More Nests and Young Birds- ready to go

by Dan Weisz

Gambel’s Quail are so common in the Foothills that it seems as if every other yard has a quail nest in it at some point.  This week, I saw one quail family in my backyard with little chicks running around- first of the season.  Friday I discovered a Gambel’s Quail nest in a pot on my back porch.  Sadly, after several days, no new eggs have been added to the collection and I have yet to see a quail sitting on the eggs.  I guess Mom was scared off of her site and has abandoned these eggs.  Hopefully she will have a another brood soon.

I returned to an eastside park where a friend showed me the nest of a Vermilion Flycatcher.  Here is one “nestling" waiting for a parent to bring a snack.  Baby birds in the nest typically have very brightly colored bills and throat linings.  As a chick opens its mouth to vocalize or beg, the parent sees a flash of bright color- a “target zone”- that shows where to stuff the next juicy grub or worm.  Vermilion Flycatchers frequent most school yards, parks, and fields in the Foothills and Tucson area.  My hunch is that there are nests all over our extended neighborhoods now.

More of the siblings waiting expectantly.

And now Mom has arrived with treats.  All three chicks are begging to be fed.

As common as Phainopepla are in the foothills, it is rare to see their nests.  At this Phainopepla nest, the two chicks are growing up in a nest tucked deeply into the oleander bush.  Those white tufts are what’s left of the natal downy feathers the birds were born with.  As the new feathers grow in, they push the old ones out.  Since the down is “sticky”, it tends to adhere to the new feathers.  You can also see the brightly colored bill of a newborn and the softness of the bill towards the back of its mouth.  The front of the bill seems to already have hardened and is darkening. 

I returned to the agricultural area of Pinal County and saw that this Great Horned Owl has chicks already.  One is poking its head up in front of momma.  Owlets are covered in that white down and will remain in the nest for about 40 days.  The Great Horned Owls some of you are now hearing at night are likely on nests as well.

Driving around that area, I looked into an large abandoned warehouse structure and spotted a barn owl who may have decided to re-use a nest that she found.  As soon as I appeared at the empty building’s door, the owl began shrieking.  I took a quick photo and left immediately.  Check out this “pleasant” sound: 

For more on owls in our area, see what the Desert Museum has to say: