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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Usual Suspects, Part I

Now that we’ve started a photo gallery here at the Birding Bros., I’ve noticed it’s got some pretty substantial holes, birds that should be present and accounted for but aren’t. For the most part, it’s because they’re just so common that we’ve already had amazing point-blank looks that we’ll never be able to top. So this post aims to showcase those birds that are impossible to miss while birding in central North Carolina. These are The Usual Suspects.

Anywhere you go, the first sound you hear is almost certainly the incessant raspy din of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. For whatever reason, these are some of the most common birds on the East Coast, and they feel the need to call at anything that seems remotely abnormal, be it an owl, a snake, or nothing at all.

Lucky for us, these southern chickadees sing a lot prettier than their Black-capped cousins!

Lucky for us birders, we can put this to use. By imitating the rasping alarm call of these Parids, a technique called “pishing”, we can occasionally get the birds going, and sometimes a better bird will pop out to see what all the commotion’s about. In the fall, when warblers associate with large flocks of these “chickamice,” it’s a great way to figure out just who’s migrating through on a given day.

Believe it or not, they have some of the most varied songs in the bird world. I'm always astounded
with the sounds they come up with!

Now, I’ve heard people say that we’ve got it pretty good bird-wise here in the southeast. I don’t really know what they’re talking about, because none of the birds we’ve got can truly compensate for the pain of a 98-degree day with 100% humidity. But, I suppose we do have birds that are far more common here than in other parts of the country. For example, as long as there’s a pine tree in eyesight, you’re sure to hear the pleasant trill of the Pine Warbler, the only warbler species that sticks around all year long.

During most of the year, they stick to the treetops; but during the winter, it's not uncommon
 to see them on the ground feeding with a mixed flock.

Another common resident of our southeastern pine forests is the Brown-headed Nuthatch, a bird that I honestly take for granted. They just don’t get these pint-sized birds in other parts of the United States, but around here they’re a dime a dozen, and extremely entertaining to boot. You’d be hard pressed to watch a bird feeder for five minutes before hearing their squeaky-toy call and watching one swoop in for a seed or two.

I once found one of their nest when I looked into a hole and one flew out into my face!

Of course this all hardly scratches the surface of our common bird life, so we’ll have a continuation of this article next week. Until then, the Birding Bros. are going to head down to Carolina Beach and hopefully pick up some sweet coastal species, including a lifer or two if all goes well. We’ll let you know how it goes!

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