These are some of the most common and favorite species admitted to Avian Haven. Other than our personal experiences, sources of information include:
Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedorum
Waxwings get their name from the red, waxy tips on their secondary flight feathers. The red color comes from pigments in dietary fruits, which also are responsible for the band across the tail (which is usually yellow, but which shifts to orange in birds consuming the fruit of shrub honeysuckles. Waxwings are also distinguished by a black "mask" that extends across the eyes and a head crest that can be raised. Primarily fruit-eaters, waxwings have increased in numbers thanks to the elimination of DDT from agriculture. The spotty chest on the juveniles will soon molt into the sleek olives and grays of the adult.
Chimney Swift, Chaetura pelagica
As suggested by the common name, these birds are rapid fliers that commonly nest and roost in chimneys. Swifts do not perch, but rather use the curved claws on their tiny feet to cling to vertical surfaces, with strong shafts protruding from their tail feathers serving as props. Among the most aerial of landbirds, swifts spend much of their day on the wing. They may be seen near dusk as they approach the chimneys in which they will spend the night; from the ground, they are said to resemble flying cigars. Their nests are built of small twigs that are glued together and to the chimney with a salivary secretion; if you are lucky enough to have swifts interested in your chimney, you can help them by having your chimney cleaned early in the spring, before nesting season. The birds with their backs to you are clinging to a cloth on the wall of their flight cage. The other group is in an artificial chimney at feeding time.
Eastern Phoebe, Sayornis phoebe
"Phoebe" is most likely an imitation of the bird's call (which to some sounds more like "Squeegie"). As implied by their common name, these medium-sized flycatchers are not found west of the Great Plains in the U.S. One of their most distinguishing characteristics is a tail "wag" - the tail moves rapidly down, then slowly rises. Their moss-and-mud nests are often built on ledges of buildings. The birds in the nest and those with open mouths are nestlings; the birds shown on the clothesline are juveniles that have just been released.
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
"Crow" is said to come from an Anglo-Saxon word imitating the well-known "caw" of this inquisitive bird. Widely distributed throughout North America, crows are found in many habitats and may roost communally in large numbers. The bird shown in the photo has the bright pink mouth of an immature bird. Opportunistic omnivores, crows eat a wide variety of foods, including many "pest" insects. Crows are cooperative breeders: offspring from one year may remain with their parents to help them raise the young of the following year. Recreational hunting is the leading cause of death in crows.The youngsters shown here have just been delivered in their natural nest, which was recovered from the ground after the nest tree was taken down by a woodcutter.
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
A member of the thrush family, the American Robin was named by European settlers who thought it resembled the European Robin. Like all thrushes, robins have a remarkable repertoire of songs that delight human ears, especially early in the spring. This is Avian Haven's most common species; we often see over 100 per year, and most of them are babies. The birds in the group that includes an egg are obviously quite young; The older birds shown are nestlings; as they mature, they will lose their chest spots and molt into the familiar plumage of the adult.
Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator
A member of the finch family, Pine Grosbeaks are a northern bird not seen in Maine as frequently as Evening Grosbeaks or Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks. Some "go south for the winter" - and winter is the only season during which we have seen them in rehab. They are unwary of humans, and can often be approached quite closely, especially when they're preoccupied with feeding on small crabapples. The birds shown here were photographed in an indoor aviary, where they were recovering from window strikes. The red bird is a male; the female is more olive-colored. "Grosbeak" means "large beak" - you can see how these birds got their name!
Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
The name "Swallow" comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for cleft stick - similar in appearance to the deeply-forked tail of the Barn Swallow (though most North American swallows have less dramatic notched tails). The length and symmetry of the tail-streamers are important factors in mate selection. Barn Swallows are particularly colorful among the swallows, with blue-black above and cinnamon-buff below; they are also the most widely distributed and most numerous swallow of the world. As implied by their common name, Barn Swallows frequently nest in buildings such as barns; a particularly desirable structure may have several of the characteristic mud-and-grass nests.
Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
Rock Pigeons are not native to North America; they were introduced from Europe in the 17th century and have since spread throughout North America. Extremely common in urban areas, these hardy and adaptable birds are also prolific breeders. Nestlings bear little apparent resemblance to adults, however; they are perhaps the most widely misidentified immature bird. Because of their very prominent beaks, nestlings are frequently mistaken for species such as gulls and vultures. The Passenger Pigeon was once the most abundant species in North America, but was hunted to extinction by early in the 1900s.
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
The mournful-sounding "coo-ah coo coo coo" gives this bird its common name - but it is actually an "advertising" song of males attempting to attract mates. Pair-bonds remain together at least seasonally, if not for life, and the mutual preening seen in mated pairs suggests tender affection. As is also the case with Rock Doves, both male and female Mourning Doves feed their young a regurgitated secretion from their own crops. The newly-hatched bird shown here will grow up to resemble the familiar beautiful, sleek adult. The mourning dove is one of the most abundant birds of North America; it is also the leading game bird in the United States, with nearly 70 million birds shot annually.
Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
Although classified in the songbird order, this showy bird is not considered by most humans to have beautiful songs. Jays do, however, have a large vocal repertoire and often imitate other species, including several hawks, quite convincingly. They eat a variety of foods, with nuts comprising as much as half of their diet in some seasons. As shown in this photo, Jays seem to enjoy sunbathing. Blue Jays molt all their head feathers at once, resulting in a "bald" appearance that lasts about a week. Like other corvid nestlings, young blue jays have bright pink mouths, as shown in this photo.
