Fabulous Birds of South Dakota

“Birds are the most popular group in the animal kingdom. We feed them and tame them and think we know them. And yet they inhabit a world which is really rather mysterious.”  David Attenborough

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Let’s start with the state bird, the colorful Ring-Necked Pheasant which name is used for the species as a whole in North America and also the collective name for a number of subspecies and their intergrades that have white neck rings.

It is a well-know and of regional importance perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the whole world. The common pheasant is one of the world’s most hunted birds; it has been introduced for that purpose to many regions, and is also common on game farms where it is commercially bred. Ring-necked pheasants in particular are commonly bred and were introduced to many parts of the world; the game farm stock, though no distinct breeds have been developed yet, can be considered semi-domesticated. It is one of only three U.S. state birds that is not a species native to the United States.

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The amazing American Avocet measures has a wingspan of 27 – 30 inches and weighs on average about 12 ounces.  The bill is black, pointed, and curved slightly upwards towards the tip. It is long, surpassing twice the length of the avocet’s small, rounded head. Like many waders, the avocet has long, slender legs and slightly webbed feet.  The legs are a pastel grey-blue, giving it its colloquial name, blue shanks. The plumage is black and white on the back, with white on the underbelly. During the breeding season, the plumage is brassy orange on the head and neck, continuing somewhat down to the breast. After the breeding season, these bright feathers are swapped out for white and grey ones. 

 

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The sandhill crane is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane  with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually.

The sandhill crane was formerly placed in the genus Grus, but a molecular phylogenetic study published in 2010 found that the genus, as then defined, was polyphyletic.  In the resulting rearrangement to create monophyletic genera, four species, including the sandhill crane, were placed in the resurrected genus Antigone that had originally been erected by the German naturalist Ldwig Reichenbach in 1853.  The specific epithet canadensis is the modern Latin word for “Canadian”.

 

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. Six species have been recorded in South Dakota.

The western grebe is the largest North American grebe.  It is black-and-white, with a long, slender, swan-like neck and red eyes. It is easily confused with Clark’s grebe, which shares similar features, body size, behavior and habitat, and hybrids are known. Western grebes nest in colonies on lakes that are mixed with marsh vegetation and open water. Western Grebe nests are made of plant debris and sodden materials, and the nest building begins roughly around late April through June. The construction is done by both sexes and is continued on throughout laying and incubation. This species of waterbirds is widespread in western North America, so there is no specific place of abundance. Its subspecies, Clark’s grebe generally populate more of the southern part of North America.  The western grebe has black around the eyes and a straight greenish-yellow bill whereas the Clark’s grebe has white around the eyes and an up-turned bright yellow bill. The downy young of Western are grey; Clark’s downy young are white.

 

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Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs, and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves. Four species have been recorded in South Dakota.

The common nighthawk is a medium-sized crepuscular or nocturnal bird of the Americas within the nightjar family, whose presence and identity are best revealed by its vocalization. Typically dark (grey, black and brown), displaying cryptic colouration and intricate patterns, this bird is difficult to spot with the naked eye during the day. Once aerial, with its buoyant but erratic flight, this bird is most conspicuous. The most remarkable feature of this aerial insectivore is its small beak that belies the massiveness of its mouth. Some claim appearance similarities to owls. With its horizontal stance and short legs, the common nighthawk does not travel frequently on the ground, instead preferring to perch horizontally, parallel to branches, on posts, on the ground or on a roof. The males of this species may roost together but the bird is primarily solitary. The common nighthawk shows variability in territory size.

This caprimulgid has a large, flattened head with large eyes; facially it lacks rictal bristles. The common nighthawk has long slender wings that at rest extend beyond a notched tail. There is noticeable barring on the sides and abdomen, also white wing-patches.

 

Here are some good resources if you like birding:

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  National Geographic Birds               Birds of the Midwest

first birding expedition 2020 — The Write Side – South Dakota!

We began at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 from our home in Madison, (Lake County) South Dakota. The sunrise was at 7:11 a.m. and we were hoping to get some good pictures of the sunrise as we headed out of town. On the highway near our old farmhouse we first saw a Great […]

via first birding expedition 2020 — The Write Side

Readers’ wildlife photos — Why Evolution Is True

Today we have another batch of photos from evolutionary geneticist John Avise. This time they have a theme (his notes and IDs are indented): “Avian mug shots”. Here are some of the responses I got when I asked these birds to look straight into the camera: California Gull (Larus californicus): Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna): Barn […]

via Readers’ wildlife photos — Why Evolution Is True

Birds of Minnesota

 

The barred owl, also known as northern barred owl or hoot owl, is a true owl native to eastern North America. Adults are large, and are brown to grey with barring on the chest. Barred owls have expanded their range to the west coast of North America, where they are considered invasive.

The common loon or great northern diver is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. Breeding adults have a plumage that includes a broad black head and neck with a greenish, purplish, or bluish sheen, blackish or blackish-grey upperparts, and pure white underparts except some black on the undertail coverts and vent. Non-breeding adults are brownish with a dark neck and head marked with dark grey-brown. Their upperparts are dark brownish-grey with an unclear pattern of squares on the shoulders, and the underparts, lower face, chin, and throat are whitish. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly heavier than females.

Here are some good resources if you like birding:

           

  National Geographic Birds                          Birds of Minnesota 

On Location – Check out Glacier Park, Illinois with me!

Although a bit barren in January, Glacial Park Conservation Area offers 3,432 acres of recreation including a wide array of prairies, wetlands and savannas.  There are over eight miles of hiking trails with a beautiful backdrop of hickory trees, oak trees. and wildflowers. It is the home for over 41 species of state endangered animals and plants.

 

Trekking the Interpretive Nature Trail On this 2 mile trek, call  the edge, you will search for owls, deer, wood ducks and blue birds.  This “edge” offers the perfect combination of of both woodland and grassland which is exactly what these animals need.  Many types of berries, nuts and seeds are available.

  Midwestern Birds: Backyard Guide - Watching - Feeding - Landscaping - Nurturing - Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, ... Dakota (Bird Watcher's Digest Backyard Guide)                        National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition

Midwestern Birds                    National Geographic Birds

Trekking the  Plant Community Interpretive Trial

This open woodland is a savanna, hosting plant both native and non native to the area.  Some of the plants include bottlebrush grass, joe pye weed, and mayapple.   The green plants here produce their own food by trapping the energy of the sun.  They then support a wide array of organisms throughout the savanna. Here there is a very healthy ecosystem and therefore a vast biodiversity.

Geology of Glacial Park

12,000 years ago glaciers were in this park.  After leaving they left the land shaped into unique land forms and bringing rocks and till from Canada.   Because of so much till, the bedrock was buried and after breaking down, plants were able to grow in this new fertile soil.  This area then became of the top regions for agriculture.

Here are a few other great resources.

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America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

A Classic Birding Adventure — ASIC Photo

Fellow bird fans will likely have experienced this kind of adventure. The camera gear is double-checked and ready, a new spot has been chosen to visit, and a lot of research has been done into the kind of territory it is, the habitat and features selected carefully. On this trip, I was determined to scour…

via A Classic Birding Adventure — ASIC Photo