Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
Mallard Ducks are often found in ponds and lakes throughout Oklahoma. It is also not unusual to see them flying swiftly overhead in a V formation.
Mallards do not usually dive below the surface to get food like other ducks, but feed off the surface of the water.
Male Mallard relaxing outside of a small Oklahoma pond
Mallards eat a wide variety of foods. In a pond or lake they will put their head under water with their tails sticking up as they consume plants, fish, and amphibians. They will also graze on land for grains. I have also yet to meet a mallard that did not enjoy being fed bits of bread from kind human hands.
I usually try to get very close to the birds that I photograph and almost always use a flash
Mallards range in size from 20-28 inches in length, and have wingspan between 30 and 40 inches. In the breeding season male Mallards have an iridescent dark green head, yellow bill, white neck and a brown breast. They have curly tail feathers and orange feet. Females are brown. Males are also larger than the female. During the non-breeding season, the male looks similar to the females, but it does continue to have its yellow bill and brown breast.
Mallard waking-up from a nap
Mallard pairs are usually monogamous. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.
Mallards are among the most nimble birds in the world and can almost instantaneously take off from land or water nearly vertically.
The lifespan of a mallard can be as much as 9 years.
Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
I have seen the Greater Roadrunner moving swiftly across roads and open spaces in almost every part of Oklahoma from the densely forested Ouachita Mountains in southeastern part of the state to the desert plains of the panhandle. While Greater Roadrunners are fast runners often moving at 17 mph (about twice as fast as the best human Olympic marathoner), they are no match for another bird, the Ostrich, which can run long distances at 40 mph.
Male Greater Roadrunner looking for his next meal
Greater Roadrunners can fly but rarely do.
The Greater Roadrunner is just under two feet long from head to tail. Their body is speckled brown with black feathers on its back and wings. They have yellow eyes, long legs, and a long tail. They also have a distinctive a crest. Males have a red and blue patch on the side of their head.
Female Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunners eat many of the most poisonous creatures in Oklahoma including rattlesnakes and scorpions.
The Greater Roadrunner can go without drinking water if their diet has a high enough moisture content.
Greater Roadrunners prefer living in open areas like this where their coloring offers them camouflage
Even though the Greater Roadrunner looks unique among birds it is part of the cuckoo family.
The Roadrunner is a monogamous bird. Males bring gifts of lizards or snakes to females during courtship.
Greater Roadrunners usually live about eight years.
Article and photos by Charly Mann
There is no more gentle and pleasant bird than the Mourning Dove. They are a social bird that enjoys being close to humans as long as they are soft spoken and do not get too close.
Mourning Dove near Dewey, Oklahoma
Mourning Doves are about a foot long and have an 18 inch wingspan. They have small heads and their bodies are plump with short legs and beaks. They are light gray with tints of brown.They have black spots on their backs and pinkish-red feet and legs. Males have a bluish crown and nape.
Mourning Doves are truly love doves also. They are monogamous and pairs spend most of their time close to one another. As parents they both care for their young and both produce milk for their babies that is higher in protein and fat than cow or human milk.
A mother Mourning Dove on the left and her two young chicks
Adult Mourning Doves primarily eat seeds.
Doves have been used as symbols of peace, goodwill, and friendship for more than 3,000 years. It was also a dove with an olive branch that told Noah on the Ark that the flood has ended in the Bible.
I came across this Mourning Dove while walking through the woods during a snowstorm in northeast Oklahoma
The Morning Dove is also called the Western Turtle Dove and the American Mourning Dove, and was once known as the Carolina Pigeon.
I tied this string to a another tree to hold up a small Mimosa tree in my back yard. This Mourning Dove enjoyed perching on it almost every day.
In spite of the Mourning Dove's docile nature and association with peace and religious scripture, more than 70 million are shot annually in the United States for "sport". As a note of caution the most common bird in America in the 19th century was the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. Their migratory flocks were as large as two billion at a time, and it would often take several hours for them to pass overhead. Like the Mourning Dove they were killed by hunters in the tens of millions every year, and the last Passenger Pigeon, whose name was Martha, died on September, 1, 1914. Eerily, the Mourning Dove is the closest living relative of the Passenger Pigeon. (They are smaller and not as brightly colored as the Passenger Pigeon.)
Mourning Doves are capable of flying 55 miles an hour. They have strong feet and powerful leg muscles which allow them to quickly launch into the air.
There are many great places in Oklahoma to find a wide variety of birds. This was taken in an area where I regularly see ten or more different bird species.
The Mourning Dove's maximum lifespan is about 19 years.
