Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yellow Breasted Chats Along the Amargosa River and Shoshone Wetlands

If you come to Shoshone from late April through Mid July, you can easily find Yellow-breasted Chat. They breed here every year, and the males sing beginning as early as 4 am.
Display flight/ male  Yellow-Breasted Chat
 Yellow-breasted Chat is one of the most vocal of all the songbirds along the Amargosa River, They arrive here in late April, and claim territories in the shadiest,darkest, and most challenging vegetation, usually very close to water.The males show off with a marvelous singing display flight to proclaim their territory. The song repertoire of a chat is extensive. Males sing from various high perches within the territory, along the river,and it's tributary springs as many as 8 at a time can be heard singing and counter-singing in the north end of the Amargosa Canyon. Females are extremely quiet, and secretive.They make certain  sounds near the nest . Females do not sing, but make short , single note calls that can help us discover the nest location. To find the nest of a Chat, one must be still, wait within the territory to hear the female "near calls" then quietly track the female. I have found a few Chat nests in my work, this year 4, but most of them still manage to elude me. I often search for hours and give up, walking away,while the males sing and display in a way that feels to me like they're laughing at my incompetence, and congratulating themselves on their  successful territorial defense and secrecy.  I feel fortunate that although  many although birders have had very few precious looks at a Chat, I'm able to get great looks at them every day during breeding season.

There are still a few Chats along the Amargosa River, but most have raised their young and have departed  in July,for Mexico, and Central America, as far south as Panama. I already miss them, and I'm looking forward to April again.

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