Home Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats



Backyard Birds (class Aves, subphylum Vertebrata, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukarya)


This page is an aid to bird identification. To see more songbirds (Feb. 13, 2005-present), such as those pictured in the top rows, visit the Bird Blog.   To see birds that live near water, go to Shore Birds.  To see birds in captivity, visit Zoo Birds.  Or see the wild birds in the Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston County, SC.

Mockingbirds and Allies (Mimidae family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

These birds each have a large repertoire of songs, not all borrowed from other birds. 

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), Durham, NC, 3/23/05.  It has the most attention-getting song, somewhat more high-pitched than the Northern Mockingbird. its 1100 mostly original varieties of song.  Brown Thrasher, Durham, NC, 2/27/16 Brown Thrasher, which had run toward us. Greenville, Pitt County, NC, 7/28/17 Brown Thrasher, which was eating the suet in this feeder on 2/2/10, but apparently not until after working on a plan.

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Durham, NC, 9/2/06.  This very curious bird was watching me very closely in a power line cut. Gray Catbird, Durham, 4/25/06.  This bird's song, with all its squealing and smacking sounds, was quite an attention-getter.        

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

It's interesting that the Northern Mockingbird, the bird with the most popular song among humans, is also the most abundant -- and fearless -- species in this group.  This may be because mockingbirds stay with their parent(s) as long as the latter will let them, insisting on their lessons about what (not) to fear.  Even after they fledge, they continue to follow around a long-suffering parent, making baby bird peeping sounds.  As adults, they are tough, independent and tend to attack fiercely those they deem to be encroaching on turf or threatening their families.  Mockingbirds in my neighborhood don't do a lot of singing, but stake out the same places year after year.  They are more abundant farther south.

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), Durham, 5/23/05. Another fledgling Northern Mockingbird, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08 Fledgling Northern Mockingbird, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08 Fledgling Northern Mockingbird, Durham, 8/22/04.  Note the speckled breast and relatively large head.


Northern Mockingbird, Durham, NC, 12/15/14 Northern Mockingbird, Ft. Fisher Basin Trail, New Hanover County, NC, 1/20/12 Adult Northern Mockingbird, especially well-fed. Durham, NC, 11/17/11 Adult Northern Mockingbird, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 3/17/06.  A very curious bird. Northern Mockingbird landing on tree.  Battery Buchanan (Federal Point), Ft. Fisher Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 3/13/11 Northern Mockingbird perched on tree. Battery Buchanan (Federal Point), Ft. Fisher Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 3/13/11


Northern Mockingbird in flight, Harkers Island, NC, 3/21/05.

Warblers (Parulidae family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)

Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor), Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 8/6/18          

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Palm Warbler, Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, FL, 1/25/17 Palm Warbler, South Lido Park, Sarasota County, FL, 1/26/17 Palm Warbler, at the edge of the woods at the far end of some Jordan Lake mudflats, Chatham County, NC, 10/9/11.  See other birds. Another Palm Warbler at the Jordan Lake mudflats.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Yellow-rumped Warbler with inchworm prey, Durham, NC, 2/5/16 Yellow-rumped Warbler. Durham, NC, 1/22/11 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Durham, NC, 1/22/11. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Durham, NC, 2/1/10, two days after a big snow.  The pink snow is an artifact of image-processing of an under-exposed photo. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Durham, 2/26/08.   This is about as well-fed as they get! Yellow-rumped Warbler, Durham, 2/23/07.  Transitional plumage is evident here. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Durham, 4/23/05. Full breeding plumage here.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Fort Fisher Recreational Area, 3/7/09 Subadult Yellow-rumped Warbler, Fort Fisher Recreational Area, 3/7/09 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Snow's Cut Park, New Hanover County, NC

Pine Warbler (Setophaga Pinus)

Pine Warbler, Durham, NC, 10/29/13 Pine Warbler (Setophaga Pinus), Durham, 3/12/05.  These used to be rare visitors, but at least one is coming regularly now. Pine Warbler, Durham, NC, 11/29/08.  Pine Warblers seem to prefer to show up on gloomy days. Pine Warbler, near bird feeder behind the Visitor Center, 3/22/09.  Note the banded leg.

Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica), White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06          

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus)

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Wake County, NC on 5/8/05.  It gets its funny name from the shape of its nest, which looks like a Dutch oven. Ovenbird, Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, 4/24/09.  Here the yellow head stripe that gives this bird its species name (literally, "golden hair") is clearly visible.            

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC  9/27/17          

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

Prothonotary Warbler on a Bald Cypress knee in Congaree National Park, Richland County, SC, 4/30/11

Wrens (Troglodytidae Family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Carolina Wrens  are the most curious birds, sometimes coming within a few feet of this photographer, but rapidly disappear when they figure out what's going on.

