Saturday, November 27, 2021

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There’s more to these common U.S. birds than you think (can you guess which is the most common?)

It really does not matter where you park that RV, there will be birds. Birds of different sizes, different colors, different calls, and different hangouts. A variety of common birds remain widespread across the United States. You know most, if not all, of them.

Popular birds across the U.S.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

You can readily identify these medium-sized birds by their rusty orange bellies and gray-brown backs (seen in the photo above). Females show the same coloring yet are a bit paler. You find them mostly on lawns in search of the early worm. In winter they forage and roost in flocks of hundreds. With a population of 320 million, one can easily spot these birds across the U.S.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

With the adult male’s bright red feathers, black face, and red-orange beak, it’s hard not to recognize this bird. Females have similar face and beak colors but come in a reddish-brown mix. Found mostly east of the Rockies, their population estimates are at 120 million. Preferring landscapes with shrubs for hiding in, they frequent feeders, especially loving sunflower seeds.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

You cannot mistake this for any other bird with its distinctive bright blue, black, and white feathers, pale breast, and sporting a blue head crest. At a scant 13 million, we find these birds mostly east of the Rockies along the forest edge usually in groups or pairs. However, going west of the Rocky Mountains you will find the Stellar Jay frequenting campgrounds and parks.

American Crow (Corvus brachyryanchos)

This all-black bird appears in ecosystems across the U.S. from beaches to woodlands, but not the Desert Southwest. If traveling west of the Rockies, you might confuse them with the Common Raven which is larger and more of a glider than a flapper. At a population of 31 million, twice that of the Common Raven, American Crows gather in communal roosting flocks that may number in the thousands.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Who has not seen a group of these perched on an overhead utility wire? This slender bird of overall grayish-brown with black spots on its backside turns up across the U.S. They forage mainly on the ground and under feeders. Easily startled, you can hear the slight whistle of the wings on take off.

Sparrows

The latest population estimate of the Sparrow is 1.6 billion worldwide. Wherever and whenever you go, you will see a sparrow of some sort. As examples, we see the American Tree Sparrow up north to the Chipping Sparrow in the south, then from the Brewer’s Sparrow in the west over to the Field Sparrow of the east. Most likely it will be a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s from Europe. With a most prominent population of 82 million, we commonly find these at feeders in small flocks.

The United States hosts 1107 different species of birds.  Although spotting and identifying the most common is fun, nothing compares to the thrill of sighting those uncommon ones, such as a Barred Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, or Ruby-throated Hummingbird. RV traveling lets us enjoy spotting those birds that we may never have seen before back home.

(For the curious, the most common bird worldwide is the domestic chicken (Gallus domesticus) coming in at around 24 billion.)

##RVT1024

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Uncle Swags
23 days ago

Red winged blackbird, especially if you go around lakes and waterways. Unmistakeable calls and protective of their territory.

Also living in the Northeast, seen an impressive increase in big birds like bald eagles and hawks.

Robert
25 days ago

RVers might relate well with Sand Hill Cranes. While many of these travel South each winter to avoid frozen ponds then return North early in the Spring, in Florida one can also find ones that do not migrate. Thus they include both Snowbirds and year-round Residents.

Micheal Whelan
27 days ago

I have another that seems to be everywhere we go. Be it Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee (you get the picture) I swear I keep seeing the same Great Blue Heron!

Dale Wade
26 days ago
Reply to  Micheal Whelan

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias (Linnaeus)) is widespread from Florida to Alaska. We have one that frequents the neighborhood pond. HeronConservation estimates a population of 100,000 to 250,000 birds.

Ron T.
27 days ago

From where I read this newsletter each morning I can also keep an eye on the bird feeders in our yard and all the birds, squirrels and chipmunks that visit them. Love the rarer interlopers that stop by in the spring.

Dale Wade
26 days ago
Reply to  Ron T.

I will write soon about how you can identify those feeder birds and contribute to scientific data as well.

Kelley Miller
27 days ago

I’m cracking up that all sparrows are lumped into a single bird. They are known as Little Brown Jobs (LBJs) for a reason. It took me a long time to learn the individual names of all the sparrows that show up at my house. So, when I go to other places, I’m usually stumped. There is a great app called Merlin Bird ID. If you can get a decent picture of the bird, you can upload it to the app, and it will try to help you identify it. It does a pretty good job, but I will often use other resources to make sure I get it right. WIth sparrows and some other birds, you have to really get down to the nitty gritty field marks to identify it.

The article also mentions American Crow. Depending on where you live, there are also Fish Crows that look exactly the same as American Crows. The best way to tell them apart is to listen to them “crow” (although even that can be tricky because some young American Crows can sound like Fish Crows).

Dale Wade
26 days ago
Reply to  Kelley Miller

You are so right on. It takes a good eye to distinguish one sparrow from another. It helps to know which ones are common in your region.

As far as crows, you nailed it. If they don’t “crow”, you don’t know.