Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
July 1st, 2016                                                                                               Volume 07.16
Nature News

High Desert Bird of the Month
Black-headed Grosbeak
Scientific name: Pheucticus melanocephalus 

How to identifyBlack-headed Grosbeak is a spring and summer visitor in our area, and winters in Mexico.  Breeding males are a rich orange-cinnamon with a black head and black and white wings.  Females and immatures are brown above with warm orange or buff on the breast.  In flight, look for the beautiful bright yellow under the wings. Their bills are large and conical like other grosbeaks.

HabitatHabitat preferences are very diverse-they may be found from mixed woodlands, mountain forests, thickets along desert streams, to gardens and backyards.  Ideal habitat seems to be a combination of large trees and a rich understory.  Preferred nesting sites are in the outer branches of small trees or a bush near a stream.  Oxbow Nature Study Area is a good place in Reno to look for them during nesting season. 

Behavior:  Evening Grosbeaks do not use any complex song to attract a mate or defend territory; they do have a small repertoire of simple calls.  They are very tolerant of one another throughout the year and do not defend territory during nesting season.  They court very quietly, with no songs or displays, and form monogamous pairs for the breeding season.

Where to find one:Evening Grosbeaks normally spend the year in higher elevation forests, but in some years will make irruptive, winter migration into lower elevations.  During those irruptions they may gather in small flocks at backyard bird feeders.   It is a real treat to find these spectacular finches at your feeders.  They are large, heavy finches with very thick, conical bills.  Adult males are yellow and black with a white patch in the wings; they have dark heads with a bright yellow stripe over the eye.  Females and immatures are mostly gray with white and black wings and a yellow tinge to the neck and flanks. 

How to attract one to your yard: Insects and spiders make up about 60% of their breeding season diet, supplemented by seeds and fruits.  They will visit backyard feeders for sunflower seed, and possibly even nectar feeders put out for orioles.  Check with the staff at Moana Nursery for tips on seed and feeders for both types of grosbeaks.

Interesting facts
In central Mexico, where monarch butterflies and Black-headed Grosbeaks both spend the winter, the grosbeaks are one of the butterflies' few predators. Toxins in the monarch make them poisonous to most birds, but Black-headed Grosbeaks and a few others can eat them. They feed on monarchs in roughly 8-day cycles, apparently to give themselves time to eliminate the toxins.

Go to the WBU site for more Bird of the Month newsletters & articles. 
Exclusive Wild Birds Unlimited 
EcoTough Feeders

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"How Cool Is That" Chatter

Passing Jewels 
Is the hummingbird activity ramping up in your yard? Hummingbirds have fledged their babies and some have even started their migration. They are active at feeders and flowers as well as sourcing protein from spiders and other insects. Keep your feeders full and clean to watch these little jewels. 

Flocks of Gold  Goldfinch Jacque Lowery
Have you seen any goldfinches chasing others while fluttering their wings and doing a double-call note that kind of sounds like "feed me?" American Goldfinches are one of our latest nesters and the young are chasing Dad harassing him for food. Do you need any finch food or another feeder?

Fun Facts About Grosbeaks

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak shares incubation duties with the female and is known to even sing while sitting on the nest.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is beneficial to farmers, consuming many potato beetles and weed seeds.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak will breed with the Black-headed Grosbeak in areas where their ranges overlap.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are known for singing on moonlit nights, sometimes all night, but never very loudly.

The nests of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are commonly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird, possibly due to the singing done by both the male and female as they construct the nest.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks' preferred feeder items are sunflower, safflower and peanuts.

The nests of the Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks are so thinly constructed that eggs often can be seen through the nest from below.
The males of both the Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeak share equally in incubating eggs and feeding young, despite having a much showier plumage than their respective females.

The Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeak have unusual diets for birds with such a big seed-eating beak. Throughout most of the year, over half of their diet is made up of insects. Their huge beaks allows them to eat large grasshoppers, crickets and other insects that have tough exoskeletons. 

By singing a "male" song, the female Black-headed Grosbeak can trick her mate into thinking a rival male is nearby, forcing him to stay closer to the nest.

Black-headed Grosbeaks eat insects, weed seeds and fruits. Sunflower seeds are their favorite feeder food.

Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of the few birds capable of eating toxic monarch butterflies. They discard the wings before eating the butterfly in an apparent attempt to reduce the amount of toxins they ingest.

Upcoming Events
Lahontan Audubon Society

Tuesday, August 16
 Birds & Books Reading Group - The House of Owls
Tuesday, August 23
 Program Meeting - Brigid Surber - Birds Influence Culture
Tuesday, September 20
 Birds & Books Reading Group
Tuesday, September 27
 Program Meeting: Don Molde-Who Pays for Wildlife

Animal Ark

Zumba for the Ark
August 13 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Discover the Wild Side! Join us for Zumba for the Ark at Baldini's Ballroom, located on the second floor of Baldini's. This will be a Master Class instructed by Jake, Carmela, Jen, Maggie, Michelle, Veronica and Karli. Registration will be at 11:00 am, and doors open at 11:30 am. Water will be provided. Tickets are $15.00 in advance, $20.00 at the door.

August 13 @ 7:30 pm - 9:45 pm
Animal Ark, 1265 Deerlodge Road 
Reno, NV 89508 United States + Google Map
Reserve early as this event fills quickly! RSVP at 1-775-970-3431 Wolves and coyotes howling and big cats growling in the night: it's Ark at Dark! Enjoy a guided flashlight tour and see our nocturnal predators in their element. Event prices: Adults $15; Seniors $13.50; Children $12; Suggested for ages 7 or older due to late hour. 

August 27 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Animal Ark, 1265 Deerlodge Road 
Reno, NV 89508 United States + Google Map
This is an invitation-only event for Members and Adoptive Parents! Bring a treat for your animal; talk to the animal keepers; and hear behind-the-scenes stories. Not yet a member or a sponsor? You are welcome to purchase either status at the door.
Nature Happenings
Aug. 12 - 13: Perseids Meteor shower

Aug. 13: Full Moon, Aug 28: New Moon

Watch for Common Nighthawks hunting flying insects over open ground in the late afternoon light.

Many of our summer visitors have finished their nesting cycle and will begin their migration south.

Male Black-headed Grosbeaks will disappear from the landscape as they begin their southern migration; females and juveniles will follow in the coming weeks.

Bullock's Orioles, our summer visitors that love to chatter notes high and low, will begin to migrate south.

Day Lillies are in bloom.

Young loons learn to fly.

Yellow jackets make paper-like nests.

Hummingbirds are active at feeders and at flowers, sourcing protein from spiders and insects and sipping nectar for sugars.

Male hummingbirds start their southbound migration this month, averaging 20 miles a day to their wintering grounds in Central America and Mexico. Females head south later, with juveniles sticking around until early October.

Migration begins. Keep feeders full with fresh food for "stopover" migrants.

Pinon Jays, normally found exclusively in the pinon/juniper areas, gobble lots of seed at bird feeders.

Geese, ducks, cranes, etc. usually fly in 'V' formation. Theory is that all, but lead bird,
gain lift from wing-tipped vortices produced by lead bird.

American Goldfinches finish nesting late this month. 

Celebrating 10 years in Reno, NV! 
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Moana Nursery | 1100 W. Moana Lane | 11301 S. Virginia St. | 7655 Pyramid Hwy. | Reno/Sparks | NV | 89509