field markings

Favorite Search of the Week

Psalm 139:
1 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.) O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

A delightfully funny search.
why do birds have mustaches?

Birds do not have moustaches, because they do not have facial hair.  They have what birders call “field markings” used in the identification of birds and some of these field markings do indeed resemble moustaches.    That specific marking, depending on the bird, can be called, “malar”, “moustachial stripe”, or “sub-moustachial stripe”.

These field markings also have use for the birds themselves.  The bright markings of a bird, such as on this male Horned Lark, are used to attract females.  In some species, the brighter males are more appealing to the females, no matter how glorious their song is.   There are other things females look for in a mate, but this goes beyond the scope of the post.

But the markings of birds also can mean life or death for them.  Their colours act as camouflage to hide from predators.  If there was no snow on the ground, this Horned Lark would appear to melt into his surroundings.   I have seen this.  On my walks near home, I hear the Horned Larks.  I see one pop up and give an alarm call.  I know right where they are, but even with my camera or binocs, I cannot see a one.  After some time, they grow annoyed with me and the flock bursts into flight toward parts unknown.

Categories: birds with mustaches, di fekkel, field markings

Why I Take So Many Pictures of Red-taileds

Because now and again, I actually see something that is not a Red-tailed Hawk!

Juvenile, Light-morph Swainson’s Hawk

Here is a link to an adult we saw earlier this year- also a Light Morph.


As we were driving along the gravel road, I should have known right away it was not an adult.  S/he sat at this perch even after we slowed down, allowing for a nice photo.   Possibly as curious of us as we were of him/her.

Even before we fully identified it, we were able to rule out Red-tailed Hawks firstly by its tail.  It’s not red!   Also, that bill is too small.  The facial markings and head shape was different, though this often differs between individuals. The wings’ primary feathers cover more of the tail than do Red-taileds.

Because of a sick child, I was able to stay in the van and study the field guide a bit more thoroughly that afternoon.  This was when I found a photo that showed the juvenile Swainson’s Hawk in a similar pose.   That was the clincher!

Both Swainson’s and Red-tailed Hawks are part of the genus Buteo.  In North America, we call these “hawks”, but in the Old World, Buteos are called “buzzards”.  The Common Buzzard has the Latin name Buteo buteo.  To make things more complicated, in the New World, “buzzard” is often used for vultures.
James 3:
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

Birds facts from CreationWiki and Wikipedia

Categories: field markings, Latin names, raptors

Our Tree Swallows

I’ve used this verse before, but it is so beautiful to picture the swallows using God’s altars as a nesting site. A place of safety and rest to them even though it is a place of sacrifice.
Psalm 84:
3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.

At the time of this writing, their eggs have hatched.  We believe it was last Friday, 21 June.

The first Tree Swallow I ever saw was brown on top, white on the bottom.  Others ID’ed it as a female Tree Swallow, so I always thought the females looked like that.  It seemed strange that the nesting boxes we’ve seen in other locations would be swarming with male Tree Swallows without any females around.  Then I read a children’s book about Tree Swallows and it said the male and female look the same.  Huh?

Is this Mr. or Mrs.?

Do they look the same or not?

Yes AND No.    The female will retain her brown feathers her second summer.  By the third summer, she will look exactly like the male.  Except during the incubating period when she will have a brood patch., but this is not visible unless the feathers are pushed away to expose it.  This area is where the feathers have fallen out to allow her body heat to more efficiently warm the eggs.

For our first nesting Tree Swallows, we are truly blessed to have a female who hatched last summer, so she has a different appearance from the male.

Mrs. Tree Swallow

Another thing I read in that children’s book was the female alone sits on the eggs.  That seemed odd because we’ve witnessed Mr. enter right after the Mrs. left, so the book must be wrong.

Shame on me…

The book is correct.  He may go into the box, but he never actually sits on the eggs.  We’ve seen him often perched with his head out the hole.  He guards, but does not incubate.  Neither does he bring her any food.  She hunts for her own during this time.

I really need to get over my fear of opening a box, because next year, we’d like to have more Swallow boxes up around the property and would like to monitor how well they are doing.

Bird facts from Tree Swallow Nest Box Projects

Categories: bird facts, field markings, God's truth, links, ponder, Tree Swallows | Leave a comment


Numbers 21:
17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:
This is one of the more easily recognizable Sandpipers. With its spotted breast, white eyering, dark line through the eye and orange bill, you can see it is a bit different from the others. They have one more thing that sets it apart.

Spotted Sandpiper at Bays Branch in Iowa
12 May 2013

As it walks about and feeds, its little rump will go up and down.   It is cute watching the little back-end bouncing.  :) This is one way to tell a Spotted from others when they are too far to distinguish any of the field marks.

Categories: field markings

Two Sparrows

Mark 4:
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

After a couple of years of trying, a little one was finally able to get both of these birds in one shot. This is the first time they’ve overlapped for any length of time. Normally, one leaves before the other arrives.  I did a little fancy editing. Both birds were in the same picture, but far apart. I was able to get them closer together.

The Chipping Sparrow is our summer resident and the American Tree is here for the winter.  Do you know who is who?

One’s a Chipping
Another’s a Tree

Often they are confused for one another being very similar in appearance.  The American Tree has an eyeline that matches the crown.  It also has a patch of orange on its shoulder.   Field marks not seen on this photo are the Tree Sparrow has a black dot on its breast and it has a bi-colored bill.

The Chipping Sparrow has a black eyeline that goes from the bill and through the eye. There are no markings on its breast.  The Chipping Sparrow is the smaller of the two, weighing only 0.4 ounces  (11 grams).

Today, the 16th, we still have the Juncos and Tree Sparrows.  Our latest Junco was in 2011.  She stayed until the 29th of April.  Except for brief warm ups, it’s been chilly.  Maybe they hesitate to go back north??

Categories: field markings

The Tail End

Revelations 22:
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
I think I mentioned before that we found a couple of male Kestrel tail feathers. Before you are concerned, this picture is all we have.  The Little Birding Expert took the feathers back out side.  They very well could be now used as nesting material for a HOSP.

Here is a link to a photo of female Kestrel feathers.

Again we are just seeing the female.  We’re happy to have her around, but what are happening to the males?   I cannot believe they are being eaten.  Maybe she’s picky?

We were out of town for a few days, so I am still trying to get my bearings.  The boys enjoyed the time off school, and the chance to do things like milking cows, feeding calves and other farm chores.  We also gained a couple of life birds in another state.

Saturday was a GREAT day for birding.   Our year list is now at 101 and our day list was 70 species.  That is a record for us.   We’ve heard of people getting around a hundred in a day. They probably had to drive miles to do this.   We ended up going no further than maybe 20 miles from home.   Most of them were within five miles.

Categories: field markings, raptors | Leave a comment