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Author: Caitlyn Gillespie

Bird Bio: Purple Finch

Bird Bio: Purple FinchPUFI
By: Emily Molter, KBO Wildlife Education Specialist

The Purple Finch is a sexually dimorphic species with the adult males washed in a rosy color that looks like it has been dipped in raspberry sauce. By contrast, the adult females are quite different, exhibiting a brown, drab color with a white moustache stripe. Young Purple Finches of both sexes resemble adult females. The males do not acquire a colored plumage until their 2nd breeding season. Purple Finches are common across the northern United States, southern and central Canada, and the west coast of North America. The Purple Finch lives primarily in coniferous woods and mixed forests as well as park-like areas.

According to the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), Purple Finches have experienced significant declines throughout their range in both the East and West since 1966 when the survey began. Reasons for the declines are unclear but may be partly explained by competition with introduced House Finches, House Sparrows, and other similar species. In aggressive encounters, the House Finch nearly always displaces the Purple Finch.

KBO’s regional long-term bird monitoring data also show declines in both breeding and migrating Purple Finch populations of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, corroborating the BBS data. Our research efforts have identified oak woodland restoration efforts that benefit Purple Finches. This information is being used for conservation planning efforts in southern Oregon and northern California that are intended to help managers meet continental and regional conservation objectives to reverse Purple Finch population declines.

This article first appeared in the KBO Spring 2007 newsletter. 


Birds of Oregon edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by D.A. Sibley; The Birds of North America by G.R. Geupel and G. Ballard

Banding with the Klamath Bird Observatory

213 056 Common Yellowthroat 06The Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion is known for its incredible amount of biodiversity, including birds. One of the ways Klamath Bird Observatory can help monitors bird populations in this region is through bird banding stations. KBO has grown into having banding stations in Northern California and Southern Oregon, by doing this they are able to gather unique information of individual birds as well as migration trends. Click here to read the full Mail Tribune article and to learn more about how bird banding stations are run.

Bird Bio: Wrentit

Bird Bio: Wrentit196 166 Wrentit 9686
By: Emily Molter, KBO Wildlife Education Specialist

Many birders may hear the male Wrentit’s distinctive, loud song similar to a Ping-Pong ball bouncing on a table, but never see one. The Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata) is a secretive bird that prefers to remain hidden within dense brush and scrub, rarely crossing open areas. This year round resident in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion is limited in distribution to the West Coast, bounded to the north by the Columbia River, south by the deserts of Baja California, and inland by the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges.

The Wrentit is the only species of its family found in North America. This species received its common name from the original specimens considered at the time to resemble a wren and also a tit (British name for chickadee). Described as the most sedentary species of birds, its breeding territory ranges from 1-5 acres. Wrentits form longterm monogamous pair bonds. Both sexes defend the territory throughout the year, build the nest, incubate the eggs, and care for the young. It is one of the only songbirds that sings throughout the year.

The Partners in Flight (PIF) North American Landbird Conservation Plan lists the Wrentit as a Species of Continental Importance in the Pacific Avifaunal Biome (Pacific coastline of Canada and U.S.) because 97% of the global population is within this biome. Wrentit population declines have been measured and are related to effects of forest management, loss of riparian woodlands, and encroachment into oak, chaparral, and coastal scrub habitats. PIF’s continental population objective is to increase the global population by 50%.

In 2005, KBO banders captured 141 Wrentits (72 of these were recaptures from 2005 or previous years). Wrentits were captured this year during our education programs at North Mountain Park, Wildlife Images, and Willow Wind. Through such programs, KBO educates students and community members, allowing them to experience close-up encounters with birds they may not otherwise see. The next time you are birding in a
riparian scrub area, listen for the sound of a Ping-Pong ball bouncing. If you are lucky, you might just see a Wrentit hopping through the shrubs. If not, remember, you can always join our next visit to a banding station.

This article appears in the Fall 2006 KBO newsletter.


Birds of Oregon edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by D.A. Sibley; The Birds of North America by G.R. Geupel and G. Ballard, and PIF NA Landbird Conservation Plan by Rich et al.

Photo by: Jim Livaudais

Bird Bio: Lazuli Bunting, Passerina amoena

By: lazuli buntingCara Lovell, KBO Banding Intern

The Lazuli Bunting is a banding crew favorite, and we often can’t help smiling when we capture these spectacular birds. The blue head and back, rusty breast, and white wing bars make the male stand out, while the drabber females can be an identification mystery until we find the delicate blue wash on the rump or carpal wing joint.

