Bird Lady Blog

July 23, 2011

Lesser Goldfinch, Western Bluebirds, Western Screech Owl


When I first started writing about Munds Park birds, I wrote about those that are pretty easy to see even if you don’t think you are a birdwatcher”. That was in June, 2009, when article #1 was published, and some things don’t change – we still have “old faithful” birds that appear easily each year.  So if you missed that article back in 2009, here is a refresher with some new information as well.

Lesser Goldfinches are those “little birds with a lot of yellow” that come to your nyger seed or thistle seed feeders.  You may also catch a glimpse of them flying across the road or from tree to tree on the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.  The males have a distinct black cap, greenish-black backs, and yellow breasts.  The females and immatures are duller, with greenish upper parts and less pronounced yellow under parts, and with white wing bars.  A relative is the American Goldfinch, a common bird east of the Mississippi, which has quite a bit more yellow.  Lesser  oldfinches are fun to watch as they hop back and forth sharing the pegs on your seed feeder or hanging on to your thistle sock feeder.   Except for in the heat of the day, they appear almost constantly at our feeder, especially early morning and later afternoon.  They feed only on seeds and very seldom take small insects – only by accident it seems.  For those of us who live the in the Valley of the Sun, putting out a similar seed feeder during the winter will attract Lesser Goldfinches as they migrate South to escape the cold weather up North.

If in Munds  Park you live a bit away from the forest and pines and instead have a home with a small open area or grassy yard nearby, you could be lucky enough to attract the beautiful Western Bluebird.  With their blue backs and rusty breasts, Western Bluebirds can be seen in hot pursuit of insects, but they will also frequent your bird feeder if you offer them mealworms.  Bluebirds are cavity nesters and will use a nest box if built to the right dimensions, which includes an entry hole that is 1 and ½ inches in diameter.  If you are a golfer, the nest boxes you see on Pinewood Country Club golf course are for Bluebirds.  Bluebirds have fans all across the country – there is the Eastern Bluebird and the Mountain Bluebird,
neither which I have seen yet.  For more information about Bluebirds, you can visit http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/, the North American Bluebird Society.  The Society is having its annual meeting this September in Jackson, Tennessee, at the same hotel I spend many a night at for business meetings, so I will vouch for its fine accommodations.  And if you are traveling there with a spouse or friend and he/she is not in to birds, try a visit to the many places with Elvis memorabilia.

A little off topic but exciting to report is that this late spring we discovered that Western Screech Owls successfully nested in the next
box I built and put up in our Phoenix yard.  I had given up on ever having a nesting pair in there after one spring the box fell down in a storm and I found two eggs inside, crushed.  We re-hung the box much more securely, but no activity.  We’ve seen and heard the Western Screech Owls in the neighborhood, so I knew they were around.  Imagine our surprise one day near dusk when looking out the window to see something moving around in the cavity hole (3 inches in diameter).  There were two fledglings poking their heads out, and in a about a half hour, a parent bird
appeared on the telephone wire nearby.  Both juveniles then left the box and off they went.  I posted this find on the U of A list service I’ve written about before and got several responses, one from a fellow-birder in the neighborhood.  Two evenings later he was staked out in our back yard (while we were in Munds Park) with his spotting scope and got to see the owls.  For him this species was life bird #518, less than a half mile from  his home.  So you never know what you will find or what new friends you will make when birding. To see a photo of one of the juveniles poking its head out of the nest box see the post on June 1st.

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