BIRDS OF CONEWAGO FALLS
The Birds of the Lower Susquehanna River and its Floodplain within the Gettysburg Basin
The Birds of Three Mile Island
With an Image Gallery and Annotations on the Status of the Species
Click the image to view the Birds of Conewago Falls checklist. This PDF file can be printed legal size.
Birds of Conewago Falls checklist is current through 2011. Sighting records were accumulated by the author from his own files and from issues of Pennsylvania Birds, the journal of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology. The list includes the 239 species of birds seen from 1980 through 2011.
You can browse more recent bird sightings by exploring the Pennsylvania eBird website (https://ebird.org/pa/home). There, you’ll find up-to-date records for each of the eBird “hotspots” in the
Birds of Conewago Falls checklist coverage area. You can generate bar charts for each species recorded at each site. You can even add your own sightings and begin creating your own lists for locations near and far. eBird is a global project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In Pennsylvania, it’s a collaborative effort of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, Pennsylvania Audubon, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which manages the project in the state. It really is a tremendous resource.
The composite checklist that follows includes sightings from the original printed checklist, more recent eBird sightings from various “hotspots” within the checklist area, and selected historical records and commentary.
From the Editor:
We’d like to extend a sincere Thank You to all those dedicated observers who took the time to enter their bird sightings from along the Susquehanna in the Gettysburg Basin into the eBird database. Your entries not only make eBird the fascinating resource that it is but they also enabled us here at “Life in the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed” to produce the birding hotspot locator and composite checklist. Well done and happy birding to each of you!
eBird hotspots in the Birds of Conewago Falls checklist coverage area: the Susquehanna River and its floodplain in the Gettysburg Basin. (Base image from United States Geological Survey Historical Topographic Map Collection-1984)
in the Birds of Conewago Falls Checklist Coverage Area
Highspire Reservoir Park and Lisa Lake—(Alluvial Terrace Wetlands/remnants of Pennsylvania Canal—Dauphin County)
Susquehanna River-Middletown Access—(mouth of Swatara Creek—Dauphin County)
Canal Lock Recreation Area—(T.M.I. Park Boat Ramp/Neff Lock—Dauphin County)
Susquehanna River-Goldsboro Boat Launch—(Lake Frederic—Dauphin County)
Susquehanna River-Falmouth Access—(Conewago Falls/York Haven Dam/Collins Lock & Scrable Lock wetlands—Lancaster County)
Susquehanna River-King’s River Haven Access—(Lancaster County)
Prescot(t) Road—(Bainbridge Lock Swamp/Alluvial Terrace Wetlands/Wet Hardwood Flatwoods—Lancaster County)
Conoy Canal Trail—(segment of Northwest Lancaster County River Trail/Pennsylvania Canal towpath/Alluvial Terrace Forest)
Bainbridge Islands—(alluvial Riverine Grassland islands—Lancaster County)
Goldsboro Boat Launch—(riverine shoreline—York County)
Brunner Island—(flyash pond shorebird habitat during second half of 20th century [now diminished]—York County/river in Lancaster County)
Gut Road—(Black Gut river backwater/Lowe’s Island—York County)
Saginaw Boat Launch—(York County/river in Lancaster County)
THE BIRDS OF CONEWAGO FALLS
1980 through June, 2019
With eBird sightings and commentary on the species—plus notes from the historic writings of Linnaean Society of Lancaster City and County naturalist Judge John J. Libhart, and Dr. Herbert H. Beck, Curator of the Franklin and Marshall College Museum.
SPECIES STATUS KEY
historic-a species recorded only prior to 1980.
extinct-a native species no longer existing or living.
extirpated-a native species no longer occurring in the wild in the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed.
exotic-a free-ranging escaped or released non-native species or variety; most are unwanted pets, domesticated farm animals, captive-bred game, or zoo specimens.
feral-exotic animals that begin reproducing in the wild, but retain dependence upon humans for survival of their population.
introduced-a non-native species that, following its release into the wild, has established a self-sustaining breeding population—often at the expense of one or more native species.
-a native species listed by the United States government as imminently in danger of extinction. Federally Endangered
-a native species listed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as imminently in danger of extinction or of extirpation as a breeding species in the state. PA Endangered
-a native species listed by the State of Maryland as imminently in danger of extinction or of extirpation as a breeding species in the state. MD Endangered
-a native species listed by the United States government as under threat to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future. Federally Threatened
-a native species listed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as under threat to become an endangered species in the state in the foreseeable future. PA Threatened
-a native species listed by the State of Maryland as under threat to become an endangered species in the state in the foreseeable future. MD Threatened
† — Denotes a breeding bird—a species that, during the period covered by this list, has nested in the checklist area or used the area as supporting habitat while nesting nearby.
THE BIRDS OF CONEWAGO FALLS
The Susquehanna River and its floodplain in the Gettysburg Basin
Classified using traditional taxonomic ranks and selected cladistic groups.
The “bony vertebrates” including the Actinopterygians, the ray-finned fishes, and the Sarcopterygians, the lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods.
The lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods. All members of the clade Sarcopterygii presently occurring in the Susquehanna watershed (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals including humans) are tetrapod descendants of extinct lobe-finned fishes.
The animals descended from fishes beginning in the Late Devonian epoch (about 370 million years ago), most having four limbs—the amphibians, the reptiles (including snakes, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and birds), and the mammals.
The group of living and extinct tetrapods having more similarity to the amniotes (reptiles, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals) than to modern amphibians (Lissamphibia).
The group of tetrapods, living and extinct, that deposit their eggs on land (not in water) or retain them within the body—the reptiles (including pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and birds) and the mammals.
The group of all living and extinct reptiles—the traditional taxonomic class Reptilia (including birds and the extinct Parareptilia).
The group of living and extinct sauropsid amniotes with two openings—temporal fenestra—behind each eye orbit.
Two temporal fenestra openings are noted on the skull of the Meleagris gallopovo, the Wild Turkey. Some diapsids have lost temporal fenestra openings over time; snakes have none and modern lizards have only one behind each eye. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image www.si.edu)
The group of living and extinct diapsid sauropsids that is comprised of phytosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and birds—all descended from a shared Early Triassic ancestor.
Crocodilians, including the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), are the closest living relatives of modern birds (Aves). Crocodilians and birds share a common Early Triassic epoch ancestor and are included, along with their extinct relatives, in the clade Archosauria. Archosaurs (living and extinct) most resembling crocodilians are grouped in the clade Pseudosuchia. Those most resembling birds, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs, are grouped in the clade Avemetatarsalia.
The group of archosaurs most resembling birds (includes pterosaurs and dinosaurs).
The clade Avemetatarsalia includes the familiar membrane-winged pterosaurs, which, having first appeared during the Late Triassic epoch about 228 million years ago, are the earliest known vertebrates capable of flight. Rhamphorhynchus muensteri (seen here) lived during the Late Jurassic epoch about 165 to 150 million years ago. It and other non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs were long-tailed and much smaller than their counterparts, the pterodactyloid giants including the members of the Pterodactylus and Pteranodon genera, some of which had wingspans exceeding 20 feet, enabling them to soar and cover great distances in search of prey that probably included fish. Though, due to their ability to fly, they resemble modern birds, the lineage of the pterosaurs did not survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. The pterosaurs have no living descendants. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, replica of the Eichstatt/New Haven fossil specimen, www.si.edu)
The group of archosaurs more closely related to dinosaurs and birds than pterosaurs.
The living and extinct dinosaurs and birds.
The group of extinct “bird-hipped” dinosaurs (Ornithischia) and the living and extinct “three-toed” dinosaurs and birds (Theropoda).
The living and extinct bipedal hollow-boned “three-toed” ornithoscelidian dinosaurs and birds.
Due in large part to their close association with humans, House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) are currently the planet’s most widely distributed and successful species of theropod.