The striking color of the Lazuli Bunting looks chalky close up, as if it might rub off on your hand. This is because the iridescent blue is a “structural color,” not a pigment. Tiny particles in the feather scatter only short wavelengths, on the blue end of the spectrum. If you put the feather between you and the light, the blue disappears.

This species is fun for banders to age using molt limits. It grows (molts) adult feathers in a different sequence than most songbirds, therefore the retained juvenal plumage help us identify first year breeders.

You don’t need to visit areas exclusive to biologists in order to see a Lazuli Bunting. This bird might frequent your back yard or nearby fields, as it is found in shrubs, open spaces and forest edges within the western half of the United States. It breeds in northern California west of the Sierra Nevada and in Oregon east of the Cascades and in some western valleys. They have been known to interbreed with the Indigo Bunting where their ranges overlap in the Great Plains and Southwest.

Their song is a quick warbly one—we remember it in pairs: two medium-pitched notes, two low, then two high followed by a rapid jumble of notes. Luckily they like to perch exposed while they sing, so you can spot that splash of blue. You’ll have to get moving to enjoy them, though, as some
begin to migrate to western Mexico at the end of July!

This article appears in KBO’s Summer 2006 newsletter.

Bird Bio: Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Bird Bio: Ruby-crowned KingletRCKI
By: Bob Frey, KBO Biologist

In the vast boreal forests of Alaska and Canada, follow asubtle and melodic song and you’ll find one of North America’s smallest birds—the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It is one of the many bird species that undertakes the great spring migration to the boreal regions to breed and nest. This species flies from wintering areas located within the southern one-third of the United States through Central America to Honduras. South of the United States border, it is known as “Reyezuelo de Rojo” (“Little King of Red”). Here in southern Oregon, we see these little kings (and queens) from late winter until their big flight northward or to higher elevations in our own region.

One of the world’s six kinglet species (two of which are found in North America), this diminutive olive and paleyellow songbird can be recognized by its nearly constant wing flicking, incomplete white eye-ring, and tiny bill. In courtship, or when agitated, the male flashes his regal ruby-red crown (female lacks this crown), which is otherwise hidden by olive-green feathers. Both male and female build a nest of moss and cobwebs, and together raise the young. Kinglets hop and twitter amongst the leaves and crevices of branches of conifer trees searching for their favorite foods—insects, larvae, and spiders.

Although considered common in most of its range, study of population trends for the Ruby-crowned Kinglet reveal a mix of results. Breeding Bird Survey data during the period 1966-2005 show it declining in numbers annually at a rate of 0.9 % across North America. Within Oregon, during the same period of time, it has declined 1.7 % annually. Populations of eastern North America have shown increases in recent years.

From 1996 through 2005 KBO biologists have captured and banded 1,605 Ruby-crowned Kinglets during monitoring efforts in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion.

This article appears in KBO’s Spring 2006 newsletter. 


Birds of Oregon edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis, 1966-2004 by J.R. Sauer, J. E. Hines, & J. Fallon; The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by D.A. Sibley

Photo: Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the hands of a biologist at a KBO Banding Station. photo-KBO file

Bird Bio– Hermit Warbler

Bird Bio– Hermit Warbler213 024 Hermit Warbler 02
Generally breeds west of the Pacific Crest from southern California to Washington. Winters in the mountains of west Mexico to Nicaragua.

Breeds primarily in Douglas-fir forests with dense tree canopy and multiple layers of vegetation including a well-developed understory.

Glean (pick) insects off vegetation and can be seen hovering as they forage.

Life Span:
Oldest recorded age – 4 years

Oregon-Washington and California Partners In Flight Focal Species

This article can be found in KBO’s Winter 2005 newsletter.

Bird Bio: the Song Sparrow

Bird Bio: the Song Sparrowsosp
The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is a familiar bird year round in our region. It has the conical, seed-crunching bill typical of sparrows, and can be identified by its brown cap, gray supercilium (“eyebrow”), brown streak extending behind the eye, and strong brown lateral throat stripe. Additionally, it has heavy brown striping along the sides of its white or gray breast. These brown streaks converge on its chest, just below the throat, to form a messy breast-spot. The Song Sparrow generally eats seeds and sometimes berries, but supplements its diet with insects.

