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BIRDS OF TENNESSEE

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Phyl:
Several times a month I'll be posting a profile of a different native bird to The Volunteer State.
Most of the photos will enlarge when clicked upon.
All information is from  Tennessee State Government, wildlife pages.
I hope you find the thread informative and interesting.
Replies are welcomed.

Phyl:
Canada Goose
Branta canadensis


Obsolete English Names: cackling goose, wild goose, Canadian goose, ring-necked goose, tundra goose, white-cheeked goose, honker

The Canada Goose is the only goose that nests in Tennessee.  It is a year round resident of the state and numbers swell in the winter when resident birds are joined by more northerly nesters.
The range of the Canada Goose extends from central Alaska across Canada southward to the central United States, and it winters where there is open water in the lower 48 states.
The Canada Goose was extirpated from Tennessee in the late 19th century, but starting in 1966 TWRA, later assisted by TVA, successfully established a non-migratory resident population.  This reintroduction was so successful that these geese have become a nuisance in a few parks and golf courses.

Description: Males and females are similar in size and appearance. They can be identified by their black heads and necks marked with a contrasting white “chinstrap.” The back is brown, the chest and belly are pale, and the tail is black with a white rump band.

Length: 45"

Wingspan: 60"

Weight: 9.8 lbs.

Voice: The call is a distinct and musical honking. Mated pairs will often honk back and forth in flight.
Habitat: Always found near water, Canada Geese are common in wetlands, city ponds, lakes, lawns, and grassy fields. In winter they often forage on grain in agricultural fields.

Diet: Aquatic vegetation, grasses, grains, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and occasionally small fish.

Nesting and reproduction: Canada Geese form long-term pair bonds. Nest building in Tennessee begins in late March or early April.

Clutch Size: 4 to 7 eggs, occasionally as many as 10.

Incubation: The female alone incubates for 25 to 30 days while the male guards her and the nest.

Fledging: Young leave the nest within 2 days of hatching and will stay with the parents into the winter months.

Nest: The female selects the nest site and builds the nest of grasses and forbs, and lined with body feathers. It is always placed near water, usually on a slightly elevated site with a fairly unobstructed view.

Status in Tennessee: Canada Geese are fairly common nesters in Middle and East Tennessee and rare in West Tennessee.  In winter they are most numerous in West Tennessee when the Tennessee population is joined by more northerly nesters.
Maximum numbers occur from late November through March, but due to warmer winters fewer Canada Geese winter in Tennessee than in the recent past.

Phyl:
Wood Duck
Aix sponsa


The Wood Duck is the most common nesting duck in Tennessee, and many consider it to be the most beautiful of North America’s waterfowl.  It is found in forested wetlands, riparian habitats, and freshwater marshes.  The Wood Duck is a cavity nester and where cavities are scarce, it readily accepts nest boxes.
This species was nearly hunted to extinction by the early 1900s.  With the protection provided by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, along with recovering populations of beavers creating wetland habitat and the widespread erection of artificial nest boxes, the species has recovered.
The breeding range of the Wood Duck extends from southern Canada, throughout the eastern half of the United States, along the Pacific Coast and scattered locations inland. This duck winters in the southern three-quarters of the breeding range, and in the southwestern United States.

Wood Ducks are uncommon to locally common across the state during the breeding season, with smaller numbers present in the winter.

Description: The male Wood Duck has a brightly patterned iridescent-green and white head, with a long crest, a red bill and eye, a black back, a dark reddish chest, and pale golden sides.

The female is overall gray-brown with a white patch around the eye, and a bushy crest on the head.  From June-September the male is in “eclipse plumage” and resembles the female, but retains the head pattern and has a mostly red bill.

In flight, both the male and female show a green patch (speculum) in the wing and a white belly.
Length: 18.5"
Wingspan: 30"
Weight: 1.3 lbs.

Voice: The upward-slurred flight-call of the female is distinctive. The male’s call is a high, thin, drawn-out jeweep.

Similar Species:

Breeding male Wood Ducks are unmistakable.
Female Hooded Mergansers are similar to female Wood Ducks in shape and are found in similar habitats, but lack white around the eye, and have a white, not green, patch in the wing.
Habitat: Lakes, streams, and swamps with adjacent forest.
Diet: Seeds, acorns, aquatic and terrestrial insects, other invertebrates.

