Spring is right around the corner — in some places in the Northeast it has arrived. Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors, and for many a renewed interest in birdwatching/birding. Here are five common birds to ID this spring.
#1. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) might just be one of the easiest birds to ID in the northeast. The plumage of a Northern Cardinal is a bright-scarlet, or cardinal, red. Unlike the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) which molts its vibrant summer plumage, the Northern Cardinal’s plumage color remains the same throughout the year.
A female Northern Cardinal’s body feathers are a drab-olive tone which rich orange-red highlights on the crest, tail, and wing feathers. Both adult male and female have large near-neon orange beak, while young birds are drab all over and lack the colorful vibrance of their adult counterparts.
#2. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a petite yellow, or golden, songbird in the finch family. During breeding season a male American goldfinch’s impressively bright summer plumage and black forehead draws a lot of attention — they are difficult to miss. In the winter, however, the goldfinch’s plumage can appear drab and blotchy.
It is a year round resident in the northeast that can been seen flittering around bushes, fence posts, and bird feeders.
These open country finches lay a clutch of 4-5 eggs in late summer. The female incubates the eggs on her own and the male provides food for her. Both female and male tend to the young after they hatch (around two weeks).
#3. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are part of the thrush family (the same family as the American Robin). In some parts of the northeast Eastern Bluebirds are year round residents. These birds are commonly seen in the open fields of rural and farmland areas.
Males are a vibrant blue with a deep rust colored chest and white under parts. Females are blue with drab brown feathers and a less vibrant over all look. Both male and female can be seen perched on telephone wires fence posts looking down at a field in pursuit of grubs, spiders, worms, caterpillars and other insects.
#4. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are a year round resident in the northeastern United States. They are a large thrush, the largest of thrushes in the U.S. A common misconception about these birds is that they migrate in the winter. Some do, others stay put. Much of that depends on weather and food availability.
During the warmer months these birds can be found in fields, lawns, and open habitat across the country. In these habitats they dine on insects and worms. In the wintertime they flock to forests where they roost in trees.
#5. Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Eastern Towhees (Pipilo erythrophtalmus) are year round residents in many parts of the northeast. These new world sparrows are typical heard before they are seen (if at all). They take cover and forage in shrubs, bushes, dense grasslands, and thick forest understory.
The males are black with a bright rust colored chest and white under parts. Their eyes are bright red. Females have a similar color pattern but are brown where the males are black. Because Eastern Towhees are typically heard rather than seen it is worth the time to learn their songs.
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