A General Reference. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003.; Lowther, Peter E. 2000. Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.; Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
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.