|P.O. Box 240
2756 Dam Road
Errol, NH 03579
Northern Forest Birds of Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
A transition zone home to many species
Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is located in the mixed spruce-fir/northern hardwood forest. This marks the transition zone between the deciduous (hardwood) forests, and the northern, or boreal coniferous forests. Most of the boreal forest range lies in Canada, but the southern extent reaches into northern New Hampshire. Some of the birds on the Refuge are northern birds at the southern extent of their range, and therefore are rare in New Hampshire. The following is a description of six boreal bird species found in the Umbagog Lake area: gray jay, boreal chickadee, spruce grouse, three-toed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker and palm warbler.
Good Places to View Northern Forest Birds
The gray jay, boreal chickadee, spruce grouse and the three-toed and black-backed woodpeckers can all be found in coniferous (softwood) forest. Route 16, between Errol and Refuge Headquarters, passes many softwood patches in which to look for these birds. At the top of the hill about half way between Errol and the Refuge Headquarters, a dirt road enters from the northwest side of Route 16 ( the left side of the road coming from Errol) and is worth exploring.
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Description: Gray jays are large birds, typically larger than the robin. They have a gray body with a black cap and a white crown on the head. Gray jays of northern New Hampshire are darker in color then the gray jays in western North America.
Range: The gray jay is a year-round resident. In northern North America it ranges from Alaska to Newfoundland south into California, Colorado, New York, and New England. The gray jay is considered rare in New Hampshire, where it lives in coniferous forests and bogs. (Evans, 1994) Sightings of gray jays have been reported as far south as central New Hampshire. (Evans, 1994)
Diet: Gray jays have extremely varied diets, which include insects, berries, conifer seeds and fungi. They also scavenge on carrion and scraps from mammalian carcasses (Foss, 1994).
Breeding: The breeding season for gray jays begins in late February through early March when there is still snow on the ground (Evans, 1994).
Nesting: Nests are constructed of twigs, bark and mosses and are built close to the trunks of large conifer trees (Evans, 1994). The inside of the nest is lined with feather, fur, or anything else that is soft.
Boreal Chickadee ( Parus hudonicus)
Range: Black-backed woodpeckers range from Canada south into the northern United States, across the Great Lakes Region, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. These birds are most likely to be seen in logged, burned, and swampy or spruce budworm infested areas (Kilham, Foss, 1994).
Diet: Their main food is larvae of wood-boring beetles and ants (Elrich, 1988).
Nesting: Nests are constructed in dead stumps, or living spruce or fir trees with decayed centers. Edges of forests opening make good nesting sites. Both the male and female share nest building duties; incubation of the 2 to 6 eggs is also shared (Kilham, Foss, 1994).
Population: The population of black-backed woodpeckers in New Hampshire has increased slightly due to the regeneration of spruce and fir forests. This woodpecker has been sighted in areas as far south as central New Hampshire.
Other names: Northern Three-Toed Woodpecker, American Three-Toed Woodpecker
Description: The three-toed woodpecker is rare at Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. The three-toed woodpecker looks very similar to the black-backed woodpecker. It has a white breast and a yellow cap on its head. The distinguishing characteristic of this species is the white “ladder” on its back. The female does not have the yellow cap, but their backs do have the white ladder (Peterson, 1980).
Range: The three-toed woodpecker is a year round resident of Canada, northern United States and Eurasia (Foss, 1994). Although it is considered common in the west, it is a rare species in the east. In New Hampshire its range is restricted to north of the White Mountains (Foss, 1994).
Diet: Like the black-backed woodpecker, the three-toed Woodpecker feeds on wood larvae and wood boring insects (Foss, 1994).
Breeding: Bogs, and logged areas with dead standing conifers make good breeding areas in New Hampshire (Foss, 1994).
Nesting: Nests are built in May in tamarack, spruce, balsam, and cedar trees. The female lays four eggs in the nest, and both the male and female share the incubation of them. Incubation occurs for two weeks and the young will fledge the nest 22 to 26 days after hatching (Foss, 1994).
Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)
Description: The palm warbler is a small bird. It is brown on top with yellowish/whitish streaks on its under parts. During the breeding season it has a chestnut-colored cap on its head (Peterson, 1980).
Range: Throughout Canada and the extreme northern parts of North America. The eastern subspecies of the palm warbler is found from Ontario through Newfoundland and south to northeastern New England. The eastern species spends its winters from Tennessee and North Carolina down to the Gulf Coast (Richards, 1994). The warbler is one of the earliest birds to return to New Hampshire. It passes through the state between mid April and early May (Richards, 1994).
Diet: Small beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, flies, and some vegetation make up the palm warbler's diet (Richards, 1994).
Breeding: Palm Warblers nest exclusively in bogs and boggy heaths with black spruce (Richards, 1994). Although uncommon, palm warblers breed in the Umbagog area. Breeding records are rare elsewhere in New Hampshire.
Nesting: Cup-shaped nests built out of bark, dry grass, and weed stems are lined with finer grasses and located on the ground. Sometimes the nests will be located up to four feet above the ground in spruce trees. Eggs are laid in late May through early June (Richards, 1994).
Interesting Info: The first sightings of Palm Warblers in New Hampshire were in the Floating Island Bog at Harper's Meadow, Errol in 1955 (Richards, 1994).
Boreal Birds of New Hampshire
Written by Katie Maguire 8/2001
Elrich, Paul, David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. Simon and Schuster.
Foss, Carol R., Tudor Richards, Diane Evans, Steve Smith, Lawrence Kilham. 1994. Atlas of Breeding Birds in New Hampshire. Audubon Society of New Hampshire.
Peterson, Roger Tory. 1980. Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.
For More Information Please Contact
Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 240
Errol, NH 03579
Phone: (603) 482-3415