Fall 2010 Class #5 Geese thru Herons

Class #5: Nov. 9, 2010 Fall Class Notes:

I took the end of last weeks notes and put here to make easier study.  Skipped to here at the end of shorebirds.  Now to the earliest taxonomic species in the relatively new AOU checklist

Geese & Swans are CBS.  Possibly some CAS.  Think of young CA goose, yellow juvenile, then molt quickly with formative feathers to resemble adults.

Greater-white fronted goose:  speckled belly, Adult pink bill, orange bill. . Typical gray goose, like European goose, Young birds lack light face around the bill.

Emperor Goose:  uncommon, mostly in spring, occasional in fall, mostly on the coast, small bluish plumage. Small bill.

Snow Goose:  Black grin mark, black pirmaries.  Large bill, larger bill than Ross’s goose.  Most of our Snow geese breed on Rangle Island.

Ross’s goose:  smaller knobby bill, rounder head.

Cackling Goose:  four races of cackling goose, one on E coast, New Mexico to Louisians, Hutchinsoni, aka Richardsons goose.  We have Taverners, Minima, and Leukopoira (Aleutian Goose)  White collar on Aleutian goose.  Minima is dark breasted.  Taverners is mid dark breast.  Richardson’s is light bellied.

Canada Goose:  Moffett’s is our year round goose.  Large.  Dusky (Oxidentalis) medium sized dark bellied.  Fulva is medium sized dark bellied.  Subspecies are difficult at times.  Look for small bill and small size for cackling.

There is a gap here- I was late to class and missed about 10 minutes.

Ring-necked pheasant:  long tail, open areas, light around the eye in female

Ruffed Grouse:  Sea level to 3500’ more lowlands in winter, red and gray types.  Crest, barred below, gray tail tip band, black sub-terminal band.

Greater Sage Grouse:  About 1000 in WA.  Threatened in WA.  Not hunted.  Males much larger.  CAS.  Leks.  In winter in sage brush.

Spruce Grouse:  we have Franklin’s type, white in the coverts.  High elevation, >4000 feet.  Small grouse.  460 grams.  (Blue 1050 grams)  Shorter tail.  Females small, small head, small bill.  More bright white underneath.  N Cascades.  A few in Salmo Mtn. area.  A few in Yakima County in Autanum area, and some near Mt. St. Helens.

White-tailed ptarmigan:  in winter out of reach.  Paradise and Sunrise good spots.  Supplemental molts have been recorded.

Dusky Grouse:  lighter than Sooty, softer call, hear 200’, mostly E WA.  2500-4000’  They do move up to 50 miles sometimes from season to season.  Big birds, bigger bills.  Maybe a hybrid zone near the crest.

Sooty Grouse:  females more brownish, band on tail. W of Cascade Crest.  Evergreens.  Loud voice, heard long distances.  If they flush to a tree, can go high in the tree.

Sharp-tailed grouse:  About 600 in WA.  Grassland indicator species, bunch grass and Idaho fescue.  Pointed tail with white outer tail feathers, chevrons ventrally.  In winter feed on water birch.  (reddish branch, grows near creeks)

Wild Turkey:  really much more common in the last 15 years.  It seems that planting different types in their habitat worked.

Red-throated Loon:  Loons have short necks, Red Throated is small, nice demarcation on black/white on neck, grayish on the back, uptilted bill, 15 degrees, SAS, Juvenile duskier head, more pale on back.  First year PA 1 is intermediate between adult and juvenile.  Red-throated loon has a complete molt in the fall.

Large Loons have a PA molt in about Feb- March.  Then have PB molt of wing feathers only in about March-April.  Then finish the PB molt in the fall.  Maybe do this to have good new wing feathers used to protect the nest, and no time after young raised

Loons in flight:  RT Loon holds head lower, narrow short wings, often pointed back.  Quick wing beat, take off directly from the water:


Arctic Loon:  More easterly, more white on the flank on the water rises up near the rump, wide dark on back of neck, straight dagger like bill, blackish on the back.

Pacific Loon:  Dark back of neck and head, chin strap.  Rounded head, steep forehead.   Hunt in lines, can see large groups.  In flight: Broader wing, carry head out straight, wings straight out, migrate in groups.  Often hard to find.

Common Loon:  Dark dagger like bill.  Some paleness gray, but never ivory.  Black on back, paleness around the eye, bump on forehead.  White notch/ necklace noticible in flight.  Large feet can be held sideways.  SAS.

Yellow-billed Loon: upturned bill, more brownish and lighter on back.  Pale ivory bill in basic plumage.  Often a double bump on head.

Grebes:  CAS, East – West migrators.

Pied-billed grebe:  little white rump.  Fresh water breeders.   Year round.  Synchronous wing molt in the fall.

Horned Grebe:  red neck in alt. plumage.  Clean white neck, white cheek patch, angular head, moderate slope to the bill. Nice sharp demarcation from cap to face.

Red-necked grebe:  In winter dirty neck, whitish cheek patch, larger bill is often two toned, mostly salt water, some fresh water.

Eared Grebe:  Size of horned grebe, rides higher in the water, dirty neck, puffy crown, steep forehead, dark on the crown diffuses into the white of the face.  Bill is deeper than it is wide.

