Bird Lady Blog

January 1, 2016

Reader Questions

Black-Headed Grosbeak

Black-Headed Grosbeak

It has been a busy two weeks with reader correspondence.  The most common question has been “where have all the birds gone?”  The answer, I think, is that they are migrating!  At least many of them are.  The Black-Headed Grosbeaks seem to leave in mid-August.  I haven’t seen an American Robin in a while.  But what about the Lesser Goldfinch?  They are still here in Munds Park but not that active at our feeders.  The theory:  they are spending more time on the wild flower seeds from all the vegetation that has bloomed and now is going to seed.  And the Western Bluebirds are abundant – one of the last to arrive in Munds Park and last to leave for fall migration.

On the other hand, the Canada Geese are sticking around and have been seen at the ponds of the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course.  Also at the ponds was a new hatch of American Coots – must be the second brood of the season.  At first the babies are black with red head feathers and a red beak – very cute!  Then they turn into a boring gray before the distinctive black body and white beak.

Second question:  What happened to the Osprey nest?  This question came from my women golfer friends, who exhibited much concern since the Osprey nest, often with one or two birds on it, has been part of the landscape on the back nine of the golf course this summer and last summer.  There were several theories:  1) the tree the nest was built on fell down of natural causes; 2) some terrible person cut down the tree because the Ospreys are loud, vocal birds and disturbed the human’s sleep; 3) the nest tumbled down on its own during the last very big storm, which seemed to be a micro-burst of rough weather.  My friends and I concluded that the most likely answer is #3, primarily because we see one of the Osprey perched on a tall tree that we think was the exact one that held the nest.  So the Ospreys are going back to a familiar place only to find that the house up and crashed, and they will have to build another next year.  We all hope it will be in the same place so we can keep an eye on it in between our golf club swings.

Third question:  Why don’t we have Magpies in Munds Park?  The Black-Billed Magpie is a very large, noisy, black and white member of the jay family.  I have seen them in Colorado when we visited Durango.  The only part of Arizona they inhabit is the northeast corner of Apache Country – almost into Colorado.  I did manage to find a scientific paper on Magpies in Arizona and concluded that probably temperature and humidity are the reasons they are not here.  Probably a good thing, because the American Crows are noisy enough and I’m not sure we need another bird species to compete with them!

Lastly, a reader did say that she switched to nyger seeds and safflower seeds and the Brown-Headed Cowbirds went away and the Lesser Goldfinches returned.  So that was a happy resolution to that dilemma.


Bird Quiz

It’s been a while since we’ve done a birding quiz.  Let’s see how you do!  Answers to these questions are found somewhere else in the Pinewood News.

  1. What birds have a large nest on the top of a dead pine tree near Lake Odell? Turkey Vulture, Osprey, American Kestral, Common Raven.  Hint:  They catch and eat fish.
  2. Which Goldfinch species is common in Munds Park? American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Coconino Goldfinch?
  3. When a group of Turkey Vultures are soaring in the sky, what do ornithologists call them? Cast, Committee, Meal, Vortex, or Wake.
  4. Which finch has not been sighted in Munds Park (at least to my knowledge?) Black Rosy-Finch, House Finch, Cassin’s Finch.
  5. When is the least favorable time to be bird watching? Morning, High Noon, Late Afternoon.
  6. Are Acorn Woodpeckers best described as being: Communal or Solitary?
  7. What blackbird is not common to Munds Park? Lone-Pine Blackbird, Red-Winged Blackbird, Yellow-Headed Blackbird?
  8. What bird is often thought to be a duck, but is not? Mallard, American Coot, Blue-winged Teal
  9. About how many times a minute does a hummingbird’s heart beat? 400, 600, 1200.
  10. What is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to attract birds to your property? Cracked corn, green ham and eggs, dripping water into a bird bath, rock music played over back-yard speakers.
  11. What are the primary colors of a male Western Tanager?  Gray and Black; Red and Black;  Red, Yellow, and Black; Brown and Blue
  12. Which grosbeak is found regularly in Munds Park? Black-Headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, or Steller’s Grosbeak?
  13. What would be a favorite food of a Pygmy Nuthatch? Unshelled peanuts; nyger seed; black-oil sunflower seeds.
  14. Where do Western Bluebirds nest? In a triangular configuration of branches in a Ponderosa Pine; On the ground near a source of water; In a cavity such as in a tree or nest box; Under the eaves above your deck.
  15. Which swallow species has a long forked tail? Purple Martin; Barn Swallow; Blue-Green Swallow; Tree Swallow.