During the spring, male birds can be seen chasing females in a courtship dance, with head and neck held high and wings fluttering rapidly. Song Sparrows are generally monogamous, and some pairs will even stay together from one breeding season to the next. After choosing a mate, a female Song Sparrow will build a cup-shaped nest, usually on the ground or in low shrubs, and preferably in a densely vegetated riparian area. She lays a clutch of 3 or 4 pale blue or green eggs, patterned with reddish-brown markings. Song Sparrows are a frequent victim of cowbird parasitism, and have been known to recognize and chase off cowbirds. The female broods the eggs, and the pair collaborate in caring for the hatchlings. After about 9-12 days, the young fledge; at this point the male takes over their feeding so that the female can attend to a new clutch of eggs. (The pair may raise two, three, or even four clutches in a single season!) About 21-30 days after hatching, the young disperse to make their way on their own.

Mist-netting research conducted by KBO along the Rogue River indicates that resident populations of Song Sparrows have declined 6.4% annually during the past eight years. Oregon-Washington Partners in Flight classifies the Song Sparrow as a conservation focal species associated with riparian habitats; meanwhile, California PIF has found that Song Sparrow populations increase gradually following the restoration of degraded riparian habitat. Monitoring Song Sparrow populations is a good way to track the health of riparian habitats, and as PIF riparian restoration objectives are implemented, we expect Song Sparrow populations to benefit.

This article can be found in KBO’s Fall 2005 newsletter.


The Birder’s Handbook by P.R. Ehrlich, D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye, and from The Sibley Guide to Birds by D.A. Sibley

Bird Bio– Townsend’s Solitaire

Bird Bio– Townsend’s SolitaireTownsend's Solitaire
By: Deborah Zierten, KBO Education Intern

Generally found in mountainous areas throughout the west from central Mexico to Alaska.

Breeds in montane coniferous forests on steep rocky slopes at moderate to high elevations

Flycatches (catch insects in the air) from exposed perches, in the non-breeding season they feed mostly on berries.

Life Span: Unknown

Populations have increased over the last 30 years, possibly due to increased forest openings.

Behavioral Notes:
Males sing from exposed perches but are quite while foraging close to the ground with mates. Aerial songs are only given by males and have been described as being complex, soft, and flute-like at times, often resembling the sound produced by the axle of a wagon in need of greasing. (Gabrielson and Jewett 1940)

This article can be found in KBO’s Spring 2005 newsletter.


Birds of Oregon, A General Reference, Marshall et. at.

Image by Stewart Janes.

Celebrating Migratory Birds

Tree Swallow (c) Jim Livaudais

Klamath Bird Observatory will join the North Mountain Park Nature Center and the Rogue Valley Audubon Society at the Nature Center to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. This free family event will run from 8:00am until noon on Saturday May 8th. Here you can enjoy bird friendly shade-grown coffee, go on a bird walk, learn from local biologists about the importance of bird banding or, partake in fun kids events such as the Bird Olympics. Many migrants such as the yellow-breasted chat and western kingbirds have arrived and are starting to breed throughout the area. You are now able to enjoy an up-close view of tree swallows building their nests by watching a live feed video recorded through the “spy-cam”. To learn more about the events taking place at the International Migratory Bird festival at North Mountain Park click here.

Taking Wing for Klamath Bird Observatory

The Mail Tribune introduces the Klamath Bird Observatory and its latest accomplishment of receiving the U.S. Forest Service’s National Taking Wing Award with one of its partners, Redwoods Sciences Laboratory in Arcata, CA. This is the first time the Taking Wing Award has been awarded to an organization that focuses on land bird research. This award was received due to KBO’s research to better understand wetland ecosystems and habitat relationships. One technique KBO uses to monitor bird populations is through bird banding. To do this, mist nests made of thin nylon are set up 15 minutes prior to sunrise then checked ever half-hour for five hours. When a bird is caught it is safely taken out and examined for information  such as age, sex and body fat, which cannot be obtained through other monitoring techniques. The common yellowthroat is one bird banded at the field station, this is also a bird that depends on wetland habitat, which have been readily drained on the West Coast due to agriculture and development. On of KBO’s challenging goals is “to keep common birds common” states John Alexander, the Executive Director of KBO. He sees the Taking Wings Award as a step towards “all bird conservation” and away from the split between research on land and water birds. To read the full article and learn about the birds banded at the monitoring station click here.