Carolina Wren, Durham, NC, 12/21/16 Singing Carolina Wren, Durham, NC, 2/19/16   Fledgling Carolina Wren, Durham, NC, 5/20/06.  Carolina Wren, Durham, NC, 1/4/17

American Sparrows (Emberizidae family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

Dark-eyed Juncos, the most common birds in my neighborhood in the winter, prefer to eat seed that has been dropped on the ground.  White-throated Sparrows, also extremely common, have a special tendency to go after seeds dropped on the ground under the deck, and can gather there by the dozens.  But the only bird in this group to visit our bird feeders is the Chipping Sparrow, a summer resident.

Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Male Eastern Towhee, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 1/16/16 Male Eastern Towhee, Duke Gardens, Durham, 2/22/05, presumably scratching for seeds since no insects were around on this date.  It's unusual to see one of these birds out in the open; I typically see them hiding inside bushes or in heavy brush. Female Eastern Towhee, 12/5/08.  Their backs and heads are chocolate brown, in contrast with the males' black coloring.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Male Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco, Durham, NC, 2/5/16 Male Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), "slate-colored" subspecies (the only one that is found in the eastern US), Craggy Gardens parking lot (5500 feet elevation), Macon County, NC, 7/20/03.  This place is near the southern extreme of this bird's breeding range.  Obviously very well fed!  Dark-eyed Junco, Durham, NC, 2/20/09.  Click on the thumbnail to see an especially large, detailed picture.

White-throated Sparrow
(Zonotrichia albicollis)

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), Durham, NC, 12/2/06.  This is a "white-striped" type.  White-throated Sparrow, Durham, NC, 12/7/16 White-throated Sparrow, Durham, NC, 1/5/17 White-throated Sparrow, Durham, NC, 1/16/16   White-throated Sparrow, Durham, NC, 1/13/17 White-throated Sparrow, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 12/29/07.  This is a "tan-striped" type.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 12/21/17 Well-camouflaged Song Sparrow, Durham, NC, 1/15/16 Song Sparrow, Durham, NC, 2/2/16 Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), Duke Gardens, Durham, 2/22/05. 

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston County, SC, 3/28/06 Swamp Sparrow, Bay St. Louis, Hancock County, MS, 1/9/09          

Chipping Sparrow (Spizzella passerina)

Sometimes sparrows are hard to tell apart.  It helps, though, to remember the Chipping Sparrow (Spizzella passerina) is the one that looks like Jack Nicholson. Chipping Sparrow, Durham, NC, 11/17/08.  This one looks more like William Shatner, though. Chipping Sparrows engaged in a territorial battle, Durham, NC, 3/24/09          

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), Battery Buchanan Tour Stop, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 11/10/12          

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

White-Crowned Sparrow singing, Abbotts Lagoon, Port Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA, 5/10/15 Another White-Crowned Sparrow foraging, same location and date Same White-Crowned Sparrow          

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Savannah Sparrow, one of many hopping around large rocks at the beach at Ft. Fisher (beach rocks near Battle Acre), 3/10/10 Savannah Sparrow, at Battle Acre beach rocks, Ft. Fisher Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 3/13/11        

Thrushes and Robins (Turdidae family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

This is a very varied group.   Although they can get along nicely without people, some have had trouble coping with destruction of their habitat.  Putting out birdhouses for Eastern Bluebirds has helped, however.  Thrushes have some trouble with conventional birdfeeders (although a few Eastern Bluebirds have proved to be exceptions on suet feeders) because of their inability to figure out how to land on them.  Although they can perch on branches and similar structures at least 10 mm thick, they have trouble landing on the smaller ones typically used on tube feeders or suet holders.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts of Grayson County, VA has discovered how to enable a Hermit Thrush to eat from a feeder.  He keeps "one tube feeder hanging from (his) porch, with an adjacent water pan, more often than not void of water.  He/she uses the water pan as a perch, and reaches into the tube feeder holes."  However, he says, this thrush only comes "during snow, wind, cold."

Jeff Lewis of Manteo, NC reported that his neighbor had Hermit Thrush success with a "suet log."

Veery (Catharus fuscescens)

Veery (a kind of thrush).  Thanks to Simon Thompson and Dave Lenat for ID.  Tanawha Trail (Mileposts 299-300), NC, 5/6/11 Same Veery

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Hermit Thrush, Durham, NC, 2/14/15.  Perhaps a female about to lay eggs? Hermit Thrush, Durham, NC, 1/13/16 Hermit Thrush, Durham, NC, 3/13/08. Hermit Thrush, Durham, NC, 12/7/16 Hermit Thrush, Durham, 12/15/07.  This thrush sought food in the immediate vicinity of our feeders, but simply studied the corn for a while and hovered near the suet feeder without landing, giving up altogether after that. Hermit Thrush, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 12/29/07

Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Durham, 7/4/05.   This bird got my attention during a walk through the woods with its beautiful gurgling song.    

