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Found in temperate to tropic regions, the avocet is a wader, with long legs and a thin upcurved bill for ferreting below the water's surface. Its plumage consists of patches of black on the wings, a white underbelly and a brown head. Favoring the western states, the avocet is rarely found east of the Mississippi River.
The best known of North American eagles, and the symbol of our nation's heritage, the bald eagle is a rare sight for the lucky observer. Recognized by its white head and tail, this austere bird has a wingspan of 6-8 feet. Eagles nest in tall trees or in cliff faces, and build a bulky platform of sticks lined with leaves and grass.
A wading bird, the heron can be found near wetlands. They are moderate to large in size, with long, slender necks and a spearlike bill. Because the heron is so lean, it is often mistaken for a crane, a similar species. Heron can sometimes be observed remaining absolutely motionless, waiting for their prey to get close enough before striking.
Found throughout North America, the bluebird is typical of the thrush family. The bluebird had a short forked tail and a slender bill. The bird derives its name from the bright blue plumage of the male.
A sea bird, the pelican has a long bill with a hook at the end and an expandable pouch hanging from the throat and lower jaw. Among the largest of flying birds, with a wingspan that reach as high as ten feet across, the pelican inhabits lakes, swamps or coastal areas and subsists mainly on a diet of fish. The brown pelican dives from the air, hitting the water bill first; once under water, its huge pouch opens, scooping up the surrounding fish.
Similar in appearance to ducks, the cormorant is an aquatic bird whose mostly black plumage has a metallic sheen. With a short "S" shaped neck and a slender hooked bill, the cormorant ranges from 20 to 40 inches in length. Cormorants are surface divers, ducking their heads below the surface to catch their prey.
The egret habitates any number of wetlands in the temperate zone of the United States. Found in fresh- and saltwater marshes, swamps, lagoons and even wet meadows, these beautiful birds are now protected under conservation laws. Resembling storks, egrets have long necks and long legs. The neck is curved, like that of a swan, and curves up in an "S" shape to a long, slender bill. Most egrets have plumage which is pure white.
Perhaps the most common of sea birds, the gull is a scavenger that inhabits regions all up and down the coastlines, and large bodies of water inland. The gull is mostly white in color contrasting with a light or dark grey.
The term "hawk" is an umbrella term to comprise a large number of birds of prey. Most similar to the falcon, hawks are known for bills which are short and hook downward, keen eyesight, and strong wings with a substantial span. The hawk typically hunts from the skies, swooping down on its prey, gripping it between strong talons. Hawks can be found in numerous different environments throughout North America.
Named for a humming sound emitted as a result of the rapid beating of their wings, the hummingbird eats nectar from flower blossoms. Most hummingbirds are tiny at just about four inches, with a long, slender bill; out of this bill, a slender tongue is extended to extract the nectar. Hummingbirds have remarkable flying capabilities and, through rapid beatings of the wing, can dart about swiftly, or appear to stop, suspended in mid-air.
Preferring the tropical waters of coastal shallows and lagoons, the ibis is a bird which closely resembles the heron. They are adapted waders, with a long, curved beak and long legs. Ibises can be seen gathering in vast numbers during breeding season.
A member of the crow family, the magpie's distinguishing characteristic is a long wedge-shaped tail. Most magpies are black with a white underbelly.
Found only in the Americas, this bird is renowned for its ability to sing and to mimic what it hears. In addition to a melody all its own, the mockingbird is a trickster, parroting the melodies of other songbirds. Brownish-grey in color, it has a long, straight tail.
Inhabiting all continents except Antarctica, the osprey is commonly known as the fish hawk. Similar to hawks in build, a prominent feature is a large dark patch at the bend in each wing. The plumage is largely white around the undercarriage and the head. Living in both fresh- and saltwater regions, the osprey build large nests in trees or on cliff faces.
These songbirds are plump brown birds with short wings and tail. Preferring areas near inland waterways, the ouzel's diet consists mainly of insects, procured by wading or diving in shallow waters.
A northern sea bird, the puffin has a stout body and squat legs and an oversize bill similar to a toucan's. It's body is black, with a white underbelly, and the puffin walks about as if legs. An excellent diver, the puffin feeds largely on ocean fish.
These squat, plump birds are tailless or have very short tails. They feed on insects in small groups, and take to flight instantly when disturbed. Some quail are marked by a forward-tilting plume on top of the head. Quail are birds which choose one mate for life.
Capable of flying, the roadrunner rarely does so, but captures its prey by chasing them. Characterized by a slender head and short bill, the roadrunner has a long tail which extends upward. Its feet are curious, and tracks show two toes pointed forward, and two backward, adding to its maneuverability and swiftness.
A rare swan which was dangerously close to extinction in the past decade, the trumpeter swan is closely related to the family of geese and ducks. The trumpeter swan has a large "S" shaped neck and, though extremely graceful, is perhaps the heaviest bird to fly. Swans are known to fly in the traditional "V" pattern of numerous aquatic birds. The trumpeter swan usually chooses a mate and stays with it for life.
Most woodpeckers have a mottled black and white plumage with a small patch of red on the head. The "flickers" are boldly marked with a black band. They have a short but very strong bill which is flattened at the tip like a chisel. By pounding repeatedly at the bark of trees, usually up in the boughs, the woodpecker is able to get at ants and other insects which live inside the trees.
The wren is a solitary songbird that is about the size of a sparrow in stature. Never more than six inches, these birds are brown or greyish and speckled with white. The wren is best known for its lyrical melodies, which carry loudly as if sung with great abandon. The cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) is another species of wren which inhabits the southwestern United States, and possesses none of the musical abilities normally associated with this bird.