Readers’ wildlife photos: moar birds

December 31, 2011 • 9:07 am

Reader Pete Moulton has submitted three of his favorite bird photos and some background information (click to enlarge photos):

The first is a young Neotropic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus, that allowed me to shoot its class picture during a dragonflying trip to a Phoenix city park back in late May. This species was quite rare in Arizona when I moved here more than 25 years ago, and we Phoenicians had to make long trips to Painted Rock dam (west of Gila Bend), or down to Patagonia Lake, just on the off-chance that we might be lucky enough to see even one Neotropic amidst the myriads of Double-cresteds. During the last 15 or so years, however, the species has become abundant in the Phoenix metro area, and at a lot of locations it’s now the default cormorant. One could make a compelling case that this is Arizona’s biggest ornithological event of the last couple of decades. Some birders might disagree, of course, and point instead to some of our more amazing rarities; but those are one-time events, and inconsequential to our state’s avifauna in the long run.


The other pic’s an oddity that might give you an opening to discuss genetic weirdnesses. It’s a leucistic Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) that I’ve seen off and on for the last couple of months at my favorite close-in birding/photography site in Gilbert, Arizona. Since the other two pix I’ve sent are both waterbirds, I figured I’d best include at least one bird of arid habitats, lest your readers forget that Phoenix is really in the desert. LOL.

Leucism is a genetic condition that prevents proper deposition of the pigment melanin in skin or feathers, and I’ve written about it before on a post about the amazing white lions. 

Here’s a “normal” Say’s Phoebe, not photographed by Pete, that I’m adding for comparison:

This us an adult Green Heron (Butorides virescens) from a habitat restoration area along the Salt River just south of downtown Phoenix. My favorite of all avian subjects, and I’ve shot hundreds of pictures of them through the years.

Pete’s also sent a link to a video showing a Green Heron fishing, using pieces of bread that it places on the water as bait.  I believe I’ve posted this before, but the link is here.  You might want to turn the sound off, as the narration is a tad annoying.

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos: moar birds

  1. Wow, cool!!

    We have lots of phoebes around here, and I try to attract them with nest platforms because they eat a lot of flies.

    I’ve seen a couple of those, and I never IDed them as phoebes; I always wondered what they were because I could never find them in any of my bird books.

    Thanks!! L

  2. You might want to turn the sound off, as the narration is a tad annoying.

    He sounds perfect to overdub the next Attenborough documentary.

  3. Man, I need to get out more. I’ve lived in the Phoenix area for almost 30 years (gulp) and I’ve never seen that cormorant. I’ve seen herons flying over the freeway occasionally, but nothing likethat. Makes me want to grab my camera and visit some of these reserves.

      1. Ah, yes, the riparian park, that’s 3 miles right down the road from my house. Sounds like a good family trip for New Years Day 🙂 I’ll be sure to bring my telephoto lens. As long as the kids don’t scare away the wildlife, I might get some good shots!

  4. Wow, Pete! The eyes of the cormorant and the feathers of the Green Heron and dazzling! I’ve been doing a sketch-a-day project to see if I can get better at drawing given a little practice. I’m going to add these birds to my potential sketch subjects folder! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow, I can’t get over the cormorant picture! What an amazing angle–resembles a half-bird, half-lamprey…


    Seriously, beautiful and fascinating. Love the jewel-like eyes and the specialized feathers surrounding the bill. . . well, basically all over the head & neck.

    I see lots of leucism in my local American Goldfinches and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks. Always an eye-catching phenomenon.

    Green herons are a definite fav of mine, too. One year they nested in a grove of pines in our yard!

    Great shots, all!

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