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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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Sayornis saya saya [BONAPARTE]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A large phoebe with grayish-brown back and a blackish tail. The throat and breast are brownish gray. The under parts are rusty brown. The bill and feet are black. Length, 7.5 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The phoebelike habits of this bird combined with the rusty brown belly make it distinguishable from all other birds in the McKinley region.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds from central Alaska, northwestern Mackenzie south to southern California, Arizona, southern New Mexico and Sonora.

HABITS.—The Say's phoebe is a bird of the wide plains and canyons. In Mount McKinley National Park we saw this bird first at Savage River on May 20, 1926. At 8 o'clock in the evening it was in full song.

On June 5, 1926, a nest of this species was found in Savage River Canyon under an overhanging rock. It was placed 12 feet above the ground on a little shelf of rocks where it was well protected from rain and snow. Both birds were seen at the nest but incubation had not begun as yet.

On July 10, 1932, at the forks of the Toklat, I found a Say's phoebe's nest made of shed caribou hair. The hair had been gathered by the birds and packed down and felted into a firm nest. The nest was placed 6 feet above the ground under an overhanging cliff that projected out from the canyon wall. It contained five young which were fully fledged and nearly ready to leave the nest.

At Muldrow Glacier on July 16, 1926, in the willows growing along the bank of McKinley River we found a family consisting of the parents and five young, feeding on insects. On July 25, 1926, a male young of the year, fully fledged and foraging for himself, was collected and saved as a specimen.

Our investigations, both in 1926 and in 1932, showed that the Say's phoebe is a regular but not numerous breeder in the McKinley region.

Myiochanes richardsoni richardsoni [SWAINSON]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A flycatcher of medium size with rather uniform coloration. It lacks the white or light-colored eye-ring found in many small flycatchers. The upper parts are brownish gray; the under parts are dark gray, becoming lighter on the throat and belly. Length, 6 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The flycatcher habits, uniform coloration and oft repeated harsh call note, "pee-ee", will identify this bird amongst all other birds in the McKinley region.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds from central Alaska south to northern Lower California. It is found at McKinley Park Station.

HABITS.—The sole record that we have of this species is of one observed by me June 22, 1932. It was on a burned-over hillside on a warm south facing slope near McKinley Park Station. It is believed to be a rare summer visitor to the McKinley area.

Nuttallornis mesoleucus [LICHTENSTEIN]

GENERAL APPEARANCE.—A large chunky flycatcher nearly uniform dark brownish gray above. The throat is whitish; the sides are brownish separated by a whitish medial stripe. There are two white areas on the rump which show when the bird is in flight. Length, 7.4 inches.

IDENTIFICATION.—The chunky build together with the white areas on the rump, and this bird's habit of perching on the very tops of tall dead trees are all good field characters. However, the bird's loud and unmistakable call, "Who-be-you?", or as others record it, "Quick-three-beers" is the best means of identification.

DISTRIBUTION.—It breeds from central Alaska south in coniferous forests to northern Lower California, Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas. It is also found in northern and eastern United States. In the McKinley region, it is found only at low elevations along streams.

HABITS.—On June 15, 1926, while I was passing through a dense spruce wood on Savage River, I heard the unmistakable and oft-repeated call of the olive-sided flycatcher. On this occasion I heard the call three times, but I was unable to locate the bird.

In 1932 I was more fortunate, for on June 2 I noted the first spring arrival at park headquarters. For several days I heard the well-known "Who-be-you" call notes of this species in a grove of mixed aspen and spruce, below the dog kennels. On July 26, 1932, I found a brood of young olive-sided flycatchers just out of the nest in the same locality. Although these youngsters were able to fly about freely, they depended upon their parents to catch and bring them food.

Our observations indicate that a few olive-sided flycatchers breed each year at low altitudes in McKinley National Park.

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Last Modified: Thurs, Oct 4 2001 10:00:00 pm PDT

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