I went birding a few times this past week and added a number of new birds to my life list. The first were the Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) and Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris). I saw both of these in a small pond in a shopping center in Austin, TX. Later that day I saw an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe). This weekend while on a family birding outing we saw an Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin). This little guy was a very good model showing us his front, back, and gorget for at least 30 seconds a piece.
The Lesser Scaup is found throughout North America and migrates to Meso-America in the winter. It's a fairly small duck with adults averaging 17 inches in length. It inhabits freshwater eating molluscs, crustaceans, insects, and aquatic plants. The IUCN currently lists it as Least Concern though sine the 1980's there has been a sharp decline in number from 7 million to 3 million birds. The causes for this decline are as yet unknown but could lead to a change in its listing status.
The Ring-necked Duck is found in wooded ponds in the US and Canada and is a rare but common vagrant to Europe. The juveniles depend on insects and other invertebrates as well as water plants for food while the adults are eat mostly vegetation. Their name comes from the two rings around their bill, one at the base and the other near the tip. The IUCN lists it as Least Concern.
Eastern Phoebes are found in woodland, scrub land, and farmland throughout much of North America. Like all members of the tyrant flycatcher family these birds are insectivorous though they will eat berries in cooler weather. They often nest on man-made objects such as bridges. The IUCN lists them as Least Concern.
Allen's Hummingbirds have a very restricted range being found only along the California coast from Santa Barbara northward and in a very small population in Oregon. They are nectivorous and insectivorous. Like all hummingbirds they have extremely high metabolisms and must feed frequently. Hybrids with Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) have been known to occur. The IUCN lists this species as Least Concern.