The “new theropods”—
Coelophysis and the more advanced dinosaurs and birds—possibly the only theropod survivors of the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event (201.3 million years ago).
Dinosaur footprint trace fossils known as Atreipus milfordensis have been found in Gettysburg Formation sediments near Conewago Falls. The tracks, made by Coelophysis bauri or a similar Late Triassic neotheropod coelophysoid dinosaur, are in deposits more than 200 million years old. Birds and extinct coelophysoid dinosaurs, including Coelophysis bauri, share a common neotheropod ancestor. They also share a significant anatomical feature: a furcula, better known as a wishbone, which in coelophysoids consisted of two unconnected bones, but in later dinosaurs and birds became a fused reinforcement joining the left and right forelimb assemblies. Life-sized model of Coelophysis bauri, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA
The “bird snouts”—the most recent common ancestor of
Allosaurus fragilis and Ceratosaurus nasicornis, and its living and extinct descendants. The averostrans are the only theropods known to have survived beyond the Early Jurassic epoch (174.1 million years ago).
The Late Jurassic species Ceratosaurus nasicornis was a member of the Ceratosauria, a clade of theropods with a lineage that may have diverged from that of other dinosaurs and birds as long ago as the Early Jurassic epoch. Ceratosaurs possessed a bony horn on the upper mandible and, like birds, had fused pelvic bones and metatarsals. Unlike the trend in the more direct ancestors of birds, the forelimbs of ceratosaurs were shortened. Ceratosaurs disappeared during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The group of theropods more closely related to birds than to the
The most recent common ancestor of
Allosaurus fragilis, Megalosaurus bucklandii, and Passer domesticus (House Sparrow), and its living and extinct descendants.
The clawed phalanges and fused metatarsals comprising the bird-like foot of Allosaurus fragilis. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The “bird theropods”—the extinct carnosaurs and the living and extinct coelurosaurs, including birds.
The carnosaur Allosaurus fragilis thrived during the Late Jurassic epoch. Carnosauria, those tetanurans sharing a more recent common ancestor with Allosaurus than with birds, emerged during the Middle Jurassic epoch and were extinct by the middle of the Late Cretaceous epoch about 90 million years ago. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
(Tyrannoraptora)-The group of living and extinct “bird theropods” more closely related to birds than carnosaurs.
The clade Coelurosauria includes the more narrowly defined clade Tyrannoraptora: the most recent common ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex and Passer domesticus (House Sparrow), and its living and extinct descendants. The Tyrannoraptora dinosaurs were annihilated by the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
Tyrannosaurus rex forelimbs and femur. Like Coelophysis bauri and birds including Passer domesticus (House sparrow), this giant dinosaur had a furcula, a wishbone, the small bone pictured here between the scapulae of the forearm segments. In the living Tyrannosaurus rex, it would have been found reinforcing the connection between the left and right forearm assemblies at the caracoids, the fan-shaped bones seen here at the top of each scapula. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The living and extinct dinosaurs and birds with feathers and wings.
The Late Cretaceous theropod Anzu wyliei belonged to a feathered group of maniraptoriformes known as the Oviraptorosauria, an extinct clade of bird-like dinosaurs. The only surviving maniraptoriformes are the modern birds, all descendants of dinosaurs in the clade Avialae. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, Media Fact Sheet SI-135-2014)
The “bird-winged” dinosaurs—the most recent common ancestor of
Archaeopteryx lithographica and Passer domesticus (House Sparrow), and its living and extinct descendants.
Archaeopteryx siemensii with feather impressions. Archaeopteryx dinosaurs lived during the Late Jurassic epoch, about 150 million years ago. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, replica of the Berlin fossil specimen, www.si.edu)
Archaeopteryx lithographica with the furcula (wishbone) labeled. Like other members of its genus, it had toothed jaws, three-fingered forelimbs, and a long bony tail. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, replica of the London fossil specimen, www.si.edu)
The “birds with short tails”—the avialans with no greater than ten free vertebrae in the tail.
The avialans with the final series of tail vertebrae fused to create a base for the retrices (tail feathers) of modern birds.
The “bird thoraxes”—the avialans with lengthened coracoids, a keeled sternum for attachment of flight muscles, and a rib cage strengthened for flying. Most ornithothoracine avialans with teeth in sockets within the jaws and fingers on the wings are included in the extinct clade Enantiornithes, most others, including all modern birds, are members of the clade Euornithes.
The group of avialans more closely related to modern birds than enantiornithes. The clade includes the earliest known example of secondary flightlessness—
Patagopteryx deferrariisi, a Late Cretaceous chicken-like flightless descendant of flight-capable ancestors.
The “bird tails”—the most recent common ancestor of
Hesperornis, Ichthyornis, and modern birds, and its living and extinct descendants.
Hesperornis regalis, a flightless ornithuran of the Late Cretaceous epoch (about 80 million years ago), had small teeth in longitudinal channels in the beak and weak wings without multiple fingers. It had aquatic proclivities, swimming like a cormorant, loon, or grebe in pursuit of prey. Like other ornithurans, its tail had seven or fewer free-moving vertebrae and five or fewer fused terminal vertebrae. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The avian reptiles—the modern birds—the only avialan dinosaurs to have survived the cosmic-collision-induced Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event (66 million years ago), recognized as the end of the Mesozoic Era and the beginning of the current Cenozoic Era.
A living avialan dinosaur, Meleagris gallopavo, the Wild Turkey, is a familiar member of the clade Neornithes, more commonly known as the traditional taxonomic class Aves, the birds. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The flexible furcula (wishbone) of Meleagris gallopavo, the Wild Turkey, like that of most modern birds capable of flight, provides shock-absorbing reinforcement of the skeletal structure attached to wing muscles. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
Neorniths with a lineage descending from an ancestor in common with members of the infraclass/clade Neognathae. This “split” occurred about 72.9 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous epoch—preceding the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction 66 million years ago. Surviving palaeognaths include the flightless ratites (kiwis, cassowaries, ostriches, rheas, and emus), which have no keel on their sternum for attachment of flight muscles, and the tinamous, which are capable of limited flight.
The extinct palaeognath Lithornis promiscuus lived in western North America about 56.8 to 55.4 million years ago, during the late Paleocene through early Eocene epochs. It was a more accomplished flier than its close relatives the tinamous. Note the keel on the sternum (A) for attachment of flight muscles, an anatomical feature absent in ratites. The furcula (B) was similar to the familiar wishbone of modern birds. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image of type specimen fossils, www.si.edu.)
Dromaius novaehollandiae (Emu)- exotic
On occasion, the flightless Emu ( Dromaius novaehollandiae), a ratite, has been observed in the Susquehanna floodplain near Conewago Falls, possibly wandering after release as an intended target for one of the local “canned game hunts”. (Smithsonian image, circa 1910, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, www.si.edu)
Neornithes with a lineage descending from an ancestor in common with members of the infraclass/clade Palaeognathae. This “split” occurred about 72.9 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous epoch—preceding the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction 66 million years ago. Neognathae includes all non-palaeognath birds sharing this common ancestor.
Neognaths, all the living birds other than palaeognaths, possess a keeled sternum for attachment of flight muscles. This sizable example belongs to Meleagris gallopavo, the Wild Turkey, a heavy bird capable of explosive flight. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
Neognaths with a lineage descending from an ancestor in common with members of the clade Neoaves. The “split” in the neognaths occurred about 71.9 million years ago. Galloanserae includes the waterfowl (Anseriformes) and landfowl (Galliformes). Galloanserae birds are dinosaur-brained—literally. Many species are susceptible to taming and domestication (geese, swans, ducks, chickens, turkeys, etc.). Because their behavior can easily be altered, often creating habitat-destroying concentrations of birds, they should not be offered food handouts. Likewise, domestic varieties should not be released into the wild from captivity.
