A Moment to Think About Our State Bird

A Moment to Think About Our State Bird: California Gull, Courtesy and Copyright 2003 Jack Binch - All Rights Reserved
Callifornia Gull
Larus californicus
Courtesy and Copyright 2003 Jack Binch
All Rights Reserved
Hi, I am Dick Hurren from Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Utah’s state bird is is commemorated as the seagull, more accurately the the California Gull. Known in Utah for having saved the pioneers from the Mormon cricket invasion of 1848 and subsequent years, gulls hold a hallowed place in local history.

Seagull is a generic term referring to gulls of all types. Gulls we are familiar with range from the small 11-inch Bonaparte’s gull with a 32-inch wingspan to the 20-inch Herring gull with a 55-inch wingspan. They are white, grey and some have black heads. Young go through phases giving them different appearances as they mature over two to four years depending upon the species.

Many Gulls migrate to parts of Utah and some pass through in their migration to more northern regions. Ring-billed gulls are here during the fall, winter, and spring. The occasional Herring or Thayer’s gull may visit us in winter. A few black-headed Bonaparte’s gulls pass through reliably in spring and fall during migration. Upon rare occasions, we are even visited by Herrman’s, Western, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Mew, yellow-footed , Sabine’s, Iceland, and lesser black-backed gulls.

In spring, the California gulls and the much smaller and black-headed Franklin’s gulls return to nest. They migrate from southern states or the pacific coast and raise their young locally on islands in fresh and salt water.

Gulls clean up. They frequent garbage dumps, and irrigated, plowed or manure-covered fields. These carnivores eat insects, worms, crustaceans, fish and the occasional french fry in a parking lot. Opportunistic, they watch and raid unprotected nests of other birds, eating eggs and young. Sometimes flying singly, they are more often found in flocks. In flocks they defend against predators by harassment and intimidation.

Thayer’s and Herring gulls have been known to use tools. They have been seen dropping shellfish on asphalt or concrete roads to crack them open and eat the contents.

At the store, take a moment to think about our state bird. In the dump, and in waterways, gulls can become entrapped in six-pack rings. Do your part to prevent this by cutting up these plastic rings before disposing of them. Or better yet, buy cans loose or in boxes instead of rings.

For Wild About Utah, this has been Dick Hurren

This Wild About Utah episode originally broadcast in August 19, 2008, In Memory of Dick Hurren.

A Moment to Think About Our State Bird: Credits

Photos: Courtesy and © copyright 2003 Jack Binch, as found on www.Utahbirds.org
Additional Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, Wild Sanctuary, Special Collections
Text: Lyle Bingham and Richard(Dick) Hurren, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Voice: Richard(Dick) Hurren, Bridgerland Audubon Society
A Moment to Think About Our State Bird: Additional Reading:

Utah Symbols – California gull

Thatcher, Linda, Utah State Bird – Sea Gull(The California gull, Larus californicus), Utah’s State Symbols, Utah History Encyclopedia, Utah’s Online Library, Utah State Library Division, Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/u/UTAH_STATE_SYMBOLS.shtml

Bonaparte’s Gull, Larus philadelphia

Bonaparte’s gull Larus philadelphia, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i0600id.html

Bonaparte’s Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bonapartes_Gull

Herring Gull, Larus argentatus

Herring gull Larus argentatus, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i0510id.html

Herring Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Herring_Gull

Herring Gull(Flying Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsD-K/HerringGull3.htm

California gull, Larus californicus

California gull Larus californicus, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i0530id.html

California Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/California_Gull

California Gull(Adults Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsA-C/CaliforniaGull.htm

California Gull(Close-up Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsA-C/CaliforniaGull2.htm

Franklin’s gull, Larus pipixcan

Franklin’s gull Larus pipixcan, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i0590id.html

Franklin’s Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Franklins_Gull

Thayer’s gull, Larus thayeri
(Note: Reclassified in 2017 as Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides)

Thayer’s gull Larus thayeri, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i0518id.html

Iceland Gull (Thayer’s), eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://ebird.org/species/thagul

Iceland Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Iceland_Gull

California Gull(Juveniles Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/ThayersGull2.htm

Handbook of the Birds of the World 3: 609. Lynx Edicions. Larus thayeri (TSN 176828). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved on 10 March 2006.

Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis

Ring-billed gull Larus delawarensis, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i0540id.html

Ring-billed Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ring-billed_Gull

Mew Gull, Larus canus

Mew gull Larus canus, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i0550id.html

Mew Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mew_Gull

Mew gull(Front Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsL-R/MewGull.htm

Glaucous-winged Gull, Larus glaucescen

Glaucous-winged gull Larus glaucescen, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/infocenter/i0440id.html

Glaucous-winged Gull, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Glaucous-winged_Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull(Adults Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsD-K/GlaucousWingedGull.htm

Sabine’s Gull, Xema sabini

Sabine’s gull Xema sabini, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/infocenter/i0620id.html

Sabine’s Gull(Breeding Collection), UtahBirds.org, Utah County Birders, https://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/SabinesGull.htm

Handbooks & References

Bridgerland Audubon Checklist of Birds, https://www.bridgerlandaudubon.org/checklist.htm

Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America ISBN 0-679-45121-8 Bull, John; Farrand, Jr., John (April 1984).

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN-10: 0679428518.

Flickers Tapping Love Codes on my Roof

Flickers Tapping Love Codes on my Roof: Northern Flicker Courtesy & © 2007 Buck Russell
Northern Flicker
Courtesy & © 2007 Buck Russell

Have you ever woken up to this sound [Flicker pounding on a roof] and wondered what in the world was going on? This is the sound of the Northern Flicker, a large, ant-eating woodpecker found in open woodlands, savannas, and forest edges throughout North America.
The western subspecies, the Red-shafted Flicker, can be found year round in Utah. Its largish brown body with spotted breast, and thin dark bars across its back are unmistakable. Both sexes have a black collar and a red spot on the head—males on the back of the head and females on the side.

Breeding season is when you’d be most likely to hear the flicker drumming loudly on your house or nearby trees. Flickers—like other woodpeckers–drum to attract mates and defend territory—they are not looking for food. Both sexes drum and you’ll usually hear the drumming in conjunction with their Long Call, [ play long call]

Flicker drumming is produced by rapidly and sharply beating the tip of the bill on some sort of resonating object, usually a dead tree, limb or branch, sometimes a metal surface. They will use aluminum siding, as well as the trim and fascia boards of wood, brick, and stucco homes. They’ll also go for metal downspouts, gutters, chimneys, and vents.

Scientists have measured just over one second as the average duration of drum roll, with averages of 22 to 25 total beats in drum roll.

Does it hurt the little fellow to bang his head repeatedly across a hard surface? No. Flickers and other woodpeckers have thickened skulls and powerful neck muscles that enable them to deliver sharp blows without damaging their internal organs. A spongy, elastic tissue connects these flexible joints between the beak and the skull acting as a shock absorber. Bristly feathers around the nostrils help filter out the wood dust created as the flicker pounds away.

Luckily for homeowners, holes made by drumming activities are usually just small, shallow dents in the wood. And the drumming usually stops once breeding begins in the spring. For the most part, flickers spend their time digging in the ground slurping ants with their long tongues. If a flicker really starts to get on your nerves—there are some things you can do to discourage his behavior–like hanging Mylar reflective tape or streamers to the area where he likes to drum. Personally, the sound doesn’t bother me once I know the source is an attractive bird whose taste in real estate just happens to be the same as mine.

Credits:

Audio: American Flicker sound courtesy Xeno-Canto.org, recorded by Ryan O’Donnell.

Formerly: American Flicker sound for this recording used by permission of the copyright holder Kevin Colver and found in the Western Soundscape Archive at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library. https://westernsoundscape.org/ Dr. Colver’s Soundscape albums are also available for download from WildSanctuary.com.
Photo: Used by Permission of the photographer Buck Russell, Bridgerland Audubon Member
Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society: Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon Society, Holly Strand Stokes Nature Center
Voice: Richard (Dick) Hurren, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading
Northern Flicker, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/

Northern Flicker, Utah Species, Utah Conservation Data Center, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, State of Utah, https://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=colaaura

Complete Birds of North America, ed. Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic, 2006, https://www.amazon.com/National-Geographic-Complete-Birds-America/dp/0792241754/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213078747&sr=8-1

Moore, William S. Wiebe, Karen L. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: , March 4, 2020 https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/norfli/cur/introduction

Andelt, W.F., Hopper, S.N., and Cerato, M (8/14),(Revised by M. Reynolds), Preventing Woodpecker Damage – 6.516 , Colorado State University Extension, https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/natural-resources/preventing-woodpecker-damage-6-516/

Woodpeckers, Texas Parks & Wildlife, State of Texas, https://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_birds/woodpeckers/

Link, Russell, Urban Wildlife Biologist, Living with Wildlife – Northern Flickers, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, 2005, https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00623