Boreal Chickadee, November 2013

Alaska’s Most Entertaining Winter Bird


Hands down, it’s Interior Alaska’s two chickadee species. The most common, the Black-capped Chickadee, is an acrobatic, sassy, snappy looking fellow. But its cousin, the Boreal Chickadee, might be more handsome, and is certainly more belligerent. Chickadees not only readily come to bird feeders; they are endlessly entertaining. They squabble. They chase each other around.…

Wild Turkey Flock, Florida 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone


The Wild Turkey, as opposed to its inbred, domesticated cousin, is a handsome, canny bird. No one would call them beautiful, but they are impressive. If your Thanksgiving involves a turkey, keep its wild relative in mind as a favor to WC. And enjoy your holiday. Readers who want something more substantive are invited to…

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The Magpie and the Mew


A few days ago, a Black-billed Magpie perched over one of Mrs. WC’s owl mews, the one on the deck, and announced at some length, in considerable alarm, that there was a Boreal Owl in the mew. Black-billed Magpies are fairly new to interior Alaska, although they are pretty common south of the Alaska Range.…

Arctic Warbler, Denali Highway

Warbling, Part 2


After dealing with corrupt politicians, drug busts and Alaska politics, can we move back to something a bit more pleasant? Like warblers? “Warblers,” as WC discussed earlier, is an imprecise term. New World warblers are properly wood-warblers, and there are five additional species that breed in Alaska, beyond those discussed in Part 1. Unfortunately, WC…

Warbling, Part 1


“Warbling” is birding for warblers. It’s one of those annoying in-jokes birders use because, as most birders know, North American warblers don’t warble. Many have lovely songs, but none involve warbling. Not counting Old World species also called “warblers,” there are about 115 species of New World warblers, technically called “wood-warblers” to distinguish the name…

Random Shots


One of the drawbacks to Alaska birds is that they are … how to say this politely … drab. Idaho birds, by contrast, seem to be a bit more colorful. Even a lot more colorful. Here are some random examples. This is the Idaho state bird, by the way. This handsome male was at the…

Views of a Goldfinch


We don’t get American Goldfinches in Alaska. It’s a shame, because they are a colorful, acrobatic species. Here’s some views of American Goldfinches in non-breeding plumage foraging on wild sunflowers. It was immense fun to watch their acrobatics as they plucked and ate the seeds from the scruffy bushes. The birds were alert for predators…

Three Views of a Hummingbird


Hummingbirds, all by themselves, are reason enough to be a birder. Early Spanish explorers called them Joyas Voladoras, Flying Jewels. Among the loveliest of the hummingbirds is the Violet-bellied Hummingbird. Here are three views of this spectacular bird. WC thinks you will agree that’s a handsome bird. At about 3.75 inches long, it’s a medium-sized…

Dealing with a Drama Queen


Mrs. WC is away, attending conferences and doing research. WC, perforce, is left to deal with the owls. This is Gandolph, a Great-horned Owl, and even though WC has a limited sample size (3), all Great-horneds seem to be drama queens. Technically, Gandolph is a male, but he’s still a drama queen. When WC takes…

Among the Last to Leave


It’s a slightly depressing time for birders. The migrants are very nearly all gone. You might find a tardy Swainson’s Thrush still foraging on Chokecherries, but mostly the migratory species are gone. Among the last to leave is the Dark-eyed Junco. These chunky sparrows can be seen enthusiastically searching for food on the ground, especially…

Just One More


Sandhill Cranes,  like many larger birds breeding in Alaska, face the harsh arithmetic of the brief, sub-Arctic summer. After arrival, and building a nest, they lay the eggs and then have to meet a rigorous schedule. 30 days Incubate the eggs 60-75 days Young grow from new hatchlings to first flight 8-10 days First flight to…