Like other species of landfowl and waterfowl, Gallus gallus, the Red Jungle Fowl, is a member of the superorder/clade Galloanserae. It is the progenitor of the domestic chicken, tamed from wild populations in Asia more than 7,000 years ago. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
Anser anser (Graylag Goose including “Domestic Goose”)- exotic
Anser caerulescens (Snow Goose)
Anser cygnoides (Swan Goose including “Chinese Goose”)- exotic
Anser rossii (Ross’s Goose)-accidental [fall 2013]
Branta bernicula (Brant)
Branta canadensis (Canada Goose) †
Cygnus olor (Mute Swan)- introduced
Cygnus buccinator (Trumpeter Swan)-accidental [summer 2011]
Cygnus columbianus (Tundra Swan)
Tadorna tadorna (Common Shelduck)- exotic
Callonetta leucophrys (Ringed Teal)- exotic
Cairina moschata domestica (Muscovy Duck)- exotic
Aix sponsa (Wood Duck) †
Spatula discors (Blue-winged Teal) †
Spatula cyanoptera (Cinnamon Teal)- exotic
Spatula clypeata (Northern Shoveler)
Mareca strepera (Gadwall)
Mareca americana (American Wigeon)
Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard wild form) †
Anas platyrhynchos domesticus (Mallard polygamous form, including “Domestic Duck”) †– feral
Anas platyrhynchos x Anas rubripes (Mallard/American Black Duck hybrid)
Anas rubripes (American Black Duck)
Anas acuta (Northern Pintail)
Anas crecca (Green-winged Teal)
Aythya valisineria (Canvasback)
Aythya americana (Redhead)
Aythya collaris (Ring-necked Duck)
Aythya marila (Greater Scaup)
Aythya affinis (Lesser Scaup)
Melanitta fusca (White-winged Scoter)
Melanitta americana (Black Scoter)-accidental [fall 2006]
Clanqula hyemalis (Long-tailed Duck)
Bucephala albeola (Bufflehead)
Bucephala clangula (Common Goldeneye)
Lophodytes cucullatus (Hooded Merganser) †
Mergus merganser (Common Merganser) †
Mergus serrator (Red-breasted Merganser)
Oxyura jamaicensis (Ruddy Duck)
Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens).
Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens).
Ross’s Goose ( Anser rossii). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Brant ( Branta bernicula), (Vintage 35 mm image)
Canada Geese ( Branta canadensis).
Mute Swan ( Cygnus olor).
Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator).
Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus).
Tundra Swans ( Cygnus columbianus).
Common Shelduck ( Tadorna tadorna).
Ringed Teal ( Callonetta leucophrys). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Lee Karney)
Muscovy Duck ( Cairina moschata domestica)
Wood Ducks ( Aix sponsa).
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa).
Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors).
Blue-winged Teal ( Spatula discors).
Cinnamon Teal ( Spatula cyanoptera). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Gary Kramer)
Northern Shovelers ( Spatula clypeata).
Gadwall ( Mareca strepera).
American Wigeons ( Mareca americana).
Mallards ( Anas platyrhynchos).
Since the 1990s, feral hand-fed domestic-type Mallards ( Anas platyrhynchos domesticus), seen here in summer molt, have congregated into year-round non-migratory populations that, due to their relentless feeding and defecation, are fouling wetland, pond, and stream ecosystems in the lower Susquehanna valley. Unlike wild Mallards, they are polygamous, gangs of drakes often pursuing females relentlessly, even into traffic, and sometimes killing the hens in their zeal to mate. Feeding the ducks seems to be a “good deed”, but it’s actually creating the duck concentrations that pollute water and, due to their non-stop foraging, eliminate fish and other aquatic species. They are also destroying habitat that migratory wild ducks use during their brief layovers as transients or while nesting. To avoid decimation of their food supplies, all species of wild waterfowl occurring in the lower Susquehanna valley have evolved migratory survival strategies; they’re always on the move. Libhart (1844 and 1869) describes enormous numbers of waterfowl migrating through Lancaster County in spring and fall, but few remaining to nest or spend the winter. Their nomadic feeding behavior begins early in life, the precocial young leaving the nest within 24 hours of hatching to start foraging. In northern latitudes, waterfowl linger in any one location only during the weeks of the year when food supplies are at their most abundant. The layover occurs during a mid-summer molt into a flightless basic (eclipse) plumage, which is quickly followed by a molt into the more familiar alternate (breeding) plumage, just in time for autumn migration. Their molting grounds have nearly an entire year to recover, being fully replenished for the birds’ return visit during the following summer. The bottom line is this: concentrations of domesticated waterfowl provide no time for habitats to recover; their non-stop foraging obliterates ecosystems, interrupts the natural food chain, and displaces native wildlife. Flocks of non-migratory waterfowl pollute water and wipe out aquatic plant communities. They’re a menace. So, PLEASE DO NOT FEED WATERFOWL or release domestic birds and other animals into the wild.
“Domestic Duck” ( Anas platyrhynchos domesticus).
American Black Ducks ( Anas rubripes).
Northern Pintails ( Anas acuta).
Green-winged Teal ( Anas crecca).
An adult male Canvasback ( Aythya valisineria).
Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) and a Ruddy Duck ( Oxyura jamaicensis).
Redheads (Aythya americana).
Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris).
Scaup (Aythya species).
Greater Scaup ( Aythya marila). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Donna A. Dewhurst)
An adult male Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis).
A female (right) and a first-winter male (left) Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis).
White-winged Scoter ( Melanitta fusca). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Dave Menke)
Long-tailed Ducks ( Clanqula hyemalis), also known as Oldsquaw.
Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola).
Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) and a first-winter male Bufflehead (upper right).
Male Hooded Mergansers ( Lophodytes cucullatus).
Male Hooded Mergansers ( Lophodytes cucullatus) displaying.
One-year-old male Hooded Mergansers ( Lophodytes cucullatus).
A pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus).
A female Hooded Merganser ( Lophodytes cucullatus) with young.
Common Mergansers ( Mergus merganser).
Common Mergansers ( Mergus merganser).
Red-breasted Mergansers ( Mergus serrator).
Ruddy Duck ( Oxyura jamaicensis).
Colinus virginianus (Northern Bobwhite)- extirpated -present occurrences are exotic birds
Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus).
Gallus gallus (Red Jungle Fowl)- exotic
Gallus gallus domesticus (“Domestic Chicken”)- exotic
Phasianus colchicus (Ring-necked Pheasant)- exotic
Meleagris gallopovo (Wild Turkey) †
A male Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).
A female Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).
Wild Turkeys ( Meleagris gallopovo).
A male Wild Turkey ( Meleagris gallopovo) displaying.
Neognaths with a lineage descending from an ancestor in common with members of the superorder/clade Galloanserae (waterfowl and landfowl). The “split” in the neognaths occurred about 71.9 million years ago. Neoaves includes the more than 9,000 surviving bird species that are not palaeognaths or galloanserans.
Tyto alba, the Barn Owl, is one of the more than 9,000 species of neoavians. It has a distribution that includes portions of six continents. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
The furcula (wishbone) of Tyto alba, the Barn Owl, is typical of the neoavians. (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History image, www.si.edu)
Chordeiles minor (Common Nighthawk)
Common Nighthawk ( Chordeiles minor).
Chaetura pelagica (Chimney Swift) †
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica).
Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica) exiting an overnight roost.
Archilochus colubris (Ruby-throated Hummingbird) †
A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris).
Ruby-throated Hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris).
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).
Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo) †
Coccyzus erythropthalmus (Black-billed Cuckoo) †
Yellow-billed Cuckoo ( Coccyzus americanus).
Columba livia (Rock Pigeon) †– introduced
Streptopelia decaocto (Eurasian Collared Dove)- introduced
Ectopistes migratorius (Passenger Pigeon)-historic extinct
Zenaida macroura (Mourning Dove) †
Rock Pigeons (Columba livia).