There is no biological difference between doves and pigeons. Generally though, doves are considered smaller versions of pigeons.
article and photos by Kathryn Mann
Common Nighthawks can often be found sitting regally on tree branches or fence posts near grass fields that are abundant with cattle or buffalo from late spring through summer in Oklahoma. They spend most of the day very still in a trance-like state, and will not usually fly away unless you get very near to them. At night they become active consuming hundreds of insects in flight.
Common Nighthawk sleeping through the day on a fencepost in northeast Oklahoma
The Common Nighthawk has a large head with big eyes that contrasts with its small bill. Their head and back is a blend of brown, black, and grey. They are brown underneath. When they take flight you will see a prominent white patch on their wings. Males have a white throat and a white tail band near the tip of their tail, while females have a light brown throat and do not have a tail band.
Male Common Nighthawk showing his white wing patches
Common Nighthawks typically live four to five years, though some have lived as long as nine. The population of Common Nighthawks is declining.
Common Nighthawks are not really hawks. They are closely related to Whip-poor-wills who they look almost identical to.
I often walk within a couple of feet of Common Nighthawks as they bake in the Oklahoma summer sun
Nighthawks do not have nests, but lay their eggs on the ground. The male nighthawk feeds the female as she sits on the eggs for about three weeks. When the baby birds are born the female and baby will be fed by the male until the newborns can fly, which is usually about three more weeks.
This is the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks at the Chicago Institute of Art
The Common Nighthawk migrates to South America in late September in flocks that often number in the thousands.
Article and photos by Charly Mann
Blue Jays are an intelligent and beautiful bird that usually live near the edge of forests containing oak trees. This is because they are especially fond of acorns.
Blue Jay with his crown raised because I was getting a little too close
Blue jays have a blue crest which is an elongated crown of feathers on their head which is raised or lowered depending on the situation. When a Blue Jay feels safe the crest is flat on its head. When a Blue Jay is defensive or frightened the crest is raised giving the bird a very different appearance.
I have had a close relationship with Blue Jays since I was very young. When I was 10 I raised a baby Blue Jay that was abandoned, and in later years a multi-generation family of Blue Jays would come into my house for more than two decades and get up on my office desk where I would feed them sunflower seeds out of my hand.
Blue Jay on the lookout in northeast Oklahoma
Blue Jays are part of the Crow family. Like their relative, the American Crow, they usually stay in small groups which protect one another when foraging for food. I recently saw a Blue Jay sitting on a limb looking out for nearby cats while two other Blue jays were gathering nuts on the ground.
Blue Jays have a reputation for being noisy, but in my years of observing them they are usually very quiet unless they want to scare off a predator. Then they make an eerie vibrating noise that can scare off most cats and even some dogs. For added defense they can also sound just like a hawk.
This is my backyard Blue Jay. Notice his crest is flat.
Blue jays are about 11 inches in length and weigh around three ounces. They are a combination of blue, black and white on top, and white underneath. Their face is mainly white. Male and female Blue Jays look alike.
Blue jays actually are not blue at all. What appears blue is a unique brown pigment in their feathers which appears blue to us because of the way it reacts to light.
Besides acorns, Blue jays will eat insects, frogs, and mice, and are known to show up at birdfeeders to enjoy suet and sunflower seeds.
Some Blue Jays have lived as long as seventeen years.
Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
Throughout the Spring and Summer I walk on a trail that is bordered by tall thick grass and other dense vegetation. Almost every morning I hear the whistled sound of "bobwhite" coming from within this thicket. Once or more a week the creature making this sound, the Northern Bobwhite, will actually step out into the path to look for seeds and insects.
This Northern Bobwhite Quail popped up to this fence from some thick grass to take a look at me as I walked by
The Northern Bobwhite is a stocky quail that is about seven inches tall. They weigh about seven ounces. Their coloration is primarily brown with white and black spots on their wings. They have a black markings on their face up and around the lower part of their eyes. Males have a white stripe near the eye and a patch of white on their throats.
The Bobwhite is a ground bird that spends most of its time in groups of a dozen or more.
Northern Bobwhite Quail hiding in a tree in Jo Allyn Lowe Park in Bartlesville
The "bobwhite" call is only produced by the male Northern Bobwhite during mating season.
Northern Bobwhite Quail holding on during a very strong Oklahoma breeze
Although it is legal to hunt the Northern Bobwhite in many states their population has declined an alarming 82% in just the last 40 years. As a result in some states the only place to see a Northern Bobwhite is in a zoo.