Meet Victoria, AKA Toribird

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I have loved birds since I was five years old!  I am now thirteen and an intern for the Woodlands.  

My talking parakeet gave me the nickname “Toribird”. Coincidentally, ‘Tori’ means ‘bird’ in Japanese! 

In addition to The Woodlands, I also volunteer at a bird-banding station. I found a rare Black-headed Gull at John Heinz NWR, own a parakeet, and have participated in birding competitions. However, I'm not a total bird-brain. I am a nature photographer,  pianist, and beginner singer. I enjoy writing stories that combine birds and music - my two passions.

Some notes on seasonal birding at the Woodlands:       

Spring: Watch for migrating warblers, thrushes, and other songbirds.  Swallows will arrive. 

Summer: A rather dull time to bird. Look for breeding songbirds, and hummingbirds.   

Fall: Look up! Migrating hawks, warblers, and nighthawks make Fall a great season for birding.                  

Winter: Small songbirds such as sparrows and kinglets are fun to see.  It is easy to see birds since the trees are leafless. 

I will add my weekly birding tips to this blog, so keep an eye out! 


Sept. 27, 2017   Northern Rough-winged Swallows are plentiful at the Woodlands! However, they will soon migrate south, so catch them while you can. It is fun to watch these acrobats zip through the air as they chase insects. 

The swallows are similar to the Chimney Swift, but swifts are gray, have shorter tails, and generally fly higher. Swifts will also soon fly south. But, when the acrobatic insectivores are gone, it will be time to watch for ducks, kinglets, and sparrows.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Oct. 4, 2017  Hawks are awe-inspiring creatures.  When they soar, they appear to be made of sun and wind. The great news is that hawks are easily seen at the Woodlands! The Woodlands are home to two hawk species: the Red-tailed Hawk and the Cooper's Hawk.  The Cooper’s is seen in the forested area near the VA, and the Red-tail is seen in more open areas, generally near the house. 

So how do you tell them apart? See the guide below.

Red-tailed Hawk: Overall chunky build. White belly, dark brown back, and rust-red tail. Band across the belly made of brown spots. 

Cooper's Hawk: Overall slender build. Gray back and orange-tan belly. Thin black-and-white stripes on tail.


Oct. 11, 2017 If I say CROWS, what comes to mind? Do you think of spooky Halloween decorations, or a swarm of black birds, or a crow picking at bones?

Though crows have a bad, scary reputation in our culture, they are actually fascinating birds! Crows, magpies, and jays make up the Corvid family. Corvids are some of the smartest birds, capable of making tools, solving multi-step puzzles, and recognizing individual faces! 

The American Crow is common in Philadelphia, and can certainly be seen at the Woodlands!


Oct. 18, 2017 If I had to guess, I'd say you didn't like vultures. You might even be afraid of them. However, they are interesting, useful, lovable birds. 

Contrary to some myths, vultures do not predict death. Since they eat animals that are already dead, they almost never kill. And if they did not clean up carrion, there would be dead, rotting animals everywhere!

Also, though their heads are rather ugly, vultures' plumage is sleek and elegant. The Black Vulture is especially striking with its all-black body and silvery-white wingtips. Wildlife rehabbers and zookeepers have even described vultures as sweet and shy. It's no wonder vultures are my favorite birds! 

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Nov. 1, 2017 As the seasons change, some birds migrate south and others arrive. One of these new arrivals is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. These birds are a bit smaller than sparrows. They are overall brown with darker stripes and yellow patches at the base their of tail (rump; hence their name), head, and flanks. You will likely see them in a Juniper (evergreen) tree, eating the berries. These adorable birds are common, and can make birding even more fun! 


Nov. 8, 2017 Have you ever heard the term 'Invasive Species'? If you're not familiar with this term, an invasive species is an animal, plant, or other organism that has been introduced to a part of the world where it did not originally occur. 

There are many invasive birds in the United States. Three of the most common are Rock Doves (pigeons), House Sparrows, and European Starlings. Due to that fact that invasive birds are typically quite common, they are a good group for beginner birders to learn. 

Unfortunately, since invasive species are adaptable and numerous, they often out-compete native birds. For example, European Starlings are pushing Purple Martins, a bird native to the US, out of the martins' former nest sites.  

European Starling

European Starling

Nov. 15, 2017 Tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap-ta-trrrrrr. A woodpecker drumming on a tree may be a familiar sound for you. Woodpeckers, as a group are common, and adapt easily to living near humans. You may have even had a woodpecker drum an your house! 

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has one of the worst names in the history of ornithology! Not only does its "red belly" consist of only a faint pink tint, it also has a far more obvious red stripe going from its forehead to its nape. This can cause confusion with the similarly-named but overall different-looking Red-headed Woodpecker. 

If you want to attract a woodpecker to your front yard, try putting up a suet feeder. Suet and the feeder can be found at most pet and grocery stores


Nature Night Connection: Permanent Resident George Clinton Leib and his Batty Discovery

With Nature Nights: Bat & Moth Night on the horizon, we want to highlight the connection between bats and The Woodlands. Clinton Leib, discoverer of the bat species Myotis Leibii is buried at The Woodlands. This was uncovered through the research done by a group of Masterman High School AP US History Students a few years ago.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1809, George Clinton Leib was a graduate of Norwich University and graduate of University of Pennsylvania. In addition to being a doctor, he was a naturalist, leading member of the Academy of Natural Sciences (a nature night partner!), ornithologist, and researcher for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science. Despite this great work and the discovery of the Myotis Leibii (also known as the Eastern Small-Footed Bat), he was a 44-year resident at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. Although George Leib spent most of his life institutionalized, the students found many documents about him, including many of his published works.

Learn more about Leib’s discovery, the Myotis Leibii, also know as the Eastern Small-Footed Bat here.

Nature Nights: Bat & Moth Night
Thursday, August 17th
6PM - 10PM

Pack a picnic and grab your flashlight to explore nature at The Woodlands after dark. Craft away with University City Arts League, snack on your favorite summer flavors from Lil' Pop Shop, and learn about Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story with author Anna Forrester. The Academy of Natural Sciences will be showing off unique species from their collections and ID-ing the moths who call The Woodlands home. Activities will be happening throughout the evening pending available light.

Scientists from the Sewall Lab of Temple University will be leading the Bat Walk at 8:30PM. Don't miss the chance to walk through The Woodlands to find our night-time flyers! Get excited with this video of Bats eating Moths!

Reminder: Bats and Moths don't start to fly until dusk, so for the best viewing, plan to stay out a little late!