Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Birds of Beatty

Oasis Valley in Beatty Nevada has an amazing variety of birds. There are year round permanent residents, winter visitors, migrants that are just passing through, and neo-tropical migrants that come to nest here in the spring, and return to the tropics for the winter.

Here are some close looks at some common birds that can be found along the Amargosa River in Beatty, NV.

Killdeer at Spicer Ranch in Beatty NV
Killdeer are common here along the Amargosa River year round. They are very vocal and fun to watch. If you can get a really good look at a Killdeer, you’ll see the bright red eye ring! 

Killdeer at Spicer Ranch in Beatty NV

Killdeer are well known for their “broken wing display”, faking an injury to attract attention, then leading the pursuer away from eggs or chicks. The young are precocial, and like a chicken, they hatch and soon are running around. The adults sometimes hide them under the wings, creating the impression of a multi-legged Killdeer! They lay their eggs right out on the ground in a gravelly area that is usually flat. Sometimes they even  lay their eggs on the roof of a big flat building. 

Males make long flights display flights in spring, calling constantly. Flying high in a circle, they call repeatedly, repeating "killldeer" to stake out prospective territories, and  advertise for females. 

Killdeer along the Amargosa River

Killdeer are a type of Plover. They spent most of their time on the ground in somewhat open areas. The two black bars across the bright white chest are easy to spot from a distance.

All of the photos below were taken along the Amargosa River.


Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons are found throughout North America and in Beatty, they’re found along the Amargosa River. Standing 4 feet tall with a 6 1/2 ft wingspan, the Great Blue is at the top of the food chain for aquatic desert predators.

A quiet walk along the river will often find one standing motionless, staring into a quiet pool, waiting for a fish, frog, toad, crayfish, or any other prey item to make a move. 

With lighting speed, the Great Blue strikes, the weapon, its long knife-like beak is formidable.

Virginia Rail
Virginia Rail at Torrance Ranch in Beatty NV
Virginia Rails frequent the marshy areas in Oasis Valley. At Torrance Ranch, Parker Ranch, and from the bridge in Beatty all the way to Bombo’s Pond, they secretively patrol cattails, bulrush, and other marsh vegetation year round. 

More often heard than seen, their calls have been compared to a pig squealing, or a toilet plunger plunging. In spring, the males begin to sound the” kidik” call, rhythmically repeating it, in search of a mate. 

Rails are very secretive, and can easily hide in the tall dense river plants that make up their habitat. If you see a Virginia Rail, consider it a treat. They build a nest deep in cattails or other dense river or pond vegetation. The huge toes of a Rail allow it to walk on top of aquatic plants. There are over 40 species of Rails in the world. Some  species are flightless.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel at Torrance Ranch in Beatty NV

The American Kestrel, formerly called “Sparrow Hawk” is the smallest of the falcons. Amazing miniature predators, they take mice, insects, lizards and sometimes small birds. Kestrels are seen on phone poles, tall trees, cliffs, and building tops. Anywhere that the high perch gives a commanding view of an open area below, is an excellent perch. The males have beautiful blue wings. Kestrels, like all falcons, have incredible vision. Their eyes can detect prey items from amazing distances. A Kestrel can hover directly over a meadow, holding its position indefinitely while waiting for a small creature to pop out, then pouncing on it.

American Kestrel at Torrance Ranch in Beatty, NV
Kestrels usually nest in cavities of dead or dying trees, but will also readily use a nest box. In spring, the male courtship display flight sometimes includes a mid-air mouse toss to the female.


There are several species of Woodpeckers frequent the Oasis Valley in Beatty, NV. 

Lewis's Woodpecker
Lewis's Woodpecker at Spicer Ranch in Beatty, NV

Occasionally, Lewis’s Woodpeckers stop in Beatty and stay for a while, foraging for insects, or seeds.

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker at Torrance Ranch in Beatty, NV

The Northern Flicker is a common large woodpecker in Beatty.

Northern Flicker at Torrance Ranch

They eat mostly insects, but will come to a bird feeder for sunflower seeds, suet, and small fruits like raisins. Northern Flickers are large, active, and vocal. Their bright red underwings can be seen from a distance.

In eastern North America, the underwings of Flickers are yellow! The “Yellow-shafted Flicker” is not considered to be a different species. Occasionally, a yellow one will turn up in this area. Flickers are apparently often caught by hawks, which sometimes clip the feathers if their avian prey before eating it.

Red-naped Sapsucker at Torrance Ranch

A Red-breasted Sapsucker at Torrance Ranch 

In fall and winter, Sapsuckers, which  are woodpeckers, can be found in trees throughout the area. Sapsuckers are an important species because their foraging behavior helps other birds. Red-naped Sapsuckers and Red-Breasted Sapsuckers chisel away rows of little sections of bark to lick sap. Sapsuckers chiseling are often followed by an amazing array of birds which lick the remaining sap, just after the Sapsucker has moved on.

Sapsuckers drill holes in rows

Here are some of the species that benefit from the Sapsuckers foraging behaviors:

A Red-breasted nuthatch drinking sap at Torrance Ranch

Ruby-crowned Kinglet drinking sap

A Yellow-rumped Warbler drinking sap

1 comment:

  1. Love the section of the woodpeckers and sapsuckers and all those that benefit from their hard work of pecking holes in the trees! Great Photos as always!