Category Archives: Birds

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is a medium-sized tyrant flycatcher (family Tyrannidae) but a large “flycatcher” as that common name is applied. Only Great-crested Flycatcher is larger. It has the longest migration of any North American flycatcher. Breeding grounds are the Rocky and Cascade Mountains from Texas to Alaska, across Canada and the northern border states to Newfoundland and Vermont. In Minnesota the breeding range includes the northeast third of the state. Wintering grounds are mostly in Panama and the northern Andes Mountains from northern Venezuela to western Bolivia.

Olive-sided Flycatcher is the only North American flycatcher to feed exclusively on insects caught in flight. When feeding it perches at the top of a tree or on a dead branch, launching occasionally to catch a flying insect in the air, and returning often to the same perch. Small insects are consumed in the air. Larger insects returned to and beaten against the perch to subdue.

Flycatchers are notoriously difficult to identify by plumage alone. Olive-sided Flycatcher is one exception to this rule. It is easily identified by its white breast and contrasting dark “vest”. It is further distinguished by its large size; indistinct pale wing bars; whitish undertail coverts with well-defined, dark, V-shaped markings; and inconspicuous eye ring.

Northern Cardinal’s Mating Song

Male Northern Cardinal

Photo by Tom Baker

The song of both male and female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis) is a series of clear, bubbly notes that have been describes as woit, woit, woit, chew, chew, chew, chew, chew or pichew, pichew, tiw, tiw, tiw, tiw, tiw (Sibley); and cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie (Cornell Lab of Ornithology). It is a learned song and varies by region.

In the spring a male seeking to attract a female gives an inspiring vocal performance that must be listened to for several minutes to be fully appreciated. It begins with a series of just five or six notes; woit, woit, chew, chew, chew. After a pause of few seconds the series is repeated, increasing the number of chew notes by just one. This continues for several minutes, each time the series increasing by just a single note. The series will often get to 18 to 20 chew notes. One series I counted reached 24 chew notes. You do not have to be a female Northern Cardinal to be impressed by such a performance.

I have yet to hear a recording or read an account of this extended series of calls.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Photo by Bill Reynolds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the smallest breeding bird in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. It is seldom seen but easily recognized because it is the only hummingbird that breeds in or migrates through Minnesota. It is a migratory bird, arriving in Minnesota in late April and early May. It is a solitary breeder—after mating the male has nothing more to do with the female or its offspring. In the fall, adults migrate across the Gulf of Mexico or along the western coast of Mexico to Central or South America.