  1. Osprey
  2. Lesser Goldfinch
  3. All of the choices
  4. Black Rosy-Finch
  5. High Noon
  6. Communal
  7. Lone-Pine Blackbird (I made that name up)
  8. American Coot
  9. 1200
  10. Dripping water into a bird bath
  11. Red, Yellow, and Black
  12. Black-Headed Grosbeak
  13. Black-oil sunflower seeds
  14. In a cavity such as in a tree or nest box
  15. Barn Swallow

June 16, 2013

Falcons, Ospreys, and “Oops”!

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

I will start with the “oops”!  One of my golfing friends said to me after the last article was published, “We’ve been seeing these beautiful yellow and red birds you mentioned – you know, the Summer Tanagers.”  I replied, “Oh, you mean Western Tanagers”.  No, she countered:  “The birds you mentioned in the last Pinewood News – the Summer Tanagers.”  “Really?” I said.  So I went back and read and article and lo’ and behold, I realized I had goofed.  I meant Western Tanager but wrote Summer Tanager.

Maybe it’s because I wrote that article at 30,000 feet up flying back from the Horicon Marsh birding festival in Wisconsin.  Or maybe it was because I was thinking about spending the SUMMER in Munds Park.  Regardless, I goofed and apologize.  The Western Tanager likes coniferous forests.  The Summer Tanager can be found in Arizona, but usually not at an elevation as high as in Munds Park.  So if you see a slender, medium-sized bird with a brilliant red head and bright yellow body, black back, black wings with white wing bars, and a black tail – that would be the Western Tanager.  One did show up around our back deck and I hope it will again.  By the way, the first written record of it dated back to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

While golfing I spotted a Peregrine Falcon.  It was in the air, flying more than soaring, and then after a while took a dive down behind the condos off the 10th fairway.  The wing structure was right, the view from the bottom was just like that in my field guide, and the head had a black hood and sideburns.  So that is a first for me for Munds Park.  I’m glad I carry a pair of binoculars in my golf bag.

Peregrine Falcons were on the endangered species list for many years, almost decimated from exposure to DDT in insecticides.  They have had a successful recovery since DDT was banned and were taken off the endangered species list in 1999.  I have seen one of these birds during migration over the Grand Canyon (that was my first spotting) and also saw two way above the Chicago skyline when we were touring at the top of the old Sears Tower – about 100 stories up.  Peregrine Falcons do live in cities, preying on Rock Pigeons.  So just like the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, there are City Peregrine Falcons and Country Peregrine Falcons.

I was very happy to see the Osprey back.  You can find it at Lake Odell, flying and fishing, perched on the dead tree on the south side of the Lake, or perhaps in a nest.  The nest in past years has been on the east side of the Lake.  Since I don’t spend winters here, I have no idea how long the Osprey family stays in Munds Park.  If any of you year-round residents have seen it over the winter months, I would like to know.

The Osprey feeds entirely on fish.  When it takes a large fish to the nest or perch, it moves it around so that the head faces in the direction it is flying – presumably to increase the aerodynamics.  It’s all about survival of the fittest, and this species has its own techniques to increase its chances of success in the wild.

Spring Has Sprung

Steller’s Jay courtesy of Gordon Karre

May has been a month of transition for all of us:  spring cleaning, raking fallen pine needles, putting away our winter clothes and bringing out the summer wardrobe, and moving up to Munds Park if we were away for the fall and winter.  Our Munds Park birds are making similar transitions:  changing their drab winter feathers to bright colors so they can attract a satisfactory mate, building nests, and finding the best sources for food.  Two Munds Park birds that come to mind with striking colors are the Black-Headed Grosbeaks and the Lesser Goldfinches.  The males of these species are especially beautiful with their contrasting colors of orange or yellow against black and white.

