Utah County Birders Newsletter
January 2010

    January Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Provo CBC Report
    Bird of the Month
    Backyard Bird of the Month


Thursday, January 14th.

Robin Tuck
will present "Origins and Purposes of Utah County Birders--and a Proposed Birding Challenge for 2010."

Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.


January Thursday 1/28 - Sunday 1/31, 2010:  St. George Winter Bird Festival. Make your own travel and lodging arrangements. See http://redcliffsaudubon.org/ for more information as it becomes available.

Feb 2010: Delta Snow Goose Festival - Tentatively February 19 - 20, 2010, details TBA: see http://www.deltagoosefestival.info/

We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place.  If you would like to lead a field trip or if you have any ideas for this year’s field trips, please contact Lu Giddings at - seldom74@xmission.com

Ned’s Notes

By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders

How to Protect Birds

I recently received an email from a man who noticed some unusual activity in his neighborhood.  Some of his neighbor boys like to shoot birds with their BB guns.  He wanted to know if that was OK or if there were any laws against such behavior.  Not having our local expert on bird protection, Dennis Shirley, immediately available to me, I did a little investigating and here is what I found.

The main law in the U.S. for protecting birds is called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). It grew out of an agreement between our country and Great Britain (acting for Canada).  MBTA came at a time when commercial trade in bird feathers and eggs was very popular.  Some species were hunted to near extinction and, indeed, a few did become extinct (e.g., the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon).  Similar agreements have been made between the U.S. and Mexico, Japan and Russia. These have been incorporated into the MBTA.1

The purpose of the MBTA is to protect bird species that cross borders between the U.S. and those other countries. We protect their birds and they protect ours. The law makes it “unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein.”  The statute applies to live or dead birds and also protects any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Some parts of these agreements not only protect birds but protect their habitats. Over 800 species are currently on the list2 and there is a proposal to add over 100 more.

You may think that the word “migratory” might be overly restrictive.  But the definition is much more broadly applied and includes birds that, in Utah at least, might not appear to be migratory, such as: Mallard, Western Screech-Owl, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Song Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow and Common Raven.  The law does permit hunting seasons for certain “game birds” that have been traditionally hunted and for which limited hunting would not endanger a sustainable population. Besides these game birds, it turns out that only three species in the lower 48 states that are not protected by the MBTA.  They will not surprise you: House Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, and European Starling.3

There are, of course, other laws that protect birds, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and state and local laws.  For example, cities usually have laws prohibiting the discharge of firearms within city limits.

Besides laws, however, perhaps the best way encourage people to protect birds is to get them to appreciate birds. A few years ago, Ivan Call and I were in Beijing.  We had just completed a tour of the Forbidden City and were walking around in streets outside that most famous landmark.  We saw a bird fly into a tree overhead and found it to be a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  But then we saw four or five Chinese

boys a few yards from us taking aim at the bird with their pellet guns. Before they could shoot, we cried, “No, no!  Don’t shoot that beautiful bird!”  Of course, they couldn’t understand us but they could see we were passionate about that bird in the tree.  We walked to them and held out our binoculars offering them a look.  They probably had never seen binoculars.  We helped them take turns looking at the bird through the binoculars and we could see looks of amazement cross their faces as that striking bird came into focus. We don’t know if they stopped hunting birds in that crowded city, but at least they got some appreciation for the beauty of a live bird when viewed up close through binoculars.

My own interest in birds began when my grandfather, father and uncles took me on a pheasant hunting trip when I was very young.  After they shot the first pheasant, I picked it up and was amazed at how beautiful and intricate the feathers were on that limp body.  I decided at that time not to shoot them but to try to find more kinds of birds to appreciate.  Perhaps the most important thing we can do as birders is to invite others to experience the fascinating world of birds.  That may do more to help protect birds than any laws or ordinances could ever do.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migratory_Bird_Treaty_Act_of_1918

2 http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/media/federal_migratory_birds_lists.pdf

3 http://10000birds.com/migratory-bird-treaty-act.htm

Provo Christmas Bird Count Report

Here are some highlights of the Provo CBC held December 19,  2009.  While the temperature on count day rose into the 30's,  Utah Lake remained frozen due to very cold weather in previous weeks.  This diminished the number of waterfowl that are usually seen during the count. This dropped the count total to a low for several years of 90 species.  Five additional species were observed during count week, but not included in the total for the day.

