Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Small Birds of the Marsh

When blackbirds flock up in the Fall, they are surprisingly cosmopolitan. In other words, a flock can contain a highly diverse number of species, but almost all of them are what you would call blackbirds. Grackles, Starlings, Cow Birds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and more don't mind hanging together over the winter. Part of the flock visiting the pond on this day was a Rusty Blackbird male. The angle of the sunlight permits viewing where the rusty parts are located. Notice the white eye which aids in identification.

The female Rusty Blackbird is grayer version of the male. This female and the male in the previous photo show the species in their breeding colors. Their Fall colors are substantially different. They prefer wet woodlands and swamps.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds can be more difficult to identify. This was just a chance shot. The bird was actually perched on a cat tail stem when I pressed the shutter. Females have heavily streaked undersides and sometimes sport a faded red epaulet on the wing in the same area males wear their shoulder patch.

Probably the best known member of the plover family is the Killdeer. It is the only member of this family that has two black rings around it's neck. Others have only one. That is the easiest way to distinguish the breed. Something about their countenance always strikes me as looking a little worried.

This Wilson's Snipe is on high alert with it's neck stretched to it's limit. Their feathers are so well camouflaged that you are unlikely to see them unless you are looking for them. They love to probe mud for insects. The orange on the tail is a good field marker. Believe it or not, Snipe are the object of some sportsman's hunts. I can't imagine being able to get anymore than a bite or two from eating one of these small game birds, but I understand they are delicious. They are also ten degrees harder to shoot than a dove, which is also a difficult, though more common, target.

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