Eurasian Collared Dove ( Streptopelia decaocto). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Mourning Dove ( Zenaida macroura).
Rallus limicola (Virginia Rail) †
Porzana carolina (Sora) †
Gallinula galeata (Common Gallinule)
Fulica americana (American Coot)
Adult and young Virginia Rails ( Rallus limicola).
Sora (Porzana carolina).
Common Gallinule ( Gallinula galeata). (Vintage 35 mm image)
American Coots ( Fulica americana).
Podilymbus podiceps (Pied-billed Grebe)
Podiceps auritus (Horned Grebe)
Podiceps grisegena (Red-necked Grebe)
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Pied-billed Grebe ( Podilymbus podiceps) in winter (basic) plumage.
Horned Grebe ( Podiceps auritus) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Horned Grebe ( Podiceps auritus) in winter (basic) plumage.
Red-necked Grebe ( Podiceps grisegena).
Himantopus mexicanus (Black-necked Stilt)-accidental [spring 1994]
Recurvirostra americana (American Avocet)-accidental [summer 1996]
Black-necked Stilt ( Himantopus mexicanus). (Vintage 35 mm image)
American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana).
Pluvialis squatarola (Black-bellied Plover)
Pluvialis dominica (American Golden Plover)
Charadrius semipalmatus (Semipalmated Plover)
Charadrius vociferus (Killdeer) †
Black-bellied Plover ( Pluvialis squatarola) in breeding (alternate) plumage. (Vintage 35 mm image)
Black-bellied Plover ( Pluvialis squatarola) in winter (basic) plumage. (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Lee Karney)
American Golden Plover ( Pluvialis dominica) in winter (basic) plumage. (Vintage 35 mm image)
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) in breeding (alternate) plumage to the left and transitioning to winter (basic) plumage in the image to the right.
Killdeer ( Charadrius vociferus).
Limosa haemastica (Hudsonian Godwit)
Arenaria interpres (Ruddy Turnstone)
Calidris himantopus (Stilt Sandpiper)-accidental [fall 2000]
Calidris alba (Sanderling)
Calidris alpina (Dunlin)
Calidris bairdii (Baird’s Sandpiper)
Calidris minutilla (Least Sandpiper)
Calidris fuscicollis (White-rumped Sandpiper)
Calidris subruficollis (Buff-breasted Sandpiper)
Calidris melanotos (Pectoral Sandpiper)
Calidris pusilla (Semipalmated Sandpiper)
Limnodromus griseus (Short-billed Dowitcher)
Limnodromus scolopaceus (Long-billed Dowitcher)
Scolopax minor (American Woodcock)
Gallinago delicata (Wilson’s Snipe)
Actitus macularius (Spotted Sandpiper) †
Tringa solitaria (Solitary Sandpiper)
Tringa flavipes (Lesser Yellowlegs)
Tringa semipalmata (Willet)-hypothetical [spring 1999]
Tringa melanoleuca (Greater Yellowlegs)
Phalaropus tricolor (Wilson’s Phalarope)
Phalaropus fulicarius (Red Phalarope)-accidental [spring 1993]
Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica).
Ruddy Turnstone ( Arenaria interpres). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus).
Sanderling ( Calidris alba). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Dunlin ( Calidris alpina). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Kristine Sowl)
Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii).
Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla).
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).
Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) and a Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).
Semipalmated Sandpipers (Calidris pusilla).
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla).
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) at middle right with Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla).
Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus) accompanied by a single Stilt Sandpiper ( Calidris himantopus), the latter a smaller bird with white wing linings seen flying just below the egret.
Long-billed Dowitcher ( Limnodromus scolopaceus). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Lee Karney)
American Woodcocks ( Scolopax minor). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Tom Tetzner)
The Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata), also known as the Common Snipe.
The Spotted Sandpiper ( Actitus macularius) is easily recognized, even at a distance, by the non-stop teetering of its body as it feeds. Spotted Sandpipers are nesting summer residents along the vegetated shorelines of the Susquehanna at Conewago Falls. Beck (1924) observed in the early 20th century that it “Breeds regularly in fields near water.”
The juvenile Spotted Sandpiper ( Actitus macularius) lacks the black spots seen on the underside of adult birds in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Solitary Sandpiper ( Tringa solitaria).
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria).
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes).
Willet (Tringa semipalmata). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Greater Yellowlegs ( Tringa melanoleuca).
Wilson’s Phalarope ( Phalaropus tricolor). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Tom Koerner)
Red Phalarope ( Phalaropus fulicarius). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Kristine Sowl)
Stercorarius parasiticus (Parasitic Jaeger)-accidental [fall 2006]
Parasitic Jaeger ( Stercorarius parasiticus). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Art Sowls)
Chroicocephalus philadelphia (Bonaparte’s Gull)
Hydrocoloeus minutus (Little Gull)-hypothetical [fall 1998]
Leucophaeus atricilla (Laughing Gull)
Larus delawarensis (Ring-billed Gull)
Larus argentatus (Herring Gull)
Larus glaucoides (Iceland Gull)-accidental [winter 1996-97]
Larus fuscus (Lesser Black-backed Gull)
Larus hyperboreus (Glaucous Gull)-accidental [winter 1980-81]
Larus marinus (Great Black-backed Gull)
Onychoprion fuscatus (Sooty Tern)-accidental [fall 2006]
Hydroprogne caspia (Caspian Tern)
Chlidonias niger (Black Tern)- PA Endangered
Sterna hirundo (Common Tern)- PA Endangered
Sterna forsteri (Forster’s Tern)
Rynchops niger (Black Skimmer)-accidental [summer 2000]
Bonaparte’s Gulls ( Chroicocephalus philadelphia).
Bonaparte’s Gulls ( Chroicocephalus philadelphia).
An adult Laughing Gull ( Leucophaeus atricilla) in breeding (alternate) plumage. (Vintage 35mm image)
A Laughing Gull in basic plumage.
The Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) was notable to Beck (1924) when it was “Observed with L. philadephia (Bonaparte’s Gulls) in lower Susquehanna, March 25, 1923.” Today, it is by far the most common member of the Laridae family occurring in the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed. It is an abundant migrant and winter resident. Through summer, small numbers of non-breeding immature birds usually remain at Conewago Falls and elsewhere along the river.
The Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is the larid most frequently found scavenging around parking lots looking for fast-food scraps and other edibles.
An adult Herring Gull ( Larus argentatus).
A first-fall Herring Gull ( Larus argentatus).
Iceland Gull ( Larus glaucoides). (Vintage 35mm image)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus).
Great Black-backed Gull ( Larus marinus).
Caspian Tern ( Hydroprogne caspia).
Black Tern ( Chlidonias niger). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Tom Koerner)
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo).
Forster’s Tern ( Sterna forsteri) in breeding (alternate) plumage. (Vintage 35mm image)
Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri) in basic plumage.
Black Skimmer ( Rynchops niger). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Robert H. Burton)
Gavia stellata (Red-throated Loon)-accidental [spring 2014]
Gavia immer (Common Loon)
Red-throated Loon ( Gavia stellata). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Tim Bowman)
Common Loon (Gavia immer).
Phalacrocorax auritus (Double-crested Cormorant)
An adult Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Adult Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Adult Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
A non-adult Double-crested Cormorant.
Anhinga anhinga (Anhinga)-hypothetical [spring 2011]
Anhinga ( Anhinga anhinga). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Pelecanus onocrotalus (Great White Pelican)- exotic
Botaurus lentiginosus (American Bittern)- PA Endangered
Ixobrychus exilis (Least Bittern)- PA Endangered
Ardea herodius (Great Blue Heron) †
Ardea alba (Great Egret)- PA Endangered
Egretta thula (Snowy Egret)
Egretta caerulea (Little Blue Heron)
Bubulcus ibis (Cattle Egret) †
Butorides virescens (Green Heron) †
Nycticorax nycticorax (Black-crowned Night Heron) †– PA Endangered
Nyctanassa violacea (Yellow-crowned Night Heron) †– PA Endangered
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus).