Wood Duck (9), American Wigeon (422) – a high for quite a few years, Canvasback (1), Redhead (1), Barrow's Goldeneye (17) – high, Ring-necked Pheasant (31) – very low, Wild Turkey (60) – growing number each year, Black-crowned Night-Heron (5) – higher than usual, Bald Eagles (39) – relatively high, Red-tailed Hawk (83) – high, Rough-legged Hawk (14) – high, Peregrine Falcon (1), Wilson's Snipe (7) – no other shorebirds, very unusual, Eurasian Collared-Dove (178) – growing each year, Western Screech-Owl (1), Great Horned Owl (2), Northern Pygmy-Owl (1), Northern Shrike (1), American Crow – 0 – this is a first—down from 1000's just a decade ago!, Bushtit (27) – high, Golden-crowned Kinglet (2), Hermit Thrush (1), American Pipit -0- very unusual to not have any, Cedar Waxwing ( 753) high but no Bohemian’s, Yellow-headed Blackbird (6), Brown-headed Cowbird (2).

Thanks to all who participated.  We had a wonderful day and introduced several new birders to the CBC experience.  --Ned Hill, compiler



Bird of the Month

Spotted Towhee
(Pipilo maculatus)
by Alona Huffaker

Have you ever walked outside and heard a soft, buzzing trill? You may have a Spotted-Towhee visitor! This is a robin-sized bird that likes to dig around under bushes and shrubs. If you get a chance to see it, you will see a pretty bird with a black head and back with black wings. It’s sides are rufous colored and it has white spots on its back, wings and long, rounded tail. It also has red eyes. The female is similar in color, but more dark brown instead of black.

The Spotted-Towhee used to be called the Rufous-sided Towhee, and some people called it a ground robin, because of it’s size and manner. It digs around in the under brush through the leaf litter looking for insects, spiders, seeds and berries. It actually moves the litter with both feet to find its treasures. These birds spend most of their time down under the brush, but in the spring the male sits on the tops of the bushes and sings for its mate.

As you drive through brushy wooded areas and see a bird dive for the undergrowth, watch for the white flash on its tail, and you probably have seen the Spotted Towhee.

This is one of six towhees that Sibleys lists as living in North America. The Spotted Towhee lives in the Western part of the country, and the Green-tailed Towhee is the only other one that regularly lives in Utah County.

The Spotted Towhee makes a loose nest of sticks, leaves and bark, lined with grass and hair on or near the ground. It lays 4-6 white speckled eggs.

If you can put a feeder near bushes and shrubs in your yard, you may be rewarded with good looks at this pretty bird digging for the seeds the other birds spill.


Backyard Bird of the Month

December 2009

Carol Nelson – Provo
Winter is here! A Bald Eagle, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk using the same tree, though
not at the same time.

Flora Duncan - Orem
Cassin's Finch and a Northern Flicker.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Terrorized the goldfinches several times this month.

Bruce Robinson – West Jordan
Pine Siskin - Finally-- first of the winter

Milt Moody - Provo
I've had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flittering about for several days.

Leila Ogden – Orem
The Western Screech Owl has visited my box
again. Also have had Spotted Towhees under my feeders.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
A White-throated Sparrow has been visiting daily since mid December and a Bullock's Oriole stopped by a few times.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
We were out of town for awhile and the bird feeder was neglected. Within 30 minutes after putting out the seeds, there was a lot of House Finches, Juncos, Chickadees, a Spotted Towhee, 1 Northern Flicker at the feeder, a Hairy Woodpecker 20 feet away busy tapping on a trunk and a few hours later 12 Cedar Waxwings. I am sure they all wanted to scold me but a great way to tell me, 'welcome home'.

Junece Markham – Provo
I don't often see a Spotted Towhee in my yard. This month I saw one twice, at about the same time a Downy Woodpecker appeared. Good to have different birds appear, keeps me more alert.

Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
Red-winged Blackbirds – a first for the feeders, but not the yard.

Cheryl Peterson – Provo
A Sharp-shinned Hawk took a California Quail as I was watching.

Report your favorite backyard bird each month to Cheryl Peterson at 801-375-1914 or CherylPeterson@gmail.com


2010 Dues

Hey, the new year is here!! Thanks to all who have supported us in the past. If you are interested in officially joining us this year, make out a check to Utah County Birders for $15.00 and mail it to:

Carol Nelson
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604

You will be helping to support the web page and we will send you a copy of the newsletter.