Nesting and reproduction: Wood Ducks nest in natural cavities, often in sycamore and beech trees, or abandoned Pileated Woodpecker holes, and readily accept nest boxes.  In Tennessee, pairs start selecting nest sites in late February and may produce two broods in a year. Nest Box Instructions here.

Clutch Size: Range from10 to15 eggs, with 12 eggs most frequent.

Incubation: The female incubates for 28 to 37 days.

Fledging: The young leave the nest within 2 days of hatching and stay with a female.

Nest: Wood Ducks prefer natural tree cavities, but readily accept artificial nest boxes when cavities are limited  The cavity is lined with wood chips and down.  Most cavities are over or near water but may be up to a mile from wetlands.

Status in Tennessee: The Wood Duck is a locally common breeding species and uncommon wintering duck across the state.  After dramatic declines in the early 1900s, the Tennessee population has been increasing since the early 1960s.  This increase is the result of maturing woodlands across the state and an aggressive nest box programs on public and private lands promoted by TWRA.

Dynamic map of Wood Duck eBird observations in Tennessee

Obsolete English Names: acorn duck, carolina duck, summer duck

Best places to see in Tennessee: Forested wetlands across the state. Nest boxes are provided at most National Wildlife Refuges and TWRA Wildlife Management Areas with suitable habitat.

Fun Facts:
Wood Ducks were nearly hunted to extinction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Management efforts have been successful and there are now well over a million Wood Ducks in North America.
If nest boxes are placed too close together, several females may lay eggs in the nests of other females. These "dump" nests can have up to 40 eggs.
After hatching, the female stands on the ground and calls to the young. The ducklings jump from the nest tree, from heights up to 290 feet without injury, and follow her to water.

Wood Duck Aix sponsa, Range Map

Sources:
Hepp, G. R., and F. C. Bellrose. 1995. Wood Duck (Aix sponsa). The Birds of North America, No. 169 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Sources:
Hepp, G. R., and F. C. Bellrose. 1995. Wood Duck (Aix sponsa). The Birds of North America, No. 169 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Phyl:
Mallard,
Anas platyrhynchos



The Mallard is the most abundant, widespread, and familiar duck in North America.  The breeding range extends across most of Canada and the northern half of the United States, and it spends the winter where it finds open water in the lower 48 states.

The Mallard is most common in Tennessee during the non-breeding season, especially in West Tennessee, with peak numbers occurring from October through February. It is an uncommon breeding bird across the state.

Hunters routinely refer to male Mallards as greenhead ducks and to females Mallards as suzies.

Description: The male is easily identified with its iridescent green head, bright yellow bill, and curled short central black tail feathers. These curled tail feathers are unique to the male Mallard.

The female is mottled brown overall, with an orange bill marked with black. Both sexes have red-orange legs, a mostly white tail, and a bright blue patch on the rear of the upper-wing that is bordered in white.

Length: 23"
Wingspan: 35"
Weight: 2.4 lbs.

Voice: It's the female that gives the characteristic quack and the familiar descending laughing series of quacks. Males make a softer, rasping rab during courtship.

Similar Species:

American Black Ducks look similar to female Mallards but are darker, have an all-dark tail, and have no white borders to their purplish wing-patch.
Male Northern Shovelers also have a green head, but also have a large broad bill and a white chest.
Other female dabbling ducks look very similar to the female Mallard, but the Mallard is the only one with a blue speculum bordered by white.
Habitat: Ponds, lakes, and open and forested wetlands.

Diet: Insects, aquatic invertebrates, seeds, acorns, aquatic vegetation, grain.

Nesting and reproduction: Pairing among Mallards takes place in the fall, and pairs stay together all winter. Egg laying begins as early as late February and extends through May. The male does not participate in nesting activities after incubation begins.

Clutch Size: Usually 7 to 10 eggs, but occasionally up to 15 eggs.

Incubation: The female alone incubates the eggs for 27 to 28 days

Fledging: The young leave the nest within 2 days of hatching and are able to fly in 8 weeks.

Nest: The female builds a bowl of grasses and other plant material, and lines it with down feathers from her breast. The nest is placed in a fallen log, on a small island in a marsh, or under a dense bush near water.

Status in Tennessee: The Mallard is common in winter (October through February) across the state, especially in Middle and West Tennessee. It breeds in all parts of the state, but is not common in any region.