Western Grebe:  greenish bill, black below the eye.  Reddish eye.  Long thin neck.

Clark’s Grebe:  Orange bill.  Western and Clark’s do hybridize.  Salton Sea mostly Clark’s grebe.  Thinner black stripe on back of the neck.

Albatrosses:  SAS  Some may not acquire adult plumage until 15-20 years old.  May live 50-60 years.  Don’t typically breed until 12 years old.

Shy Albatross: 2 records.

Laysan Albatross:  Mostly fall, spotty in summer,  Light bellied – dark backed.  Dusky pink bill.

Black-footed albatross:  Out common albatross.  Brownish overall, dark bird, older birds more white at the base of the bill.

Short-tailed albatross:  young bird dark with pink bill.

Northern Fulmar:  bull necked appearance, tube nose, 3 morphs.  Most of ours dark or intermediate.  Fly over the waves like a shearwater, shallow wing beats.  Flash of white in the primaries.  The tube nose can be for salt excretion.  May also expel oils.

Murphy’s Petrel:  few records, a gadfly petrel, seen far off coast, spring, larger petrel, more arching flight.

Mottled Petrel:  few records, (similar to Cooks) dark carpal marking, dark belly.  Plain gray back.  Smaller gadfly.

Shearwaters:  SBS.  Often don’t nest until 5 years old.

Pink-footed Shearwater:  second most numerous shearwater, white belly, pinkish bill, pink legs, same size as flesh footed shearwater.

Flesh-footed shearwater:  all dark, pink bill, fleshy colored legs, may find a very few on  a trip.  Lacks white flash of sooty.

Buller’s Shearwater: fall bird here.  Smaller, slimmer, white below, dark “M” on the upper wing.

Sooty Shearwater:  dark bird, white flash on the underwing coverts. By far the most numerous. Breed in S Pacific.

Short-tailed shearwater:  Small bill, variable but usually darker coverts, smaller than sooty.  More tame, approach the boat more, tends to come into the Puget sound Nov- Jan.  More common in the Puget Sound in that time frame than Sooty.

Manx Shearwater:  about annual.  Can be close in at times. Smaller than sooty  Light bellied.  White  vent.

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel:  light with white carpal markings.  Direct flyers.  Feed closer to shore than Leeches.

Leech’s Storm-Petrel:  Narrow pointed wings, dark bird.  50K breed in WA, feed far off-shore.  More eratic flight, like a nighthawk.

Red-tailed tropicbird: one record.  CBS

Magnificent Frigatebird:  3 WA records.  SBS.

Stepwise Molt

Some larger birds have stepwise wing molt.  Too many feathers to molt in one year.  The first wing molt wave can start as early as 5 months old in Osprey, for Golden Eagles about 9 months.  Then every 10-11 molts may molt a wave or wing feathers.  Two types of stepwise wing molt.  AKA stoffelmouser.  Typically in the first wave they lose 3-6 feathers.  Maybe P1-3 or P1-6 and a few secondaries.  Then in second wave will start where it left off, and may go say P7-P10 and maybe P1-2.  This is typically in large birds, that weight more than 1Kg.  Some are obligate stepwise molt.  Others are opportunistic stepwise molts, i.e. may halt molt part way through if lack of food.

Cormorants:  do stepwise molt.  Obligate.  SAS. 

Brandt’s Cormorant:  in winter has buff at the base of the bill and chin.  Blue in breeding season.  Bigger head and thicker neck than Pelagic.  Stand more upright than pelagics.  In flight broader wing, steadier wing beat with heavy loading. More marine.  Fly in V, chevron, or line, also stack vertically.  Fly together with Pelagics.

Pelagic Cormorant:  narrower shorter wings, so quicker wingbeat. Hold wings straight out, smaller neck and head.  Flank patch in alt. plumage.  Reddish chin, tend to fly in a line.

Double-crested Cormorant:  bright orange bill, thick neck with kink, young birds brownish back, whitish chest.

Pelicans:  SAS. 

American White Pelican:  summer and migrants in E WA, more rare in W WA.

Brown Pelican:  Adult white neck and head, young with brown neck and head.  Fall birds, post breeding dispersal.

Herons:  CBS, some possibly CAS.

American Bittern:  most leave in winter, greenish legs.

GBH: our common heron

Great Egret:  come up the coast in the fall, greenish legs, orange bill. Large size.

Snowy Egret:  25 records, rare in WA.  Yellow between the bill and the eye, golden slippers

Little Blue Heron:  First year birds are white.  Vagrants.  Same size as a snowy egret.  Immatures of both birds hard to tell apart, both have greenish legs, bill at base is more grayish green with Snowy more yellowish green.

Cattle Egrets:  340 records, cyclic.  Light legs, orange bill, rounded head, often around live stock, Fall mostly Aug – Dec,

Green Heron:  mostly fresh or brackish water, a few linger into Dec-Jan until it’s really cold.  Good CBC bird.

Black-crowned Night-Heron:  Juvenile looks a lot like a bittern, white spotting on coverts and scapulars.  Head shape different.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron:  2-3 records.

White-faced Ibis:  uncommon in WA, more sightings in recent years.  Breeding bird has white around the eye red eye.  SAS.