Least Bittern ( Ixobrychus exilis). (Vintage 35 mm image)
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodius) nests at Conewago Falls. If there happens to be low river flow during the late summer and early fall, they and other herons and egrets often congregate to feed among the Pothole Rocks. Great Blue Herons will remain through the winter if ice does not block their access to prey.
Great Egret ( Ardea alba).
Snowy Egret ( Egretta thula). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Little Blue Heron ( Egretta caerulea). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Juvenile Little Blue Heron ( Egretta caerulea).
Cattle Egret ( Bubulcus ibis). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens).
Green Heron ( Butorides virescens).
Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).
A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).
Yellow-crowned Night Herons ( Nyctanassa violacea).
Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Herons ( Nyctanassa violacea).
Eudocimus albus (White Ibis)-accidental [summer 2012]
Plegadis falcinellus (Glossy Ibis)
Adult (left) and first-spring (right) White Ibis ( Eudocimus albus). (Vintage 35 mm images)
Glossy Ibis ( Plegadis falcinellus). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Coragyps atratus (Black Vulture) †
Cathartes aura (Turkey Vulture) †
During the early 20th century, Black Vultures ( Coragyps atratus) were, according to Beck (1924), a “Rare summer visitant from the south, associating with the turkey vultures of the lower Susquehanna.” J. J. Libhart (1844 & 1869) doesn’t record the species at all during the mid-19th century in Lancaster County. In the decades since 1980, these scavengers have expanded their range north (more cars = more carrion) and are currently found throughout the Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain Provinces into southern New England. They have become as numerous as Turkey Vultures in much of the lower Susquehanna valley, especially along the river. Recently, Black Vultures have nested below ground level in forested York Haven Diabase boulder fields in the hills of the Gettysburg Basin near Conewago Falls. Their breeding range presently extends into southern sections of the Appalachians (Ridge and Valley Province), but most withdraw back south of Blue Mountain to the Piedmont Province and beyond for the winter.
The Turkey Vulture ( Cathartes aura) is a year-round resident along the lower Susquehanna. J. J. Libhart (1869) noted the “Turkey Buzzard” as a “frequent” summer resident. Beck (1924) described it as present “Throughout the year, less common in winter.” In Beck’s time it was “Less abundant northward…”, and was “…a regular breeder under the boulders of the Furnace Hills, which are approximately the bird’s northern limit in eastern Pennsylvania.” Today it ranges north throughout New York, much of New England, and southern Ontario. It is a very common migrant as it passes through southeastern Pennsylvania en route to and from these newly-colonized areas.
Pandion haliaetus (Osprey) †
Osprey ( Pandion haliaetus).
Aquila chrysaetos (Golden Eagle)
Circus hudsonius (Northern Harrier)- PA Threatened
Accipiter striatus (Sharp-shinned Hawk)
Accipiter cooperii (Cooper’s Hawk) †
Accipiter atricapillus (American Goshawk)
Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle) †
Buteo lineatus (Red-shouldered Hawk)
Buteo platypterus (Broad-winged Hawk)
Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed Hawk) †
Golden Eagle ( Aquila chrysaetos).
Northern Harrier ( Circus hudsonius).
Sharp-shinned Hawk ( Accipiter striatus).
The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) was a migratory species of diminished numbers in the late 20th century. Earlier, Libhart (1869) noted a “…rare specimen in my collection; shot in the county (Lancaster).” Since the 1990s, it has found a niche in bird-rich suburban neighborhoods where a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees and shrubs have matured to provide suitable nesting habitat. This juvenile (first-year) bird is eating a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).
A juvenile American Goshawk (Accipiter atricapillus).
Bald Eagle ( Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
Red-shouldered Hawk ( Buteo lineatus).
Broad-winged Hawk ( Buteo platypterus).
Red-tailed Hawk ( Buteo jamaicensis).
Tyto alba (Barn Owl) †
Barn Owl (Tyto alba).
Megascops asio (Eastern Screech Owl) †
Bubo virginianus (Great Horned Owl) †
Bubo scandiacus (Snowy Owl)
Strix varia (Barred Owl)
Asio flammeus (Short-eared Owl)-historic [Brunner Island-circa 1955] PA Endangered
The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is a resident species occurring in two color phases, red (above) and gray (below). They are more frequently heard than seen in the Riparian Woodlands along the Susquehanna in the Gettysburg Basin.
Great Horned Owl ( Bubo virginianus).
A juvenile Great Horned Owl ( Bubo virginianus).
Snowy Owl ( Bubo scandiacus).
Short-eared Owl ( Asio flammeus). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Tom Koerner)
Megaceryle alcyon (Belted Kingfisher) †
The Belted Kingfisher ( Megaceryle alcyon) can be found year-round at Conewago Falls. They remain through the winter as long as there is open water available to find prey. Beck (1924) described it as “The most generally familiar water bird of the county (Lancaster) along the creeks.” It is apparently far less ubiquitous today.
A Belted Kingfisher approaching its nest burrow in a stream bank with a small fish.
A juvenile Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). The rufous band seen on this young bird is wider and extends across the entire belly of an adult female.
Melanerpes erythrocephalus (Red-headed Woodpecker) †
Melanerpes carolinus (Red-bellied Woodpecker) †
Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker)
Dryobates pubescens (Downy Woodpecker) †
Dryobates villosus (Hairy Woodpecker) †
Colaptes auratus (Northern Flicker) †
Dryocopus pileatus (Pileated Woodpecker) †
Adult (left) and juvenile (right) Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus).
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ( Sphyrapicus varius).
The Downy Woodpecker ( Dryobates pubescensis) is a common resident of woodlands in the river floodplain. It is a familiar visitor to bird feeding stations throughout the lower Susquehanna valley. The bird seen here is a male.
A female Downy Woodpecker ( Dryobates pubescensis).
The Hairy Woodpecker ( Dryobates villosus) is a year-round resident of the Alluvial Terrace Forests near Conewago Falls. Beck (1924) noted it as “rather rare” within the lower Susquehanna valley in Lancaster County during the mid-19th through early 20th centuries, but it was still breeding regularly in Little Britain and Fulton Townships where some mature woodlands could be found.
A female Hairy Woodpecker ( Dryobates villosus).
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).
Northern Flicker ( Colaptes auratus).
Pileated Woodpecker ( Dryocopus pileatus).
Falco sparverius (American Kestrel) †
Falco columbarius (Merlin)
Falco peregrinus (Peregrine Falcon) †– PA Threatened
American Kestrel ( Falco sparverius).
Merlin (Falco columbarius) with an Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus).
A specimen of the extinct “Eastern Peregrine Falcon” from the 19th century collection of the Lancaster Linnaean Society is on display at the North Museum in Lancaster, PA. Libhart (1869) described them as “…common on the Susquehanna…often seizing the game shot down by the gunner…” By the early 20th century, birds from this east coast population of the subspecies known as “American Peregrine” (Falco peregrinus anatum) were severely reduced in number in the lower Susquehanna valley by shooting and disturbances to their cliff-side nests, including egg collecting. The last known nest on the river south of the Appalachians, found on April 7, 1880, was below Conewago Falls, in York County, on the Chickies Formation quartzite cliffs above the mouth of Codorous Creek near Haldeman Riffles. Another peregrine specimen in the North Museum display, collected in Lancaster County in February, 1895, provides evidence that the shooting of transient birds continued long after nesting had ended locally. The widespread use of DDT insecticide in the mid-20th century is generally believed to be responsible for the reproductive failure that eliminated the remaining “Eastern Peregrine Falcon” population by 1960.