Dynamic map of Mallard eBird observations in Tennessee


Fun Facts:

Historically the Mallard was a rare breeding bird in Tennessee. It is thought that the current breeding population is descended from crippled wild ducks, escaped domestic ducks, and ducks stocked by waterfowl enthusiasts and conservation agencies.
The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck). Many of the domestic breeds look like the wild birds, but usually are larger.
The Mallard is the most abundant and widespread of all waterfowl; every year hunters harvest millions of birds with little effect on the overall population. The greatest threat to mallards is habitat loss.
Mallards hybridize with wild species such as the closely related American Black Duck and even occasionally with Northern Pintails.
The oldest known Mallard in the wild was 27 years 7 months old.
Obsolete English Names: green-head duck, green-headed duck

Best places to see in Tennessee: Most abundant in the state from October through February especially in Middle and West Tennessee.

Can be found at most waterfowl refuges across the state. Hundreds to thousands spend the winter in and around Reelfoot Lake.

For more information:

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Sources:
Drilling, N., R. Titman, and F. McKinney. 2002. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The Birds of North America, No. 658 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Phyl:
Wild Turkey
Meleagris gallopavo


Wild Turkeys are the largest bird nesting in Tennessee.  This large-bodied, big-footed species only flies short distances, but roosts in trees at night. The historic range of Wild Turkey extended from southern Canada throughout the United States to central Mexico. The eastern subspecies occurs in Tennessee.

It was a very important food animal to Native Americans and early settlers, but by the early 1900s over-hunting eliminated this species from most of its range, including much of Tennessee.  Modern wildlife management has reestablished this bird throughout its historic range and into 49 of the 50 United States.

Description: A Wild Turkey is a large, dark ground-dwelling bird.  Males are larger than females.  In late winter and spring when the male is courting females, he has a white forehead, bright blue face, and scarlet neck.  All males and some females have a tuft of modified feathers on the chest called a beard.

Length: Male 46", Female 37"
Wingspan: Male 64", Female 50"
Weight: Male 16.2 lbs., Female 9.2 lbs.

Voice: Male makes a fast descending gobble, gobble, gobble and females make a loud, sharp tuk, similar to a chipmunk.

Similar Species:

Domestic turkeys can look similar but have a white tip to the tail (similar to some of the western U.S. subspecies).

Habitat: Mature woodlands with scattered openings or fields.

Diet: Acorns, nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds, salamanders.

Nesting and reproduction: Males begin vying for females starting in late winter or early spring and attract females by gobbling. When the female appears, he puffs up his body feathers, and struts around her with his tail spread and wingtips dragging on the ground.

Dominant males will mate with several females in one season, but the female alone builds the nest and cares for the young.

Clutch Size: Ranges from 7 to 14 eggs with an average of 11 eggs.

Incubation: The female incubates the eggs for 27 to 28 days.

Fledging: The young leave the nest shortly after hatching and follow the female. They begin to fly at 6 to 10 days old. Male young remain with the female until the fall; female young remain with the female until the spring.

Nest: The nest is a simple depression on the ground lined with dead leaves or grass, usually placed at the base of a tree or bush and concealed in thick vegetation.

Status in Tennessee: The Wild Turkey is a common to uncommon permanent resident throughout the state.  By the early 1900's populations had crashed due to unrestricted hunting, land clearing, and the loss of the American Chestnut, which was an important food source.

As a result of reintroduction efforts by TWRA, the Wild Turkey is now found in every county in the state. Winter flocks in Tennessee may exceed 400 individuals.

Keep Wild Turkeys Wild! Find out how you can help.
Wild Turkey Range Map
Dynamic map of Wild Turkey eBird observations in Tennessee


Fun Facts:

The Wild Turkey is native to North America and is one of only two bird species domesticated in the New World; the other is the Muscovy Duck.
In the early 1500s, European explorers took Wild Turkeys from Mexico for domestication in Europe. When Europeans colonized the Atlantic Coast, they brought these domesticated turkeys with them. The Mexican subspecies has a white tip to the tail and this trait can be used in part to distinguish wild from domestic birds.
The male Wild Turkey provides no parental care. The female alone incubates the eggs. The young follow her immediately after hatching, and quickly learn to catch food for themselves. Several females and their broods may form flocks of 30 or more birds.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Found in every county in the state. Good places to see include Natchez Trace Parkway and the Warner Parks in Nashville.

For more information:

National Wild Turkey Federation


Sources:

Eaton, S. W. 1992. Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). The Birds of North America, No. 22 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.


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