Readers’ wildlife photos

December 26, 2022 • 8:15 am

As we approach 2023, a year closer to our appointment with the Grim Reaper, I ask readers to send in their good wildlife photos. Must I beg? Very well, then: pretty please!

Today we have the second part of the batch of photos sent by reader Kevin Krebs (part 1 is here). He notes that the photos were taken in and around Vancouver, B.C., where he lives. All are birds save one cute mammal at the end.

Kevin’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Common Raven (Corvus corax)

Present across most of the northern hemisphere, Ravens have been heavily burdened by human myth, superstition, and persecution. They also have a close relationship with wolves, spotting carrion or prey, and calling to alert wolves so they can procure the scraps. This is a member of a small family that lives in a local park. And to answer the perennial question many birders must field: How to tell a Raven from a Crow.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Distinctive and vocal birds, Belted Kingfishers can be found by streams and lakes across most of North America, attentively perched on a branch overlooking the water. Once they spot prey, they dive straight into the water to catch their meal, quickly flying back to beat and consume them:

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

One of the tips for a good bird photograph is getting as close to their level as you can. I ended up lying down in the grass to get a photo of this juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbirds are obligate brood parasites, meaning they must lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and those birds raise their chicks.  This behavior doesn’t make them popular with humans, who often can’t help but project their moral beliefs onto them.  They do, however, raise a fascinating question: How do you know you’re a Cowbird if you’ve been raised your entire life by a Song Sparrow?:

California Quail (Callipepla californica)

A male California Quail keeping watching and calling to his flock. These ridiculously cute and social birds are native to the west coast of the USA. I photographed this bird in Keremeos, British Columbia, at the northern edge of the California Quail’s range:

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

A vibrant and eye-catching warbler that migrates through Western North America. These birds can be a challenge to find, spending much of their time in the shadows of deep foliage. Surprisingly, male birds like this one can’t produce the red pigment found in their feathers, and it isn’t entirely clear where they acquire it from. The leading theory is an insect, which in turn gets the pigment from a plant:

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Originally a bird of open lands in Western North America, the 20th century saw the Brewer’s Blackbird spread eastwards, taking advantage of ever-increasing open habitats created by agriculture and forestry. The males are hard to miss with their glossy irridescent plumage and piercing yellow eye:

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

In the running for the most succinctly named bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird breeds in marshlands throughout central and western North America. Conspicuous in both plumage and song, these birds are highly social and congregate in large flocks after breeding to winter in the southern United States and Mexico:

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

A large plover found throughout North and Central America, named after a somewhat creative interpretation of their call.  Like many plovers, Killdeer exhibit false brooding — sitting on ‘imaginary’ nests to confuse predators.  They are perhaps more known for their broken-wing display, when they feign injury to draw predators away from their nests.  If you ever encounter a Killdeer behaving this way it means you’re too close to their nest! Turn around and walk away slowly, keeping a close eye on the ground:

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

Avocet are large wading birds with a unique upturned bill with which they scythe through muddy wetlands to capture food. Like so many birds and animals, they are increasingly threatened by the destruction and reclamation of wetlands:

Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

Central southern British Columbia is the northern limit of the range for these marmots, also known as Rock Chucks. I usually stick to photographing birds, but these chubby rodents were too cute to resist. Yellow-bellied Marmots start hibernating in September, so this individual will be deep asleep in a warm burrow right now.

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. The marmot is indeed adorable, but it’s common name always sounded like an insult.

    And I’m glad you brought up the question about how cowbirds know they’re cowbirds. I’ve wondered the same about them and other brood parasites. How is it some birds imprint so fully that they will ignore their own species in favor of another, to the point that they take themselves out of the gene pool, but these birds don’t. There’s probably some papers written about it. Hopefully someone knows and can share a link.

    Love the avocet as well. It’s hard to believe people still drain and destroy wetlands. For being such allegedly wise apes, we’re pretty damn dumb.

  2. “My, what lovely eyes you have, “Brewer’s blackbird! I’ve never seen one in the wild.

    Thank you for all of today’s photographs, showing us some of nature’s nearly endless variety of life forms.

  3. Excellent photos and subjects. I love Western Tanagers- we have a pair that visit our suet feeders in the spring. Don’t know if it’s the same pair, obviously. But they are a delight to see. All your photos were endearing. Thanks.

  4. We birders got a big surprise a few years ago: Tanagers are now in the same family as cardinals and grosbeaks! The splitters triumphed over the lumpers. But I dont know if its genus or species name has changed. Ours are gorgeous enough but the tanagers in Latin America are incredible! They manifest just about every color and design possible. Check them out on the internet….dozens and dozens of gorgeous birds.

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