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Fauna Series No. 3







Faunal Position

Life Zones







Fauna of the National Parks — No. 3
Birds and Mammals of Mount McKinley National Park
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Megaceryle alcyon caurina [GRINNELL]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A stubby bird, somewhat larger than a flicker, with a slaty-blue back and breast band. The large pointed bill, weak feet, and ragged crest on top of the head are conspicuous characters of this bird which is nearly always closely associated with ponds and streams. Length 13 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—Good field characters for the kingfisher are its rattling cry, large head, ragged crest, and habit of perching over water and diving with a splash into it after food.

DISTRIBUTION.—This species of bird is found over most of North America. The western race breeds from "northern Alaska and Yukon Territory southwest of the Rocky Mountains to San Diego County, Calif."

HABITS.—Kingfishers are rarely met with in the McKinley region. Sheldon reports seeing a kingfisher on the Teklanika River on August 21, 1906. Later he reports that the first spring arrival was noted by him at Toklat on May 29, 1908. One specimen, a flat skin, of a bird of the year was preserved by Mr. and Mrs. John E. Anderson at Wonder Lake.

Colaptes auratus luteus [BANGS]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A northern form of the well-known yellow-hammer. The color of the back is grayish-fawn, barred with black. It has a red patch on the back of the head. The under parts are light-colored dotted with sharp, round black spots and the under surface of the wing is brilliant yellow in color. It has broad white patches on the rump which are conspicuous when the bird is in flight. Length, 12 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The black crescent band across the breast, the yellow under the wings, and the white rump, together with the well-known call, "flicker-flicker-flicker" are all outstanding field characters of this bird.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds in northern Canada and in Alaska from Mount McKinley north to the limit of trees and south throughout the northern and central United States. In the McKinley region it is confined chiefly to forested areas of cottonwood and aspen.

HABITS.—Northern flickers were found breeding in the aspen groves and in black cottonwood trees along the larger streams in the McKinley region. We saw them first at Savage River on May 24, 1926. A single individual was observed almost daily during the first half of May both in 1926 and in 1932.

This bird is a regular breeding species in the McKinley region.

Dryobates villosus septentrionalis [NUTTALL]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A woodpecker of medium size with black and white coloration. The back stripe is pure white as are also the outer tail feathers. The male bird has bright red nape spots on the back of the head. Length, 9.4 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The hairy woodpecker may be distinguished from the Alaska and the Arctic three-toed woodpeckers by the white stripe on the back—the Alaska three-toed woodpecker having a black and white ladder-back, and the Arctic three-toed woodpecker having an all black back. Too, the red crown cap of the male northern hairy woodpecker differentiates this bird from the males of both three-toed woodpeckers which have yellow crown caps.

Another distinction which should be made is that of the definite and distinguishing difference between the downy woodpecker and the hairy woodpecker, the latter is larger in size and the outer tail feathers are pure white, instead of white barred with black as are those of the downy wood pecker.

DISTRIBUTION—It is distributed throughout the Canadian Zone of northern North America from Mount McKinley, middle Yukon, central Mackenzie south to the Canadian-United States border. In the McKinley region it is found at low elevations along rivers, chiefly in cottonwood and aspen groves.

HABITS.—On August 20, 1932, an adult male bird of this species was seen at close range, drilling into a dead cottonwood tree at McKinley Bar. On August 30, 1932, at Park Headquarters, another male was examined with binoculars at a distance of 25 feet.

The northern hairy woodpecker is a noisy bird, calling loudly and drilling or drumming on dead resonant limbs, whereas, both the Arctic and Alaska three-toed woodpeckers are quiet birds that work unobtrusively, flaking off bits of bark with their bills.

The northern hairy woodpecker is a regular, but not numerous, breeding species in the McKinley region.

Dryobates pubescens nelsoni [OBERHOLSER]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A small black and white woodpecker with a broad white stripe down the back. The male has a bright red patch on the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are barred with black. Length, 6.8 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The small size and barred outer tail feathers distinguish this woodpecker from the northern hairy woodpecker which is similar in color and pattern but which is larger.

DISTRIBUTION.—It is distributed throughout "northwestern Alaska and southwestern Mackenzie to southern Alaska; extreme northern British Columbia, and central Alberta." It is found in the McKinley region chiefly in groves of aspen and willow.

HABITS.—At Igloo Creek on July 7, 1932, I watched an adult male Nelson's downy woodpecker working on an old dead stump drilling for wood-boring larvae. On July 28, 1932, another Nelson's woodpecker was seen in an aspen grove near Park Headquarters. A third bird of this species was seen on August 20, 1932 at McKinley Bar. An adult male Nelson's downy woodpecker was taken on May 7, 1932, by F. Nyberg, near Windy; it was preserved as a specimen.

This species is a common summer and winter resident in the park.

Picoides arcticus [SWAINSON]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A woodpecker of medium size, with three instead of four toes. The back is all black. The male bird has a broad yellow patch on top of the head. The flanks are white, heavily barred with black. Length, 9.5 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The yellow crown patch will distinguish the male, and the solidly black back, the female, from all other woodpeckers in the McKinley region.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds from central Alaska, Yukon, and northern Quebec, south along the Sierra Nevada to central California and in the eastern United States to the northern tier of States.

HABITS.—Our sole record for this species in the McKinley district is based upon an adult female (No. 8918 J. D.) collected by F. Nyberg and myself, on the Nenana River, near Windy, May 8, 1932. This bird probably traveled up the Nenana River from the Tanana Valley. All of the three-toed woodpeckers observed farther out in the park were of the smaller "American" type. It is a rare species, and probably breeds in the park along the Nenana River.

Picoides tridactylus fasciatus [BAIRD]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A smaller three-toed woodpecker than arcticus. It has a barred black and white back. Length, 8.7 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The ladder-back will distinguish this species from the Arctic three-toed woodpecker. The yellow crown of the male is a distinctive mark of male three-toed woodpeckers.

DISTRIBUTION.—It is found in central Alaska, Yukon, and western Mackenzie south to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Usually it may be seen in spruce timber in the McKinley region.

HABITS.—The Alaska three-toed woodpecker is the more common form in the McKinley region, arcticus being rare there. Three specimens of fasciatus were preserved. The first was an adult breeding male collected June 15, 1932, at Igloo Creek. It had a great deal of white on the back. A female collected July 28, 1932, near Park Headquarters, had a relatively white back with some barring, while another female collected August 14, 1932, at McKinley Bar, was distinctly ladder-backed. The woodpecker is more in evidence in winter than during the summer when it is quiet.

One individual came daily, during the winter of 1931, to the Kantishna Ranger Station at McKinley Bar to be fed. Its visits were regular and punctual. This woodpecker works almost noiselessly as it flakes off scales of bark from the trunks of spruce trees in search of hiding insects. It is a regular breeder in McKinley region.

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