Jun 14 2011

Best Bird in Smithfield

Published by at 7:44 am under Beyond Bounds,Songbirds


Today I’m back from a four-day weekend with my family in Smithfield, Virginia. 

While there I took long walks in Windsor Castle Park, a beautiful park with new boardwalks easily accessible from the historic downtown. 

The park has a variety of good habitat for birding: woodlands, fields and saltmarsh.    At low tide thousands of small crabs crawl the muddy banks of the saltmarsh, looking for food and becoming food themselves.  There’s a heron rookery near the Cypress Creek overlook where the “baby” herons are now nearly as tall as their parents and quite loud when they’re hungry.  I bet they eat crab for dinner.

I was happy to see many species that I never see in Pittsburgh including laughing gulls, royal terns and black vultures but the best birds by far were the summer tanagers.

The summer tanager (Piranga rubra) is a bird of southern forests.  They do nest in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania but you have to go out of your way to find them.  At Smithfield I could hear them singing and a pair even came down to see me!

The male is all red and the female all yellow-green.  They have larger, longer beaks than scarlet tanagers and their head feathers stand up a little, giving them a Jimmy Durante look.  (Their back feathers don’t stand up. The bird in this photo has a feather out of place.)

They’re famous for eating bees and wasps and will even take the grubs out of wasp nests.  (Brave!)   They winter in Central and South America where they eat fruit as well. 

(photo taken in Manizales, Columbia by Julian Londono.  Image is from Wikimedia Commons licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0.  Click on the photo to see the original.)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Best Bird in Smithfield”

  1. faith cornellon 14 Jun 2011 at 9:51 am

    Boy Kate this is one beautiful bird; how fortunate you were to see it. I am just happy to see my cardinal daily but this one is truly eye candy for sure . Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I keep telling my friends that bird watching is not just watching but savoring & treasuring moments of glimpses of color and beauty. Right now I have these tiny wren & chicadee fledges coming to feed at feeder or rather their parents are at the feeder & they sit on the rail screeching feed me & just want their parents to keep feeding them which they do at times. I think they just get tired of the screeching like the falcons do. But all these birds no matter what color, shape or place are blessings I so enjoy.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 15 Jun 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Amazing! This morning I found a pair of Summer Tanagers in Schenley Park! They’re here!

  3. Peteron 15 Jun 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Well, I’ll have to go looking now too! Just a month ago I found a pair of Scarlet Tanagers flitting around the tree-tops there. My first time I’d seen them ever so I thought that was cool! These would have me following them as long as my neck allowed!

    In other sightings, was out for lunch today by Soldiers and Sailors, and while I was standing there heard an unusual call. Once we had food, I had everyone I was with following me as I went searching for it. Didn’t take long to see a lone male kestrel causing the commotion sitting perfectly atop a dead branch. He eventually flew over to the room of Thaw Hall. I got a chuckle from that as he landed about 20 feet from some pigeons and continued calling. I don’t think the pigeons moved one bit. No respect for a raptor that small. The robins at least reacted once he found a perch closer to them.

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