Dakota Songbirds

The songbirds most commonly seen in North Dakota include the state bird, the western meadowlark, American robin, red-winged blackbird, American goldfinch, red-breasted nuthatch and the black-capped chickadee.

North Dakota Songbirds

Western Meadowlark

American Goldfinch

Upland Sandpiper

Red-winged Blackbird

Pine Sisken


Western Kingbird

Northern Cardinal

House Sparrow

Say's Phoebe

American Goldfinch

Cedar Waxwing

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Pine Sisken

Western Meadowlark

Brown Thrasher

American Robin

Chipping Sparrow

Common Redpoll

American Goldfinch

Mountain Bluebird

Yellow Warbler

Western Kingbirds

American Crow Lifting Bison Chip to Find Worms

American Crow with Worm

2020 Photographs

Black-capped Chickadee!

The black-capped chickadee is a small, nonmigratory, North American songbird that lives in deciduous and mixed forests.  It is the state bird of Massachusetts and of Maine in the United States, and the provincial bird of New Brunswick in Canada. It is well known for its capability to lower its body temperature during cold winter nights as well as its good spatial memory to relocate the caches where it stores food, and its boldness near humans (sometimes feeding from the hand).  The vocalizations of the black-capped chickadee are highly complex.  Thirteen distinct types of vocalizations have been classified, many of which are complex and can communicate different types of information. Chickadees' complex vocalizations are likely an evolutionary adaptation to their habitat: they live and feed in dense vegetation, and even when the flock is close together, individual birds tend to be out of each other's visual range.  Insects (especially caterpillars) form a large part of their diet in summer. The birds hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering; they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Seeds and berries become more important in winter, though insect eggs and pupae remain on the menu. Black oil sunflower seeds are readily taken from bird feeders. The birds take a seed in their beak and commonly fly from the feeder to a tree, where they proceed to hammer the seed on a branch to open it.  On cold winter nights, these birds can reduce their body temperature by as much as 10 to 12 °C (from their normal temperature of about 42 °C) to conserve energy.  The black-capped chickadee nests in a hole in a tree, 1–7 m (3.3–23.0 ft) above ground. The pair either excavate the hole together, or use a natural cavity, or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. This species will also nest in a nesting box. The nesting season is from late April through June. The nest is built by the female only. It consists of a base of coarse material such as moss or bark strips, and lining of finer material such as mammal hair. Eggs are white with fine dots of reddish brown concentrated at the larger end. On average, eggs are 1.52 cm × 1.22 cm (0.60 in × 0.48 in). Clutch size is 6–8 eggs. Incubation lasts 11–14 days and is by the female only, who is fed by the male. If there is an unusual disturbance at the nest entrance, the incubating female may utter an explosive hiss, like that of a snake, a probable adaptation to discourage nest predators.  Hatchlings are altricial, naked with their eyes closed. Nestlings are fed by both sexes but are brooded by the female only (at which time the male brings food to her, which she passes on to the young). Young leave the nest 12–16 days post-hatching, in great part because the parents start presenting food only outside the nest hole. The young will still be fed by the parents for several weeks but are capable of catching food on their own within a week after leaving the nest.


Black-capped Chickadee with a Seed!

This black-capped chickadee was photographed at the Mandan Cemetery in Morton County, North Dakota.  They are cheerful and friendly!

Photo of the Day for March 13. 2020

Pine Siskins

The pine siskin is a North American bird in the finch family. It is a migratory bird with an extremely sporadic winter range.  These birds are fairly small, being around the same size as the widespread American goldfinch. In both sexes, total length can range from 11–14 cm (4.3–5.5 in), with a wingspan of 18–22 cm (7.1–8.7 in) and weight of 12–18 g (0.42–0.63 oz).  Their breeding range spreads across almost the entirety of Canada, Alaska and, to a more variable degree, across the western mountains and northern parts of the United States. As their name indicates, the species occurs mostly as a breeder in open conifer forests. Northern pine forests support the majority of the species breeding population. However, stands of ornamental conifers or deciduous trees may support nesting birds in partially developed parks, cemeteries, and suburban woodlands. While they favor feeding in open forest canopies where cone seeds are abundant, they'll forage in habitats as diverse as deciduous forests and thickets, meadows, grasslands, weedy fields, roadsides, chaparral, and backyard gardens and lawns. They flock to backyard feeders offering small seeds.  The nest is well-hidden on a horizontal branch of a tree, often a conifer.  Migration by this bird is highly variable, probably related to food supply. Large numbers may move south in some years; hardly any in others. This species is one of a few species that are considered "irruptive winter finches" because of the high variability of their movements based on the success of crops from year to year.  These birds forage in trees, shrubs and weeds. They mainly eat seeds, plant parts and some insects. In winter, they often feed in mixed flocks including American goldfinches and redpolls. Small seeds, especially thistle, red alder, birch, and spruce seeds, make up the majority of the pine siskin's diet. In a part of their esophagus called the crop, the species can store up to 10% of their body weight in seeds overnight, providing extra food on cold days.  Pine siskins can survive in very cold temperatures. The metabolic rates of this species are typically 40% higher than a "normal" songbird of their size. When temperatures plunge as low as −70 °C (−94 °F), they can accelerate that rate up to five times normal for several hours. They also put on half again as much winter fat as their common redpoll and American goldfinch relatives.


