Last weekend at the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival, there was a Pine Grosbeak that was said to be “xanthocromic”. That term means there are yellow feathers. This Grosbeak has that orangey-yellow feature. The next photo is a normally pigmented male Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeak, male
female Pine Grosbeak?
I question this being a female as there are “Bronze” Pine Grosbeak and this may be a young male transitioning into his adult plumage. This time of year before the Pine Grosbeak return north to Canada, they are molting into their adult plumage. It is interesting watching the different shades as they change.
I was wondering why all the birds took off from the feeders in a flurry, then I looked around outside the window and saw a Northern Shrike. This bird is also known as the Butcher Bird because of their habit of impaling their prey on thorns.
This bird is classified as a songbird, but his beak says different. Look at the hook on its’ bill, that’s used to tear flesh. The Northern Shrike mainly hunts small rodents, but they will take other birds. Even birds as large as Pine Grosbeaks.
Here is a link to an interesting article about how birds stay warm in the winter.
The other day it was really nice out, a good day to get out and walk. As I was walking along the road I heard the soft tapping of a woodpecker. A few years ago at the Detroit Lakes Birding Festival when we were looking for Black-backed Woodpeckers, the leader said to listen for soft tapping. I have remembered that and have found several of the three-toed Woodpeckers using this tip.
After a little bit of searching, I found the bird on a downed log. She then flew up to another tree and I could see it was a female. The females lacks the yellow cap.
In Minnesota there are two species of Woodpecker that have 3 toes, as compared to other Woodpeckers who have 4 toes. Besides the Black-backed, there is the American Three-toed Woodpecker. The American 3-toed is not as common as the Black-backed.
In the old bird books the Black-backed is called the Arctic Three-toed Woodpecker. I almost like that name better.
But, the real Snowbird has just arrived in northern Minnesota over the past week, and that bird is the Snow Bunting!
These little birds congregate along the roadside in late fall, as you drive by they swirl up into the air. From the car windows, they look like little white birds as their wings flash a lot of white.
In the fall they are brown and white, but in the spring the males are a bright white and black. Now their feathers have worn down to a muted brown to match the females and juveniles of the year. It helps in their camouflage as they forage in the grass. Snow Buntings will continue their migration to the grasslands of the prairie in the central U.S.