Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vermilion Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee and Other Birds of the Coronado National Forest

[Catalina State Park, SE Arizona. April 2013]

There are 6 Towhees in the US and, inarguably, the most colorful and distinctive is the Green-tailed Towhee. It is also our smallest towhee.


Green-tailed Towhee is a large grey sparrow with a rufous crown, a white throat and olive wings and tail. Its population is estimated to be about 4 million. Classified as "Least Concern", the Green-tailed Towhee breeds in the Interior West and winters in Mexico and the Southwest US.


Moving from a colorful sparrow to a flycatcher -- the spectacular Vermilion Flycatcher is the only red tyrant flycatcher. Unmistakeable in its brilliant scarlet plumage, the male has a thick, brown eyeline and wings.


This flycatcher ranges from South America to the Southwest US. Its population is estimated to be at least 5 million. It catches insects in mid-air by hawking and will lose its color if kept in captivity.

Vermilion Flycatcher (male)



Other birds observed at Catalina State Park and Sabino Canyon included: Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lucy's Warbler, Pyrrhuloxia, Bewick's Wren and Hammond's Flycatcher.

Brewer's Sparrow


Brewer's Sparrow is a Western sparrow whose breeding range extends from California to Alaska while its wintering range covers Mexico and the Southwest US. This is one of 2 birds named after Thomas Mayo Brewer --  who co-authored A History of North American Birds in 1874 with Baird and Ridgway.

Bewick's Wren: This wren is now found only West of the Mississippi -- it is no longer found in the East. The leading cause of its decline has been researched to be competitive interference from the House Wren (eg., see this report for Kentucky and Tennessee).

Lucy's Warbler feeding.

Lucy's Warbler -- perfectly adapted to the desert.

Pyrrhuloxia -- a fantastically odd looking cardinal of the desert.

Pyrrhuloxia

Vesper Sparrow

"Vesper" means "evening" in Latin and true to its namesake, this sparrow is an active songster at twilight.

Hammond's Flycatcher


Hammond's Flycatcher, named after William Alexander Hammond is a common flycatcher of the West. It is extremely similar to the Dusky Flycatcher and they can only be reliably disambiguated by their voice.

Maps:
Catalina State Park: Google map link
Sabino Canyon:  Google map link

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