Bird Lady Blog

July 26, 2014

“House” Birds

Filed under: Birding,Birdwatchers,House Wren,Munds Park Birding — Munds Park Birding @ 3:06 pm

House Wren Courtesy of Gordon Karre

House Wren Courtesy of Gordon Karre

There are three species of birds here in Munds Park with the word “House” in their name.  Can you guess what they are?  (At this point you should close your eyes and stop reading and think.)

 Let me start with my least favorite.  It is the non-native House Sparrow, previously called “English Sparrow”.  Fortunately we don’t see them much here in the forest because they prefer human habitat.  I have seen them most often around the commercial buildings, especially the gas stations, at the intersection of Pinewood Boulevard and I-17.  These European sparrows were introduced purposely into Central Park, New York City, in the mid-1800’s and then over and over again in other parts of the East because people thought the sparrows would eat insect pests.  Well, no, they eat just about anything, and worse yet, they nest in cavities such as nest boxes, so they take away both food sources and nesting sites of our native song birds.  By the time scientists, farmers, environmentalists, and regular citizens realized how badly these birds were upsetting the natural order, it was too late.  We now have about 150 million of these birds in the continental U.S. and all I can say is that I am glad they are not abundant in Munds Park.  They are not protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act Treaty of 1918 because they are non-native, so you can eliminate them here or anywhere else in the U.S.  For a good article about how to TRY to control these birds, go the www.allaboutbirds.org and read “The Trouble with House Sparrows” article.   

There are two other “House” birds here that I always welcome.  House Wrens are nesting right up the street from me in a reader’s nest box.  The owner told me by e-mail that she just recently heard chirps coming from inside the box as the parents fly back and forth keeping the babies fed.  For such a tiny bird, the House Wren has a loud and insistent warble, and you will often hear it before seeing it.  It is a small, brown, and non-descript bird found around the country in backyards, parks, and open woods.  It loves to build its nest in man-made boxes as well as any other handy spots such as holes in fence posts, boots, old cardboard boxes, abandoned flower pots, and so on.   A couple of facts I’ve learned about House Wrens is that they only weigh as much as two quarters.  But they can wage a fierce battle for a nesting site, harassing much larger competitors, and they are known to drag out eggs or hatchlings from sites they want. 

The last “House” is the House Finch.  Again, I don’t see them too often here in Munds Park, but they are abundant in the Phoenix area.  Where I have seen or heard them is around the back nine of the golf course at Pinewood Country Club.  They tend to like suburbia more than camping in the forest, so you will find them in areas with “yards” versus areas of lots of pine and oak, and they do not use nest boxes.  They are brown-streaked, and the head, throat, and rump of the males are typically pink-red.  They are larger than the Pine Siskins you have at your feeders.  I really enjoy the House Finches’ warbling in the spring, unlike the House Sparrow,  which just has one repeated “cheep” that after awhile becomes annoying, at least in my opinion.

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