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

Rufous Sided Towhee

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

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. 

 

Blue Jay

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

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(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

Canadian Goose

One of the messiest birds that you’ll find on our campus is the Canadian Goose:

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What they look like: The Canada goose is a wild goose, native to northern regions of the world. It has a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body which distinguish them from other goose species.

They have black legs and webbed toes which are used to help them swim. The males and females look virtually identical.

Where you’ll see them: Canada geese live mostly in northern parts of North America and Europe. Canada geese migrate and come to the United States in the winter.

In the summer they breed and live in the arctic regions of Europe, Canada, and Alaska. Many geese permanently live in Canada which is where they get the name Canada geese.

What they sound like: Canada geese have a high-pitched honk. They use it to communicate. Canada geese have 13 different calls for different things like greeting, warnings and contentment.

Geese are probably the most talkative animals after humans. Goslings begin communicating with their parents when they’re still in their eggs!

When do they migrate: Canada geese usually migrate twice a year; once in the fall and once in the spring. In the fall, the geese migrate when the ground starts feeling cold. They go fast, travelling up to 1,000 kilometers a day.

In the spring they go much slower, making many stops for rest and feeding along the way before reaching their breeding grounds in Canada and northern Europe.

The v-shaped flock of geese migrating is probably used for two reasons. One is to create an air current so it will be easier for the geese to fly and the other is to allow better communication for when they fly.

 Where you can learn more:

http://www.ducks.ca/resource/general/wetland/geese.html

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

 

Written by Bennie G.

American Woodcock

One of the smallest birds you can find on the Salem campus is the American Woodcock:

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What They Look Like: These little birds are kind of fat with no neck showing. They have a very long bill, like a sandpiper, that can dig up earthworms easily. They are usually brown and black all over, but they have been seen with a white belly.

Most of the time, these birds are hard to spot because of their camouflage skills. You will most likely see them either in the morning time or dusk, but rarely the afternoon.

Where You’ll See Them: This tiny bird is very hard to find, but if you do it’ll probably be on or near the ground. They also lay their eggs on the ground or in the soil. They live all through forests, mostly near water. This is why the forest behind our school is the perfect environment for these birds.

What They Eat: Woodcocks are supposedly omnivores, but they are seldom seen eating plants. They enjoy earthworms, centipedes, spiders, beetles and many others.

What They Sound Like: These birds are only heard at dusk or during the night in the forest. Only males call, usually sounding like chirping. We did not hear their call, but we did spot one on the forest floor near the “scum pond”.

Written by Bennie G.