Large Birds: Pigeons, Seagulls & Canadian Geese
Pigeons are the quintessential urban bird, considered both an endearing part of city life and an aggravation. Either way, almost everyone recognizes this wild neighbor.
Like so many Americans, the pigeon - also known as the rock dove-is a European immigrant. Early settlers brought pigeons to North America, where they soon flourished. You can now find them in almost any city, town, or suburb on the continent
In the Old World, these birds inhabited cliffs and rock ledges, nesting in such inaccessible places and foraging on the ground below. Imported to this continent to serve as food animals and as message carriers, some pigeons escaped captivity and found shelter in the artificial "mountain ranges" of cities.
The pigeon's diet consists primarily of grains and seeds, along with insects and some greens. They aren't terribly picky though, and they'll happily accept human food scraps and leftovers when available.
Pigeons live in groups called flocks, and show a strong affinity for human-built structures. A courting male pursues his intended mate on the ground, circling her with neck feathers inflated and tail spread, bowing and cooing all the while. Pigeons mate for life, but if one partner dies, the survivor generally will attempt to find another mate. Pigeons breed throughout the year, even during winter, and can raise four or five broods annually. Haphazard nests of twigs, leaves, and a few feathers are built on window ledges, behind signs, and under bridges.
Parents take turns incubating the clutch of one or two white eggs for between 16 and 19 days. Both parents feed the newly hatched young-called squabs-a secretion known as "crop milk." Produced from the lining of the crop-a saclike food-storage organ unique to birds-crop milk is highly nutritious. Squabs can fly at four to six weeks of age, but remain dependent on their parents for as long as the adults will tolerate them-generally another one or two weeks.
The Gull or Seagull is a medium to large bird usually gray or white and often has black marking on its head and wings. It has a long bill and webbed feet. Gulls are ground nesting birds. They are found in coastal areas and rarely stray far from land. These highly intelligent birds have learned to co-exist successfully with humans. They eat live crabs and small fish and are often times scavengers.
The Herring Gull has one of the most recognized laughing calls in the Northern Hemisphere. This large gull breeds across North America, Europe and Asia. They are abundant around inland garbage dumps and have adapted to life within cities. They scavenge for food and seek small prey in fields and on the coast. Similar to the Ring- Billed Gull, the Herring Gull is much larger, and is identified by its pale gray back, pink legs and thick yellow bill with a red spot. Gulls in their first winter are a brownish color, and once they enter their second and third winters, their colors become softer. The adult female lays three eggs on the ground or in cliff ledges. They live in colonies and defend their nests vigorously.
Gulls are common at dumpsites, harbors, and piers and around fishing boats. They are hazardous to low flying aircrafts. Structural damage can be caused from the buildup of gull droppings and from the uric acid contained in the droppings. As a pest, gulls attack people and pets for food and when protecting their young. They pick at roofing materials to build their nests and block gutters with their nests holding moisture against the structure.
Canadian Geese are waterfowl that live throughout most of North America. They are famous for their life-long mating, though a widowed goose will usually choose another mate. Canadian Geese are large birds, 20 to 50 inches long with a wingspan of 50-68 inches.
Canadian Geese are most easily identified by their long black neck, with a black head, crown and bill. They have a contrasting white cheek and throat area. Their under tail coverts are white. Their back, upper wings and flank are dark brown with a lighter brown (sometimes, nearly white) breast and belly. They have a short black tail and black legs with black webbed feet.
Canadian Geese cover a wide range across North America. Canadian Geese in different areas may be different sizes, have different vocalizations or have somewhat different coloring than those in other areas. All groups have the characteristic long black neck, head, crown and bill and the white cheeks.
Newly hatched Canadian Geese look much like ducklings with yellow and gray feathers and a dark bill. But within a week they grow to be rather awkward-looking, fuzzy gray birds. By nine to ten weeks old, they've grown their flight feathers and look like slightly smaller versions of the adult.
Canadian Geese, like most waterfowl, eat aquatic vegetation, grass, roots and young sprouts. They also eat grain and corn from agricultural areas. Canadian Geese live around ponds, river and lake shores. They've become quite a common sight in city parks -- some cities are having trouble with overpopulation of the geese and, for this reason, are trying to discourage people from feeding them in the overpopulated areas.
