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The American coot is a slate-gray, duck like bird. Its bill is white with a dark reddish ring just before the tip. The frontal shield, an extension of the bill into the forehead, is also white with a reddish oval near the tip that is visible at close range.
American coots are excellent swimmers and divers. Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck. Instead of having all the toes connected by webs, each coot toe has lobes on the sides of each segment.

American coots prefer to live along open ponds and marshes as well as coastal bays and inlets. Coots prefer to nest in weedy freshwater marshes and wetlands but assemble in large flocks on both fresh and salt water in winter.  Building their nests on shallow platforms using dead leaves and stems, the American coot lays eight to 10 pinkish eggs with spots of brown.
It is common for coots to utilize man-made water sources in urban and suburban areas.  When they occupy these water sources they often come in conflict with humans due to the damage they do to turf grass and other landscaping.  They also deposit feces that have the potential for passing diseases such as salmonella and avian influenza to people


Feral Pigeon

Pigeons existed long before humans.  They originated several million years ago in Asia and now pigeons are found throughout all of the United States and Canada.

Pigeons are gregarious and tend to be found in small groups; around twenty to thirty birds.  They eat seeds and grains but they are willing to sample just about anything.

Pigeons reproduce throughout the year and can raise four or five broods annually.  The female usually lays two white eggs.  Both parents take turns keeping the eggs warm. Males usually stay on the nest during the day and females at night.  Incubation takes about 16 to 19 days and the young are fed crop milk for about the first two weeks.

There are as many as 28 pigeon color types.  Pigeons have colorful, iridescent neck feathers which are called a "hackle."  Adult males and females look alike, but the male hackle is more shimmering than the female’s.  In addition, pigeons have many types of feathers and some that look like hairs.  These feathers may have sensory functions, such as detecting touch and pressure changes.  Adults have orange or reddish orange eyes. The young ones that are less than six to eight months old have medium brown or grayish brown eyes.

Pigeon eyesight is excellent.  Like humans, pigeons can see color but they can also see in the ultraviolet spectrum.  Pigeons can hear sounds at much lower frequencies than humans can such as wind blowing across buildings and mountains, distant thunderstorms and even far away volcanoes.  Sensitive hearing may explain why pigeons sometimes fly away for no apparent reason.

Pigeons can fly up to 40 or 50 miles per hour and may fly as far as 600 miles a day. They seem to be able to detect the Earth’s magnetic fields.  This magnetic sensitivity, along with the ability to tell direction by sun, seems to help pigeons find their way home.
Health concerns from pigeons include the inhalation of dust from dry droppings and mite infestations. 


Mallard Duck

Mallard ducks possess a green head and yellow bill and are thought to be the most abundant and wide ranging duck on earth.  Mallards prefer calm, shallow lake and rivers, but can be found in almost any fresh water across Asia, Europe, and North America.  
The male, or drake, has a green head atop a white neckband that sits off a chestnut colored chest and gray body.  Females are a dappled brown in color with shimmering purple blue wing feathers that are seen as a patch on their sides. Mallards can grow to about 26 inches in length and can weigh up to 3 pounds.

Mallards usually head dip or completely upend in the water to seek and catch their food. They spend most of their time near the surface and look for invertebrates, fish, and amphibians. They also eat grains and plants.

Mated pairs travel to and breed in the northern parts of their range and build nests on the ground or in a protected hollow.  They normally lay about a dozen eggs, and the incubation period lasts less than a month.  Mallards are territorial during this time, but once the eggs are hatched the drake will leave the nest and join a group of other males.



Swallows are small birds with long and pointed wings.  They are fast masterful flyers which catch all their insect food on the wing.  Their legs and feet are diminutive, not fit for walking, and their bills are very small.  Their outer V-shaped tails represent their longest feathers.  Swallows are usually seen perched on wires or flying over water, often in large flocks. They are colony nesters.
Swallows are beneficial birds in that they consume large quantities of insects.  Different species of swallows prefer different types of insects.  For example, the purple martin typically eats dragonflies, moths, and butterflies.  Barn swallows consume large flies, and when the weather is bad they eat other insects off the ground.  Besides insects, the tree swallow eats a variety of seeds and berries.

Swallows come back to the same nests year after year.  Swallows repair old or damaged nests which can last for many years.  Old nests in good condition are taken over by new swallows.  When swallows nest on human occupied structures, such as homes and businesses, they can become an issue due to the deposition of a large amount of droppings.

An average swallow lives about four years.  Swallows usually stay with the same mate for life.  In some cases, the male swallow helps incubate and care for the hatchlings. This mainly occurs when swallows are living in colonies otherwise the female cares for the young.  Both the male and the female feed the hatchlings.

and adequate housing is a great way to attract swallows to your property.


Carpenter Bees
European Starling

Starlings are widespread throughout all of North America and are common in cities.

Starlings belong to the family of birds which includes vocal mimics known as myna birds.  The starlings song is quite complex including a series of whistling notes, chatter, and a clear “wolf” whistle.