American Robin (Hylocichla mustelina)

American Robin, Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, NC, 5/3/13 American Robin, Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, NC, 3/21/11 American Robin (actually seen 1/18/17) Male American Robin (Turdus migratorius),  Durham, 1/30/09. Male American Robin (Turdus migratorius),  Durham, 3/18/06.  


Young American Robin, Boone, Watauga County, 6/27/14 Young American Robin, Durham, NC, 7/18/05 Young American Robin, Durham, NC, 8/29/09

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Male Eastern Bluebird with worm, Durham, NC, 4/21/12 Same male Eastern Bluebird, Durham, NC, 12/12/16 Eastern Female Bluebird, Durham, 1/18/16 Female Eastern Bluebird, Durham, NC, 12/15/16 Female Eastern Bluebird, Durham, NC, 1/8/17 Male and female Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis), Durham, NC, 1/19/08 Male Eastern Bluebird, Durham, NC, 4/7/08


Fledgling male Eastern Bluebird, Durham, NC,  8/30/17 Young male  Eastern Bluebird, Durham, 9/19/05. Juvenile (perhaps female) Eastern Bluebird, Durham, 7/2/05.

Blackbirds and Allies (Icteridae family, Oscines suborder, Passeriformes order)

Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)

Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis), Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX, 12/3/17          

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)

This is another varied group, with only their long bills and tails in common.   The ones I've seen seem very adaptable, taking advantage of people and other birds alike.  Boat-tailed Grackles hang out wherever people are fishing, hoping a scrap will come their way.  Cowbirds, of course, are notorious for taking advantage, but people have successfully fended them off in most places; Cedar Island, NC, is a notable exception, however.

Half-grown Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major), Kure Beach Pier, New Hanover County, NC, 11/19/04.   Very young Boat-tailed Grackle Kure Beach, NC, 12/14/04. Boat-tailed Grackle  adult female, Kure Beach, NC, 12/14/04. Adult female Boat-tailed Grackle, Kure Beach, NC, 4/29/05


Male Boat-tailed Grackle, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 11/11/13 Male Boat-tailed Grackle, Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 11/11/12 Male Boat-tailed Grackle, Lake Park, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, 3/8/09 Adult male Boat-tailed Grackle, Kure Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 12/12/05.

Boat-tailed Grackles: four females, one male at the Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area, New Hanover County, NC, 3/13/11          

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Great-tailed Grackle males displaying territorial aggressive bluffing.  San Antonio Botanical Garden, Bexar County, TX, 5/26/10 Female Great-tailed Grackle in downtown San Antonio, Bexar County, TX, 5/25/10 Great-tailed Grackle pair, National Butterfly Center, Mission, Hidalgo County, TX, 11/30/17          

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscala)

Male Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), Duke Gardens, Durham, NC, 4/2/05   Common Grackle, illustrating iridescence characteristic of this species        

Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger)

Male Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger), Isla Verde, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1/9/05.  Identified by Prof. Christopher E. Hill, Carolina Coastal University, Conway, SC.  Prof. Hill says that this is a smaller species than the Boat-tailed Grackle, with a shorter tail.        

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/15/07.  These birds can control how much of the red portion of their wings shows. Subadult male Red-winged Blackbird, Lake Park, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, 5/22/11 Male Red-winged Blackbird, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC, 7/22/08 Male Red-winged Blackbird , Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, NC, 5/13/04.


Female Red-winged Blackbird, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 8/10/17 Subadult female Red-winged Blackbird, Ocracoke, South Point Road, Hyde County, NC, 5/13/09          

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)

Rusty Blackbird, Durham, NC, 1/16/17 Same Rusty Blackbird, Durham, NC, 1/16/17 Several Rusty Blackbirds; sorting out which are males and females is made even murkier by this being the transition time from nonbreeding to breeding plumage. Durham, NC, 1/16/17          

Tricolored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor)

Female Tricolored Blackbird, San Rafael, CA, 10/5/12 Male Tricolored Blackbird, Bear Valley Visitors Center, Marin County, CA, 10/1/12          

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Brown-headed Cowbirds, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, on 5/23/12 Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), town of Ocracoke, NC, 5/10/04.  These parasitic birds invade the Triangle in late spring, alas. Yung Brown-headed Cowbird. It was light brown; the blue color is apparently an artifact of flash photography.  ID thanks to Harry LeGrand and Bill Hilton

