Burien, Washington

 

 

 

Mewsings from Millie

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William John Swainson was an ornithologist, author and self-taught naturalist. He made a name for himself as a zoological illustrator. He was born in England on October 8, 1789 and everyone in his family shared an interest in nature and science. Swainson traveled over a good part of the world learning about the flora and fauna of many different areas. After one trip to Brazil, he returned with 20,000 insects, 1,200 species of plants, 760 bird skins and drawings of 120 species of fish! There are birds all around the globe that are named in his honor such as the Swainson's Toucan and the Swainson's Anteater. Three such birds, a warbler, a thrush and a hawk, are found in North America.

Swainson's Warbler

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 Swainson's Warbler is one of the most secretive and least observed of all North American birds. A fairly plain little warbler, it is brown above and gray below with a pale eyebrow. It is a skulking warbler found in southern thickets of rhododendron and cane. Most likely it would go largely undetected except for its loud, ringing song. The Swainson's Warbler eats insects and spiders. It builds its nest of dried leaves, sticks and vines in the thick undergrowth. The nest is lined with pine needles, hair, grass, spanish moss and fern stems. Two to five plain white eggs will be produced. Swainson's Warbler winters in tropical scrub.

 Swainson's Thrush

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 Swainson's Thrush is a medium-sized brown bird with pale underparts, a spotted chest and large, buffy eyerings. Their upward-spiraling flute-like song can be heard throughout the summer in the mornings and evenings. The Swainson's Thrush eats insects and arthropods such as arachnids and crustaceans. It will also eat ants which is unusual for a songbird. The nest is an open cup made of twigs, stems, grass, moss, bark shreds and decayed leaves. It is lined with leaves, rootlets, lichens and moss. Eggs are blue or greenish-blue speckled with red or brown. The Pacific population of Swainson's Thrush winters in Central America.

 Swainson's Hawk

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 Swainson's Hawks are buteos which mean they are large with broad wings and short tails. However, they are slimmer and longer-winged than most other buteos. The Swainson's Hawk is light-bellied with a dark or red/brown chest and brown and gray upperparts. Most males have gray heads, Females have brown heads. They have distinctive underwings with white wing linings contrasting strongly with black flight feathers. This bird spends its summers in wide-open spaces of the west . It can be spotted over grasslands, sage flats and agricultural fields. Groups of soaring or migrating hawks are called "kettles" and Swainson's Hawks are masters at forming them. They form flocks numbering in the tens of thousands often mixing in with Turkey Vultures, Broadwinged Hawks and Mississippi Kites to create a virtual river of migratory birds. During breeding season, Swainson's Hawks eat rodents, rabbits and reptiles. When not breeding, their diet is almost exclusively insects especially crickets, grasshoppers and dragonflies. They will also eat butterflies, moths and beetles. The nest is a loose bundle of sticks, twigs and debris like rope or wire. It is lined with fresh, leafy twigs, grass, hay, weed stalks and bark. The nest will be built in the top of a solitary tree or in a small grove of trees along a stream. Eggs are off-white often blotched with red/brown. The Swainson's Hawk winters in Argentina making one of the longest migrations of any American raptor.

 Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews