Losers: Declining and Uncertain Populations

I have been busy re-tagging all my images since it turned out that Cornell’s All About Birds site was not up-to-date on its populations trends. I realized this when I began noticing differences in their information compared with Partners in Flight. Cornell told me to rely on Partners in Flight and that they would have their site updated in January. You may have noticed also that I updated my earlier Winners page in accord with my updated tags.

Birds whose populations are declining include: American Kestrel, Baltimore Oriole, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Cowbird, European Starlings, House Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Little Blue Heron, Long-tailed Duck, Mallard, Northern Flicker, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Shoveler, Oak Titmouse, Red-winged Blackbird, Short-eared Owl, Song Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, and Wood Stork.

Species whose populations are uncertain are: Downy Woodpecker, Green Heron, and White-throated Sparrow. Declining and uncertain populations are not necessarily a sign that the species is threatened with extinction, since several of these species have very large populations to begin with.  Nevertheless, they bear watching.

Spring Versus Late Summer

Last week-end my wife and I went birding with the Rochester Birding Association at Eastman-Durand Park. We continued to notice what we have been observing over the past several weeks–the woods and fields are rather quiet; when you do hear birds you don’t often see them! We attributed their hiding to the thick foliage of late summer.  Indeed, you need a machete to walk some of the paths that were easy walk-throughs in late spring.

Walking along, hearing one bird after another, I asked why they don’t show themselves.  As is so often the case, we were told it’s all about sex, territory, and reproduction. You see, by late summer the kids (chicks) have “fledged” so the parents are much less active. Since there is no competition for mates, nesting locations, and surrounding territory, the birds eat more, and fly and sing less (singing impresses mates and establishes territory–but takes lots of energy). The result is less bird visibility and more calorie/energy building for the fall migration.

Here are some shots from late spring. Aside from the thinner foliage, note all but the Red-bellied were photographed while singing.

Song Sparrow (Decreasing)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Increasing)

The great imitator.

Gray Catbird (Stable)

The Thrasher sings a series of melodious phrases, each only about two or three times. It does not imitate other birds, however.

Brown Thrasher (Decreasing)

Turning to the late summer crowd, some birds did reveal themselves and even sat for their photos. Hummingbirds often escape detection because we take them for large insects. Once identified, however, they often return to the same spot, increasing the chances of a photo opportunity.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female, Increasing))

I call this one “Dropping In.”  Okay, I was lucky. Less singing–more eating. Getting out early in the morning seems to be even more important in late summer if you want to increase your chances of seeing birds–breakfast apparently is their most important meal.

Dropping In
House Sparrow (Decreasing)

Again, a tougher shot than the spring–this Red-bellied was much higher in the tree than many we saw during the spring.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Increasing)

What’s been your experience with spring versus late summer for birding?