Cardinals and Allies (Cardinalidae family, Passeriformes order)

Northern Cardinals are among the most common birds where I live in Durham, NC, but are not always the easiest to photograph.  They prefer to come to our birdfeeder when the light is dim, and are quick to flee when spotted in the woods.   Indigo Buntings, on the other hand, are always a pleasant surprise in my area.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Male Northern Cardinal, Durham, NC, 12/17/17 Male Northern Cardinal, Durham, NC, 12/31/06.  Male Northern Cardinal, northern Durham, NC, 6/8/04. This bird, which apparently lives at least partly on handouts at a public place, has lost nearly all of the feathers on his head, revealing gray skin.  Cornell Ornithology's Bald-headed Bird Page ponders the phenomenon of birds' (abnormal) loss of all head feathers at once (while staggered molting is the rule), but says that this hasn't been researched well enough for anyone to draw any conclusions.

Female Northern Cardinal, Durham, 12/27/16   Female Northern Cardinal, Durham, NC, 1/15/17 Molting female Northern Cardinal, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Orange County, 8/2/15  

Baby Northern Cardinal in nest out front, Durham, NC, 6/1/12  Baby Northern Cardinal, 6/4/12  Northern Cardinal babies early on 6/5/12 Somewhat later on 6/5/12 One bird has disappeared, 6/5/12 Perhaps one the little Northern Cardinals, 6/9/12

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

Indigo Bunting, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Raleigh, Wake County, NC,  8/10/17

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Female Painted Bunting, a summer resident near the northern extreme of its range, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Kure Beach, NC, 9/27/17.  ID thanks to Harry LeGrand.

Tanagers (Thraupidae family, Passeriformes order)

Female Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), Eno River State Park, Bobbitt's Hole trail, 8/27/10.  ID thanks to Kent Fiala.          

Chickadees and Titmice (Paridae Family, Passeriformes order)

Birds in this group come to our birdfeeders more often than all others put together.  They painstakingly carry each seed to a nearby tree branch, peck the shell open, eat the seed and return for another over and over again.  They are bold but alert and I suspect they work hard sizing us up.

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Tufted Titmouse, Durham, NC, 1/20/09 Same Tufted Titmouse, Durham, NC, 2/27/17 Tufted Titmouse, Durham, NC, 1/8/17 Another Tufted Titmouse, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, 12/28/16 Tufted Titmouse, with fruit, Sandy Creek Park, Durham, NC, 3/20/11 Tufted Titmouse (Bacolphus bicolor), Durham, 3/2/05.  These birds balance their curiosity and wariness nicely.  They make very rapid trips to and from the birdfeeder, but sometimes stop to study me carefully, usually (but not always) from a tree branch.  Tufted Titmouse, Durham, NC, 12/27/07


Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus)

Black-crested Titmouse, seen at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, Texas, 12/3/17          

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile Carolinensis)

Carolina Chickadee, Durham, NC, 12/12/16 Carolina chickadee, Durham, NC, 1/12/17 Carolina Chickadee, North Carolina Botanical Garden, 1/12/17 Carolina Chickadee (Poecile Carolinensis), Durham, 3/31/05 Carolina Chickadee, Durham, 2/16/05

Creepers (Certhiidae family, Passeriformes order)

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Brown Creeper Certhia americana, subfamily Certhiinae), Durham, NC, 1/31/09. Same Brown Creeper

Flycatchers and Phoebes (Tyrannidae family, Passeriformes order)

Does anyone know what is tyrannical about these birds?  It has to be hard to be a tyrant when you're an especially tiny little bird hiding out from people and never even attempting to conquer a birdfeeder!

Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)

Great Kiskadee with stick insect, Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, Hidalgo County, TX, 12/2/17 Same Great Kiskadee with same stick insect          

Great Crested Flycatcher (Myarchus crinitus)

Great Crested Flycatcher (Myarchus crinitus), Durham, NC, 6/23/08.  Seen in a tree in the marsh fronting my neighborhood swamp.

Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii)

Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii, species in doubt).  ID thanks to Harry LeGrand. 
Boone Greenway, Boone, Watauga County, NC, 7/6/11

Eastern Wood-pewee (Contopus virens)

Eastern Wood-Pewee, Prairie Ridge Ecostation, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 8/10/17 Eastern Wood-Pewee, Peaks of Otter, Bedford County, VA, 8/22/18          

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), Durham, 9/8/06 Eastern Phoebe, Durham, NC, 2/26/17 Eastern Phoebe, Durham, NC, 12/15/16 Leucistic Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), Durham, 1/19/09.  Photo by Karl D. Gottschalk.

