Spring Creek Birds

Bird Description
LOONS & GREBES
Pie-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe

Only the Pied-billed Grebe is normally found on the ponds and lakes near the creek. Most often one will see a single bird on a pond during spring and fall.

CORMORANTS
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant ŠJay Pruett

The Double-crested Cormorant is commonly seen on our large lakes and rivers, but small groups and individuals fly up and down Spring Creek from about mid-September until early May. They are occasionally seen on area ponds and lakes also.

OWLS
Barred Owl
Barred Owl ŠJay Pruett

Three species of owls are found near Spring Creek. The most common is the Barred Owl--a big bird with brown eyes and no "ear" tufts. It is often heard during the day as well as night and the call sounds like "who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all." The last two "words" are slurred together so that it has been called an "eight hooter." Barred owls are seldom found far from water, so it is pretty much restricted to the woodlands adjacent to the creek. Besides the above call, this bird emits some other strange and noisy calls. One is an extremely loud and terrifying scream--the source of many a "mountain lion" story.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl - note yellow eyes ŠJay Pruett

Ranging over a much broader habitat is the Great-horned Owl, the largest of our three owls and the only one to attack and kill skunks. It's much quieter than the Barred Owl and found almost everywhere. It is easily told from the Barred Owl by its yellow eyes and fake ear tufts. The call is a series of soft "hooo's."

Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl

Much less common is the very small Eastern Screech Owl. Unlike the other two it nests in cavities and does not screech. Rather, its song is a whinny. This species comes in two color phases--red and gray.

Other species, such as the Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl and Long-eared Owl are possible along the creek, but our group has not been able to find any.

HERONS & EGRETS
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron ŠJay Pruett

The Great-blue Heron can be seen all year long. The rest of the herons and egrets are found from the end of March into October.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron - note two-toned bill

One of the summer birds is the Little Blue Heron. Besides its smaller size, it can be distinguished from the Great Blue by its two-toned bill.

Green Heron
Green Heron - more greenish-blue than green

The smallest of the group is the Green Heron, which is more greenish-blue than real green. When disturbed it emits a squawk as it flies away. Young Green Herons are brown and striped.

Great Egret
Great Egret ŠJay Pruett

The largest is the Great Egret.

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret - black legs, yellow feet ŠJay Pruett

The other is the Snowy Egret which has black legs and yellow feet and is a more active feeder, often dashing about in the shallow water.


Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Rarely, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron can be found along the creek--sometimes during the day.


Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret ŠJay Pruett

Finally, the flocks of white birds sometimes seen around cattle are Cattle Egrets, recent arrivals to our area.

DUCKS AND GEESE
Wood Duck
Wood Duck

The Canada Goose is now a year around resident all over the US.

The Snow Goose, which winters in our area, is sometimes seen flying over, but doesn't normally land near Spring Creek.

The only Duck to commonly nest along the creek is the Wood Duck.

Mallard
Mallard ŠJay Pruett

Semi-tame Mallards are found from time to time and wild ones occasionally are found here.

Many other species, such as Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler are seen occasionally on ponds near the creek in winter.

VULTURES
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture - note red head ŠJay Pruett

The Turkey Vulture (red head) is a year around species as is the less common Black Vulture (black head). Black Vultures are most likely to be seen during the winter and in flocks.

HAWKS
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shoulderd Hawk ŠJay Pruett

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a noisy creek-side specialist and the one most often heard.

The Red-tailed Hawk is found throughout our area, but not especially along waterways. Both are seen during all twelve months of the year and are common. The Red-tailed Hawk varies in plumage and the one you see may not match the exact illustration in your bird book.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

During the winter, the Sharp-shinned Hawk can sometimes be seen hanging around bird feeders, looking for sick or injured birds that it can capture. It is similar to the larger Cooper's Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk ŠJay Pruett

The Cooper's Hawk is most likely to be seen during the winter, but sometimes it nests along the creek.

Broad-winged Hawks are summer residents where there are deep woods.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle ŠJay Pruett

And who knows when a Bald Eagle may fly by.

