What Middle Schoolers Want To Know: “What kinds of birds are in Somers?”

Image from top left, clockwise: Great Blue Heron, nest with eggs, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Oven Bird, Wild Turkey, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Photos copyright Lauretta Jones.

This is the second column inspired by questions from Mrs. Antonucci’s 6th grade class at Somers Middle School. This week I will attempt to do justice to Laura’s question, “What kinds of birds are in Somers?”

There are many ways to categorize birds. Some live in Somers year round while others are here only in summer or winter. Hummingbirds, for instance, are summer-only residents, while juncos and the white-throated sparrows that sing, “Oh, sweet Canada” spend winters with us, returning north in the spring.

Some, such as robins, are natives while others, such as starlings, were brought here from Europe or other countries.

Some birds are common at our backyard feeders and lawns: you may recognize bluejays, goldfinch, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, grackles, cardinals, catbirds, mourning doves, wrens, sparrows of all sorts, crows, and woodpeckers of several types. We even see wild turkey strutting down our streets.

Head to the woods and fields to see cedar waxwings, bluebirds and colorful warblers; orange and black orioles with songs just as bright, scarlet tanagers high in the treetops giving metallic chick-burr calls.

Other birds are rarely seen but often heard in the woods, such as veeries and wood thrushes that sing two notes at once, insistent phoebes repeating their name with tones of indignation, owls hooting at night.

Many of these birds are herbivores but others are carnivorous predators and scavengers. Watch for hawks and turkey vultures circling overhead or sitting high in tree branches along the roads. Even bald eagles can sometimes be sighted in trees overlooking the reservoirs.

Watch for ducks and other waterfowl especially in winter. Canada geese and swans are most common, but buffleheads, ring-bills and mergansers also appear on reservoirs and ponds. In summer, great blue heron stalk in the shallows while kingfishers zoom along streams cackling with great energy. Swallows, those expert aerialists, perform over water and fields. Red-winged blackbirds call from the tops of cattails, “Con-ker-eeee!”

A list of 365 species found in Westchester County is collated by the Hudson River Audubon Society at www.hras.org/birdguide.html. A good site for learning about birds more generally is Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, www.allaboutbirds.org. And closer to home, you may want to go on a bird hike led by experts at Bedfordaudubon.org.

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