Reds

By Dan Weisz

Birds with red filled my weekend again.  Below is the Northern Cardinal sitting on a bowed cholla branch.  He has just finished a sunflower seed snack and, without cleaning the crumbs from his bill, is waiting to return to the feeder.  The morning sun on his right is spotlighting his face and chest, leaving the rest of his body in shadows.

Another branch, another pose, but still with the crumbs of sunflower seeds in his bill.  Didn’t his mother teach him to wipe his face after eating?

And here is his partner.  Note that the female has the same shaped and colored bill.  Her feather colors are more of a washed out red/orange.  There is still a hint of black at the base of the bill and a reddish crest visible.

From the side, you can see more red- mostly in the wings and tail.

And of course if the cardinals are around, so are the pyrrhuloxia.  Note the difference in feather color of this handsome male.  He is mostly gray with red accents in his face, crest, breast, wings and tail.  Also note the different shape and color of his beak.  He is actually sitting on the exact same spot as the male Cardinal was in the second photo above, next to the forked end of the branch.  Look back to see!

And the Red eye of a Phainopepla really stood out against the black feathers and blue sky this morning.  While the body shape and crest makes this bird look like a “desert cardinal”, note the very different beak shape.  The Phainopepla eats insects along with berries.  It’s common name is Silky Flycatcher.   The beak shape tells you it is an insect feeder and the feather colors are very “silky”.  The shapes of the Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia beaks tells you they are seed eaters.  Their bill shape is perfect for cracking seeds open to get the meat of the nut inside.

And Red of the Red-tailed Hawk.  This red-tailed hawk regularly hunts in the fields north of River Road and Alvernon Way.  The gray beak and brown head are typical of redtails which are the most common hawks across America.  While the tail is rusty-red in adults, it’s not always possible to see the tail clearly.   The white “V” shape on its back is another typical feature of this bird.  Since they are commonly perched on poles along roads and highways, this is sometimes the feature you see first.  The whitewash on the pole tells you this is a common perch for it.

and if you didn’t already know, this bird is a star of TV and movies.  Whenever you hear the sound of a raptor in TV, commercials or movies, it is almost always the call of a Red-tailed Hawk, no matter what raptor is visible on the screen.   Listen to its descending scream here:  http://tinyurl.com/zr9kyee