Monday, July 25, 2011

Rosy-Faced Lovebirds

Also known as Peach-Faced Lovebirds, these small parrots were originally exotic imports from the arid regions of Southwestern Africa (Namibia), but have since established stable and growing populations in Florida, Arizona, and California. These birds are very gregarious and make their presence known. Lovebirds get their name from their monogamy and tendency to sit in pairs for long periods of time.
I recently discovered a large Lovebird population at the Encanto Park in Phoenix, where they're much easier to find and photograph. It also saves me the trouble to trespassing through people's yards.
Newer photos are at the bottom.
I've encountered these Lovebirds at Grenada Park, the Desert Botanical Gardens, and along the canals--their range seems to spread over the greater Phoenix area, and their shrill calls are unmistakable. They seem to enjoy life more than most other birds, though they're not necessarily good at living. Apparently, when one Lovebird gets stuck in a cholla  cactus, several others will try to extricate the helpless bird, thereby trapping themselves as well. They've extracted up to 8 Lovebirds from the same cholla at the Desert Botanical Gardens--they were all dead. I find this behavior mostly adorable however.
They'll even feed in groups on the ground, like mourning doves, clearly without any notion of desert predators lurking nearby. They could get these same seeds up in the mesquite trees just as easily. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brewer's Blackbird

These blackbirds share the same dynamic with their blackbird and grackle cousins: the males have a lovely iridescent coloration of sheeny blues, purples, and blacks, while the females are content with a homely brown. 
They have yellow eyes like a grackle, but this is diagnostic among blackbirds.
Also photographed is a rather zombified female with her chick, which looks like death himself (thus explaining her condition). Looking at this, one can easily see why these blackbirds prefer to have other birds raise their young.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gambel's Quail

These Quail are well established in Arizona, and are among the few birds that often take their young out into the open. They closely resemble the California Quail, but don't have the scaled effect on their flanks and belly. The chicks remind me of velociraptors, and are possibly the cutest birds in all of North America.


The publicity agent for ducks, the Mallard is a finely colored specimen and a romantic. However, Mallard's can also cross-breed with a variety of foreign, introduced or escaped ducks, in addition to some other American ducks and even some of the smaller geese. These moments of confused passion result in the mottled or manky mallards often seen in city parks and the like. This is one of the few species with which I find the female birds to be prettier than the males.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Verdins have a family all to themselves. Small and active, they inhabit the southwestern U.S. Verdin's heads are a strong yellow, and while the breast and back is a uniform whitish-grey to brown, they have unique red shoulder patches that require more than a passing observation. Some books show there to be a slight dark streak across the eye as well, and this seems to vary on an individual basis.
Living in Arizona, Verdins were one of the first birds I observed that helped me appreciate the beauty and detail in many birds I otherwise wouldn't have given a second look. Their yellow and red really isn't very visible unless they're very close, and it really impressed upon me how much detail the casual observer can miss if a bird seems pretty bland from far away.

I recently got to capture a fun series of shots of a Verdin eating lantana berries for dinner. They were quite a mouthful, but she was determined. (Click on images for larger view).
The setting sun always lends a wonderful glow to pictures that makes up for its fading light.
With the sun going down, Ms. Verdin decides it's chow-time.
I've been told it is not polite to watch someone eat...something about it being undignified.
One of the last ripe berries. You can see how the clusters have been selectively cleared out.
Her beak has to open pretty wide to swallow this berry, but she doesn't seem too worried about it. I was very glad Ms. Verdin let me join her for dinner.

These are some of my earlier Verdin photos. All of my Verdin pictures have been taken at the Desert Botanical Gardens.

White-Crowned Sparrow

The White-Crowned Sparrow has a striped cap that stands in sharp contrast to the normal, mottled browns and grays that cover most of the sparrow's body. The cap also accentuates the sparrow's unusually yellow beak.
Since seeing them briefly in California, I've now seen many of these regal Sparrows at the Water Ranch in Gilbert. With their pretty caps and pretty songs, I prefer them to the House Sparrows any day.

They descend on Arizona and many other warmer states en masse as the autumn turns to winter, and then they head up north with as it turns to spring.


Acorn Woodpecker

The acorn woodpecker is a common woodpecker with some uncommon characteristics. It is one of the few uniformly black-backed woodpeckers, and also has a unique facial mask going from the top of its breast up to the forehead. Additionally, it has a yellow eye, and I'm not aware of any other woodpecker than the much larger (and most awesome) Pileated Woodpecker and the (much extinct) Ivory-Billed Woodpecker that also has the yellow eye.

I normally like to provide a close-up photo of the bird if the picture is of the appropriate quality. However, here I found the background to actually be as attractive as the bird. The afternoon foggy lighting and the well-weathered wood were a beautiful combination. 

American Crow

Lots of people assume Crows are these disgusting, Machiavellian scavengers. They may have a point, but sometimes they can look decent if they're up in a tree.

Western Scrub-Jay/Pacific Coast

The Scrub has several North American manifestations. The Pacific Coast Jay has a much darker hue of blue compared to the interior Scrub Jay, and the Florida Scrub Jay is almost white on the back, with its wings and tail whiter as well. These Pacific Scrub Jays were fantastic models in the Big Sur afternoon lighting:

Steller's Jay

The Steller's Jay is the darkest jay, but still has a lot of variation within the blue on its wings and tail. It additionally has some very interesting coloration of its forehead--I guess I'd call them thunderbolts. This setting in Big Sur California made for pretty great photography.

Brown Pelican

The Beach Patrol! Flying in formation, these Brown Pelicans keep an eye out for any misdemeanors or fish. They also don't mind being photographed out of focus. I asked them.