Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blue Jays, Crows & Starlings - IL winter birds

A Valentine's Day sunrise sets the icicles hanging off the eves on fire, Rockford, IL; 2/14/10.

Three more birds that are very common all year long in Northern Illinois are the Blue Jay, American Crow and European Starling.  All three of these birds have adapted well to human settlements and can be seen in parks and suburbs as well as forest preserves and rural areas.

The beautifully marked Blue Jay at our backyard feeder, Rockford, IL; 1/30/10.
Blue Jays (Above) are found all year round east of the Rockies. They feed on both insects as well as large nuts (acorns and corn kernels) and seeds.  There are actually two versions of the Blue Jay: The pale version which is shown (Above and Below), and the dark version whose nape is dark blue instead of grayish and the throat has more blue on it than the grayish white throat of the pale. Othrewise they are the same. Their range spreads into Canada all the way south to the Gulf Coast states.

Another "pale" adult Blue Jay, Rockford, IL ; 1/3/10.

This American Crow sitting on top of our backyard grill is wondering why we aren't out there grilling him up a meal; talk about oppurtunistic! Rockford, IL; 11/7/10.
Another member of the Corvidae family (Jays, Magpies and Crows) is the all-American Crow (Above). These guys are found coast to coast spreading just a bit north into Canada and southward to the Gulf Coast, but not found in the deep southern edges of the southwest states (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Cal.). In these parts the Raven is more prevalent.

A European Starling, in winter "white-spotted" plumage, enjoying the suet cake in our backyard on New Year's day,
 Rockford, IL; 1/1/11. 
European Starlings were introduced in America from Europe in the late 1800's and are now very common and widespread all year round throughout the entire U.S. and into Canada and Mexico. They will nest anywhere - birdhouses, crevices in buildings, tree cavities, and are very aggressive toward other birds. They travel in large mobs making a lot of noise. In winter their plumage is a a glossy black with white dots all over (Above). In summer, their plumage takes on a myriad of irridescent colors looking like a mosaic (Below).

The mosaic-like backside of a European Starling, showing off its breeding plumage of spots and stripes,
Montrose Point, Chicago, IL; 3/30/11. 

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