Barred Owl, Strix varia
Common in most states east of the Great Plains, this medium-sized owl has a distinctive hooting call that seems to human ears to ask, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" The horizontal barring on the throat feathers gives the bird its common name; Barred Owls can also be identified by their lack of ear tufts. They are our most commonly-admitted raptor species; almost all of them have been hit by cars, presumably in the process of hunting mice attracted to litter along roadsides. Nestlings have ample light-colored down, as is evident in the photo of this nestling.
Broad-winged Hawk, Buteo platypterus
As implied by their common name, Broad-winged Hawks have relatively short and wide wings, as do all Buteos. During fall migration on their way to South America, they form large flocks known as "kettles" that can number in the thousands. Like all raptors, Broad-winged Hawks capture prey with their taloned feet. "Bird of prey" is a somewhat misleading descriptor for a raptor; many kinds of birds (including Robins and Herons, for example) capture prey, but with their beaks rather than their feet.
American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
The smallest and most widespread falcon of North America, the Kestrel has long pointed wings that allow rapid flight and hovering. Kestrels are unusual among raptors in that the sexes can easily be distinguished. Males are quite colorful, with blue-gray head and wings topped with rufous trim. Kestrels are cavity nesters and can benefit from nest-boxes placed in appropriate habitat. Nestling kestrels are shown in this photo.
Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Of course, "bald" eagles are not really bald! This term (a shortening of "bald-headed") derives from a 17th century use of the word "bald" to signify "white." First-year juveniles are easily distinguished from adults (though sometimes mistaken for golden eagles) by their brown heads and black beaks, which change over to the familiar white heads and yellow beaks around the 5th year.
Historically plentiful in the Northeast, bald eagles were almost extirpated because of widespread use of environmental contaminants such as DDT. When DDT was banned in 1972, only 29 pairs remained in Maine. The species was listed as federally endangered in 1978; thanks to conservation efforts, it recovered, and was reclassified as threatened in 1995. In 2009, it was removed from Maine's Endangered/Threatened list. The redemption of bald eagles in Maine has been the result of a number of actions, including protection of nesting habitat, winter feeding, and rehabilitation of injured birds. In 2010, about 500 pairs nested in Maine. Ongoing conservation efforts include close monitoring of nests and management actions to ensure a clean and healthy environment. One current threat to their safety is lead poisoning, which eagles may acquire as a result of scavenging shot carcasses.
Osprey, Pendion haliaetus
Ospreys are raptors whose diet is almost entirely live fish. They hunt on the wing over water; when a fish is spotted, the bird plunges feet first. Their wing structure is adapted for both hovering and getting out of water while carrying a load. Ospreys' feet are also specialized for holding onto slippery prey; their talons are long and curved, and their feet are covered with rough scales. In the past, their stick nests were built on tree tops and rocks cliffs; more recently, ospreys have made increasing use of structures like radio and cell-phone towers, power poles, etc. Due to contamination of eggs by pesticides such as DDT, osprey populations declined sharply in the 1950s through 1970s. However, populations have recovered, thanks to conservation efforts.
American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
A member of the heron family, American Bitterns can often be found in freshwater wetlands with tall vegetation. When alarmed, they "freeze" in a characteristic posture with their heads and long bills pointing toward the sky; in this stance, they are almost indistinguishable in shape or color from surrounding plants. Bitterns have a thumping call that has gained them nicknames such as "thunder-pumper." Females incubate, brood and feed the hatchlings. Juveniles usually leave the nest by their second week, but are fed by adults for another couple weeks. We occasionally admit youngsters of various ages, as shown in these photos.
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
The songs of territorial males give the species its common name. Although there are many variations, a song usually starts with several clear whistles that are followed by a trill, then a few short notes. Nests may be found in flower beds or in low shrubs, or even on the ground, where they may be disturbed by weed-wacking or mowing; such was the case of the nest and its occupants shown here.
Common Loon, Gavia immer
Among the most beloved of water birds, loons are perhaps best known for the yodeling calls heard on breeding lakes in summer. Unable to take off from land, loons may sometimes land on wet pavement, which, from the air, has evidently been mistaken for water. Loons are fish-eaters, but also forage on lake bottoms for gravel that aids in the digestive process. The leading cause of death among adult loons in Maine is lead poisoning acquired from ingesting lead fishing jigs and sinkers. The loon shown in the pool was a "wet pavement" bird, released after a quick check-up. The radiograph shows two sinkers in a bird that died from lead poisoning.
Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrines
Peregrine populations were among those suffering steep declines in the 20th century as a result of organochlorine insecticides such as DDT. The recovery of their populations has been more successful in some parts of the world than in others, but through diligent efforts of multi-agency partnerships worldwide, it appears that the species will survive. "Peregrine" means "wanderer" - reflective perhaps of their long-distance migrations. The species is perhaps best known for its spectacular high-velocity stoops, which may be made in pursuit of prey or in courtship displays.
Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus
The largest woodpecker found in the United States, this bird is about the size of a crow. Both sexes have a red crest, but the male's extends farther toward the bill, and males also have a red stripe near the bill sometimes described as a "moustache." Their large bills are well-suited for excavating nest cavities in trees. We admit nestlings whose nest tree was felled, either by a woodcutter or by natural processes such as storms. Both of the birds shown in these photos were raised here and photographed several days after release.
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Though not readily considered a "songbird," this species is the largest of the Passerines, and also has an astonishing array of vocalizations. Though similar in appearance to the American Crow, ravens are larger, have a heavier and longer bill, and in flight, can be seen to have a more rounded tail tip. Ravens are extremely intelligent birds, and have been shown capable of successful problem-solving without trial and error.