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), Pea Island NWR, 5/7/06.  This one does look kingly, if not tyrannical!          

Finches (Fringillidae family, Passeriformes order)

Contrary to popular belief, goldfinches can get interested in black sunflower seeds, but it's not a predictable occurrence.

Finches are very efficient eaters.  They break seeds open in their beaks, drop their hulls, and proceed without leaving their perches.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 7/9/08  Male American Goldfinch, in breeding plumage, at the Enter the Wild" exhibit, Museum of Life & Science, Durham, NC, 7/9/08
Male American Goldfinch, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC  9/7/17 Male American Goldfinch, Boone, Watauga County, NC, 6/6/17 Male American Goldfinch, Boone, 7/7/16 American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 1/12/07 American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 3/12/06 American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 3/25/06


Male American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 1/10/07 American Goldfinch, Durham, NC, 4/2/05 American Goldfinches, Durham, 3/8/05. Male (left, with summer breeding plumage) and female American Goldfinches, 5/8/05.

Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)

Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus), with seed, Durham, NC, 1/2/09 Pine Siskin, Durham, NC, 1/4/09            

Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)

Male Purple Finch, Durham, NC, 3/3/09 Male Purple Finch, Durham, NC, 1/15/08.  Purple Finches were very common this winter, always appearing in dim light. Female Purple Finch, Durham, NC, 12/19/07

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

Male House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), Durham, NC, 4/24/07 Female House Finch, Durham, NC, 12/25/07.

European Sparrows (Passeridae family, Passeriformes order)

These birds originally came from Europe, and like the finches are real survivors.  They're the ultimate rat race birds: the heck with the scenery, let's get down to business!   Why go to the trouble of building a nest when you can stay in the big letters on the front of a grocery store, or take over a birdhouse intended for Eastern Bluebirds?  They may be domesticated, but they are not especially nice to others!  The family name implies that they are "true" songbirds.  It's worth noting, however, that they've never made it to our bird feeders.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Male House Sparrow eating a seed, Washington, Beaufort County, NC, 1/30/16 Female House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), Durham, 4/3/05 Male House Sparrow, San Francisco, CA, 8/6/07 Male House Sparrow, Cedar Island, NC, 3/21/05 Fledgling House Sparrow, Washington, Beaufort County, NC, 1/30/16 Fledgling House Sparrow, Raleigh, NC, 9/14/12

Starlings (Sturnidae family, Passeriformes order)

Common Starling, formerly known as the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

These birds are another European import, or should we say, invasion?

Common Starling, Pitt County Arboretum, Greenville, NC, 1/31/16 Male Common Starling in breeding plumage, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, Adult breeding Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), 3/8/09, downtown Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC about 3 blocks from Lake Park. Adult non-breeding Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Durham, NC, 3/13/05.  This bird was perched in a tree near a Wild Birds Unlimited® birdfeeder. Adult breeding Common Starling, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/9/06 Common Starlings, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 12/2/12 Common Starlings, non-breeding adults, Ft. Fisher State Recreational Area, New Hanover County, NC, 1/7/08

Fledgling European Starling, San Francisco, CA, 8/6/07 Fledgling European Starling, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC, 7/22/08      

Kinglets (Regulidae family, Passeriformes order)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Durham, NC, 12/15/13 Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Durham, NC, 1/21/14 Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Durham, NC, 2/08/14 Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Southern Village, Chapel Hill, Orange County, NC, 11/30/12 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which appeared in the bushes just a few inches away and came up to take a brief, curious look.  Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 11/2/11 Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 12/28/08

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet, Durham, NC, 12/12/16

Crows and Jays (Corvidae family, Passeriformes order)

Not all Passeriformes are songbirds!   These birds are reputed to be the most intelligent of this order, and at any rate they manage to get along without having to deal with people at all in my neighborhood.  The crows in my neighborhood fly around in large vocal groups which I can't resist calling "caw-cuses," although I understand the official term is "murders."

Green Jays (Cyanocorax yncas)

Green Jay, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, Hidalgo County, TX, 12/3/17 Green Jay, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, Hidalgo County, TX, 12/3/17 Green Jays, National Butterfly Center, Mission, Hidalgo County, TX, 11/30/17          

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jay, Southpoint Swamp, Durham, NC, 11/12/07 Blue Jay, Durham, NC, 7/7/09 Blue Jay, Durham, 5/7/05.  These birds are found most often in deep woods, but are showing up around my house in greater numbers lately. Blue Jay, Durham, NC, 5/15/06

Fledgling Blue Jay, Durham, NC, 5/18/08.  Was seen wandering on the edge of a wooded area. Fledgling Blue Jay, Durham, NC, 6/15/09.  It flew away shortly after this photo was taken.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchus) and Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchus), Asheboro, Randolph County, NC, 4/6/05.  The wide beak, large body and long wings give it a rather grand presence. This very tame crow was hanging around the NC Zoo picnic area, near a pond. American Crow, Durham, NC, 2/6/16 Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus), Myrtle Beach, SC, 3/18/08.  This species has a narrower beak and shorter wings.  Note the stray feather. Fish Crow, Ocracoke, 5/9/06.       