Osprey
Osprey ŠJay Pruett

Ospreys migrate along the creek primarily in Mid-April and Mid-September.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel ŠJay Pruett

Two other species that could occur at any time, but are mostly found during the winter are Northern Harriers and American Kestrel.

Finally, almost any hawk listed as found in Eastern Oklahoma might be seen on rare occasions.

QUAILS AND TURKEY
Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey ŠJay Pruett

The Northern Bobwhite was once very common in the area of Spring Creek, but much less so now.

The Wild Turkey is making a comeback and a few flocks are located in heavily wooded areas near the creek.

PLOVERS
Killdeer
Killdeer ŠJay Pruett

The Killdeer is a plover and the only one likely to be seen near the creek and they are here all year, nesting on the flat bare ground.

SANDPIPERS, WOODCOCKS & SNIPE
Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper - Spring and Fall migrants ŠJay Pruett

Several sandpipers might be found along the creek, but only three have been seen by Audubon members. They are the Spotted Sandpiper, American Woodcock and Wilson's Snipe.

Spotted Sandpipers are Spring and Fall migrants found along the creek or nearby ponds.

Wilson's Snipe
Wilson's Snipe - common in winter

American Woodcocks are found year around, but common only during late February and early March when the males put on an aerial courtship display.

Wilson's Snipe is a winter species that is fairly common along the creek, in ponds, or even wet spots in fields.

GULLS & TERNS
Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull ŠJay Pruett

It's always tempting to call the Ring-billed Gull a "Sea Gull," but the ones seen here have never been to the ocean. Most nest in the Great Lakes area and spend the winter with us. The Ring-billed Gull is the only species of this group normally seen along the creek.

DOVES
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove

The sweet cooing of the Mourning Dove can be heard all spring and summer and some birds are seen during the rest of the year.

Two other doves that may occasionally be seen in the creek area are the Rock Pigeon and the newly arrived Eurasian Collard Dove.

CUCKOOS
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo ŠJay Pruett

Each summer the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, sometimes called the Rain Crow, builds its flimsy nests along the creek and adjacent countryside.

Much less common, but staying year round, is the Greater Roadrunner. Roadrunners are usually found away from the creek itself.

GOATSUCKERS
Chuck-will's-Widow
Chuck-will's-Widow ŠJay Pruett

Along with the owls, these are the "night birds." Almost everyone who lives along the creek has heard the Whip-poor-will--or so they thought, because there are actually two species of similar goatsuckers residing here.

The most common is the Chuck-will's-Widow. Listen carefully and you will usually hear that phrase. Much less common is the real Whip-poor-will which rapidly says "Whip-poor-will." Sometimes you can hear both at once.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk ŠJay Pruett

A third species is the Common Nighthawk, most often seen in the evening rather than at night. All three goatsuckers are summer residents.

SWIFTS
Chimney Swifts
Chimney Swifts

Each year the Chimney Swifts fly from Chimneys in our area to the jungle trees of Ecuador where they spend the winter. Although they usually fly high in the air, they sometimes catch insects just above the surface of the water and are here all summer. Amazingly, they land only in the chimneys where they nest--otherwise they are on the wing all day.

HUMMINGBIRDS
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird ŠJay Pruett

From the last days of March until early October, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common along the creek and will usually drink from a feeder, especially during migration periods in spring and fall.

KINGFISHERS
Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is a special bird to many of us who live along Spring and Baron Fork Creeks for its loud rattle is rarely heard away from water, and the banks of the creeks are ideal nesting places. It is found here throughout the year.

WOODPECKERS
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker ŠJay Pruett

We have 7 woodpecker species. The one most seen near bird feeders is the little Downy Woodpecker.

The second commonest is the poorly named Red-bellied Woodpecker. It's poorly named because the belly has very little red while the head has a lot. Check your bird book on this one and note how it varies from the Red-headed Woodpecker, which is much less common.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

During the winter the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker can often be found--it's the one responsible for the lines of small holes drilled in circles around tree trunks, especially in evergreens. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only one of the seven woodpeckers that does not nest here.

If there are deep woods you can find the Hairy Woodpecker--it looks much like the Downy, only larger.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

However, the really big woodpecker, as large as a crow, is the Pileated Woodpecker. It's actually fairly common here, even near houses.

