Posts Tagged 'birding'


Meleagris gallopavoDo you know how many times I’ve kept my eye out for this semi-wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in Battery Park over the years? She has bee there for some time now — their mini-farm is even roughly turkey-shaped — but this is the first I’ve ever run across her. You’d think, considering the size the of the beast…Meleagris gallopavoAnyway, voilà! Turkey.

They, whoever they are, have presumed to have given her a name, but you won’t hear it repeated by me.


Agelaius phoeniceusA female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). An example of one of the most extreme sexual differences found among species in our area.


Picoides pubescensThat tap-tap-tapping coming from the Phragmites is usually a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). Note those long toenail claws. Woodpeckers have zygodactyl toes, two pointing forward, two back. Most birds, the Passerines, or song birds, have three forward, one back. Picoides pubescens

New Nest

Columba liviaRock Pigeon (Columba livia) nesting under the bridge. The bird was still working on the nest, using her body to shape these freshly collected twigs. The red-eyes are natural, not from a flash.


Mergus serratorRed-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) taking to the water.

Green-Wood is Red-Head Country

Melanerpes erythrocephalusThe Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) who came to stay? An unusual species for Brooklyn, this bird over-wintered in Green-Wood, and quite locally, too: this is the same tree — snags are perfect habitat for them — I photographed it in back in January. Melanerpes erythrocephalusYou can see how the red feathers of the head have really come in since January, as the bird has aged out of its first year plumage. Not completely, but getting there. The mature birds look like flags, solid bands of red, black, white. Red-headed males and females look alike, by the way, which isn’t the case with our other, more familiar woodpecker species (Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Yellow-bellied, and Northern Flicker).Melanerpes erythrocephalusThis species was not recorded as breeding in the city in either the first or second state breeding bird atlases. Those surveys, in fact, generally showed a substantial decrease in the species in the state over the twenty years between surveys, after what is presumed to have been a big drop off since the 19th century. Bull cites an 1881 report of “great numbers” of these woodpeckers, outnumbering the Northern Flickers, at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn; but “nothing remotely resembling these fall flights has been reported in the northeast since the early 1880s.” It is always startling to be reminded that not only were there more species, but the numbers of species we know were greater before our time. (There are records of recent breeding on other parts of Long Island.)Melanerpes erythrocephalusWho doesn’t love a redhead?

Water Street Peregrines

Falco peregrinusFor the last couple of months, I’ve periodically seen a single Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) hanging around the scrape at 55 Water Street. This is an established nesting site, complete with nest cams (but the website hasn’t been updated since 2011). Most of the time I’ve looking (optically enhanced, you can bet) from the other side of the East River, so all I could tell was that, yeah, there was a Peregrine there. Alerted by a friend, I went over the water yesterday to take a closer look. Falco peregrinusThe angle of view isn’t great because you’re practically underneath the fourteen-story-high scrape, and the Downtown Heliport is behind you, roaring with up to nine choppers at one point, spewing foul fuel-stench into the air. (What an abomination that place is!) But there were definitely two birds. And they were in and out of the scrape and flying hither and yon. You can see a metal band on this bird’s leg. In the image below, you can just barely make out a green band on the other leg. Both bands are visible on the airborne bird at top.Falco peregrinusSame building, but around the corner on the far end of the southern face. The scrape is east-facing, more or less: the rising sun can help to warm up the brooding bird and the eggs on the cold spring mornings.Falcon giftAnd here’s a dead bird, probably a pigeon. I didn’t see the delivery, but males will bring prey to the female during courtship.

So, no brooding as yet, but things are proceeding apace, like they did along the Palisades before ever a human wandered here.

Hairy Nest?

Picoides villosusA female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). Less common in our area than the smaller but otherwise very similar Downy Woodpecker. I find that the best way to differentiate these species is to look at the bill/head size ratio. Note how this bird’s bill is almost as long as her head; the Downy’s bill length is smaller than its head length.Picoides villosusAnyway, it was with some surprise that I saw this bird fly to this hole. I didn’t know they nested in the city of five boroughs. Picoides villosusThe 2nd Atlas of Breeding Birds in NY State, surveyed in the mid-Oughts, had a confirmed Hairy nest in Brooklyn (Prospect Park), but the first (mid-1980s) had none in NYC. cavityThis bird was probably just scouting this hole and cavity, which she went all the way into. No sign of a male in the ‘hood at this time. It’s too early for young ‘uns, but the woodpeckers are definitely carving up the trees in preparation (this hole does not look all that fresh). Melanerpes carolinusFor instance, this Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), pecking out a cavity at a nearby tree.

After yesterday’s depressing post, you may wonder how I can go on. Because I must! B’damn, that’s what makes me human, I think. Says that optipessimist Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


Passer domesticus

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sphyrapicus variusThe Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is another of those unfortunately-named birds, since the yellow belly is really hard to see. The namers were looking at dead specimens. The sapsucking part is accurate, though; these birds will drill horizontal rows of holes in trees to bleed sap, which they will lap up along with the bugs attracted to the sticky nectar.Sphyrapicus variusRed on the throat tells us this is a male. Note how the tail is pressed down towards the trunk; woodpecker tail feathers are stiffer than most birds’, to help support the bird on its vertical forages.


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