So what birds have seen in your backyard?
I hope you're keeping a list, because this is just the beginning of some fun bird watching, and over the next couple of months our lists are going to grow considerably (hence the Part 1 of this blog post title).
Is this one of the birds you've seen?
Turkey vultures are found all across the U.S., with year-round habitat in the southern part up through the Midwest, and summer habitat everywhere else. We see them in this area primarily in the spring and fall, although from time to time in the summer we also spot them. With the turbulent spring weather we've been having, they've been having a grand old time soaring in the wind. Turkey vultures might be considered good clean-up birds--they take care of those messes like road kill for us. (Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Aves; Order: Falconiformes; Family: Cathartidae; Cathartes aura).
I've been hearing lots of the sweet calls of the Western Meadowlark (Animalia; Chordata; Aves; Passeriformes; Passeridae; Sturnella neglecta). They're one of the earlier birds to breed in the spring time, and they are very common around the ranch calling for a mate from fence posts and the top of sagebush. The Eastern Meadowlark is found in the eastern U.S., with hybrids in the middle of the country.
Killdeer have been hopping around. Henry really likes to chase them, but despite that, every year they return to near our yard. Killdeer (Animalia; Chordata; Aves; Charadiiformes; Charadriidae; Charadius vociferus) have an appropriate species name. Vociferus is Latin for loud, and killdeer run around and fly saying what sounds like "kill deer, kill deer." They are known for pretending to have a broken wing and dragging their wing on the ground to distract predators from their nests on the ground. They're found all over North America.
Yesterday I heard sandhill cranes. My husband calls these flying pterodactyls, as they are so big and seem so prehistoric. Sandhill cranes (Animalia; Chordata; Aves; Gruiformes; Gruidae; Grus canadensis) are found in much of North America. Sandhill cranes remind me of family visits to a game preserve to see great displays. (The link has some fantastic photos my sister-in-law took. As you can see from the lack of photos in this post, photographing birds is not my forte.)
Birds that have been around all winter that I mustn't forget include:
(If you are following the classification scheme, you know that these are all Animalia; Chordata; Aves; so I will just omit that part.)
Red-shafted flicker (Piciformes; Picidae; Colaptes auratus), that likes to make holes in trees and our house;
Black-billed magpie (Passeriformes; Corvidae; Pica pica), with its super long tail and black-and-white distinctive coloring;
Common raven (Passieriformes; Corvidae; Corvus corax), the ubiquitous bird around the ranch
European starling (Passeriformes; Sturnidae; Sturnus vulgaris), the annoying invader from Europe.
Dark-eyed junco (Passeriformes; Passeridae; Junco hyemalis), with its distinctive outer white tail feathers.
And now we have snow again, so it might be a day or two before the bird sightings pick up. I hope you're seeing some interesting birds in your yard!