The Eastern Bluebird

One of the prettiest birds you’ll see on our campus is the Eastern Bluebird:

The Eastern Bluebird


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What they look like:  The Eastern Bluebird is a thrush, related to the American Robin and the Wood Thrush. A male would have a blue head, back and tail, but then light brown covering its chest and white covering the rest of its body. Their eyes are usually black, but sometimes some brown shows on the edges.

Where you’ll see him:  This type of thrush quite enjoys the bottom branches of oak and pine trees in our forest. You will probably see one in either of the forests surrounding our school. Eastern Bluebirds do not travel in groups or packs, so it’s normal to see them on their own or with one or two others.

What he eats:  These bluebirds are omnivores, so they mostly eat small insects, worms, caterpillars, seeds & fruits.

What he sounds like:  Eastern Bluebirds sing a warbling song made up of usually 1-3 notes.  You can listen to their calls here. They sing these low-pitched notes about three times. If you hear a loud version of this song, it’s probably a female in danger. A soft song is a male trying to mate or tell other males that the area is already “taken”.

Where you can learn more about him:

By Ryan M.


Northern Mockingbird

One of the most common birds that you’ll find on our campus is the Mockingbird:


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What they look like: The Northern mockingbird is a peculiar bird. They sort of look like a thrush or sparrow. They have a gray or brown body with dark brown feathers coating the wings. Their tail is a long, boxy shape also with dark brown feathers. The mockingbird also has very strange bright yellow eyes. The eggs are light blue with light brown spots all over. These eggs are about the same size as a chicken egg.

Where you’ll see him: These little birds are actually most common in North Carolina, so you will see a lot of them around here! They live all over the eastern side of the United States, ranging from Massachusetts to Florida. These mockingbirds tend to live all around our school, but they are most seen in the outdoor classroom in the middle of the bus loop. They mostly live in small trees or bushes.  We actually see them standing on the edges of the roof all of the time.

What they eat: These birds are omnivores, so they eat small insects, berries, seeds & some sap from pruned trees. 

What he sounds like: This bird has many sounds, all copies of other birds or animals he hears. This is where he gets the name “mockingbird”. He may imitate other birds like crows or sparrows, but he also imitates squeaky gates, barking dogs, human whistling and many other sounds. When they copy animal and bird sounds, it’s meant to say to the other bird that the land is already occupied. You can listen to a few of their calls here.


Where You can Learn More About Them:


          Ryan M.

Hooded Merganser

One of the most unique birds that you’ll see on our campus is the Hooded Merganser:

File:Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) (1).JPG

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What they look like: A male hooded merganser is a small to medium sized duck with a long, narrow bill. It has a black crest with a patch of white and a black face. It has a white chest and brown wings with streaks of white and has yellow eyes. A female hooded merganser has a brown crest and body with a white chest. She has brownish black wings with brown eyes. they are 16-19″ in length.

Where you’ll see them:  The hooded merganser lives in North Carolina year-round but sticks to shallow waters and swampy areas. They usually nest in holes that they find in trees. We have spotted this bird in the pond behind our school. He is often seen in the water.

What they eat:  Their daily diet consists of fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans and crayfish. They capture their prey by diving underwater. They spy their prey by looking underwater with a third transparent eyelid.

What they sound like: The Hooded Merganser is silent except when mating. The male’s call sounds like a deep frog-like sound. When they fly, the wings produce a loud, whistling sound. The female has no call.

Other interesting facts: A female can lay up to 4 to 44 eggs. They are the 2nd smallest of the 6 living species of Mergansers.  The male’s crest can be seen raised or flattened. They are typically shy during mating season.

Where you can learn more:


Written by Danielle C and Midori S

Mallard Duck

One of the most colorful birds that you’ll find on our campus is the Mallard Duck:

File:Anas platyrhynchos male female quadrat.jpg

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What they look like: One thing unique to this waterfowl bird is that it looks completely different as a male or female! The male mallard has an unusual green head, a white ring around its neck, with light brown plumage and a white body.

The female looks like it’s dressed in camouflage, with brownish gray spots and an orange beak. But like the male’s green head, the female has a purple-blue feathered area on its side to help it stand out more. Both genders have their central feathers curved up around its back as it swims.

Where you’ll see them: Go east, young ornithologist! Mallards are found in the Piedmont or Coastal Plain regions of North Carolina. Also, they can almost always be found in wetlands, whether it’s near the shore, or in the water. They tend to migrate a lot, and are very common in general, making them easy to spot all over the country!

