Wallingford, PA - March 24, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Wallingford, PA
(Habitat: suburban deciduous forest edge/field)

5:35 pm – 7:00 pm: It was golden hour, with beautiful, clear skies, about 55 degrees F and no wind. Since I’m home now, I went to a field that belongs to a synagogue behind my house—it’s situated at the edge of a small patch of deciduous woods. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia, and this small patch of woods is probably the biggest patch of continuous woods in my immediate neighborhood and hosts a surprising variety of wildlife. The birds were very busy as it approached dusk, flying in from the where the main roads and houses are to roost in the trees at the edge of the woods. From my start time to about 6:30 pm, the birds I saw and heard were primarily American Robins and Blue Jays. There were more robins than I could count, but I suspect I encountered at least 50 during my excursion. Most of them were roosting in the trees, and a group of about 10-15 were foraging in the field.

Observations/Interactions: Soon after I arrived, 4 Blue Jays congregated on a few adjacent branches in a tree at the edge of the woods. I noticed that the jay on the highest branch was the only one with its crest held erect; the other 3, sitting on lower branches, had their crests held mostly flat. They were all making their “jeer” calls. They remained for about 2-3 minutes before they all flew away. They all arrived at around the same time so I couldn’t tell if this was a territorial interaction (if the higher jay had its crest up in defense) or if they were part of a family group and responding to another threat together.

At around 6:30 pm, the neighborhood sparrows and finches seemed to suddenly converge on the area, and I spotted a male and female House Finch in a nearby tree. The female was chirping and fluttering her wings, and the male followed behind her as she hopped from branch to branch. At one point they appeared to touch beaks, which I’ve read may have been the male regurgitating food as part of a courtship ritual. To make things even more interesting, I spotted them again later, but this time there was another male. The female repeated this behavior with both, and it felt a bit like I was watching an episode of The Bachelor: House Finch Edition. In all seriousness, this behavior certainly fits in with the timing of warmer weather and longer days; spring is here in Pennsylvania and mating season has begun!

Spishing: Standing in the same spot, I heard the “cheeps” of House Sparrows coming from the arborvitaes that line the private driveway that runs alongside the field. I “spished” for them and they were very curious! They ventured closer to me and there was one brave male that came out of the cover of the dense branches to investigate, but I counted about 4 other individuals following behind him. Earlier, I practiced spishing when a Gray Catbird boldly perched in a tangle of shrubs right in front of me. It looked directly at me and seemed to consider my strange noises for a few moments, cocking its head and hopping to another branch to get a better view. I didn’t want to distract the Catbird or the sparrows for too long, so once I finished, the Catbird flew away and the Sparrows retreated. As to why birds respond to spishing, my guess is that it sounds enough like the warning calls of many birds (like chickadees or titmice) and birds may want to investigate if a threat is present. Birds that form flocks may be more interested, too, as they rely on group communication to stay safe and alert.

Plumages: In thinking about the plumages of the male House Finches and male House Sparrows, and how they compare to male Northern Cardinals, I noticed that the two species that have less conspicuous plumages (the red of male House Sparrows is considerably less vibrant than a male Cardinal’s), the finches and sparrows, tend to be birds that form flocks. Though there’s safety in numbers, is it possible that a flock of birds could also act like a “buffet” for a predator, thus the more a bird blends in with its surroundings, the harder it is to pick off? When I observe Northern Cardinals outside of our bird feeders, they seem to be alone or in pairs. During the breeding season, the males are very visible (and audible) which seems riskier, but perhaps because they don’t form flocks, they’re not as obvious to predators? And/or the benefits of effectively attracting females outweighs the risks of predation.

Publicado por mreilly20 mreilly20, 26 de março de 2020, 04:06 AM

Observações

Fotos / Sons

Square

What

Tordo-Americano Turdus migratorius

Observador

mreilly20

Data

Março 24, 2020 05:51 PM HST

Descrição

2 of MANY robins observed at dusk

Fotos / Sons

What

Tico-Tico-Musical Melospiza melodia

Observador

mreilly20

Data

Março 24, 2020 06:49 PM HST

Fotos / Sons

Square

What

Pássaro-Gato Dumetella carolinensis

Observador

mreilly20

Data

Março 24, 2020 05:56 PM HST

Fotos / Sons

Square

What

Cardeal Cardinalis cardinalis

Observador

mreilly20

Data

Março 24, 2020 05:56 PM HST

Descrição

1 male seen, but about 4 different cardinals heard in the immediate area

Fotos / Sons

Square

What

Pardal-Dos-Telhados Passer domesticus

Observador

mreilly20

Data

Março 24, 2020 06:15 PM HST

Descrição

1 of about 5 curious individuals that responded to my "pish"-ing!

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