April 5, 2014
Filed Under Birding at Tahoe
It’s the distinctive 3-note whistle of the Mountain Chickadee.
The most common bird in the Tahoe Basin is the Mountain Chickadee.
These small plump birds have a black cap, black bib under their chin and a white line over each eye. Adorable birds, they are very adept fliers as they dance along branches hunting for insects and seeds.
The Great Horned Owl is another bird that can be heard at night more frequently in the spring throughout the basin. A pair can be heard in Sierra Tract in South Shore that make their home in the forest along the Truckee River.
Great Horned Owl
Average length: 55 cm (22 inches)
Wingspan: 124 cm (49 inches)
Weight: About 1400 grams (3.1 lbs)
Females are larger than males.
Adults have large ear tufts, a reddish, brown or gray face and a white patch on the throat. The ear tufts are not actually ears, but simply tufts of feathers. The underparts are light with brown barring; the upper parts are mottled brown. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons.
Owls also have spectacular binocular vision needed to pinpoint prey and see in low light. Owls cannot move their eyes like we can. They are locked in a special circular bone. Therefore, their neck must be able to turn a full 270 degrees in order to see in other directions without moving its entire body. An owl’s hearing is as good – if not better – than its vision. Owls have stereo hearing that allows them to find the exact location of their prey. These birds also have 500 pounds per square inch of crushing power in their talons. A normal man has about 60.
To hear an owl is a treat. To see one is magical.
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has a listing of the most popular birds in the basin. Click here to view the page.
However, we’re interested in learning about the more uncommon birds in Tahoe and Truckee right now. Especially the migratory birds that are passing through like the American White Pelicans.