Monday, May 28, 2012

Observing Small Birds...Related by Taxonomy

Western Montana is home for North America's smallest bird, the Calliope hummingbird (Stellula calliope). I have found it in forest openings dominated by shrubs. Hearing a "zing" (display vocalization) is a clue to its presence. Of course, having a feeder up is an easier way to view this animated puff of feathers. I captured video of an adult male coming to our feeder in Lolo, MT on a rainy day; call note and flight behavior are highlights:

Rainy weather is an important component to finding the Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) especially at the headquarters of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The first time I checked off this species was at Ouray, Colorado; saw a small black dot thousands of feet above my head. Not a quality view for sure. At Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, a better experience can be had IF the weather cooperates, i.e. light drizzle and cool. These conditions were in place yesterday:
Yes, the two other swift species (Vaux's and White-throated) can also be found at the same time and place if the inclement weather is in place. The hardest to find of the trio is White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis). A better and easier place to find this species and without a rain requirement is here, west side of Missoula, MT off of Mullan Road:
Park at "P", look south/southwest across the Clark Fork River at two rockfaces as shown in this video:

Simply scan the skies above and in front of rockfaces for flying swifts; this is a bit of a challenge as research has determined these birds fly in excess of 100 mph! It's a great challenge...go out find something good :-)