Eastern Deciduous Forests are an important habitat for a wide variety of bird species. Within a single Deciduous Forest, there are many micro-habitats which each have specific bird species.
For example, even the dead trees in the forest provide food and shelter for Woodpeckers. Or, Wild Turkeys forage for acorns and seeds along the ground of the forest, but roost at night in the low branches of trees.
That being said, Nebraska’s eastern deciduous forests are home to woodpeckers, turkeys, songbirds, hawks, and owls.
What do they eat?
Where do they nest?
The materials used to build nests vary widely but include: grasses, weeds, and small twigs. And, while many birds weave the materials together to build a cup-shaped nest, other birds such as Barn Swallows and Robins use mud to hold their nests together. Amazingly, Hummingbirds, such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird use spider webs to build their nests.
Another interesting example of camouflage is the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). Male goldfinches are bright yellow during mating season to attract females. But, when mating season is complete, the males molt and grow brown feathers to be camouflaged like female goldfinches.
Like the raptors of prairies, woodland raptors are typically brown on their backside to help them camouflage when they are perched, and partially white underneath to help them blend in with the sky when they are soaring and hunting their prey.
The beaks of woodland birds are a varied as the food they eat. Raptors, including hawks and owls, have sharp, curved beaks for tearing meat. Some songbirds, such as American Goldfinches have short, narrow beaks for eating small seeds like thistle seeds. Other songbirds have short fat beaks for cracking larger seeds like sunflower seeds. The beaks of Turkeys are adapted to eating even larger seeds like acorns.
Woodpeckers have longer narrow beaks for pounding on dead trees to look for food and carving out cavities for their nests. Woodpeckers also have a specially adapted tongue! The woodpeckers tongue is extremely long; in fact it is so long, to fit inside its mouth, it must rap around its brain! In addition, the tip of their tongue has small hooks or barbs. Woodpeckers use this long, barbed tongue to get their food. Once they have pecked a small hole looking for food, they reach their tongue into the hole, hook the insect on the barbs, and pull-out the insect to eat. Yum!
Woodland birds also have feet adapted for certain tasks. For example, raptors use their strong feet and talons to capture and kill prey. Songbirds use their small feet to grasp branches and power lines when perching. Woodpeckers (and Nuthatches) have zygodactyl feet. This means that two toes are pointing forward and two toes are pointing backwards. This helps woodpeckers and nuthatches climb both up and down trees looking for food.
Here is some additional information about birds that utilize Nebraska’s Deciduous Woodlands.
Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) are year-round residents of deciduous forests in Nebraska. Although their name eludes to horns, these owls actually have small tufts of feathers on their head to give the appearance of horns. These feathers allow the owl to blend-in or be camouflaged better in the forest. Great Horned Owls eat a variety of small animals including rabbits, mice, rats, snakes, and frogs. Great Horned Owls are also known to eat skunks – because owls have a poor sense of smell, they do not mind if their food smells bad! Like other owls and raptors,
Great Horned Owls produce pellets after eating. Pellets consist of the non-digestible portions (fur, bones, feathers, etc.) of the owl’s food. Great Horned Owls, like all owl species do not build nests. Rather, they use the abandon nests of crows and hawks or tree cavities.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are small birds typically only about 3.75 inches long. They eat primarily nectar from flowers and feeders. Also important are a variety of insects including fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and ants. The nest of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is built by the female. It is typically built in a tree using thistle and dandelion seeds or other soft materials. Spider webs are often used to “glue” the nest together.
A unique figure-eight motion of wings allows for hovering over flowers while feeding, this wing motion also allows hummingbirds to fly forward, backward, sideways, and up or down. Hummingbirds have the ability to enter torpor when evening temperatures drop or when they are energy-stressed. Hummingbirds poses a long tongue which can extend far beyond the bill to facilitate drinking nectar. The tongue has small groves along the sides which, by using capillary action, carries nectar to the mouth without sucking!
Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) are typically a ground forager eating worms and arthropods. They will also eat fruit and are known to be a major seed disperser of several plants such as Virginia Creeper and dogwood. Wood Thrushes often build their nest in the center of their territory which they defend with both song and physical battle.
The nest is a large, open, cup-shaped nest built of grasses, twigs, pine needles, and strips of bark and is located in trees. Wood Thrushes will often build the foundation of the nest using mud. Although Wood Thrushes breed in the woodlands of Nebraska, they winter primarily in Central America, They typically migrate at night.
Common Yellow-throat Warblers (Geothlypis trichas) are so called because of their bright yellow throat on both males and females. They are small birds ranging from 4-6 inches. Common Yellowthroats eat primarily insects, but will eat nectar and small fruits during winter and migration. They build small, open cup-shaped nests which consist of plant stems, leaves, and bark strips and are lined with soft plant material.
Nests are built within trees or shrubs, generally relatively low to the ground. Their bill is slender in shape to facilitate catching insects. I would move this bird to woodland/shrubland edge or to wetlands or rivers because of it’s association with water.
Scarlet Tanagers (Piranga olicacea) are insectivorous meaning they eat primarily insects. They eat mainly wasps, bees, caterpillars, moths, and beetles. Generally find food while foraging on leaves and branches. Females build the nests which are woven; they are often woven so loosely that eggs can sometimes be seen from the ground.
Nests are primarily placed at the end of a horizontal branch in woodland trees. Females are a drab olive color most likely to camouflage themselves to protect the nest. Males are bright red during breeding season, but molt to a drab olive color, again, most likely to camouflage themselves.
Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea) have strong sexual dimorphism. This means that the males and females look vastly different. Male Indigo Buntings are bright blue; females are drab tan or brown. As with many woodland species, the female’s drab color is to camouflage themselves and their nest from predators. Indigo Buntings eat mainly insects, sees, and fruit. Their nest consists of an open, cup-shaped nest usually three to ten feet of the ground.
Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) are unique in their extreme uniform gray color. They are often found in dense thickets of trees or shrubs within woodlands. The name comes from their call which consists of a rambling fluttering song followed by a “meow” like that of a cat. Gray Catbirds eat both insects and berries; as much as 50% of their diet consists of berries. Like most Mimidaes (the Family of birds to which Gray Catbirds belong), Gray Catbirds are monogamous.
|Copyright © Project BEAK — All rights reserved. | Credits | About Us | Contact Us|