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: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Bluebird
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/eastern_bluebird/sounds/ac

By Ryan M.

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Turkey Vulture

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

Turkey_vulture_bluff

(Original image licensed Creative Commons Attribution)

 

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.

 

To learn more visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_Vulture

 

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:

600px-corvus-brachyrhynchos-001

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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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Crow

 

Summary by Ryan M.

Blue Jay

One of the biggest birds that you’ll see on our campus is the Blue Jay:

File:Blue Jay-27527.jpg

(Original image is a part of the public domain)

What they look like: Blue Jays are fairly big. They are light colored on their underside and have patterns of blue, gray, white, and black above.They have a crest on their heads and wide square tails. Their wingspan averages 13-16 inches. Many blue jays have bands of black around their neck and the back of their heads.

Where you’ll see him:  Blue Jays live year round in the eastern and central U.S. and part of Canada. In the winter, they also live in part of Texas and Northern Mexico. Blue Jays like cities, the edges of forests, and towns. They nest in trees, but get food on the ground, similar to the Rufus-Sided Towhee. Blue Jays like oak trees and bird feeders.

What they eat: Blue Jays mostly eat nuts, fruits, seeds, and insects, as well as grains. They can be cannibals, eating dead adult birds and some baby birds or eggs. They don’t eat many eggs- egg fragments were only found in a few Blue Jay stomachs. They hold food items between their feet as they eat it.

What they sound like: These birds have many vocals- some being clicks, clucks, whines, liquid notes, and whirrs. They often sing more than two minutes. The most common call is a loud jeer. They like to mimic hawks, especially red-shouldered hawks.

Other interesting facts: Tools are never made by wild blue jays, but some captive blue jays use paper to get food pellets from outside their cage. The pigment in blue jay feathers is brown, but scattering light causes them to look blue.

Where you can learn more:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_jay/videos/ac

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_jay/id/ac

Written by Lara K, Shea D, and Abby W

Red Bellied Woodpecker

One of the noisiest birds that you’ll find on the Salem campus is the Red Bellied Woodpecker:

File:Red-bellied Woodpecker-27527.jpg

(Image is a part of the public domain)

What they look like:  Red-Bellied Woodpeckers have red heads and barred backs. Their wings are a mix of black and white. They are 9-10.5 inches long, and have many different calls. The birds have a small spot of red on their belly, that is hard to see when in field identification.

Where you’ll see him: They are found in the forest behind the school. They are usually found on branches and trunks of trees. They can be found in open and swampy woodlands. They are found around the middle heights of trees.

What they eat: Red-Bellied Woodpecker eat bugs inside of trees. Insects include beetles, grasshoppers, and ants. They occasionally drink nectar out of pine trees. In the winter it eat mostly seeds.

What they sound like:  He makes several noises, the most common being a “thrraa, thrraa, thrraa”. He also drums on wood when trying to find bugs and nectar. He also does this action when trying to show off when mating.

Other interesting facts:  Red-Bellied Woodpeckers can stick out their tongues almost 2 inches past it’s beak.  Also, the oldest a Red-Bellied Woodpecker has been known to live has been 12 years and 1 month old.

Where you can learn more about him:

http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/redbelliedwoodpecker.htm#6
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-Bellied_Woodpecker/lifehistory/ac

 

Written by Pascal L, Ryan M, Akshay I, and Daniel L