February 5, 2014 – Malayan Banded Pitta (Pitta irena)

These birds live in Thailand, Sumatra, and Malaysia. They were once grouped with the Javan and Bornean Banded Pittas as a single species. The Malayan Banded Pitta is considered Near Threatened due to habitat loss and illegal capture.

I’ve never heard the name of this bird pronounced, so I’m assuming it sounds different than the word “pita.”

February 3, 2014 – Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii)

Gambel’s Quail live across the Southwestern United States. They can fly, but rarely do and only in short bursts. They eat mostly plants, such as cactus fruits and grasses.

I saw these birds all the time growing up in Phoenix. I always loved watching them run and eat. The little feather tuft on their heads brushes the ground as they peck.

February 2, 2014 – Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

The Common Tern is the most widespread of the tern subspecies, living in Europe, Asia, and North America. Common Terns nest in any flat area next to water and share in egg incubation.

I came across a protected nesting area for these birds on a pier on Governors Island last summer.

January 31, 2014 – Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-bellied Woodpeckers live in forested areas of the Eastern United States.

This is a common Eastern variety of woodpecker and not the Gila woodpecker I’m used to seeing from my childhood in Arizona. On a recent visit to Phoenix, however, I watched a woodpecker clumsily trip on a tree in my parents’ back yard. It seemed strange until a slightly larger, more graceful bird showed up and I realized he was a young woodpecker-in-training. I guess you don’t learn to cling vertically to trees overnight.

January 30, 2014 – Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing owls live throughout North and South America in flat areas like deserts and grasslands. They eat insects and small rodents.

I remember watching these guys at the college where my mom teaches when I was little. I think they were living in some old drainage pipes.