Canadian Geese build their nest with grass and plant material and line it with feather down. The geese typically nest on the ground on islands and shorelines. However, they're very adaptable birds and in urban settings nest where ever it seems safe to them -- even on the edge of the runway at the airport or on the edge of the water traps on the golf course!
Small Birds: Grackles, Starlings & Woodpeckers
A familiar sight on suburban lawns, the Common Grackle can be recognized by its iridescent purple and bronze plumage and long, keel-shaped tail. It's expanding its range into the far West, but is most common in the East.
The Common Grackle is an opportunistic forager, taking advantage of whatever food sources it can find. It will follow plows for invertebrates and mice, wade into water to catch small fish, and sometimes kill and eat other birds at bird feeders.
The Common Grackle commonly engages in anting, allowing ants to crawl on its body and secrete formic acid, possibly to rid the body of parasites. In addition to ants, it has been seen using walnut juice, lemons and limes, marigold blossoms, choke cherries, and mothballs in a similar fashion.
Found in a variety of open areas with scattered trees, including open woodland, boreal forest, swamps, marshes, agricultural areas, urban residential areas, and parks.
Starlings are robin-sized birds weighing about 3.2 ounces (90 g). Adults are dark with light speckles on the feathers. The speckles may not show at a distance (Fig. 1). The bill of both sexes is yellow during the reproductive cycle (January to June) and dark at other times. Juveniles are pale brown to gray.
Starlings generally are chunky and hump-backed in appearance, with a shape similar to that of a meadowlark. The tail is short, and the wings have a triangular shape when outstretched in flight. Starling flight is direct and swift, not rising and falling like the flight of many blackbirds.
Starlings nests are built into house cavities and can accumulate material that is unsightly and may be a fire hazard.
Starlings are pest birds. They have bird mites, and nose cone bugs that infest structures. They cause a lot of sound issues and bird droppings problems. Once they have infested an area or developed a roosting site, they can create hundreds of pounds of waste per night. These birds can be controlled through various repellants and sound irritant techniques.
Starlings are found in a wide variety of habitats including cities, towns, farms, ranches, open woodlands, fields, and lawns. Ideal nesting habitat would include areas with trees or other structures that have cavities suitable for nesting and short grass (turf) areas or grazed pastures for foraging. Ideal winter habitat would include areas with structures and/or tall trees for daytime loafing (resting) and nighttime roosting; and grazed pastures, open water areas, and livestock facilities for foraging.
The woodpecker's name says it all. It's not hard to figure out why it was given this English name - most woodpeckers love to tap loudly with their beaks on tree trunks, and other times, on your house or business. Woodpeckers - flickers are also known as flickers, so any of United Wildlife's woodpecker - removal ideas on how to get rid of woodpeckers will also apply to flickers.
Woodpeckers, flickers or picidae, have stiff tail feathers and two sharp - clawed toes that point backward. These two physical traits enable woodpeckers-flicker to cling very easily to tree trunks, branches, homes, businesses, or anything else they may be hammering on. Woodpeckers-flickers usually have some sort of bright-colored patterns on their bodies.
Because they are dependent on trees for food and shelter, woodpeckers-flickers can usually be found in or nearby wooded areas. They build their nests in tree trunks, branches and other wood structures. Oftentimes, manmade buildings work just as well for a woodpecker-flicker home. Woodpecker-flicker habitat has extended to utility poles, wooden fence posts, homes, barns and businesses. In homes and businesses, woodpeckers - flickers will nest in roofs, attics and walls. Simply because you don't live near a forest doesn't mean you are safe from woodpecker - flicker damage.
Why do woodpeckers - flickers tap on houses and businesses? For several reasons: The pecking signals to their rivals that this is their territory and it's also a very effective way to locate grubs living under the bark of the tree or wood on the house or business. If a woodpecker-flicker is making noise on the siding or house, it may be trying to excavate a home for itself.
But food and shelter are not the only reasons woodpeckers-flickers hammer on the roof. Your roof or siding may be bug-free, but a woodpecker-flicker will still tap to establish its territory or to attract a mate. Buildings, utility poles and fence posts are favorite spots for woodpeckers-flickers to practice their "drumming."