Starlings are expert at exploiting urban, suburban and agricultural areas.  Starlings have a wide range of food tolerances though they prefer insects. They often descend on lawns consuming insect pests and commonly seen around dumps, landfills, and many specialize in picking through open dumpsters and trash bags.  In agricultural areas they cause damage to crops and contaminate livestock feed.

Male and female starlings look similar.  Both are glossy black with purple and green markings on the head, back and breast.   They lose their feathers in the fall and obtain new white feather tips that give the bird a speckled appearance.  Starling beaks are yellow during the spring but by fall it becomes brown.  Their beaks are short and are designed to open with force.  This strong beak is an adaptation for probing in the soil for insects and worms, pushing rocks and soil out of the way.

Starlings are monogamous; they court and mate in the early spring.  Most of the spring and summer is spent by paired birds nesting and raising young.  From three to eight eggs are laid in each clutch.  The young fledge at between two and three weeks of age.
Large groups of starlings have been known to congregate with grackles and blackbirds at certain times of the year, and can cause significant damage to agriculture.  The main issue with starlings in urban and suburban areas is from their nesting behavior.  Starling nests built into any house can accumulate material that is unsightly and could present a fire hazard.  Starlings do not remove material from the old nests but keep adding to them year after year. 


House Sparrow

House sparrows are intelligent birds that roost in noisy flocks on branches of trees and bushes, ivy covered walls, under eaves of houses, attic vents and commercial signs.

The house sparrow is a small but stocky bird 5.5 to 6.5 inches in length.  The male can be distinguished from all common sparrows by its black throat, upper breast and ash gray crown as well as a chestnut colored cape extending from the eyes along the side and back of the neck.

House sparrows are a social bird, nesting closely to one another and flying and feeding in small flocks.  Nests of any easily obtained material are built on almost any likely high place.  Sparrows raise at least two and up to five broods per year. Three to eight eggs are laid per clutch taking an average of two weeks to hatch.  The annual mortality rate of mature house sparrows has been calculated at 54%.

Sparrows eat seeds and grains, young seedlings, buds, flowers, as well as fruits, vegetables, human table scraps, and insects. The house sparrow has become somewhat dependent on humans for both food sources and nesting sites.

House sparrows have been implicated in the transmission of more than 25 diseases to humans and domestic animals including psittacosis, salmonellas, and several forms of encephalitis.  In addition, house sparrows are often a nuisance in urban facilities like manufacturing and food processing plants.  Gutters and drainage pipes clogged with sparrow nests can backup and cause extensive water damage and fires have been attributed to electrical shorts caused by machinery housing sparrow nests.  Lastly, feces buildup can lead to structural damage from the uric acid in droppings.  In addition, the bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in the feces pose a health risk.


Honey Bees
Brewer's Blackbird

The common blackbird is spread throughout Europe, northern parts of Scandinavia, Asia, and northwestern Africa.  These birds live in parks, woodland areas, cemeteries and are also often seen in gardens.  They generally prefer wet places.  Their nest is usually cup-shaped and located in a tree, bush, or on a house.  Nest materials include twigs, sticks, grass, and leaves which are all affixed with mud.

Turdus merula is approximately 11.5 inches long.  The male, or cock, has a jet black colored plumage with yellow-orange bill.  The bill is darker during winter time.  The females, or hens, are dark brown and have a brown bill.  The young have similar plumage to the hens but the bill is yellowish.  These birds do not live in flocks but sometimes can be seen in pairs.

Blackbirds can be recognized by their strong voice; they have a large variety of voice types.  Blackbirds eat invertebrates, earthworms, snails, and slugs easily found in wet conditions.  They also eat berries and a variety of fruits such as cherries, grapes, etc. The hens have from three to seven greenish-blue eggs with reddish-brown markings. The hatching lasts 13-14 days and the offspring are fed by their parents for another 14-15 days.  Blackbirds of all species do significant damage to agriculture throughout North America.


Honey Bees
American Crow

Crows can be found just about anywhere in North America.  They thrive in mountains, woodlands, across plains and farmers' fields and urban areas.  Crows are not very social creatures while raising their young.  However, they will form a large group to travel to south in the fall.  Crows are black with black beaks and legs.  The common crow is about 20 - 30 cm long with a wingspan double that.

Crows nests are bulky structures built in trees or bushes.  They are made of twigs, lined with bark, grasses, and rootlets.  The female crow lays four to seven eggs and the male helps incubate them.  These eggs are greenish or bluish and blotched with brown.  Once hatched the young stays in the nest for six to eight weeks.  In their early life they eat almost half of their body weight per day.

Crows are omnivorous; their diet includes animal and vegetable matter, insects, crops, and the eggs or young of other birds. Despite their bad reputation for eating crops, crows also eat a number of pests which are harmful to those same crops including cutworms, wireworms, grasshoppers, and even noxious weeds.

In some areas, crows are regularly shot for damaging agriculture.  Scarecrows, propane cannons, etc., have been used to keep them away, but they are intelligent birds and can quickly become habituated to most tactics.   




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