We spotted these beautiful Mountain Bluebirds this fall, while we were in the Tetons, around Mormon Row…
Most studies of the Mountain Bluebird involve birds in nest boxes. Little is known about natural nest site requirements.
Only the female builds the nest. The male sometimes acts as if he is helping, but he either brings no nest material or he drops it on the way.
Mountain and Western bluebirds compete for nest boxes, and may exclude each other from their territories. In the small area where they overlap, the Mountain Bluebird dominates the Eastern Bluebird. This relationship may limit the westward expansion of the Eastern Bluebird.
The Mountain Bluebird often occurs outside its normal range in winter. Individuals are casually recorded in western and northern Alaska, and in the midwestern and eastern states.
These little House Finches sure were enjoying the crab apples the other day…
The House Finch was originally a bird of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (“Hollywood finches”). They quickly started breeding and spread across almost all of the eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years.
The total House Finch population across North America is staggering. Scientists estimate between 267 million and 1.4 billion individuals.
House Finches were introduced to Oahu from San Francisco sometime before 1870. They had become abundant on all the major Hawaiian Islands by 1901.
The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. This is why people sometimes see orange or yellowish male House Finches. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps raising the chances they get a capable mate who can do his part in feeding the nestlings.
House Finches feed their nestlings exclusively plant foods, a fairly rare occurrence in the bird world. Many birds that are vegetarians as adults still find animal foods to keep their fast-growing young supplied with protein.
The oldest known House Finch was 11 years, 7 months old.
A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings.
Size & Shape
Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers. They are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings.
Brownish-tan on top and white below. The white chest is barred with two black bands, and the brown face is marked with black and white patches. The bright orange-buff rump is conspicuous in flight.
Killdeer spend their time walking along the ground or running ahead a few steps, stopping to look around, and running on again. When disturbed they break into flight and circle overhead, calling repeatedly. Their flight is rapid, with stiff, intermittent wingbeats.
Look for Killdeer on open ground with low vegetation (or no vegetation at all), including lawns, golf courses, driveways, parking lots, and gravel-covered roofs, as well as pastures, fields, sandbars and mudflats. This species is one of the least water-associated of all shorebirds.
While hiking around Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier, we noticed some rustling going on in the bushes. Praying it wasn’t a bear we spotted this mama hen.
With about 6 chicks!
The White-tailed Ptarmigan is a grouse of alpine (above treeline) habitats. It is the smallest grouse in North America (total length 30 to 31 cm, weight 295 to 440 grams), and the only species of grouse with white tail feathers. It possesses cryptic plumage that changes annually from white in winter to grayish-brown in summer. The sexes are similar in body size, shape, and winter plumage.
Breeding season males have a conspicuous necklace of coarsely barred brown and black breast feathers, while female plumage is predominantly brown and black with yellowish barring. Male plumage is generally more brown and gray than in the female. Males possess scarlet eye combs that are especially conspicuous during the breeding season; females have less conspicuous and smaller salmon-colored eye combs. In winter, in addition to the completely white plumage, the legs are heavily feathered to the ends of the toes, creating a snowshoe effect for walking on snow.