What they eat: Living in a wetland, mallards have to feed on what they find. You can almost say they’re filter feeders! Mallard’s main foods are insects, vegetation, grain, and aquatic invertebrates. They can also eat acorns and seeds at times. They don’t seem to be very picky eaters!

What they sound like: This duck makes a rasping noise called a “rab”. If you listen closely, it can almost sound like someone is laughing! Well, more like cackling! It also makes grunts and whistles.

Where you can learn more about them: If you want to see these birds in action, check out this neat video.  Of course, you can always check out the Cornell Lab Site, made by the people who came up with this bird watching project.


Written by Anthony D, Ryan S, and Kush C

Turkey Vulture

One of the largest birds you’ll find on the Salem Middle School campus is the Turkey Vulture:


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What he looks like: The North American Turkey Vulture is a large bird with bodily features such as brownish-black feathers, flight feathers with a glossy, silver-looking underside, a miniscule and bare head in comparison to its body, a short, ivory-colored, hooked beak, and bare pink-skinned legs. Standing as a very prominent feature, its irises are dark, grey brown.

Where you’ll see him:  Turkey Vultures like to hang out high in dead and/or leafless trees.  They’re not a big fan of forests, however. Here at Salem, that means you’re likely to see him in the woods behind our school.  When you see him, don’t be surprised if he’s standing with his wings open like the picture above.  Turkey Vultures do this to dry their wings. 

What he sounds like: The Turkey Vulture seems to lack many vocal abilities compared to most birds native to North Carolina. It tends to use hisses and series of grunts. Hisses are used to scare away predators like eagles or is expressed in fright, where as grunts are used to as a mating call.

His relationship with humans and the environment: The Turkey Vulture is commonly accused for the transportation of numerous livestock diseases including anthrax and hog cholera. They are often unwanted by farmers because they have a tendency to kill and feast on newborn cattle. Their droppings can be toxic enough to kill vegetation and wildlife.


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Summary by Dawson D.

American Crow

One of the most annoying birds you’ll find on the Salem Middle School campus is the American Crow:


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What he looks like: He looks surprisingly like a Common Raven, which also happens to live in North Carolina. The only two differences in shape are the crow’s beak and tail. The crow’s beak is slightly curved and smaller than the raven’s. The tail is more squared and boxy than the raven as well. The crow’s entire body is either black or gray. A crow egg is a tan color with white splotches all over. These eggs are usually about 2 inches longer than a chicken egg.

Where you’ll see him: The American crow is found in the trees and occasionally near the ground on rocks and bushes. You’ll probably see him up in the tall pine trees in the forest at our school. We’ve seen him in the forest behind the bus loop and the woods behind the pond near the back of our school. It is very unlikely that you will see a crow on its own. We’ve seen them in groups of anywhere from 2 to 9. This group strangely is called a murder.

What they eat:  They are omnivores, so here they eat seeds, nuts and eggs. Near the ground, they usually eat dead mice, frogs, fish and many other types of carrion. It is very rare, but the American crow also eats small insects.

What he sounds like: You’ve probably heard an American crow’s call — which you can listen to here — sometime in the last week.  They live all around our school, and call their annoying caaw-caaw-caaws all day long. When they call, they thrust their abdomen and head forward, letting out a loud call. I hate to bring up bad thoughts, but you could think of it as a vomiting motion.


Where you can learn more about him:


Summary by Ryan M.

Rufous Sided Towhee

One of the most interesting birds on the Salem Middle School campus is the Rufous Sided Towhee:


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What he looks like:  A robin.  In fact, when we first saw him, we thought he WAS a robin!  That’s a common mistake because his sides and wings are a brownish-red.  If you look closely, though, you’ll notice that he has a black head and a white belly.  You’ll also notice that he has a long, retangular tail.  Those are the best ways to identify him — and to tell him apart from a robin. 

Where you’ll see him:  Near the ground.  The Towhee digs and scratches under leaves and bark looking for food.  It also builds its nests either on — or very close to — the ground.  Here at Salem, we’ve seen him under the bushes near the outdoor classroom and under the bushes along the fence near the bus loop. 

What he sounds like: People say that his call — which you can listen to here — sounds a lot like the phrase “Drink your tea.”  In fact, the “tea” sound at the end of his call is where he got his last name from.  Now, you’ve got to do some imagining to hear “Drink your tea” in his call.  The first hard sound is the “Drink.”  The last drawn out sound in his call — “te-ee-ee-ee” — is the “tea.”

Where you can learn more about him:  We found this article on the Wikipedia website to be helpful.