So what should you be doing in preparation for migration and nesting?  First, if you have a nest box, open it up and clean it out.  Discard the old nesting material, shoo out the spiders that may have taken temporary residence, and wash or scrape out any residue.  Make sure your next box is still firmly secured to its post or tree.

Second, if you attracting birds by putting out feeders, make sure they also are cleaned.  You can wash them in a solution of water and a small amount of bleach – don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly.  The same goes for your bird baths.  Keep the water fresh.  If you hang a hummingbird feeder, remember the following:  the nectar should be made out of white granular sugar and water  – one part sugar to four parts water.  Do not use red food coloring.  The color of your feeder will be enough to attract the birds, and they will be back as long as you keep a fresh mixture.  If the mixture starts turning cloudy, discard it immediately and replace.

Lastly, start thinking about how you can protect your birds from window-kills – that is, preventing birds from flying into those wonderful windows we appreciate because of the forest and mountain views, but which can be deadly to our flying friends.  I will have more information about what you can do to prevent window crashes in a future article but would also like to hear what practical solutions are working for you.

For those of you who are relatively new to our Munds Park birds, here is a short list of the common birds you will see in our area:  Lesser Goldfinch, Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Western Bluebird, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Band-Tailed Pigeon, American Crow, Turkey Vulture, and Common Raven.  And some of the harder-to-find ones will be Summer Western Tanager, Painted Redstart, Red Crossbill, and House Wren.

August 6, 2012

Munds Park Bird Walk

Photo Courtesy of Gordon Karre; Immature Pied-Billed Greve

Our Munds Park Bird Walk on Sunday, July 15th, was held after a day and night of heavy rain.  However, a morning sun and blue sky greeted the dozen birders who met up in the Pinewood Country Club parking lot at 7 a.m.  We Munds Parkers were joined by two gentlemen from Mesa and one from Flagstaff, all of whom helped make our bird walk a very pleasant and informative session.

Our first stop was at the Pinewood Country Club golf course.  Because of the heavy rain the night before, golf was delayed for an hour, so we could bird to our heart’s content without interfering with any golfers.  We spent about 45 minutes at the pond between holes 1 and 18, and immediately we were rewarded with sightings of several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds.  We believe they have nested here this year because we spotted a couple of juveniles in the group. The Red-Winged Blackbirds, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Violet-Green Swallows were abundant, as were the American Coots.  We were treated to great looks at three recently-hatched Pied-Billed Grebes following a parent and begging for food.  A surprise was a young Red-Naped Sapsucker that was spotted by Gordon Karre, one of the men from Mesa, who had along his camera and recorded many of our sightings.

Next we moved on to Lake Odell.  We spotted the Osprey nest pretty easily, with no Ospreys in sight, but an unexpected find was a Great Blue Heron nest, again on the opposite side from where we were.  Through the spotting scope we were able to see at least one youngster in the nest, and later that week I received reports from two different Munds Parkers that they had seen the nest as well, occupied with more than one juvenile bird.  At the lake we saw Canada Geese, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, a male Ruddy Duck, Eurasian-Collared Dove, Northern Flicker, Black Phoebe, Western Bluebird, and Pygmy Nuthatch.

Our last stop was at two friends’ front yard on Turkey Trail.  We birders sat on deck chairs graciously provided by our hostesses and saw the following birds come to feeders and bird baths:  House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a Mountain Chickadee.  We were hoping for the Red Crossbills to show, but alas and alack, we were not that lucky that morning.  We have since heard they still show up almost daily, with a youngster in tow.

Shortly after 9 a.m. we called it a successful birding walk, and some of us went to the Pinewood Country Club as planned and had breakfast.  There we did a recap of our sightings and just visited with our new birding friends.  Zack Zdinak is the president of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society in Flagstaff and was a great help in finding and quickly identifying some of the birds we saw.  Gordon Karre, who came up to Munds Park for the cooler weather and birding, was our surprise photographer.  He has a blog with photos of many of the birds we saw.  Check it out at  This wonderful photo of a juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe is courtesy of Gordon.

