April's Bird of the Month: Golden-crowned Kinglet

By Katie Nelson

The diminutive Golden-crowned Kinglet, out where he's happiest, clinging to a twig-end.

Golden-crowned Kinglets are fairly common in March but as it gets closer to April they will grow more and more common. They are a year-round resident of New Hampshire and so they breed and nest here, too. They are very small birds, weighing only six grams. They have pale gray undersides and their backs are darker gray with a hint of yellow. They have black wings with streaks of yellow and white. Golden-crowned Kinglets also have a streak of black through their eyes and the adults have a patch of yellow or orange on the tops of their heads. They like conifer trees in particular where they can find spiders, mites, and insects to eat.

Last fall I was picking apples in a small orchard with a friend. It was very quiet, so we could actually hear the kinglets calling to each other. Soon they were in the trees around us. It was rather magical, especially the melodic noises they made. I haven't seen any since then; they are often overlooked in winter because of their subtlety—small size and small voice—but I assure you, they are here! I personally find them extraordinary and I hope you are all as lucky as I was to see one.

Please report any sightings of Golden-crowned Kinglets to Katie at nhyoungbirders@gmail.com. Any member of the Harriers who manages to snap a photograph or sound recording of either a Ruby-crowned or Golden-crowned Kinglet in the month of April will receive a DVD copy of the film The Big Year—quickly becoming a cult classic!

To read more of Katie's "Bird-of-the-Month" posts, check out our Field Notes blog.

Meet Our Sponsoring and Partnering Organizations!

Since the fall of 2013, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, based in Holderness, NH, has been giving their organizational backing to the Young Birders Club. The Science Center's sponsorship is invaluable: there would still be harriers to see, but no Harriers to see them! In addition, the larger New Hampshire community of birders and environmental educators continues to support the Club in numerous ways, both by leading field trips, advertising and hosting events, and spreading the word about all our activities.

The Harris Center for Conservation Education, based in Hancock, has been a terrific partner in this regard, as has New Hampshire Audubon, the state's largest and oldest conservation organization, now celebrating 100 years of history!

To all these organizations and individuals who have helped build and support the Young Birders Club, we thank you! If you are not yet acquainted with the good work they are doing around the state, visit their websites to learn more:

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Harris Center for Conservation Education

New Hampshire Audubon

Have you been seeing massive piles of woodchips in your woods? The culprit may be our largest woodpecker, the Pileated. Harriers' member Paul Bourgault spotted this individual, posing beside its latest project. Photograph by Paul Bourgault

Have you been seeing massive piles of woodchips in your woods? The culprit may be our largest woodpecker, the Pileated. Harriers' member Paul Bourgault spotted this individual, posing beside its latest project.
Photograph by Paul Bourgault


A Bird of Many Names...
By Phil Brown

The mud-bat walk on the night of April 8th was another success for the YBC! After an overview of the life history of the timberdoodle, we walked along the bike path near the NH Audubon McLane Center, where the group saw and heard a fine show of night partridges, including one that sat and peented for us in the scope at the edge of a field. Many close flyovers of the big-eyes, too. An exciting spring ritual that is a must-do introduction to the fantastic world of woodcocks for new and old birders alike!
Photograph by Len Medlock

Harriers Release Barred Owl

Nearly 45 people turned out for the Young Birders Club "Owl Prowl" on March 22nd, jointly sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education. Though the wind was up and the native owls of the Monadnock area were mostly silent, the group did have one reason to get excited: releasing a live Barred Owl back to the wild! 

Many excited Harriers, parents, and guests gathered to send a rehabilitated Barred Owl back to the wild on March 22nd.
Photograph by Cindy Drake 


March is a tough season for our owls: as the snowpack accumulates and hardens, hunting for rodents underneath it becomes difficult, if not impossible. This bird was nearly starving when he was picked up by good Samaritan Cindy Drake and brought to a wildlife rehabilitator in Temple, New Hampshire. After ten days of rest, recuperation, and fattening up, he was ready to go! And it was our privilege to send him on his way.

Barred Owl
Photograph by Brian Reilly

Join The Harriers!

Do you like the outdoors? Do you like exploring in woods, fields, tidal pools, swamps? Are you interested in seeking out the birds and wildlife that live there, and learning them by name? Do you think you might be half-bird yourself? Join The Harriers and connect with other kids who feel the same.

New Hampshire’s Young Birders Club will open up to you  some of the region’s most ecologically rich and diverse habitats. If you’d like to see new birds, learn to identify them by sight and by sound, and understand more about how they fit into the larger web of life around us, sign yourself up!

    The Harriers welcome all kids under the age of 18 who live in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, or Massachusetts. You don’t need to pass any test! If you’re interested in the natural world, we’d love to have you. Ask your parents if you can get involved, and have them contact the club's coordinators to find out more about us.

    Because the Young Birders Club (YBC) is run by kids, there are plenty of chances to play a leadership role within the organization. Your photographs and writing are needed for the website; your ideas for group excursions make our field trips happen. And by becoming a member, you will become one of your school’s “Lead Birders,” with the chance to be in charge of collecting and recording data about the bird-life on and around your campus. By comparing that information with that of other schools, we can get a more complete picture of what’s happening, year by year, to New Hampshire’s avian species. 

    Join the Harriers! 

    Membership in the Harriers lets you attend any and all of our field trips. Annual dues are $25, which help make our events possible. When you become a Harrier, you’ll also receive:

    • Your own copy of the brand-new Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region) [$20 list price]
    • One "Rite-in-the-rain" notebook for your field notes and observations
    • A checklist of New Hampshire’s birds
    • A subscription to the YBC’s newsletter, The Harrier
    • A membership patch featuring the Harriers' logo
    • Best of all, you’ll be able to participate for free in any YBC event you like: look for nesting peregrine falcons in the White Mountains; watch young loons on New Hampshire ponds; hammer together nest-boxes for wood ducks; learn how to band migratory songbirds…the opportunities are endless! Check out our list of upcoming events to learn more.


    What’s a Harrier, anyway?

    Adult Male Northern Harrier
    Photograph by Len Medlock

    The Harriers include a number of species of birds of prey (Latin genus name, Circus). At least one type of harrier is native to each continent other than Antarctica. They are long-winged birds with acute senses of sight and hearing. They usually hunt their prey (which includes small rodents, reptiles, or birds) by flying very low over a patch of open ground, such as a marsh or stubble field, looking and listening for any movement beneath them. In New Hampshire, our native harrier is the Northern Harrier, which used to be called the Marsh Hawk. It is a species of  some concern, as populations appear to be declining in parts of the country, including New England. Adult males are very pale gray, with black wingtips, colors which give them the nickname “Gray ghosts.” Females are brown above and pale below. A young harrier’s plumage is like the adult female’s, only its belly is a luminous rusty-orange color, making it one of the few species in which the juvenile birds are more colorful than their parents. Birders will do well to take after this gorgeous animal!

    Adult Female Northern Harrier
    Photograph by Lillian Stokes