Birding 201

Last week I visited one of my favorite birding locations, Chester Wetlands just North of Saint Anthony, Idaho. While I was there I could hear Soras all over the place. I decided to sit down at a location that I thought I would be able to find one. Knowing the habitat of the Sora helped me choose the location. The area that I chose was a small pond lined with cattails, and surrounded by thick brush except for an opening where I sat. After got comfortable I briefly used an app on my phone to call for Sora. Soras are pretty good at responding to and following their call, very rarely I have I seen one without calling it. It did not take calling for very long before it responded and started to move my way. Soras are very cautious birds and they do not like to be in the open, they will move around within the cattails or other thick brush to prevent being out in the open. As I was watching this Sora it was cautious staying out of the open. It was bobbing its tail, and had very abrupt movements. As the Sora moved around looking for the call and then foraging I was able to watch its behavior in its habitat.

Studying bird habitat and behavior not only helps to identify the what but the why of any species.

I went to this area with the pond and cattails because I knew this was the Soras habitat or home. A habitat is basically an area where any certain species can find the food, water, shelter, and space it needs to survive. If we were to look at the big picture we know that ducks, geese, and swans all live on or by the water, woodpeckers live in trees, and grouse nest on the ground. Now if you were to look a littler closer you may find more specific areas each and everyone of these birds live and why they live there. Ducks have webbed feet for swimming, woodpeckers have beaks for drumming, and grouse find their food on the forest floor.  Knowing the habitat a bird lives in will help you to know what bird it is and why it is there.

I noticed different behaviors of the Sora, in this case I already knew it was a Sora, but most birds have some kind of behavior that will help you identify what species it is. Watch for bobbing tails, dipping, flight patterns, and other behaviors to help you not only identify the bird but learn what the bird is saying.

Sora, Chester Wetlands, ID

This Sora is shown in an area where you can expect to see one, water and cattails. I say cattails although cattails are not required, think marshy area and most times you do get cattails.  Also notice its feet, color, and beak. This bird is adapted to this habitat. The large feet for walking through the marsh, the beak for eating seeds and small invertebrates, and the color for camouflage.

Steller’s Jay, Yellowstone National Park, WY

From looking at this photo can you guess where the most likely place to find a Steller’s Jay is? In a conifer forest, this is also the most likely place for them to build their nests. Now what if you see a Steller’s Jay and it is not in a conifer tree? Well like most birds it can fly, and some of them fly long distances during migrations. They make stops along the way, or it might be out foraging. Just remember what the birds habitat is and that is the most likely place to it.

Ruffed Grouse Drumming, Grand Teton National Park, WY

This Ruffed Grouse is drumming, flapping its wings back and forth to make a drumming sound. The ruffed Grouse is the only bird that I know that does this.

Killdeer playing hurt, Rexburg, ID

The Killdeer are famous for leading potiential predators away by acting like they have a broken wing and limping around.

Studying habitat and behavior of birds help you more than in just identifying the bird it helps you to learn about the bird. Like I pointed out with the Sora you will learn details about the bird that help you to tell its story.

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