Finally, the Northern Flicker is sometimes seen on the ground eating ants and termites. The flicker has a spotted breast and a red V on the back of its head.

FLYCATCHERS
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher ŠJay Pruett

Although there are a dozen species of flycatchers that probably can be found near the creek, some are rare and some are hard to identify. Of those likely to be seen by the novice birder the most obvious is the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, our state bird.

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird ŠJay Pruett

Equally easy to spot is the Eastern Kingbird. Both of these species can be found chasing larger birds like crows away from their nests.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe ŠJay Pruett

Anyone with a building along the creek has probably had an Eastern Phoebe build it's nest somewhere on the outside of the building, often on the porch. This is the only flycatcher species found during most, if not all, of the winter.

Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Wood-Pewee ŠJay Pruett

In Spring and early Summer one of the first birds to sing in the morning is the Eastern Wood-Pewee. Like the Phoebe, it says its name--Pewee. Next summer, listen and you will probably hear it--"Peeeweee."

SWALLOWS
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow ŠJay Pruett

Who isn't familiar with the Barn Swallow! It's by far the most common swallow and one of the birds found almost everywhere there are open spaces and outbuildings near the creek.

Rough-winged Swallow
Rough-winged Swallow

Less familiar, but actually pretty common is the Rough-winged Swallow which excavates a hole in a dirt bank for its nest.

The Purple Martin is also a swallow and many people have boxes up for them.

All of our swallows fly south for the winter, but come back very early in the spring.

JAYS & CROWS
American Crow
American Crow or Fish Crow? You can tell by its voice. ŠJay Pruett

There are actually two species of crows and they look pretty much alike. However, they can be told apart by voice. The American Crow was here when man arrived, but the Fish Crow has just recently extended its range into Oklahoma. The Fish Crow has a "car" rather than a "caw" sound and it is only here from March into October.

The Bluejay is sometimes confused with the bluebird since many people haven't seen a bluebird up close. Just use your bird book. Both are fairly common throughout Eastern Oklahoma and are found here all year.

TITMOUSE & CHICKADEE
Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse ŠJay Pruett
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee ŠJay Pruett

Both are very common around bird feeders. The titmouse found here is the Tufted Titmouse and the chickadee is the Carolina Chickadee. Others may be in the bird book, but they aren't found in Eastern Oklahoma. Listen in early spring and you will hear both singing even in February and sometimes earlier.

NUTHATCHES
White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

If you have a feeder, the White-breasted Nuthatch is sure to find it. These are "upside down" birds and often are seen that way on tree trunks throughout the year.

During some winters the Red-breasted Nuthatch joins it--but the Red-breasted is much less common. You'll have to use your bird book to tell the difference.

CREEPERS
Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper

In the entire United States, there is only one species of creeper, the little Brown Creeper and it is here only during the winter and is seldom seen, because it is so quiet. It looks like a little mouse and is likely to be seen walking up a tree trunk.

WRENS
Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren ŠJay Pruett

The song of the Carolina Wrens is heard all year long along the creek and especially near buildings. These birds commonly nest in nooks and crannies--perhaps in a pile of trash or a hanging flowerpot. The Carolina is by far our commonest wren.

The House Wren nests in a few places and the Winter Wren can be seen and heard on the stream back on occasion during the winter. Our Audubon group was unable to locate any other species when we surveyed the creek, but it's probable that the Bewick's Wren is here, especially in the spring, and maybe the Marsh and Sedge Wren.

KINGLETS & GNATCATCHERS
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet ŠJay Pruett

Both the Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets are here from October to April. The red or gold of their crowns is not always visible. These tiny birds are common during migration.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ŠJay Pruett

The equally tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a common nester in large trees throughout the area. It comes back early and is seen from March into October.

THRUSHES
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

Two thrushes stand out--the American Robin and Eastern Bluebird. Both are found here the year around.

Once common, the Wood Thrush is all but gone now and we heard only a few sing.

In winter, the Hermit thrush can be found wherever there are woods and in spring the Swainson's Thrush is a common migrant.

