An American Avocet in its striking spring plumage displays looking for a mate to nest with. In the summer American Avocets can be found in wetlands across western North America where they will raise their young and fatten up for their journey south where they winter in parts of Southern California and Mexico.
This striking Yellow-Headed Blackbird stands out in a field of late summer grasses along the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Yellow-Headed Blackbirds can be found throughout the wetlands in western North America where the males stake out their territories as this one has. They are famous for their rasping song that ends in a rich croak.
While herons typically nest in large groups, known as rookeries, they tend to hunt alone during the breeding season and spend much of the year by themselves. Fish make up most of the heron’s diet, but they will also prey on frogs, salamanders, insects and even other birds. While great blue herons are most commonly found in marshes, they can be seen along rivers, lakes and small ponds.
This long-legged owl lives underground in modified abandoned burrows of badgers, gophers and foxes. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls can be seen in the morning and evening when they are hunting rodents and insects that make up the majority of their diet. They stand 9” to 10” tall and weigh 5 to 6 ounces with a wingspan of 21”.
The bald eagle has long been a symbol of pride and strength. For years, this proud raptor could be found on the list of endangered species, a victim of pollution and habitat loss. As of late, the bald eagle has staged a moderate comeback and was placed on the list of threatened species. Although its future looks somewhat promising, it is still uncertain.
The bald eagle is one of the most majestic birds to see in flight. With a wingspan of almost seven feet in adults and weighing up to 14 pounds, the bald eagle is truly impressive. Found typically around water, they prefer habitat that has little or no human presence. Being at the top of the food chain, eagles are highly susceptible to contaminants in the environment, which make them an indicator of our environment’s health.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life and stay with their mates year round. Chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching and will stick close by their parents for the first 9 to 10 months of their life. They will stay in family units throughout their first year first and will travel together which will teach them their migration routes and winter feeding areas.
Sandhill Cranes usually nest in isolated wetlands, preferring areas with vegetation growing in standing water for protection against predators. Nests may be 30 to 40 inches across and 4 to 6 inches deep. Clutch sizes may be 1 to 3 eggs, incubation period is 29 to 31 days. Sandhill Cranes are known as fierce protectors of their young and standing 3 to 4 feet in height with a 7 foot wingspan and are quite the match for most predators.
A Western Scrub Jay perches on a shed moose antler. Western Scrub Jays are members of the Corvid family considered the most intelligent of the birds and among the smartest in the animal kingdom. These birds have been known to stash away 10,000 peanuts and know the location of each one.
A great gray owl glides silently in search of prey. Tiny hooks, called barbules, lock feathers together so they will support a bird in flight. On the leading edge of owl wing feathers, barbules are fringed so owls may fly through the air silently. The Dakota Indians called the owl “hinhan”, which translates to “bird who hunts on hushed wings”.
A white-breasted nuthatch, distinguishable by its black cap, white face and breast, and rust colored rump, hangs upside down from an aspen tree. These short-tailed acrobats climb up, down, and around trees in search of insects. During winter, the nuthatch’s diet will change and consist mainly of acorns, nuts, seeds, and pine cones which it will store in the soil under loose ground cover as well as in elevated niches.
A female broad-tailed hummingbird looks for nectar from a columbine. Found throughout the mountainous west, broad-tails are 4” in length, with the female being larger than her more colorful counterpart. Hummingbirds are probably the most acrobatic of birds, with the ability to fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and even upside down. They can average 55 wing beats a second, a heart rate of 1,260 times a minute and a resting breath of 250 times a minute. But...
The 5” tall marsh wren is typically found in fresh-water marshes among cattails, where they can be seen bouncing among the reeds, occasionally moving to the top of a stem for a quick look around. There, the males sing their reedy song, which ends in a rasping chatter, in defense of their nesting territory. Sometimes marsh wrens will build up to 20 dummy nests, helping to ensure the raising of their young. While most nests are never used, adult birds have b...
A group of sandhill cranes start to stir with the first warming rays of sunlight. After spending the evening in a shallow pond safe from predators, they will fly off to feed in fields and marshes. Cranes are the oldest known living bird species and have inhabited the Earth for 60 million years. Cranes take their name from the Anglo-Saxon word “cran” meaning to “cry out” which is fitting for these 3 to 4 foot tall birds with their rattling and siren-like cr...
A broad-tailed hummingbird searches for nectar in a skyrocket plant, one of the many plants that these hummingbirds help to pollinate in the mountainous west. The male broad-tailed can be distinguished from other male hummingbirds by its emerald green back and ruby red gorget, or throat patch. It is also the only hummingbird to have a wing “whistle”, which can be heard up to 100 yards away. This whistle is used to help defend its territory from other birds...
Sunrise at the Bear River Bird Refuge in northern Utah can offer spectacular views as well as allowing one to see many different species of birds such as these American White Pelicans. The Bear River Bird Refuge which is part of the Great Salt Lake offers millions of birds a place of refuge to refuel on migrations or to raise their young and some even spend the winter.
Common ravens are members of the corvid family, the smartest in the bird world, ravens are at the top of that class. Some say ravens have the same intelligence as most monkeys. They are omnivourous and seem especially fond of carrion. Ravens are known for their aerial acrobatics, like soaring, tumbling, rolling, and chasing other birds. Ravens are found throughout the west and range high into the arctic.
The bald eagle is one the most majestic birds to see in flight. With a wingspan of almost seven feet (adults) and weighing up to 14 pounds, the bald eagle is truly impressive. Being at the top to the food chain, eagles are highly susceptible to contaminants in their environment. As a result, eagles are an early warning indicator of our environment’s health. For years, the bald eagle was a victim of pollution and habitat loss. Recently eagles have made a mo...
A pair of bald eagles wait out a winter snowstorm. It is thought that bald eagles mate for life and that both parents build the nest and rear their young. They will usually nest in very tall trees or cliff walls. The young birds will attempt their first flight at 10 to 12 weeks but it will take 5 years for the immature birds to attain the white head and tail feathers of a mature adult bird.
A dark-eyed junco fluffs up its feathers to help protect itself from a winter’s storm. Juncos are members of the sparrow family and in the winter travel in flocks of 10 to 30 birds. Primarily seed eaters, they will spend most of their time along woodland edges and bushy areas foraging the ground in search of food. Juncos are also frequent and familiar visitors to feeding stations throughout most of North America.