Gnatcatchers (Sylviidae family, Passeriformes order)

These birds mostly hang out in trees near the swamp in my neighborhood in small groups.  They engage in dust-bathing to rid themselves of parasites.  And that's about all I know about them except from books!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptera caerulea)

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Sarasota, FL, 1/24/17 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptera caerulea), Durham, 7/16/05. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eno River State Park, Cox Mountain, Orange County, NC, 4/12/06.  This bird was solitary.

Swallows and Martins (Hirundinidae family, Passeriformes order)

Barn Swallow (Hirunda rustica)

Barn Swallows are in flight nearly all the time during the day, so it's always a treat to catch them taking a break.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/19/05 Barn Swallow, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/14/07

Barn Swallows about to fly under the Pasquotank River Bridge between Pasquotank and Camden Counties, NC, 4/27/09 Barn Swallows in nest under walkway at NC Zoo, Asheboro, NC, 6/21/09.          

Purple Martin (Progne subis)

Purple Martins are thoroughly dependent on people for housing, although they are quite capable of collecting materials and stuffing them into these units to build nests.  They have no problems living in apartments.  So far, they sound kind of like most people!  Other swallows are less specific in their expectations of human-made housing provisions, but still quite dependent on us.

The Purple Martins in my neighborhood seemed to be social, getting together and making a rapid series of widely varying sounds that are tempting to read as conversation.   They also seemed to have learned not to be afraid of me, patiently and with apparent curiosity letting me take their pictures at fairly close range.  However, they have not returned here since 2007.

Adult male Purple Martin (Progne subis), Durham, 5/12/05.  Purple Martins, a kind of swallow, are attracted to birdhouses (even bird apartments, as shown here), where they build nests from various objects, including pieces of paper, as is illustrated here. Young Purple Martin, Durham, 7/5/05 Young Purple Martin, Durham, 6/26/05.  To order products with this photo, visit our store. Young Purple Martin, manifesting no fear (but perhaps disapproval!) at close range.  Durham, 4/28/06.

Waxwings (Bombycillidae family, Passeriformes order)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar Waxwings are supposed to move in groups nearly all the time, but exceptions obviously exist. 

Cedar Waxwing, Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 2/28/16 Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum).  This bird was part of a large group flying together in search of food, landing in the upper branches of trees. This Cedar Waxwing was on its own, and one of two such loners I saw on 12/16/02 in Durham. Cedar Waxwing, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 3/3/06, eating a berry. Cedar Waxwing, NC Botanical Garden, 3/3/06, moving to another branch.  You can see some yellow tail feathers. Cedar Waxwings, Carolina Beach State Park, New Hanover County, NC, 12/20/06

Nuthatches (Sittidae Family, Passeriformes order)

Nuthatches were the first birds to come to our new birdfeeder; in fact, the White-breasted Nuthatch was the only one for awhile.  Their agility may be a factor, since they have no trouble walking up and down tree trunks.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), Durham, 2/23/08.  Red-breasted Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 3/16/05

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta Carolinensis), Durham, 1/17/08.  This was the first species of bird that I photographed, the first to appear on the deck.  But it didn't come to the feeder nearly as often as Northern Cardinals, American Goldfinches, Tufted Titmice or Carolina Chickadees.        

Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)
Same Brown-headed Nuthatch, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, 1/28/17 Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), Durham, 3/9/05.  Like all nuthatches (genus Sitta), this bird can walk around on tree trunks, while birds of other genera have to stay erect on branches or walk up the trunk. Brown-headed Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 2/8/11 Brown-headed Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 2/2/9 Brown-headed Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 12/9/11 Brown-headed Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 12/27/07 Brown-headed Nuthatch, Durham, NC, 12/13/08 Brown-headed Nuthatch making a hole in a wooden chimney.  This behavior is similar to that of Downy Woodpeckers in this respect, except that Downies can be scared off!  Durham, NC, 3/16/09        

Mystery Bird, Passeriformes order?

Durham, 8/7/02.  This is probably a Common Grackle.

