As spring progresses, the leaf buds swell, the slopes are green, and migratory birds can be expected to sprout. Life begins to flourish; Plants, animals, and insects (especially those pesky mosquitoes) are ready to take advantage of the short but sweet growing season ahead. An army of insectivores is already here or on its way to Interior Alaska – the songbirds.
The term songbird refers to a perched bird with anatomical features that allow it to produce complex sounds that can be musical. Songbirds encompasses a wide variety of birds in interior Alaska, from ravens weighing around 1200 grams to the tiny gold crown kinglet weighing 6 grams (less than 1 graham cracker square). The well-known robin is a convenient size standard for identifying songbirds. You will often hear “smaller than a robin” or “larger than a robin”.
In the next few weeks our songbird army will swell in species and numbers. Some species of songbirds have already arrived, and some are year-round residents like pine grosbeaks and chickadees. The common human-compatible immigrant American robin is busy searching open ground. Two robins that are looking relatively close to each other are likely to be a couple. The male robin’s head is darker and its chest is lighter.
Compare! You may see robins gathering nesting material. If you find a nest, watch it from a distance so that you don’t draw the predator’s attention to the nest.
There are hundreds of songbird species. In an average bird field guide, songbirds take up about 50% of the sides and many different families. Some of the more common families you will see here include: woodpeckers, flycatchers, corvids, swallows, thrushes, warblers, and sparrows.
Flycatchers are smaller than a robin, they are small brown birds that dart around the treetops catching insects. Her songs are distinctive variations of a pipe that help with identification. Once the leaves are out, the noise can be all you need to know that there’s a flycatcher up there.
Swallows, sparrows and warblers are also “smaller than”. Swallows sit and fly outdoors. They are more likely to grab your attention with dazzling flight displays, sometimes with a floating white feather in them, or you can spy them out in rows on overhead lines. Swallows sing softly chirping and chirping, but they are not very loud. Sparrows stick to a grassy or brushy habitat, where they sit on a prominent branch or high blade of grass and repeat a certain melody over and over again. Sparrows are shades of brown and often striped, which makes them difficult to spot when blending into their surroundings.
Warblers are fast little birds that hang around between green branches and never stay in one place for long. Their songs are distinctive and engaging, and they are often brightly colored or marked, which makes them favorite birds. The yellow warbler is bright yellow, and the always abundant warbler with the yellow hulls is affectionately referred to as the “butter piston” for the bright yellow feathers on its back.
Thrushes are the epitome of a songbird the same size as a robin category. They are forest birds and are well camouflaged for their life on the ground and in the trees. Her songs are melodic and often sound like a flute echoing through the forest. Thrushes are often sung in the evening after other birds are quiet. Take the time to enjoy the birds around your home, school or work. There is a lot to be fascinated by for a lifetime.