The pale “Tundra Peregrine” (Falco peregrinus tundrius) is a highly migratory subspecies that passes through the Mid-Atlantic region during its long journeys between arctic breeding grounds and wintering sites as far south as South America. After 1960, migrating “Tundra Peregrines” were the only subspecies seen on the east coast until the establishment of introduced birds.
The Eastern Peregrine Falcon’s “replacement” is a captive-bred cross between a variety of surviving subspecies. Beginning in 1974, young peregrines were released at “hacking sites” in the east by the Peregrine Fund under the guidance of Thomas Cade to begin reestablishing a breeding population. These introduced birds were crosses of various subspecies, mostly “American Peregrines” (Falco peregrinus anatum) from surviving western populations and “Peale’s Peregrines” (Falco peregrinus pealei) from the Pacific coast of Canada and Alaska. The peregrine seen here is typical of the descendants of these introduced birds. They presently nest at several man-made sites along the lower Susquehanna. Within the Gettysburg Basin, these sites include the top of a reactor building on Three Mile Island and a man-made structure at the power plant on Brunner Island. Like the “Eastern Peregrine Falcon”, the introduced peregrines are a non-migratory resident population, though many roam widely throughout the east coast region during the fall and winter.
Myiarchus crinitus (Great Crested Flycatcher) †
Tyrannus tyrannus (Eastern Kingbird) †
Contopus virens (Eastern Wood Pewee) †
Empidonax virescens (Acadian Flycatcher) †
Empidonax traillii (Willow Flycatcher)
Empidonax minimus (Least Flycatcher)
Sayornis phoebe (Eastern Phoebe) †
Sayornis saya (Say’s Phoebe)-historic [Brunner Island-Dec., 1957]
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus).
Eastern Kingbird ( Tyrannus tyrannus).
Eastern Wood Pewee ( Contopus virens).
A juvenile Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens).
Acadian Flycatcher ( Empidonax virescens).
Willow Flycatcher ( Empidonax traillii).
Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus).
Eastern Phoebe ( Sayornis phoebe).
Eastern Phoebe ( Sayornis phoebe).
Say’s Phoebe ( Sayornis saya). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Lee Karney)
Vireo griseus (White-eyed Vireo) †
Vireo flavifrons (Yellow-throated Vireo) †
Vireo solitarius (Blue-headed Vireo)
Vireo philadelphicus (Philadelphia Vireo)
Vireo gilvus (Warbling Vireo) †
Vireo olivaceus (Red-eyed Vireo) †
White-eyed Vireo ( Vireo griseus).
Yellow-throated Vireo ( Vireo flavifrons).
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius).
Philadelphia Vireos ( Vireo philadelphicus).
A Male Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus).
Warbling Vireo ( Vireo gilvus).
Red-eyed Vireo ( Vireo olivaceus).
Cyanocitta cristata (Blue Jay) †
Corvus brachyrhynchos (American Crow) †
Corvus ossifragus (Fish Crow) †
Corvus corax (Common Raven) †
Blue Jay ( Cyanocitta cristata).
American Crow ( Corvus brachyrhynchos).
In the mid-19th century, The Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) was described by Libhart (1869) as “Not uncommon along the river, especially where fish pots are.” By the early 20th century, they were described by Beck (1924) as “somewhat rare” along the river, but it was thought they may nest in the hills there. Since 1980, Fish Crows have ventured away from the Atlantic Coastal Plain in numbers and expanded their range northward along the Susquehanna and its tributaries. They are regular spring and fall migrants at Conewago Falls in noisy flocks usually numbering up to several dozen birds. Currently, Fish Crows nest along many of the valley’s waterways, and in upland areas near food sources such as trash. Some flocks overwinter in the Piedmont Province near busy restaurants with well-stocked dumpsters or littered parking lots.
Fish Crows are far less common than their closely related near look-alike, the American Crow ( Corvus brachyrhynchos), and are generally more curious and comical around humans. Fish Crows can best be identified by their call, a nasal two-syllable “Cuh-Ah”, which sounds more spoken than the shouted “Caw”…”Caw”…”Caw” of the American Crow.
The Common Raven ( Corvus corax) has long been a secretive bird of the mountainous regions of the Susquehanna watershed, seldom visiting the Piedmont Province. “I have no authentic information that it now exists in the county; if it does, it is extremely rare,” noted Judge Libhart of Lancaster County in 1869. Beck (1924) relates a report from Abraham B. Miller from the same county, “A bird observed with crows during the winter of 1917 might possibly have been a raven.”
During the 21st century, the Common Raven has become less wary of human activity and is now seen in the Piedmont Province year-round. In recent years, they have nested along both the northwest and southeast perimeters of the Gettysburg Basin in Epler Formation limestone quarries and on Chickies Formation cliffs at riverside. A few are regular visitors to Conewago Falls. Their playful antics and repertoire of vocalizations reveal their intelligence while delighting the attentive observer.
Eremophila alpestris (Horned Lark)
Horned Lark ( Eremophila alpestris).
Progne subis (Purple Martin)
Tachycineta bicolor (Tree Swallow) †
Stelgidopteryx serripennis (Northern Rough-winged Swallow) †
Riparia riparia (Bank Swallow) †
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (Cliff Swallow)
Hirundo rustica (Barn Swallow) †
Purple Martins (Progne subis).
Purple Martins ( Progne subis).
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor).
At Conewago Falls, the Northern Rough-winged Swallow ( Stelgidopteryx serripennis) is a common spring migrant and summer resident that regularly nests in the voids between the boulders used to construct the York Haven Dam.
J. J. Libhart (1869) found the Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) to be abundant in Lancaster County. Beck (1924) noted that they were plentiful along the Susquehanna and that nesting locations included “bridge piers, quarry faces, and lime kilns”. In September, thousands gather in the vicinity of Conewago Falls before departing to the south for winter.
Bank Swallows ( Riparia riparia) swarming over the Susquehanna at Brunner Island.
Cliff Swallow ( Petrochelidon pyrrhonota). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Barn Swallow ( Hirundo rustica).
Poecile carolinensis (Carolina Chickadee) †
Poecile carolinensis x Poecile atricapillus (Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee hybrid)
Poecile atricapillus (Black-capped Chickadee)
Baeolophus bicolor (Tufted Titmouse) †
Carolina Chickadee ( Poecile carolinensis).
Probable Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee hybrid ( Poecile carolinensis x Poecile atricapillus).
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus).
Tufted Titmouse ( Baeolophus bicolor).
Sitta canadensis (Red-breasted Nuthatch)
Sitta carolinensis (White-breasted Nuthatch) †
A male Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).
A female Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).
The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a resident cavity-nester in the Riparian Woodlands along the Susquehanna. Beck (1924) called it “rare as a breeding species” in Lancaster County in the early 20th century. Succession and reforestation of barren landscapes facilitated the return of this and many other species of arboreal birds.
Certhia americana (Brown Creeper)
Brown Creeper ( Certhia americana).
Troglodytes aedon (House Wren) †
Troglodytes hiemalis (Winter Wren)
Cistothorus platensis (Sedge Wren)-accidental [fall 2000] PA Endangered
Cistothorus palustris (Marsh Wren)
Thryothorus ludovicianus (Carolina Wren) †
House Wren ( Troglodytes aedon).
Winter Wren ( Troglodytes hiemalis).
Sedge Wren ( Cistothorus platensis). (United States Geological Survey image)
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris).
The inquisitive Carolina Wren ( Thryothorus ludovicianus) is an energetic resident species that sings in all seasons. Beck (1924) called it the “Characteristic bird of the River Hills up to the Dauphin line.” Since about 1950, it has gradually expanded its range northward along the Susquehanna and its tributaries. Bad winters can sometimes severely deplete their populations in these newly colonized areas, but they seem to rebound within a year or two. Since 1980, the species has become consistently common in the vicinity of Conewago Falls, no longer being on the periphery of its range there.
Polioptilia caerulea (Blue-gray Gnatcatcher) †
A male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptilia caerulea) gathering cobwebs for nest construction.