Cuckoos (Cuculidae family, Cuculiformes order)

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus, Phaenicophaeinae subfamily), Durham, NC, 9/7/06.  This bird arrived in the wake of Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Woodpeckers (Picidae family, Piciformes order)

These are what Edward O. Wilson calls "true woodpeckers" (as opposed to the honeycreepers of Hawaii) in The Diversity of Life (1999, p. 100) because of their sheer numbers, variety of natural habitats, and "élan and precision," i.e., they can really go to town on that tree (or your house).

Woodpeckers prefer "mature forest," i.e., they seek out dead trees, because 1) they build their nests in tree holes (which they often create themselves) and 2) that's where the wood-munching insects are.  So Downy Woodpeckers especially look for hollow-sounding wooden surfaces.  That's bad news for anyone who lives in a wooden house with any empty space, as well as for the woodpecker that enters through a hole in a thin wall and can't find its way out.

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

These woodpeckers produce slow, hesitant tapping sounds.  I've never heard their cry.

Red-headed Woodpecker, Fort Fisher Recreational Area, New Hanover County, NC, 3/8/09 Side view of same woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

These common woodpeckers have a short, distinctive cry.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker, Durham, NC, 1/16/12 Male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Durham, NC, 11/30/12 Red-bellied Woodpecker(Melanerpes carolinus), top of Cox Mountain, Eno River State Park, Fews Ford access, 11/25/06 Male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Durham, 2/22/08 Male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Durham, NC, 4/18/08

Golden-fronted Woodpecker ( Melanerpes aurifrons)

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, Mission, Hidalgo County, TX, 12/3/17          

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Though seldom seen, these woodpeckers are regularly heard in deep woods: they have a loud, squawking cry with many repetitions.  They peck slowly and hesistantly.

Male Pileated Woodpecker, Durham, NC, 10/26/17 Female Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), one of four of this species seen   Female Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Orange County, NC, 12/24/06.  Order a product with this picture on it at our online store.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Downies are the most common woodpecker where I live.  Their pecking is often rapid and loud.

Male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Durham, 3/31/05.  Downy Woodpeckers are similar to Hairy Woodpeckers, but lack their long, sharpened-pencil-like beaks. Female Downy Woodpecker, Durham, NC, 12/16/17          

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auraptus)

Flickers used to be more common in Durham and Chapel Hill than they are today.

Northern Flicker, Durham, NC, 1/15/16 Northern Flicker, Durham, NC, 1/4/13 Male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 3/18/05 Northern Flicker couple, Durham, 3/30/05.  The male is on the upper branch. Female Northern Flicker, showing a rear view of the head.  Durham, NC, 3/19/09

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

These are fast-moving and rarely photographed, but they may not be as uncommon as they seem.

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC Maturing Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Durham, NC, 1/27/16 Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in breeding plumage.  Seen on the Third Fork Creek Trail on 11/21/11. Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), Southern Village, Orange County, NC, 1/18/10.  A few patches of red are coming in on the head.  Note the three holes it has pecked. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), my back yard in Durham, 4/5/05.  In non-breeding  plumage.  Identified by Marsha Stephens and Will Cook.  Will says the white wing stripe is characteristic.        

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)

Female Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines, Moore County, NC, 10/23/12          

True Parrots (Psittacidae family, Psittaciformes order)

Black-hooded Parakeets (Aratinga nenday), South Lido Park, Sarasota County, FL, 1/26/17          


Doves (Columbidae family, Columbiformes order)

Rock Dove (Columba livia)

Rock Doves (Columba livia), Plaza de las Palomas, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  And all this time you didn't know pigeons were cuddly?  This is a favorite spot for both tourists and locals, including the pigeons. Rock Dove, Myrtle Beach, Horry County, SC, 3/19/08 Rock Dove, Lake Park, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 6/25/08.  This is the classic form of this bird species. Leucistic Rock Dove, San Francisco, CA, 8/6/07 A Rock Dove with anomalous white tail feathers.  Lake Park, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 3/11/11

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroaura)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroaura), Durham, NC, 11/1/06          

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica), San Antonio Botanical Garden, Bexar County, TX, 5/26/10 White-winged Dove, Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen, Hidalgo County, TX, 12/2/17

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

This is the only dove species I have ever seen in Ocracoke. They are an invasive species.

Eurasian Collared Dove, Carolina Beach, New Hanover County, NC, 5/23/11 Eurasian Collared Dove, town of Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/13/09 Eurasian Collared Dove in flight, Ocracoke, Hyde County, NC, 5/13/09  

Hummingbirds (Trochilidae family, Apodiformes order)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Juvie Ruby-throated Hummingbird, at Cardinal Flower in the North Carolina Botanical Garden, 9/7/17   Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC, 7/8/05. 

