How often do you encounter a bird that you cannot identify?
I admit that I enjoy seeing a new bird species and having to research it to find out more.
One of my favorite places where I find many different species, is our local riparian preserve. It was on one of these visits that I spotted a bird with a yellow breast, up in a tree.Western Kingbird
Once I got home, I downloaded my bird photos and got to work in figuring out what species it was. From my photo, I could see the shape of the bill, the size of the bird, coloring and markings, which are essential to identifying birds (along with their habitat and behavior).
I started with my “Birds of Arizona” Field Guide, which categorizes birds based on color. It was there that I was able to identify my unknown bird as a Western Kingbird. I then did more research about this bird in a few of my other favorite bird books, including “Birds of North America”. (It’s always a good idea to use two different sources to verify a bird species).
Here is what I learned about the Western Kingbird:
- They are found in the western half of the US, parts of Florida and Central America. Their population is slowly spreading toward the eastern US.
- Western Kingbirds are migratory and spend their summer in areas with open grassland or deserts. In winter, they are found in tropical forests and areas with shrubbery in Central America.
- Both male and female share the same markings – a yellow belly, light gray chest, white chin, wings and tail are dark gray while the head is gray.
- In summer, both parents raise a brood of 2 – 5 hatchlings.
- They agressively protect their territory and have been known to take on hawks to keep them away. (I love it when the ‘little’ guy stands up to the ‘big’ guy, don’t you?)
- Their diet is made up of insects and berries.
Now that I have identified the Western Kingbird, I will be on the lookout to try to see more during the summer when they are here.
**In addition to books, there are many websites that can help you identify bird species including WhatBird.com. My fellow blogger, Jill, wrote a great article on how to use apps to identify birds – which is helpful when you are out in the field.