Field Observation 1: ID and Flight Physiology

On February 4th at 1:15 p.m., I examined bird species in Centennial Woods near a stream for 90 minutes. The weather was warm (about 40°) but a very overcast day, which probably influenced more birds to be active than if it were extremely cold. The stream also might have influenced bird abundance in that area, causing more birds to be present near a body of water. During that length of time, many of the birds were identified by calls and only two species were seen visually.

The most abundant species seen was the Northern Cardinal, where I saw four in the underbrush of a Pine tree. The birds were flying from branch to branch, indicating foraging patterns of the Northern Cardinal. The Northern Cardinal exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males being a vibrant red and females being a pale brown color. This helped me determine that the birds were foraging and not performing a mating display, since there were no females present. This species exhibits short flights from branch to branch with rapid wing movements during foraging. I also noticed the round shape of the Northern Cardinal’s wings. Relative to body size, the wings of this species are large. The Northern Cardinal is easily identifiable by its bright red color, but the rapid wing movements and short flight patterns could also help in identifying this bird.

The other species seen was a Blue Jay, which was flying overhead. The Blue Jay exhibited a direct flight pattern with steady wing beats and was flying a few feet above the top of the tree line. Blue Jays are known to travel lengthier distances to forage or find twigs to build nests, so I assumed this particular bird was foraging. I noticed the Blue Jay has rounded wings with feathers spread out in a fan-like pattern. The spread-out pattern of feathers most likely increases the thrust of this species, which allows them to travel higher and farther distances. Blue Jays also have a bright blue color, which makes them easily identifiable.

When comparing the Northern Cardinal and the Blue Jay, there were many distinguishing features observed between them. While Northern Cardinals forage by short flights on the branches of trees, Blue Jays travel farther and fly overtop of trees to forage. The rapid wing beats of a Northern Cardinal can help one distinguish the species compared to the steady wing beats of a Blue Jay. Although these features help identify the birds easily, the wing shape of both species is somewhat similar. They both have rounded wings during flight with feathers that are spread out. Although the Blue Jay is slightly larger than the Northern Cardinal, if both species were flying overhead, it might be hard to determine the bird based solely on wing shape.

Posted by mkerner mkerner, February 19, 2019 20:22

Observations

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Observer

mkerner

Date

February 4, 2019

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata

Observer

mkerner

Date

February 4, 2019

Comments

No comments yet.

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments

Is this inappropriate, spam, or offensive? Add a Flag