June bird forecast: Kingbirds, Mockingbirds and some strange-looking birds
Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all
ages at travisaudubon.org
or by calling 512-300-BIRD.
Travis Audubon is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @TravisAudubon and like us at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon
Western Kingbird sunning himself at Northwest Park in Austin. Photo courtesy of Travis Audubon member Jane Tillman
Summer is almost here, and that means fences, powerlines, trees and other good perching spots will be occupied by Western Kingbirds. They like parking lots, among other places, and have also been spotted nesting at the Capitol. According to the All About Birds website, they often nest on human-made structures such as light poles and fenceposts. Around here, look for them in the parking lots of a certain Texas-based grocer. They make a sound like a tape recorder being played backwards.
Western Kingbirds, which spend the summer in the western half of the U.S., are known for hassling and dive-bombing any interloper — including birds much larger than them.
Kingbirds are flycatchers, which means they specialize in catching bugs while in flight, taking off from a elevated spot like a power line or pole and swooping out and back to snatch bugs.
Northern Mockingbird - Photo by James A. Giroux
Another parking lot patron is the Northern Mockingbirds. And you’ll hear them day and night. Why do they sing even at night? Northern Mockingbirds would not typically be a night bird, but because they live in urban areas, the large and widespread lighting in public areas such as parking lots can lead them to believe they need to keep on singing and guarding their territory even after it gets dark. Also, males that has not managed to attract a mate also can carry on all night.
Now is also the time for plenty of juvenile birds to be out and about learning to feed themselves, fly and become independent. Juveniles tend to spend more time on the ground, taking shorter flights, fluttering their wings to get their parents’ attention, and generally following Mom and Dad around begging for food and attention.
Juvenile Northern Mockingbird - Photo courtesy of Travis Audubon member Jane Tillman
Some juveniles don’t take after their folks when they’re young, and will lack the coloring or patterns of the adults. One that looks a bit different as a youngster is the aforementioned mockingbird. They’ll have a similar shape and long tail, but they have a spotted pattern on their breast that eventually disappears.
birding expert Melissa Mayntz notes, there are a few signs you’re looking at a juvenile bird and not a rarity:
–Bill size: Juvenile birds often have bills that seem proportionally too large for their head. This is because their heads have not fully grown and their feathers are not yet covering the edges of the bill, making it seem larger.
–Feather length: Young birds have not grown their full flight feathers, and the feathers on their wings and tail will be noticeably stubbier than on adult birds. The feathers on their breast, flanks and abdomen may also seem fluffier and less organized than those of adult birds.
–Color: Many juvenile birds have drab, dull plumage that is similar to that of an adult female. As they molt, their feathers may have additional speckles, buff edges or other disorganized colors that help camouflage them until they can fly skillfully.
–Eye size: Very young fledglings and nestlings have bulging eyes that seem too big for their head. This should not be very noticeable in birds that are ready to leave the nest, but if the birds were displaced early, their eye size can indicate their youth.
The next monthly meeting of Travis Audubon — always free and open to the public — is not until September. Meanwhile, please check out our field trips:
Saturday, June 9 – 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.