Sunday, December 27, 2015

Catching Up With 2015: Yard Birds

As 2015 winds to a close, I finally find myself with time to share some sightings I've had in my pocket for a month or two!

Our little suburban-yard-on-a-peninsula has been doing an amazing job of attracting birds, and I love seeing the feathered creatures that show up to pick over the dirt/weeds or grab sunflower seeds from our feeders. Since about November (when I took most of these pictures), the cast of characters has stabilized, and I've gotten to know some of these northwestern birds pretty well.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are so dainty -- especially compared to the White-breasted Nuthatches I'm much more familiar with. We don't have any White-breasted Nuthatches in our yard, but we do get frequent visits from their smaller, fairy-like cousins:

This fellow posed for me before diving down to grab a sunflower seed; nuthatches are so pointy:

And they get extra adorable when all puffed up:

Seed obtained, it's off to a nearby pine tree for processing:

Black-capped Chickadees are often around:

But Chestnut-backed Chickadees are especially frequent visitors. I love these little birds in their fancy brown vests:

Down on the ground (but sometimes bold enough to come up to the feeders), we get lots of sparrows. Our Dark-eyed Juncos are of the Oregon sub-species, with their brown bodies and coal-dipped heads:

The Fox Sparrows here are also different from the eastern version of this species; they're darker ("Sooty," as the subspecies name says):

I think Fox Sparrows have the handsomest triangle-patterned breasts:

These are almost certainly my favorite sparrows around here; they're big and bulky and beautiful, and they're super fun to watch as they dig up the ground:

The totally new sparrow for me is the Golden-crowned Sparrow, another bulky-looking bird that's often running over the ground in our yard:

Golden-crowned indeed, although these winter adults and juveniles are pretty plain compared to the adults in their summer breeding costumes (which I've not yet seen in person):

Even in the winter, I think these sparrows are quite handsome:

As for finches, House Finches stop by every few days:

But our most constant finch visitors since about mid-November are the Pine Siskins:

What beautiful yellow highlights you have in your wings, fancy bird:

These little birds are extremely bold -- we can easily stand inches away from them as they eat from our window feeders -- and they're also incredibly bossy. (The Pine Siskins who showed up at our feeders last winter in Ohio were the same way.) If one of our siskins wants to eat from the feeder, it will invariably scare off other birds (including other siskins) who want to try to grab a seed. Some siskins are almost always around -- we often have one bird camped out at each of our three feeders -- but a few times so far we've gotten some big flocks of siskins coming through our yard all at once. Paul took this video of one of our Pine Siskin fiestas in early December; I'm sure traveling in a big flock like this has its advantages, but it sure doesn't let anybody get food easily from our small feeders:

It's been such a treat to get to know our November and December yard birds. Who knows what birds will show up in our yard in the new year!

(And now... more catching-up posts. Stay tuned!)


  1. Beautiful birds! I'm glad you are able to expand your list with all these western species.

  2. Wow, that's so cool - the video. They are some of my favorites and can strip Echinacea seed heads in a minute flat. Thanks for sharing!