Bird Paintings & Illustrations by Jackie Besteman
Their breeding habitat is open country across western North America, including mountainous areas, as far north as Alaska. They nest in pre-existing cavities or in nest boxes. In remote areas, these birds are less affected by competition for natural nesting locations than other bluebirds. Mountain bluebirds are a monogamous breed. The male can be seen singing from bare branches. The singing takes place right at dawn, just when the sun rises. Females usually build the nests themselves. Eggs are pale blue and unmarked, sometimes white. The clutch size is four or five eggs. Young are naked and helpless at hatching and may have some down. Incubation normally last 14 days and the young will take about 21 days before they leave the nest. Both males and females fiercely protect the nest.
A little bit about the MagpieBlack-billed Magpies live among the meadows, grasslands, and sagebrush plains of the West. Their nesting territories often follow stream courses. Though they like open areas and are not found in dense woods, they stay close to cover for protection from raptors. Magpies don’t avoid human development, often spending time near barnyards, livestock areas, and grain elevators where they have ready access to food.
BehaviorOn the wing, Black-billed Magpies make long, sweeping flights with white flashes of their wing patches and long, trailing tails. They perch at the tops of trees, which is a means of visually establishing their territory, the equivalent of other bird species’ songs. Magpies walk with a swaggering strut. They sometimes gather in flocks, even seemingly living communally, and will band together to mob a raptor. In groups, males establish dominance through a stretch display: raising the bill in the air and flashing their white eyelids. They also show aggression with their wings, flickering or quivering them to display the white wing patches; and tails spreading, quivering, or flicking their elongated tail feathers. During courtship they also use a tail-spreading display. Black-billed Magpies mate for life. The female initiates the pair bond by begging for food from the male, which begins courtship feeding. During breeding, the male stands guard near the female to reduce the chance she’ll mate with another male (which does occur). One of the most notable Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called “funeral”—when one magpie discovers a dead magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of raucously calling magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.
Smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles are medium-sized, sturdy-bodied songbirds with thick necks and long legs. Look for their long, thick-based, pointed bills, a hallmark of the blackbird family they belong to.
The Loon is a truly Canadian Bird!
.Common Loons are large diving birds with long bodies (66-91 cm long, 2.2-7.6 kg, wingspan 104-131 cm) that sit low in the water. They have red eyes and straight, thick, “daggerlike” bills.
Did you know that you may not recognize the common Loon in winter compared to summer?
Whereas the underparts are always white, the plumage and bill are different colours depending on the breeding season. In summer, i.e. breeding season, the Loon has a glossy black head with a black bill, thick black neck with white-striped collar, and the back plumage is black and white in a checkerboard pattern. However in the winter, i.e. the non-breeding season, the head and bill are grey, the neck is white, and the back plumage is grey with a scalloped pattern.
During the winter, common Loons can be distinguished from other Loons by the indentation of the white neck color at mid-neck. Common Loons are also larger than most Loon species, excluding Yellow-billed Loons.
How do you distinguish the male Common Loon from the female?
Male and female Common Loons look alike. You can only distinguish them when they are close together because the male is larger than the female.
Young Common Loons look similar to winter adults, but have more white on their head and back. This juvenile plumage is maintained through their first summer.
Where can you find the Common Loon?
Found in every province and territory in the country, the Common Loon is truly a Canadian animal. It spends the winter months along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, from Alaska and Newfoundland in the north to Mexico in the south, as well as in Europe and Iceland.
During the spring and summer months, the Loon prefers to nest on lakes with clear water, making it easier to find prey. It is especially drawn to lakes with rocky shorelines and deep bays and inlets. The lakes have to be long enough to allow for the running takeoff required by these heavy birds.
A migratory bird, the Common Loon travels its fall route between September and December and returns in spring between March and June.
What do Common Loons eat?
Common Loons feed on fish, frogs, crayfish, mussels, leeches and aquatic insects. Small prey is swallowed underwater but larger ones are brought to the surface and eaten there.
How long do Loons live?
The Common Loon may live twenty years or more.
Why do chicks ride on their parents backs?
With their young on their backs, the adult loon can provide better protection from predators both above and beneath the water’s surface. It is also a
opportunity for the young to conserve energy and body heat.
During the first week after hatching a chick may spend more than half its time on adults. After a week there is a sharp drop in back-riding.
Why are the Common Loon’s eyes red?
The red is caused by a pigment in the retina that filters light when loons dive beneath the water’s surface and allows for sight.
How many types of loon species are there?
There are five recognized species of loons (family Gaviidae):
• Arctic Loon
• Common Loon
• Pacific Loon
• Red-throated Loon
• Yellow-billed Loon
With the exception of the Arctic Loon, all these loons breed in Canada.
Without planning this I have painted quite a few Cardinals on cups. I think this is about the 6th. I just love the way they look perched on antique cups. Of course I try and make them more outstanding each time. My latest painting has a gold background. The gold suits the royal quality of the bird very well and all in all I am pleased with the effect.
Mountain Bluebirds are fairly small thrushes with round heads and straight, thin bills. Compared with other bluebirds they are lanky and long-winged, with a long tail.
Mountain Bluebird on Vintage Barbie. 8 by 10 inches.