MIMICS
Mockingbird
Mockingbird ŠJay Pruett

Almost every backyard has a pair of Northern Mockingbirds nesting with males singing night and day.

If the yard contains a large bush it may contain the nest of the Brown Thrasher, a bird here all year but seen mostly in the summer. Its song can nearly equal that of the Mockingbird. It repeats phrases twice whereas the Mockingbird repeats three times.

The third species is another great songster, the Gray Catbird which is often hidden in thick briars.

PIPITS
American Pipit
American Pipit

American Pipits are uncommon along the creek, but they do occur in winter, especially on plowed fields near the creek--even on newly plowed gardens. These little brown birds are easily overlooked. They pump their tails up and down as they walk.

WAXWINGS
Cedar Waxwings
Cedar Waxwings ŠJay Pruett

Each fall the Cedar Waxwings come here to winter on the wild fruits and berries found all over Oklahoma. They seem to be most fond of hackberries during the fall and winter. They stay around until the cherries and mulberries ripen in the spring, then head north to nest. The flocks come and go and you may have a tree full one day and none the next.

SHRIKES
Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

Some birds are different and the Loggerhead Shrike is truly so. They are actually songbirds that have become birds of prey.

Part of their diet consists of large insects such as grasshoppers, but most of it is of small mammals and birds. They are not common, and there are fewer each year, but there are still some around.

They like the pastures near the creek and sometimes you may find a headless bird, grasshopper or lizard impaled on a thorn or barb--the larder of the Loggerhead Shrike.

STARLINGS
starling
Starling

It seemed like a good idea at the time--why not release all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays right here in America?

So it was, that a cage full was released in New York City late in the 19th century--and now they are found in every city and on nearly every farm and ranch in the country. They are here all year and the ones you see today may be in Dallas or Kansas City tomorrow as they move around in all directions.

VIREOS
White-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo ŠJay Pruett

These are warbler-like summer birds and several species inhabit our area.

In the deepest woods the Red-eyed Vireo and the Yellow-throated Vireos sing all day.

Along the hedgerows the Bell's Vireo is heard, but seldom seen.

In our yards and along the forest and stream edge the White-eyed Vireo can be both seen and heard.

Less common, but still around are the Warbling Vireo, the Blue-headed Vireo and the Philadelphia Vireo. The later two are migrants and not found here during the summer nesting season.

WARBLERS
Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler ŠJay Pruett

On rare occasions almost any species of Warbler found in Eastern North America could show up along the creek, especially in migration. So, we will discuss only the species that are sure to be found.

The beautiful bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler is one of the most common during spring and early summer anywhere near water. If you live near the creek and hang a hollow gourd nest box from your porch ceiling, you are almost sure to find one nesting there. The Prothonotary is the only warbler species to use a bird box.

Parula Warbler
Parula Warbler ŠJay Pruett

If there are woods nearby, the Parula Warbler is often the most common warbler and is here from early spring until October.

Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler ŠJay Pruett

Harder to see, but no less common is the Kentucky Warbler which nests on the ground.

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush ŠJay Pruett

One other species of warbler, the Louisiana Waterthrush, nests only very near clear moving water and sings loudly during spring and early summer. You can see him all summer long walking and feeding along the water's edge, bobbing his tail as he goes.

Yellow-throated WarblerLouisiana Waterthrush
Yellow-throated Warbler ŠJay Pruett

Much less noticeable, but also only along the creek is the Yellow-throated Warbler, which is most likely to nest in a Sycamore tree.

Black-and-White Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler ŠJay Pruett

If there are dense woods there is likely to be nesting Black-and-White Warblers, and if there are more than a few pines, Pine Warblers.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat ŠJay Pruett

Common Yellowthroats can be heard singing anywhere near water, but they are less common than most of the species discussed so far, and if there are briar patches there are likely to be the world's largest warbler, the Yellow-breasted Chat, sometimes singing even at night. The Chat is most common in overgrown pastures.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Three migrants are actually common for brief periods in spring and fall. One is the Tennessee Warbler. The other two are the Nashville Warbler and the Wilson's Warbler. All three are more easily heard than seen, so they appear to be more common in the Spring when they are singing.

