Backyard Birds

Backyard feeder. The birds at left are the swallows or finches, the bird at right was one of the unusual Tuesday visitors.

Last week, Audrey and I were shopping at Menard’s and picked up a three-way “shepherd’s crook” and outdoor thermometer to put on the deck.

The crook is to hold birdfeeders, and possibly tomato plants in the summer. By the way, why did the unit come with one extra hook? Hmm.

The thermometer is amusing because it seems to be very optimistic and “warm.” In the photos below, when you see the thermometer, subtract close to 10 degrees to estimate the actual temperature.

We’ve had birdfeeders before, but wanted to hang them were we can more easily see the bird, particularly now that we have a big sliding glass door in the kitchen with affords us a better view. These feeders are also smaller and nicer than our previous feeders.

At one point this morning, there were eight of the finshes or swallows on the feeders or in nearby bushes. Late morning seems to be the busiest feeding time.

Note the photo at right. At certain times of day, the feeder is quite busy. I enjoy watching the birds, although they can obviously see through the glass too and usually leave the feeder when a big biped is roaming around in the kitchen.

But I don’t know what the birds are. I’ll have to get a bird guide. The small brown birds are the most common, they look like sparrows or finches to me, but I don’t know the species. There is a similar sized grey and black set of birds that also hangs around—could be that the dull brown ones are girls and the grey and black more colorful ones are boys, or could be two similar species.

We’ve had other visitors, too. A big burly cardinal was there yesterday, and didn’t seem to want to share the feeder with the sparrow-finches. But, he’s only an occasional visitor.

A cardinal couple usually nests in the bushes next to our deck each summer, but the nests don’t appear occupied right now, so I don’t know if this was “our” cardinal, and anyway I see Mrs. Cardinal more often. She doesn’t care for me, her role is generally to scold when I’m out in back to walk our dog Zoe, and she’s usually particularly unhappy to see me in the evening.

Today, Dec. 29, I noticed two stranger birds at the feeder, one of which is shown in the image at the top of this blog, and at right the photo below. The strangers were of intermediate size, between the finch-sparrows and the cardinals, but closer in size to the cardinals. (The pretty light grey one below may look finch sized, but he or she is seen with her head down and he or she is actually larger if he or she would just stand up).  Their beaks are long and thin, they looked like woodpecker beaks to me, but the male (if they were both of the same species), while he had red feathers on his head, did not have the bright red head of a red-headed woodpecker. Of course, it could be that he was an adolescent, whose full red head hasn’t come in yet, but I don’t know if any red-headed woodpeckers would be immature at this time of year.

Another view with finches/swallows and the non-redheaded stranger.

I’m guessing from size alone that I saw a male and female of the same mystery species, but again that’s hard for me to say. The coloring of the birds was very different and both were fairly bright—one a very contrasting grey and black and the other with some more brown and the red head.

The bird feeder pole is a welcome diversion, more entertaining than I would have thought. We have many squirrels in our neighborhood and yard—note the photo of a big fat one visiting the neighbor’s birdfeeder–but none has tried to climb to our birdfeeder yet.

It’s been fun. But the internet has failed me in terms of finding the birds. I may have to get that bird guide …

Our wall neighbor had feeders before use--popular with a fat neighborhood squirrel. Tree rodents thrive in our yards, due to many acorns and crabapples. This palooka looks like the big guy who amuses us by barely being able to reach our crab apples in late winter.



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4 responses to “Backyard Birds

  1. Pat

    Winter flowers! That’s how I think of birds at the feeder. I should get something like that to put up in front of my bay window, make kitty TV really interesting.

  2. Brown ones: almost definitely sparrows
    Little black (or dark gray) ones with white breasts: juncos a.k.a. snowbirds (and now that I’ve earwormed you with Anne Murray)
    You might see some chickadees and nuthatches too, they’re both pretty common. They’re about the same size as the juncos, but chickadees have a distinctive black “mask” (kinda like a raccoon) and nuthatches have an interesting way of walking upside down on trees.
    Too bad you don’t have backyard turkeys!

  3. crgardenjoe

    In additon to squirresls, deer have taken to raiding neighbors feeders …

  4. Anne

    I suspect the little brown ones are female house sparrows, though the picture is blurry enough that I’m not sure. Male house sparrows have gray scalps, black bibs, white cheeks, and brownish backs. The mystery bird in your top photo may be a hairy woodpecker; downy woodpeckers have about the same color scheme but are only a little bit bigger than sparrows.

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