Bird Lady Blog

August 23, 2010

Pine Siskin, Downy Woodpecker, and Checklists

Filed under: Downy Woodpecker Pine Siskin and Checklists — Munds Park Birding @ 2:32 am

During our first Munds Park birding get-together, one of our attendees mentioned the Pine Siskin and how this species visits her nyger seed feeders.  Her comment made me realize that I had been seeing them at our feeders, but I was not really identifying them.  As the Pine Siskins came to our tube feeders and more or less blended in with the female and juvenile Lesser Goldfinches, I at first just “assumed” from afar that all the birds at our nyger seed feeders were the same species.   So I was forgetting a birding rule-of-thumb:  when there are large numbers of a bird type feeding or flocking together, look for other species intermingled with them. 

After our birders meeting in July and Susanna’s comments, I paid more attention to the visitors at our nyger feeder, and for sure it was being frequented by Pine Siskins.  Pine Siskins can best be described as small, finch-like brown birds with a lot of brown streaking on their white breasts and a little yellow on their wing bars.  At five inches in length, they are slightly larger than Lesser Goldfinches (See Article #1).  Pine Siskins are found throughout the United States and often do not migrate as long as there is a sufficient food supply.  They construct their nests on a horizontal tree limbs, and they are very social, often building their nests very close to other nesting pairs.

If you remember article #2 from summer 2009, I wrote about the Acorn Woodpecker, the most common woodpecker found in our area.  In article #14 this year, I focused on the Red-Shafter Flicker, which is another member of the woodpecker family.  Just three weeks ago I saw a third member of this family – our smallest woodpecker of all – the Downy Woodpecker.  This little bird, about seven inches in length, was right outside our bedroom window climbing up and down a tree, picking on the bark surface.  The Downy Woodpecker has a black back with a broad white patch down the center, a white checker-board pattern on its wings, a white belly, and a small red spot on its crown.  Because it is so small and can forage in small spaces, it uses food sources in its natural habitat that larger woodpeckers do not.  Downy Woodpeckers are found throughout the United States, from Florida to Alaska, and are a welcome sight with their bright red cap on a wintry, white day.  They will feed at your birdfeeders and during the winter will often be seen in flocks of other birds, such as Mountain Chickadees.  Birds know that there is “safety in numbers.” 

A small flock of Canada Geese has been staying around the ponds at the first and second holes on the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.  I have yet to see a Yellow-Headed Blackbird this season (see Article #10) and would appreciate hearing from any of you who have seen one in 2010 in Munds Park anywhere.

I was recently e-mailed a question asking if there were any birding books specific to Munds Park.  I know of none specific to Munds Park, but there are other sources of information that I’m sure you would find useful. 

Birding the Flagstaff Area, an 80 page book by Frank and Linda Brandt, provides birding locations and directions to sites in and around Flagstaff, including Upper Oak Creek Canyon and the Kachina Wetlands.  Munds Park is not listed specifically, but I think one of the great benefits of this book is the checklist.  The list references 254 regularly found species in this area, and an Abundance and Status Key (e.g., common, permanent resident, summer resident, etc.) to help you more easily confirm your sightings.  You can order the book for $14.95 plus shipping through the Northern Arizona Audubon Society at http://nazaudubon.com/orderform.htm or purchase it at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

If you would like a free, downloadable Field Checklist of The Birds of Coconino County, go to http://AZFO.org, the Arizona Field Ornithologists website.  This list does not have any comments or information about where to find the species listed, and it includes vagrant, casual, and accidental species. 

We will have a second get-together of Munds Park Birders on Saturday, August 28th, at the Pinewood Country Club.  Meet in the lobby at 3:00 p.m., and if weather permits, we may carpool to Lake Odell and see what we can find there.  Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes and bring your binoculars.

One final note:  remember to protect the birds from window kills.  Place Window Alert stickers on your windows, hang a strip or two of halogen tape in front of them, and/or place your feeders further away from your windows.  Save a bird today.

You can reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net, and you can read all the articles and leave your comments at www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.  It is always great to hear from other birders, and I welcome your questions and comments!

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