Prince William County Wildlife - Birds
Grouse, Turkey, Quail
Stoutly built with small heads and short wings, these birds have short thick bills that are good for foraging. Most walk more than they fly, where they are known for powerful, short bursts of energy as they take flight. When alarmed, some species fly straight up into the air and then fly away from the threat. Ring-necked Pheasant (Permanent Resident)
Ruffed Grouse (Permanent Resident)
Wild Turkey (Permanent Resident)
Northern Bobwhite (Permanent Resident)
Most family members live in marshland or dense forest. Most have long toes, which are good for walking and running on soft, uneven ground. With short, rounded wings, they are generally weak flyers but are also able to cover long distances. Most Rails are very thin, which helps them slip through cattails and reeds, and gives us the expression "thin as a rail."
King Rail (Summer Resident) Virginia Rail (Summer Resident) Sora (Summer Resident) American Coot (Winter Resident)
Familiar to even the most urban dweller, pigeons were introduced to North America by early European settlers. They have since spread throughout the U.S. and into Canada. Their plumage displays a great variety of subdued colors. Our native mourning dove is smaller and more slender with a long, pointed tail. Gentle and timid compared to the pigeon, it gets it name from its mournful call. Year-round residents, both feed primarily on seeds and some fruit.
Rock Pigeon (Permanent Resident)
Mourning Dove (Permanent Resident)
These more than any other birds capture our imaginations in stories, myths and folklore. And why not? Their nocturnal and secretive nature, loud resonant haunting calls, large eyes, piercing stare, and silent flight are just a few things that stir creativity. Mainly cavity nesters they will sometimes use an abandoned nest if it is large enough. Ranging in size from 8” to 22”, our owls are excellent hunters, taking a variety of prey that suits their size, from moths to reptiles to rabbits and even other birds.
Eastern Screech-Owl (Permanent Resident) Great Horned Owl (Permanent Resident) Barred Owl (Permanent Resident) Short-eared Owl (Winter Resident) Northern Saw-whet Owl (Irregular Visitor)
With over 320 species of ‘hummers' world-wide, only 14 breed in North America and only 1 breeds east of the Mississippi. Their needle-like bills and extremely long tongue pump nectar from flowers (their primary food) but they also use them to catch spiders and insects. Their precision movements are facilitated by their tiny size and rapid wing beat (up to 53 beats/second!). They are the only bird that can fly backwards. They build their soft nests from pieces of plants, (often using lichen) held together by spider webs and lined with downy plant fibers.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Summer Resident)
The hollow sound of their territorial drumming has delighted many a woodland hiker. But pounding one’s head into wood all day – how do they manage? With special adaptations. Bones at the base of the bill have special construction to act as shock absorbers. Their feet have 2 toes front and 2 back, making for a better grip in a vertical position and a stiff tail is used for balance and support. Since most construct a new nest each year, many other birds and even some mammals take over the old holes for nesting. An especially long tongue with a barbed and sticky tip makes extracting insect larvae their specialty. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Permanent Resident) Red-headed Woodpecker (Permanent Resident) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Winter Resident) Downy Woodpecker (Permanent Resident) Hairy Woodpecker (Permanent Resident) Northern Flicker (Permanent Resident) Pileated Woodpecker (Permanent Resident)
Raucous, bold, gregarious, intelligent… might sound like someone you know. Crows are among our largest songbirds. Although some might debate that what comes from between their beaks is a song, some species have an extensive vocal repertoire and can mimic new sounds. Crows and jays are strong-bodied birds equally at home on the wing or walking on the ground. Crows are opportunistic omnivores. Jays, which eat mainly insects, fruit and seeds, have been known to prey on the eggs and nestlings of other bird species. Blue Jay (Permanent Resident) American Crow (Permanent Resident) Fish Crow (Permanent Resident) Common Raven (Permanent Resident)
Swallows are strong, agile fliers who hunt insects on the wing. Their slender, streamlined bodies, forked tails and long, pointed wings make them easy to recognize. Swallows frequent open areas with a good supply of flying insects, such as lakes, streams, wetlands and grasslands. Most build mud nests close to overhead shelter where they lay 3-6 eggs. The chicks hatch naked and with closed eyes. Purple Martin (Summer Resident) Tree Swallow (Summer Resident) N. Rough-winged Swallow (Summer Resident) Bank Swallow (Summer Resident) Cliff Swallow (Transient/Migrant) Barn Swallow (Summer Resident)
Generally, small birds of open habitats like grasslands and marshes. This preference for open areas and their seed and insect eating habits make suburban yards suitable for some species. The shape of their bill is well designed for hfusking seeds. Most species sport drab browns and grays, which makes good camouflage, but can also make identification a challenge. The term “sparrow” has its origins in the Indo-European word meaning “to flutter”. Towhees and juncos share the finch-like characteristics of the group. Eastern Towhee (Permanent Resident) American Tree Sparrow (Winter Resident) Chipping Sparrow (Summer Resident) Field Sparrow (Permanent Resident) Vesper Sparrow (Transient/Migrant) Savannah Sparrow (Winter Resident) Grasshopper Sparrow (Summer Resident) Fox Sparrow (Winter Resident) Song Sparrow (Permanent Resident) Lincoln’s Sparrow (Transient/Migrant) Swamp Sparrow (Winter Resident) White-throated Sparrow (Winter Resident) Harris’ Sparrow (Irregular Visitor) White-crowned Sparrow (Winter Resident) Dark-eyed Junco (Winter Resident) Snow Bunting (Irregular Visitor)
Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Buntings
A penchant for open areas, woodlands and forest edges places this group among our best loved suburban dwellers. A bright red male cardinal is an icon of life on a snowy winter’s day. The brilliant blue of the indigo bunting has caused many a new birder to stare in amazement. Breeding pairs form cup nests of grasses, small twigs and leaves, lined with fine grasses and animal hair. Young are born naked and helpless. Both parents feed and care for young in the nest, then the male feeds the new fledglings. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Transient/Migrant) Northern Cardinal (Permanent Resident) Blue Grosebeak (Summer Resident) Indigo Bunting (Summer Resident) Painted Bunting
Not all black birds are Blackbirds and not all Blackbirds are black… some are boldly patterned with yellow, orange or red. Although most species live in the tropics, this diverse group of birds is found is found in virtually every habitat in the Western Hemisphere. They eat many different foods, including insects, seeds, grains and fruit. Nesting habits are also varied; some species weave pendulous nests, some nest in burrows and some parasitize the nests of others. Many species nest in huge colonies and often travel in flocks except during the breeding season. Eastern Meadowlark (Permanent Resident) Red-winged Blackbird (Permanent Resident) Rusty Blackbird (Winter Resident) Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird (Permanent Resident) Common Grackle (Permanent Resident) Orchard Oriole (Summer Resident) Baltimore Oriole (Summer Resident)
Small, brown and perky, the wrens of the eastern U.S. are often seen flitting about close to the ground in brushy or marshy habitats. Their bodies are compact, with short, rounded wings and a short tail that is often carried ‘cocked’ in an upright position. Their little bodies pack a loud song and a great variety of song. The male Carolina wren is known to have at least 32 songs in its repertoire while the male marsh wren may have at least 50. They like to sing so much you may hear them at any time of year. Carolina Wren (Permanent Resident) House Wren (Summer Resident) Winter Wren (Winter Resident) Sedge Wren (Transient/Migrant) Marsh Wren (Summer Resident)
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