Red-breasted Nuthatch

The red-breasted nuthatch is a small songbird. The adult has blue-grey upperparts with cinnamon underparts, a white throat and face with a black stripe through the eyes, a straight grey bill and a black crown. Its call, which has been likened to a tin trumpet, is high-pitched and nasal. It breeds in coniferous forests across Canada, Alaska and the northeastern and western United States. Though often a permanent resident, it regularly irrupts further south if its food supply fails.  Like all nuthatches, the red-breasted nuthatch is an acrobatic species, hitching itself up and down tree trunks and branches to look for food.  It goes headfirst when climbing down. It can "walk" on the underside of branches.  The red-breasted nuthatch's diet changes depending on the season. In the summer, it eats mostly insects, occasionally even flycatching, while in the winter, it switches to conifer seeds.  At feeders it will take sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and suet. It often wedges food pieces in bark crevices in order to break them up with the bill (as opposed to holding the food in their feet, like the black-capped chickadee does).  The red-breasted nuthatch, like all nuthatches, is monogamous. The male courts the female with a peculiar display, lifting his head and tail while turning his back to her, drooping his wings, and swaying from side to side.  This bird excavates its own cavity nest, 1.53–37 m (5.0–121.4 ft) above ground (usually around 4.6 m (15 ft)). Excavation is by both sexes and takes one to eight weeks.  The pair smears sap around the entrance hole, presumably to help deter predators.  The nest is lined with grass, moss, shredded bark and rootlets. Nest building is by both sexes, but mostly by the female.  The female lays 2–8 eggs (usually 5–6), which are white, creamy or pinkish, and covered with reddish-brown speckles. The eggs measure 0.6–0.7 in (1.5–1.8 cm) long by 0.4–0.5 in (1.0–1.3 cm) wide. Incubation is by the female and lasts 12–13 days.   The young are altricial and stay in the nest for 2–3 weeks, brooded by the female but fed by both sexes. Normally there is only one brood per year. Lifespan is around 6 years.


White-breasted Nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch is a small songbird of the nuthatch family common across much of temperate North America. It is stocky, with a large head, short tail, powerful bill, and strong feet. It has a black cap, white face, chest, and flanks, blue-gray upperparts, and a chestnut lower belly.  The white-breasted nuthatch forages for insects on trunks and branches and is able to move head-first down trees. Seeds form a substantial part of its winter diet, as do acorns and hickory nuts stored in the fall. Old-growth woodland is preferred for breeding. The nest is in a hole in a tree, and the breeding pair may smear insects around the entrance as a deterrent to squirrels. Predators include hawks, owls, and snakes.  The breeding habitat of the white-breasted nuthatch is woodland across North America, from southern Canada to northern Florida and southern Mexico. In the eastern part of its range, its preferred habitat is old-growth open deciduous or mixed forest, including orchards, parks, suburban gardens and cemeteries; it is found mainly in the lowlands.  The white-breasted nuthatch is monogamous, and pairs form following a courtship in which the male bows to the female, spreading his tail and drooping his wings while swaying back and forth; he also feeds her morsels of food.  The pair establish a territory of 0.1–0.15 km2 (25–37 acres) in woodland, and up to 0.2 km2 (49 acres) in semi-wooded habitats, and then remain together year-round until one partner dies or disappears.  The nest cavity is usually a natural hole in a decaying tree, sometimes an old woodpecker nest.  The nest hole is usually 3–12 m (9.8–39.4 ft) high in a tree and is lined with fur, fine grass, and shredded bark. The clutch is 5 to 9 eggs which are creamy-white, speckled with reddish brown, and average 19 mm × 14 mm (0.75 in × 0.55 in) in size. The eggs are incubated by the female for 13 to 14 days prior to hatching, and the altricial chicks fledge in a further 18 to 26 days.  Both adults feed the chicks in the nest and for about two weeks after fledging, and the male also feeds the female while she is incubating.


Golden-crowned Kinglet

The golden-crowned kinglet is a very small songbird that lives throughout much of North America.  Adults are olive-gray on the upperparts with white underparts, with thin bills and short tails. They have white wing bars, a black stripe through the eyes and a yellow crown surrounded by black. The adult male has an orange patch in the middle of the yellow crown.  This is one of the smallest passerines in North America. Its length, at 8 to 11 cm (3.1 to 4.3 in), is probably the shortest of any American passerine.  The golden-crowned kinglet forages actively in trees or shrubs, mainly eating insects, insect eggs and spiders. It produces a series of high-pitched calls on a single note, and tends not to fear human approach. It nests in a well-concealed hanging cup suspended from a conifer branch.  The golden-crowned kinglet is a widespread migratory bird throughout North America. Its breeding habitat is coniferous forests across Canada, the northeastern and western United States, Mexico and Central America. It migrates to the United States in the non-breeding season. Some birds are permanent residents in coastal regions and in the southern parts of their range.


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