The photographer writes that it’s hard to believe that there’s pelicans in Michigan, but here they are. In an in-depth Great Lakes Echo feature, Eric Freedman writes that American White Pelicans are expanding their breeding range in Michigan & North America:
The species “is undergoing a dramatic expansion of its breeding range in North America,” the study published in the journal Ontario Birds said. “The nesting on Lake Erie, so far from the colony sites in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, seems unusual. Why such a large dispersal from the nearest breeding colony 550 km (340 miles) away?”
Now they’re spreading eastward.
…That distance “is and is not unusual,” said study co-author D.V. Chip Weseloh, a retired Great Lakes waterbird specialist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. “Pelicans are strange birds and will range far and wide hundreds of miles to feed,” a feat documented with radio transmitters.
With its 9-foot wingspan, the American white pelican is one of North America’s largest birds and feeds primarily on fish, according to the Audubon Society.
The overall population declined through the first half of the 1900s but has grown substantially since the 1970s. It’s protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List categorizes it as a species of least concern.
View more in Kare Hav’s Pt. Lookout/Augres gallery on Flickr.
I’ve always thought of this bird as an insult from Looney Tunes, but All About Birds from Cornell University explains that Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers:
…are fairly small woodpeckers with stout, straight bills. The long wings extend about halfway to the tip of the stiff, pointed tail at rest. Often, sapsuckers hold their crown feathers up to form a peak at the back of the head.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Look for a long white stripe along the folded wing. Bold black-and-white stripes curve from the face toward a black chest shield and white or yellowish underparts.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrive back in mid-Michigan in April from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico, West Indies, and Central America.
I’ve seen evidence of their presence before on the trunks of the pine trees. Sapsuckers tap for sap as their main food source. On my trees the sapsucker seems to like to drill patches of several shallow rows across and several shallow rows down. These neatly organized patches of holes well up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). He also eats any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.
These predrilled sweet sap sources benefit hummingbirds, waxwings, and warblers as well when they need a quick, sweet bite while traveling.
Joshua took this photo of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Antrim County. Click to visit Joshua’s Flickr and use the > at the right of the photo to see several more shots of this lovely bird!
“Mothers are like glue. Even when you can’t see them, they’re still holding the family together.”
– Susan Gale
Kevin shared this pic of a mother swan and her cygnets, wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! I heartily agree and hope all you moms are able to enjoy this & every day!
See more in Kevin’s Ducks, Geese & Swans gallery!
The All About Birds listing for Aix sponsa (wood duck) says in part:
The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.
Wood Ducks thrive in bottomland forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaver ponds. They are also common along streams of all sizes, from creeks to rivers, and the sheer extent of these make them an important habitat. Wood Ducks seem to fare best when open water alternates with 50–75% vegetative cover that the ducks can hide and forage in.
A few wood duck facts:
- Natural cavities for nesting are scarce, and the Wood Duck readily uses nest boxes provided for it. If nest boxes are placed too close together, many females lay eggs in the nests of other females. (click for info about building a nest box)
- The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to 2 km (1.2 mi) away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 89 m (290 ft) without injury.
- Wood Ducks pair up in January, and most birds arriving at the breeding grounds in the spring are already paired. The Wood Duck is the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in one year.
Many (many) more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.
Here’s a Throwback Thursday from April of 2009 in honor of Spring, which I hear is still happening. The resource on the initial post is no longer online, so I dug up this post from The Spruce explaining why robin eggs are blue:
The color of an eggshell is determined by pigments deposited as the shell is formed in the shell gland. The shell gland is the avian equivalent of a mammal’s uterus and is near the end of the oviduct, just before the cloaca. The shell is formed just before the egg is laid.
The bile pigment biliverdin is responsible for blue tones in bird eggs. Depending on the concentration of the pigment, the coloration can range from bright, bold blue or blue-green to pale ice blue and every shade in between. Smaller eggs and those laid first in a brood are usually more intensely colored than larger eggs or those laid later in the nesting cycle.
In addition to coloring eggshells, biliverdin is also responsible for blue tones in moth and butterfly wings, and is the same pigment that makes bruises turn bluish-green.
So I sez to this loon, I’m seeing more & more loons every year…
At least I imagine something to that effect in the conversation above. I’ve definitely been noticing more loons again this summer. While loons are far from out of the woods, this is a real success story for conservation efforts that you can read about from the Michigan Loon Preservation Association.
The Michigan Nature Guy (Donald Drife) wrote about the rebound of Michigan’s loon population, saying in part:
No other bird signifies the wilds of northern Michigan better than the Common Loon (Gavia immer). When I wake up while camping along the shore of a northern lake and feel its eerie cry, I am connected to a primitive time and the primitive land.
…Common Loons breed in Michigan north of Saginaw. Our current population is 500-775 nesting pairs. While this is up from the estimated 220 pairs in the early 1980s, there are still thousands of suitable lakes without a nesting pair. Loons are diving birds with their legs placed toward their tails. This gives them trouble walking on land. It is rare to see a loon on land except at its nest. Loons return in early spring and it is not uncommon to see them on a lake the day after its ice melts. How they know that the water is open remains a mystery. Nests are built near the waterline and often touch the water. Nests are little more than bare ground when the eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs and add grass, sedges, reeds, and other vegetation to the nest.