Tahoe Big Year Kids Quiz

The Tahoe region is full of fun and interesting birds. If you look and listen carefully when you are outdoors, you are likely to spot a variety of common birds, or even rare birds migrating through the area. Take a look below to find the answer to your Kids Quiz and to learn more about the birds of Tahoe. 

Want to find the most birds in the Tahoe Basin in 2015? Join the Tahoe Big Year at www.tahoebigyear.org!


 Long-billed Curlew 

What is the beak used for?  One of the most noticeable things about this bird is its extremely long, down-curved beak.Their beak is adapted for capturing shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans living in deep burrows on tidal mudflats (its wintering grounds) or burrowing earthworms in pastures and moist, grassy meadows. Females have longer bills than males do.

The Long-billed Curlew is the largest shore bird in North America. It needs long legs to keep its body dry and out of the mud. It breeds in the wet grasslands of the Great Plains and Great Basin, and also the Sierra Valley to the north of Lake Tahoe.


Black-headed Grosbeak

What else does this bird sound like? The Black-headed Grosbeak’s beautiful song rises and falls like an American Robin’s. Unlike most other birds where only the male sings, both the male and female Black-headed Grosbeaks sing. The males have a longer, sweeter, and more varied song. Many people say that it sounds like a robin that has taken singing lessons.

Black-headed Grosbeaks spend winter in central Mexico, in a similar location to Monarch butterflies. The Black-headed Grosbeak is one of the few animals that can eat the poisonous Monarch butterfly. They only feed on Monarchs roughly every eight days, apparently to give themselves time to eliminate the toxins.

Black-headed Grosbeaks nest in riparian habitats (near water) around the Tahoe Basin. They are regular visitors to bird feeders that effortlessly shuck sunflowers seeds with their heavy beaks.


 Northern Saw-whet Owl

northern saw-whet owl Combo copy

Do you know how old this bird is? The orange belly lets us know this is a Juvenile, meaning it is less than one year old. Before they migrate, the juveniles will molt (replace their old feathers with new ones) and look like adults (pictured below).  

Northern Saw-whet Owls main food is mice, and they usually eat adult mice in pieces, over the course of two meals. Migration patterns of saw-whets have been historically poorly understood. This is due to their nocturnal, reclusive behavior. In the 1990s, researchers began Project Owlnet where they use the too-too-too call of Saw-whet Owls to lure them into mist nets. Project Owlnet bands thousands of Saw-whet Owls every fall across North America.

Saw-whet Owls are one of the most common owls in Tahoe in our open pine habitats, but they are seldom seen because they are nocturnal. 







 Lazuli BuntingLazuli Bunting Male  Female

 We know this is a male (boy) Lazuli Bunting because of his bright colors. The female (girl) is a plane brown color. In many species of birds, the males are more brightly colored than females in order to attract a mate and also to defend their territory from other males.  

When male Lazuli Bunting reach two years of age, they sing only one song, composed of a series of different syllables, and unique to that individual. Usually, one year old males arrive on the breeding grounds without a song of their own. Shortly after arriving and listening to the songs of other males, a young male develops his own song. This song can be a novel rearrangement of syllables, combinations of song fragments of several males, or a copy of the song of one particular older male.

We usually only have Lazuli Buntings in the summer at Lake Tahoe.  They nest here and at lower elevations in the Sierra Nevada.  However, after nesting at lower elevations, many of those Lazuli Buntings make their way to Tahoe, thus increasing the number of individuals we have later in the summer.


Did you have fun learning about these local birds? Join the fun competition that begins in January and goes through December 2018 to find the most species of birds in the Tahoe Basin and Truckee. There will be year-end prizes as well as random prizes each month. To learn more or to register for the Tahoe Big Year, visit www.tahoebigyear.org














Glimpse of TINS


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