For those of you who want to venture out of Munds Park for a day and participate in a bird festival, check out the first Hummingbird Festival in Sedona August 3rd through 5th.  You can find more information at  For hummingbird lovers here, remember that you do not need to and should not add red food coloring to your feeder sugar water.  Just one part of white sugar to four parts of water is sufficient.  The red feeder will attract the hummers, without the food color additives.

July 23, 2011

Around Lake Odell

Filed under: Osprey,Pied Billed Grebe — Munds Park Birding @ 9:31 am

Whenever I have some spare time, I drive, walk or ATV down to Lake Odell to see what birds might be around.  Depending on the time of day and how much time I actually have, I can see quite a few of our regulars.  I get good looks at Western Bluebirds, American Crows, American Coots, Mallards, any of our Swallow species, and sometimes a Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, or Steller’s Jay.  Of note again are the Ospreys that are nesting in their usual spot, high at the top of a tree on the east side of the lake.  With a good pair of binoculars, or better yet a spotting scope, you usually can see one of the Ospreys sitting on the nest.  Sometimes visitors to the lake who see it soaring erroneously identify this bird as an eagle, and yet they are partially right.  The Osprey is nicknamed “Sea Eagle”, and its name comes from the combination of the Greek words “hals”,
which means salt or sea, and “aetos” or eagle. It is the only bird that preys exclusively on live fish.  As a side note, there is also a large active
Osprey nest on the tall dead pine tree in the middle of the fairway of Hole #2 of Pine Canyon Golf Course in Flagstaff.  Our Ospreys have chosen a much more secluded spot to raise their young.

Some other birds I saw recently at Lake Odell are Canada Geese, which are usually sunning themselves at the far southeast side of the lake in the meadow-like area.  I wrote about this species last year in a waterfowl article, and it looks like they are breeding here.  I counted nine adults and
three juveniles. One waterfowl bird I haven’t written about until now is the Pied-Bill Grebe, which I saw a couple of times already in Lake Odell.  There are several species of grebes found in the U.S. – Clark’s, Eared, Horned, Least, Red-Necked, Western, and Pied Billed.  The Pied-Billed Grebe is found in 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii not included), and it is a medium-sized stocky bird with grayish brown upperparts and white upper parts.  The word “pied” in its name has always intrigued me, and I even use the word when playing Scrabble or Words With Friends on my iPhone.  So I finally looked up the definition of “pied” and found that it means two or more contrasting colors, which indeed describes this bird’s bill – white, black white.  The Pied-Billed Grebe is almost always found in the water all by itself, unlike groups of ducks or coots milling together.  You will see it dive under the water as it hunts insects, crustaceans, and fish.  This bird also dives to escape danger, is rarely seen in flight, and when it does migrate, does so at night.  It builds its nest on a floating mass of dead vegetation that is usually anchored to a log or dead trees.  What I would really like to see is a Pied-Bill Grebe swimming on the water with its young chicks on its back.  I’m afraid that to do that I’d have to camp out at Lake Odell a good part of the spring, and then I would be missing too many tee times.

In the last issue I mentioned the Abert’s Squirrel we nick-named Rex who learned how to climb along the three-foot extended metal pole from which our sunflower feeder hangs.  I put up a make-shift baffle (made from two McDonald’s plastic chocolate shake cups) on that pole and Rex has since avoided that feeder.  The cups look tacky, but at least I now know I can now invest in a real baffle and solve the problem.  However, Rex has instead found he can make a small leap onto our flat feeder tray instead and get the same meal there.  I finally decided that’s OK.  That tray is at the side of the deck, mostly used by the Band-tailed Pigeons, and Rex is sort of cute to watch anyways.  On the other hand, he also will chew through any fabric item left on our desk, so beware – cuteness has its limits.

For those of you who missed the answers from the Quiz in the last issue, they are:  1B; 2D; 3B; 4C; 5C; 6D; 7A; 8C.

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