Vultures (Cathartidae family, Falconiformes order)
Believe it or not, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System classified (as of 12/19/10) this species in the Ciconiidae Family, Ciconiiformes order.

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vulture, Durham, NC, 1/16/16 Black Vultures, this time on my street! Durham, NC, 12/25/11 Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), Santee State Park, Orangeburg County, SC.  These were sitting on top of a cabin.  The leftmost vulture may be a young bird. Black Vulture, one of two seen together on a power line tower.  One kept watch while the other looked away.  Durham, NC, 10/13/08 Black Vulture, Jordan Lake Dam area, Chatham County, NC, 9/3/11    

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Turkey Vulture, Durham, NC, 1/5/17 Turkey Vulture emerging from bath, River Park North, Greenville, NC, 2/1/17 Turkey Vulture, South Lido Park, Sarasota County, FL, 1/26/17 Turkey Vulture, Durham, NC, 12/16/12 Turkey Vulture, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 1/5/10.  This bird came low to take a close look.  Since a severe cold spell began (highs in the 30s) around the beginning of that year, Turkey Vultures had been doing this often. Birds of a feather flock together, but sometimes they just sit around waiting for an opportunity on dam gate control areas. Turkey Vultures at the Jordan Lake Dam, Moncure, Chatham County, NC, 9/20/10.          

Hawks (Accipitridae family, Falconiformes order)

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

This is reputed to be the most common North Carolina hawk species.  However, in my neighborhood, they are greatly outnumbered by Red-shouldered Hawks.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Red-tailed Hawk, which was trying to avoid running into me as a big fog swirling up from the west brought it to the top of the hill. Red-tailed Hawk, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 3/20/09 Same Red-tailed Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

This hawk species dominates my neighborhood and is regularly seen there. Sightings of other species of hawks are very rare.  See the Red-shouldered Hawk page for more photos.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, NC, 2/18/16 Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, NC, 11/23/15   Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, NC, 12/14/16 Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, NC, 12/26/16 Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Durham, NC, 12/24/16 Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, NC, 12/28/16


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, Durham, 7/6/07.  Order products with this picture on them at our online store. Juvenile Red-shouldered  Hawk, Durham, 3/27/05, a visitor to the birdfeeder area in my back yard.  I've also seen one hanging around White-Throated Sparrows in the woods.  ID thanks to Bill Clark of Harlingen, TX.

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Durham, NC, 1/18/10 Cooper's Hawk? Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area Basin Trail, 3/11/11 Same hawk.  It was chasing a songbird over a sandy stretch near the marsh.  Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area Basin Trail, 3/11/11          

Fish Eagles (Haliaeetus genus, Accipitrinae subfamily, Accipitridae family, Falciformes order)

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), seen flying back and forth (once) over Cypress Pond, Carolina Beach State Park, Hew Hanover County, NC, 1/6/08 Immature Bald Eagle, Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 12/28/08  

Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus, Pandionidae family, Falciformes order

Osprey, South Lido Park, Sarasota County, 1/6/17. Osprey, Seaforth Recreational Area, Chatham County, NC, 3/13/05.   Ospreys drop feet first to capture fish.  Note the big talons.  They have a loud chirping cry. According to Sibley (2003), we are in the osprey's migration range and near its summer range. Osprey, flying over a dock on Bogue Sound, Pine Knoll Shores, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08 Osprey, Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, New Hanover County, NC, 6/23/06. 

Kingfishers (Alcedinidae family, Coraciiformes

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

Adult male Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon, Cerylinae subfamily).  Same adult male Belted Kingfisher Belted Kingfisher in flight, Lake Crabtree County Park, Wake County, NC, 10/31/12 Belted Kingfisher, Museum of Life & Science, Durham, NC, 6/7/12    

Turkeys (Phasianidae family, Galliformes)

One Wild Turkey, at one edge of the flock near Abbott Lake, Peaks of Otter, Bedford County, VA, 7/18/12 Another Wild Turkey at the other end, trading sentinel duty A part of the Wild Turkey flock          

Plain Chacalaca (Ortalis vetula)

Plain Chacalaca, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX  12/3/17 Another Plain Chacalaca, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX  12/3/17          

Domestic Fowl

African Guinea Fowl, Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, NC, 7/31/06, appeared in a backyard in Old Salem.  Thanks to Amy Barbe of Athens-Clarke County, GA for ID:  she says they are "very handy for eating ticks in your yard and as a watch 'dog.'"


Chickens, Ocracoke, NC.  Yes, they're domesticated, but who could resist this scene? Rooster, Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, 1/31/02.  I guess we don't normally think of chickens as wildlife, but in Puerto Rico some feral roosters run around loose. Rooster, town of Ocracoke, NC, 6/10/02.  This one was domesticated.

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