A female Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptilia caerulea).
Regulus satrapa (Golden-crowned Kinglet)
Regulus calendula (Ruby-crowned Kinglet)
Golden-crowned Kinglet ( Regulus satrapa).
Ruby-crowned Kinglet ( Regulus calendula).
Sialia sialis (Eastern Bluebird) †
Catharus fuscescens (Veery)
Catharus minimus (Gray-cheeked Thrush)-accidental [spring 2018]
Catharus ustalatus (Swainson’s Thrush)
Catharus guttatus (Hermit Thrush)
Hylocichla mustelina (Wood Thrush) †
Turdus migratorius (American Robin) †
A pair of Eastern Bluebirds ( Sialia sialis).
A male Eastern Bluebird ( Sialia sialis) atop a nest box.
A female Eastern Bluebird ( Sialia sialis) approaches its nest.
Veery ( Catharus fuscescens).
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus).
Swainson’s Thrush ( Catharus ustalatus). (Vintage 35 mm image)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus).
Wood Thrush ( Hylocichla mustelina).
The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a familiar year-round resident and abundant migrant along the Susquehanna at Conewago Falls. Good crops of wild berries (Poison Ivy, Riverbank Grape, Asiatic Bittersweet, Northern Hackberry, Common Spicebush, etc.) will prompt larger numbers to overwinter in the floodplain forests.
Dumetella carolinensis (Gray Catbird) †
Toxostoma rufum (Brown Thrasher) †
Mimis polyglottos (Northern Mockingbird) †
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis).
Brown Thrasher ( Toxostoma rufum).
Northern Mockingbird ( Mimis polyglottos).
Sturnus vulgaris (European Starling) †– introduced
European Starling ( Sturnus vulgaris) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
European Starling ( Sturnus vulgaris) in winter (basic) plumage.
Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar Waxwing) †
The Cedar Waxwing ( Bombycilla cedrorum) was reported by Beck (1924) to be common in the mid-19th century in Lancaster County, but “now rare as a nesting species.” It is a known wanderer, spending much of the year in flocks searching for supplies of wild berries, which are promptly consumed. The Cedar Waxwing nests in the Riparian Woodlands of Conewago Falls in mid-summer, becoming, at least temporarily, an adept riverside fly catcher to supply protein to growing nestlings. It is a common to abundant fall migrant.
Passer domesticus (House Sparrow) †– introduced
A male House Sparrow ( Passer domesticus).
A female House Sparrow ( Passer domesticus).
Recently fledged House Sparrows ( Passer domesticus). Thanks to their close relationship with humans, House Sparrows are presently the world’s most widely distributed and successful species of surviving dinosaur.
Anthus rubescens (American Pipit)
American Pipit ( Anthus rubescens). (Vintage 35mm image)
Coccothraustes vespertinus (Evening Grosbeak)
Haemorhous mexicanus (House Finch) †– introduced
Haemorhous purpureus (Purple Finch)
Loxia leucoptera (White-winged Crossbill)-accidental [winter 2012-13]
Spinus pinus (Pine Siskin)
Spinus tristis (American Goldfinch) †
Evening Grosbeaks ( Coccothraustes vespertinus). (Vintage 35 mm image)
The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a native transplant in eastern North America. During the 1940s, caged birds from California (“Hollywood Finches”) intended for sale as pets in New York City were released by vendors to evade charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These introduced birds began reproducing and spreading quickly throughout suburbia along the northeast corridor, reaching southeastern Pennsylvania by the mid-1950s. By 1977, they were well-established and regularly nesting in the vicinity of Conewago Falls and elsewhere in the lower Susquehanna valley.
By early in the 21st century, the descendants of introduced House Finches had spread west to intermix with the original population, creating one contiguous continent-wide range. In the northeast, House Finches are being tallied at some bird migration monitoring stations in the fall. Southward autumn movements are occurring.
An adult male Purple Finch ( Haemorhous purpureus) flanked by male House Finches. (Vintage 35 mm image)
A first-winter male Purple Finch ( Haemorhous purpureus) in mid-March.
A female or juvenile male Purple Finch ( Haemorhous purpureus) in fall.
White-winged Crossbills ( Loxia leucoptera), female (left) and male (right).
Pine Siskin ( Spinus pinus). (Vintage 35 mm image)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) in winter (basic) plumage.
American Goldfinches ( Spinus tristis) in spring/summer breeding (alternate) plumage.
Plectrophenax nivalis (Snow Bunting)-accidental [fall 1991]
Snow Bunting ( Plectrophenax nivalis).
Pipilo erythrophthalmus (Eastern Towhee) †
Spizelloides arborea (American Tree Sparrow)
Spizella passerina (Chipping Sparrow) †
Spizella pusilla (Field Sparrow) †
Pooecetes gramineus (Vesper Sparrow)-accidental [spring 2011]
Passerculus sandwichensis (Savannah Sparrow)
Ammodramus savannarum (Grasshopper Sparrow)-accidental [summer 1997]
Ammospiza leconteii (LeConte’s Sparrow)
Ammospiza maritima (Seaside Sparrow)-accidental [fall 2014]
Ammospiza nelsoni (Nelson’s Sparrow)
Passerella iliaca (Fox Sparrow)
Melospiza melodia (Song Sparrow) †
Melospiza lincolnii (Lincoln’s Sparrow)
Melospiza georgiana (Swamp Sparrow)
Zonotrichia albicollis (White-throated Sparrow)
Zonotrichia leucophrys (White-crowned Sparrow)
Junco hyemalis (Dark-eyed Junco)
Eastern Towhee ( Pipilo erythrophthalmus).
American Tree Sparrow ( Spizelloides arborea).
An adult Chipping Sparrow ( Spizella passerina) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Adult Chipping Sparrows ( Spizella passerina) in basic plumage.
A first-fall Chipping Sparrow ( Spizella passerina).
An adult Field Sparrow ( Spizella pusilla).
A first-winter Field Sparrow ( Spizella pusilla).
Savannah Sparrow ( Passerculus sandwichensis).
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum).
LeConte’s Sparrow ( Ammospiza leconteii). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Alex Galt)
Seaside Sparrow ( Ammospiza maritima). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image Michael Carlo)
Fox Sparrow ( Passerella iliaca).
The Song Sparrow ( Melospiza melodia) occurs year-round along the Susquehanna in the Gettysburg Basin, with birds that make up the population changing through the seasons. It is a regular nesting and wintering species, becoming more abundant during the spring and fall migrations.
Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii).
Swamp Sparrow ( Melospiza georgiana).
A white-striped morph White-throated Sparrow ( Zonotrichia albicollis).
A tan-striped morph White-throated Sparrow ( Zonotrichia albicollis).
White-crowned Sparrow ( Zonotrichia leucophrys).
A first-winter White-crowned Sparrow ( Zonotrichia leucophrys).
The Dark-eyed Junco ( Junco hyemalis) is a common migrant and winter resident in the lower Susquehanna valley. Libhart (1869) described the “Common Snow Bird” as “Very frequent” in autumn and winter in Lancaster County. Beck (1924) noted the “slate-colored junco” or “snowbird” as “…most abundant in mid winter and early spring.”
Icteria virens (Yellow-breasted Chat)
Yellow-breasted Chat ( Icteria virens).
Dolichonyx oryzivorus (Bobolink)
Sturnella magna (Eastern Meadowlark) †
Icterus spurius (Orchard Oriole) †
Icterus bullockii (Bullock’s Oriole)-hypothetical [winter 1997]
Icterus galbula (Baltimore Oriole) †
Agelaius phoeniceus (Red-winged Blackbird) †
Molothrus ater (Brown-headed Cowbird) †
Euphagus carolinus (Rusty Blackbird)
Quiscalus quiscula (Common Grackle) †
A male Bobolink ( Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Bobolinks ( Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in late summer.