There are two species that are here only from late fall to early spring. They are the Orange-crowned Warbler and the much more common Yellow-rumped Warbler. Both are most common during the fall and spring.

Finally, as was stated at the beginning, most other eastern North American warblers are occasionally found in our area, but the casual observer is not likely to find them.

TANAGERS
Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager - male ŠJay Pruett

Two species of tanagers nest along Spring Creek each summer. By far the most common is the Summer Tanager whose song is a part of every summer day.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager - black wings and tail ŠJay Pruett

Scarlet Tanagers are most common during their April migration, but a few stay to nest in the deeper woods.

The males of both species are bright red, but only the Scarlet Tanager has black wings and tail. Females are green-yellow or gold color.

GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS & DICKCISSEL
Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak ŠJay Pruett

The Northern Cardinal is with us all year. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a migrant seen mostly during April.

The Blue Grosbeak is cardinal-sized. The male Blue Grosbeak is blue with brown wings while the female is overall brown. Blue Grosbeaks are with us all summer.

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting

Much smaller and more common than the Blue Grosbeak is the Indigo Bunting. These very common (all blue) birds can be seen and heard almost everywhere along the creek from April until October. Female Indigo Buntings are brown.

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting ŠJay Pruett

Oklahoma's most beautiful bird, the Painted Bunting, is actually quite common, but manages to hide rather well and not often seen. Look for it in pastures overgrown with seeds and similar roadside places.

The Dickcissel is one of those birds which says its name. It is normally found only in open fields and pastures with fairly tall grass--most likely you'll see it singing from an overhead wire. You can find it mostly from May to early August.

Dickcissel
Dickcissel ŠJay Pruett

The Dickcissel is one of those birds which says its name. It is normally found only in open fields and pastures with fairly tall grass--most likely you'll see it singing from an overhead wire. You can find it mostly from May to early August.

SPARROWS & SIMILAR BIRDS
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow ŠJay Pruett

Each winter a few Eastern and Spotted Towhees find their way here. They aren't very common, so you may not see any--yet, it's likely one will show up from time to time at your feeder if you are near a wooded area. Check your bird book for identification.

In more open areas, the most common winter sparrow will be the White-crowned Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow ŠJay Pruett

If you are near brushy areas, its the White-throated Sparrow.

Less common winter sparrows include the Harris's Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow. None of these are rare, but they aren't common either. Occasionally, even the American Tree Sparrow can show up.

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow ŠJay Pruett

The Field Sparrow is common all year--especially in the summer when its beautiful song can be heard even on hot days.

Chipping Sparrows, Lark Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows are here only for the summer and all three are rather uncommon here.

Also uncommon, and found only during migration, is the Vesper Sparrow.

Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco ŠJay Pruett

Finally, the Dark-eyed Junco is actually a sparrow and it is common all winter long. Almost everyone has seen flocks of these little birds, with white outer tail feathers.

The common House Sparrow isn't really a sparrow, but we'll list it here. Of course it can be found almost everywhere people and their animals live.

Since they were imported from England they are sometimes referred to as "English Sparrows."

BLACKBIRDS
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird ŠJay Pruett

Several species are very common at times, including the Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Eastern Meadowlark and Brown-headed Cowbird. Some winter flocks number in the thousands and all these species are here year-around.

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark ŠJay Pruett

Two other blackbirds are found only in the winter--Rusty Blackbird and Brewer's Blackbird.

Less common, but seen at any time of the year is the Great-tailed Grackle.

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole ŠJay Pruett

The Orioles are in the blackbird family and both the Baltimore and Orchard Oriole are found here each summer--sometimes even coming to the hummingbird feeders.

FINCHES
American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch ŠJay Pruett

If you have feeders and put out sunflower or Niger seeds you will have American Goldfinches throughout the year.

Sometimes they are joined by the red colored House Finches, and on rare winter occasions, by Purple Finches, which very much resemble House Finches. Use your bird book illustrations to tell them apart.

Written by Don Varner and edited by Jeri McMahon and Joyce Varner