Birds of Connecticut
Barred Owl Strix varia

Of the approximately 10,000 species of birds in the world, 957 have been recorded in North America north of Mexico, and 421 in Connecticut.

The 722 mounted specimens in the Birds of Connecticut Hall are the more than 300 species that occur regularly in the state, with each species represented by one or more specimens showing sex, age and seasonal plumage differences. The birds are mounted in poses typical for their group. Speciation, hybridization, plumage change and odd plumages are explained in 4 special displays. The preparation and design of this exhibition, which required five years to complete, was directed by Shirley Hartman; it opened to the public on May 12, 1972.

Of the 175 species that nest in Connecticut, 55 remain through the winter. Of those that do not nest here, 37 are found only in winter; 90 migrate through the state during spring and fall; and 119 are vagrants, accidentals, or extinct.

In the last 100 years 3 species once found in Connecticut have become extinct: Labrador Duck, Heath Hen, and Passenger Pigeon. Other species have adapted well to urbanization and living alongside humans, including several species of gulls, such as the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). Gulls are one of the few groups of birds that require more than a single year to reach adult plumage. The largest species do not reach adult breeding plumage until they are 3 to 4 years old.

Gallinaceous birds such as pheasants and grouse occur in most parts of the world. Members of the order Galliformes, they include familiar species such as the domestic chicken (derived from the jungle fowl of southeast Asia), and the turkey (of New World origin). The Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is the most abundant native galliform bird today in Connecticut, but the introduced Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is also common. Grouse, pheasants and quail feed mainly on the ground, eating seeds, berries, leaves and also some invertebrates. Most species nest on the ground and the precocial young are able to run about and forage for themselves soon after they hatch.

There have been many changes in the numbers of birds and in their geographic ranges in the past 25 years. The Connecticut-nesting populations of many hawks have decreased. During the same period several nesting species have been added to the list, including the Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret and Glossy Ibis. The owls are mainly nocturnal predators with keen hearing and vision. Their soft plumage is noiseless in flight, permitting them to hear without being heard as they hunt rodents, birds, and other animals. Prey are caught with the feet, and are generally swallowed whole. Owls are found in all parts of the world except the Antarctic, and occur in a wide variety of habitats, from dense forest to desert and Arctic tundra.