Eastern Meadowlark ( Sturnella magna).
A male Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius).
A first-spring male Orchard Oriole ( Icterus spurius).
A female Orchard Oriole ( Icterus spurius).
A male Baltimore Oriole ( Icterus galbula).
A female Baltimore Oriole ( Icterus galbula) beginning construction of its distinctive hanging nest.
An adult male Red-winged Blackbird ( Agelaius phoeniceus).
An adult female Red-winged Blackbird ( Agelaius phoeniceus).
Juvenile Red-winged Blackbirds ( Agelaius phoeniceus), both male and female, leave the nest with a streaky plumage resembling that of an adult female.
Brown-headed Cowbirds ( Molothrus ater).
A juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird ( Molothrus ater).
Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus).
Rusty Blackbirds ( Euphagus carolinus).
Common Grackle ( Quiscalus quiscula).
Common Grackle ( Quiscalus quiscula) with European Starling ( Sturnus vulgaris).
Seiurus aurocapilla (Ovenbird) †
Helmitheros vermivorum (Worm-eating Warbler)
Parkesia motacilla (Louisiana Waterthrush)
Parkesia noveboracensis (Northern Waterthrush)
Vermivora chrysoptera (Golden-winged Warbler)
Vermivora cyanoptera (Blue-winged Warbler) †
Mniotilta varia (Black-and-white Warbler)
Protonotaria citrea (Prothonotary Warbler) †
Leiothlypis peregrina (Tennessee Warbler)
Leiothlypis celata (Orange-crowned Warbler)
Leiothlypis ruficapilla (Nashville Warbler)
Oporornis agilis (Connecticut Warbler)-accidental [fall 1983]
Oporonis tolmiei (MacGillivray’s Warbler)-accidental [fall 2013]
Geothlypis trichas (Common Yellowthroat) †
Setophaga citrina (Hooded Warbler)
Setophaga ruticilla (American Redstart) †
Setophaga tigrina (Cape May Warbler)
Setophaga cerulea (Cerulean Warbler) †
Setophaga americana (Northern Parula) †
Setophaga magnolia (Magnolia Warbler)
Setophaga castanea (Bay-breasted Warbler)
Setophaga fusca (Blackburnian Warbler)
Setophaga petechia (Yellow Warbler) †
Setophaga pensylvanica (Chestnut-sided Warbler)
Setophaga striata (Blackpoll Warbler)- PA Endangered
Setophaga caerulescens (Black-throated Blue Warbler)
Setophaga palmarum (Palm Warbler)
Setophaga pinus (Pine Warbler)
Setophaga coronata (Yellow-rumped Warbler)
Setophaga dominica (Yellow-throated Warbler) †
Setophaga discolor (Prairie Warbler)
Setophaga virens (Black-throated Green Warbler)
Cardellina canadensis (Canada Warbler)
Cardellina pusilla (Wilson’s Warbler)
Ovenbird ( Seiurus aurocapilla).
Worm-eating Warbler ( Helmitheros vermivorum). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Dan Sudia)
Louisiana Waterthrush ( Parkesia motacilla).
Louisiana Waterthrush ( Parkesia motacilla).
Northern Waterthrush ( Parkesia noveboracensis).
Golden-winged Warbler ( Vermivora chrysoptera). (United States Fish and Wildlife Service image by Walt Ford)
Blue-winged Warbler ( Vermivora cyanoptera).
An adult male Black-and-white Warbler ( Mniotilta varia) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
An adult female Black-and-white Warbler ( Mniotilta varia).
Black-and-white Warblers feed like nuthatches, searching the bark of trees for invertebrates.
The Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) is a cavity-nesting summer resident of the Wet Hardwood Flatwoods and quiet forested shorelines of the Susquehanna below Conewago Falls. Judge Libhart (1869) noted it as “rare” and Beck (1924) described it as “Very rare”.
An adult male Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina).
Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina).
Orange-crowned Warbler (Lei othlypis celata). (United States Fish and Wildlife service image by Dave Menke)
Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla).
Nashville Warbler (Lei othlypis ruficapilla).
An adult male Common Yellowthroat ( Geothlypis trichas).
A first-fall male Common Yellowthroat ( Geothlypis trichas).
Common Yellowthroat ( Geothlypis trichas).
Hooded Warbler ( Setophaga citrina).
An adult male American Redstart ( Setophaga ruticilla).
A second-fall male American Redstart ( Setophaga ruticilla).
A first-spring male American Redstart ( Setophaga ruticilla).
A female American Redstart ( Setophaga ruticilla).
An adult male Cape May Warbler ( Setophaga tigrina) in basic plumage.
A male Cape May Warbler ( Setophaga tigrina) in basic plumage.
A Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina).
A Cape May Warbler ( Setophaga tigrina).
An adult male Northern Parula ( Setophaga americana).
An adult female Northern Parula ( Setophaga americana).
A juvenile Northern Parula ( Setophaga americana).
An adult male Magnolia Warbler ( Setophaga magnolia).
Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia).
Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia).
An adult male Bay-breasted Warbler ( Setophaga castanea) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea).
Bay-breasted Warbler ( Setophaga castanea).
An adult male Blackburnian Warbler ( Setophaga fusca) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca).
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca).
An adult male Yellow Warbler ( Setophaga petechia).
Yellow Warbler ( Setophaga petechia).
Chestnut-sided Warbler ( Setophaga pensylvanica).
Blackpoll Warbler ( Setophaga striata).
Blackpoll Warbler ( Setophaga striata).
An adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler ( Setophaga caerulescens).
Palm Warbler ( Setophaga palmarum).
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus).
An adult male Yellow-rumped Warbler ( Setophaga coronata) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
A male Yellow-rumped Warbler ( Setophaga coronata) in basic plumage.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler ( Setophaga coronata) in basic plumage.
Yellow-throated Warbler ( Setophaga dominica).
Prairie Warbler ( Setophaga discolor). (Vintage 35 mm image)
An adult male Black-throated Green Warbler ( Setophaga virens).
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens).
Black-throated Green Warbler ( Setophaga virens).
Black-throated Green Warbler ( Setophaga virens).
Canada Warbler ( Cardellina canadensis).
An adult male Wilson’s Warbler ( Cardellina pusilla).
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla).
Piranga olivacea (Scarlet Tanager)
Cardinalis cardinalis (Northern Cardinal) †
Pheucticus ludovicianus (Rose-breasted Grosbeak)
Passerina caerulea (Blue Grosbeak) †
Passerina cyanea (Indigo Bunting) †
A male Scarlet Tanager ( Piranga olivacea) in breeding (alternate) plumage.
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea).
A male (left) and a female (right) Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).
During spring migration, startlingly brilliant adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks ( Pheucticus ludovicianus) will sometimes make surprise visits to bird feeding stations. (Charles A. Fox image)
A juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak ( Pheucticus ludovicianus) in first-fall plumage.
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak ( Pheucticus ludovicianus).
An adult male Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea).
Non-adult Blue Grosbeaks ( Passerina caerulea) in August. The immature male to the left is just over one year of age and the juvenile to the right has recently fledged. Females of all ages resemble the juvenile seen here, having little or no blue plumage at all.
The Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) is a common summer resident that nests in successional habitat. Along the Susquehanna, the species is particularly fond of railroad and utility right-of-ways. In Lancaster County, Judge Libhart (1869) called the “Indigo Bird” frequent as a summer resident. Beck (1924) described it as, “…fairly common. Never very far from copse or cover, never very near houses.”
Before migrating south, adult male Indigo Buntings begin a late-summer molt from breeding (alternate) plumage to winter (basic) plumage.
A female Indigo Bunting ( Passerina cyanea) collecting cobwebs for binding together the materials used for nest building.
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Beck, Herbert H. 1924.
A Chapter on the Ornithology of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Lewis Historical Publishing Company. New York, NY.
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