Here are a few pretty, small birds we see around the Sacramento area.
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There are about 12 members of the family Ardeidae; birds we know as Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns, that are found in North America. For the most part, if it is white, it is an Egret. But, there are exceptions. There is a Reddish Egret that has a rusty brown head and neck with a gray body; they live mostly along the Gulf Coast as well as Florida’s Atlantic Coast. There is a white morph of the Great Blue Heron and is difficult to distinguish from an Egret. What I see mostly are the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret. Occasionally I see Cattle Egrets. In this post, I also included a Little Egret. Its range is mostly, Europe, Africa and Asia but sometimes visits the east coast of the North America.
The Great Egret is a big guy. He has black legs and a yellow bill. The Snowy Egret is substantially smaller; it has a black bill with black legs and yellow-green colored feet. The Little Egret looks a lot like the snowy but the eye mask is a bit different color. The breeding male Cattle Egret has a brown head with a brown patch at the base of its neck and breast, and has some red on its legs. Otherwise, they are all white.
Most egrets forage along water like lakes and rivers and even irrigation ditches, looking for insects, small invertebrates, and small fish. The Cattle Egret forages in meadows and pasturelands.
By the way, I often try to give a simple explanation to help you recognize a bird. Mostly it has to do with coloration. But, coloration can vary between males and females and male coloration is often different during breeding season than at other times of the year. Juveniles are often colored differently. Color can also vary by region. My tips will get you in the ballpark but don’t get frustrated if things don’t look quite right. I get confused all the time and must search the books to be sure.
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Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I would see the Ring-necked Pheasant occasionally. I always considered it a special treat because they are so beautiful. But, for several decades I never saw any; though I thought about them from time to time. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have had 3 sightings in the past 2 years. I am very happy to be able to share them with you.
These birds like to live and forage in tall vegetation, so they aren’t easy to see. But, sometimes, you can see them as they cross over open spaces. They are omnivorous.
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The Nuttal’s Woodpecker is a small woodpecker who lives only in California’s Oak Woodlands. Interestingly, though they live in oak woodlands, they don’t eat acorns. Instead they eat insects from the oak and other trees.
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Returning from a recent trip to the Seattle area, we stopped at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center and restrooms were closed but the government shutdown didn’t affect the birds. This stop turned out to be very productive. It was a great day for raptors. The star was a juvenile Bald Eagle on a kill. But we saw Ferruginous Hawks, Northern Harriers, Rough Legged Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Red-shouldered hawk also. This is feast time for the raptors at Sacramento NWR because of the large numbers of waterfowl that spend the winter months there.
I didn’t share images of the Rough-legged haws because I only got a rear quarter shot and it didn’t show enough to make the shot interesting. I’ve shared other Cooper’s Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks in the recent past, so I didn’t include them. But, I hope you enjoy what I shared.
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The American Kestrel is a small raptor; about the size of a robin. As you travel through rural, agricultural areas or open meadows, you might notice a small bird on a wire or pole. As you notice it, you may think: just another gray bird. But, if you slow down, you may be surprised by a beautiful little multi-colored bird. This small falcon eats lizards, insects and small birds. One of its hunting behaviors is fascinating to watch. It, will hover, flapping its wings, then dive down to capture its prey.
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