Bird Lady Blog

January 1, 2016

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.

Answers:

  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

May 26, 2015

Nesting and Babies


Steller's Jay feeding on Junco chick courtesy of Gordon Karre

Steller’s Jay feeding on Junco chick courtesy of Gordon Karre

I’ve already received reports from Munds Park residents that birds are in high-reproductive mode.  Dan sent me photos of a pair of Steller’s Jays that nested on the light above his garage door.  As I write this article (shortly after snow in May and really cold temperatures), the mother bird is in the nest keeping the chicks warm while the male keeps bringing food to them.  I also heard from Les who had a Dark-Eyed Junco, actually the Gray-Headed Junco sub-species that we have here in Munds Park, trying to build a nest in his wife’s Mandevilla plants in pots on the deck.  The human activity around the first pot seemed a bit more than the bird could handle, so she moved to a planter farther away on the deck.  We’ll have to see if she actually lays eggs and they hatch.

This time of year is very stressful for birds.  Selecting a mate and a suitable nest site, finding the nesting material and hauling it over to the site, laying the eggs, sitting on them and still getting enough food to sustain a healthy female – it all takes a toll on the parents.  On top of that, there are predators who would love to snack on the eggs plus the chicks themselves.  These predators include other birds plus raccoons, skunks, and snakes.  I recently experienced this last threat in Scottsdale.  A Gamble’s Quail built a nest and laid 14 eggs in a pot with an asparagus fern at our front door.  We stopped using the front door and I posted a sign for anyone approaching the house – “Caution, Quails Nest!  Please do Not Disturb”.  One Sunday morning I peeked out the shutters and feathers were everywhere, as were egg shells and some left-over yolks.  It must have been a coyote that came right up to our front door in the middle of the night and made a dinner of our resident quail and her eggs.

So what can you do?  First and foremost, do not let your cats out of the house.  Keep them indoors – at all times.  It is estimated that there are 77 million cats in the USA, and only 35% of them are kept indoors.  Those that go outside kill adult birds, baby birds, and other wildlife.  Not because they are hungry – because owners spend billions of dollars on cat food – but because they can and they do.  It’s their nature.  So do us all a favor – keep your cats indoors.  And tell   your neighbors to keep their cats indoors.  (I suppose “explain nicely” is a better way to put it.)

Secondly, if you do have nest boxes (for Western Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Mountain Chickadees, Brown Creepers, and White-Breasted Nuthatches) – make sure they conform to good nest box design and practices.  You can go online and start with birding hobby companies and order boxes with the right dimensions.  Or you can get designs that are easy to build, like the ones I use to make nest boxes with pine and a few battery-operated hand tools.  You should clean out nest boxes after every season.  Make sure they are secured and won’t crash down with our Munds Park winds in May and June.  Last fall we put up seven new Western Bluebird nest boxes on trees around the Pinewood Country Club – can’t wait to see if they will be occupied this year.  We also cleaned out the others – so all in all there are some good opportunities to provide safe nesting sites for our Western Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.

June 30, 2012

House Birds Part I

Filed under: Grosbeak,Nuthatches,Red-Faced Warbler — Munds Park Birding @ 2:19 pm
Tags: , ,

Photo courtesy of David Cree

What birds are showing up at your house?  If you have feeders, the answer to that question will depend on what kind of bird food you are offering.  If you have a bird bath, you may attract a wider variety of birds.  If you have a shallow fountain with trickling or moving water, you will have an even better chance of attracting a variety of species.

So let’s start with the type of bird seed you might use and narrow down the obvious choices.  Even if you are only a beginning birder and your bird watching is focused on your own property, you should be able to identify the common birds with a minimal amount of effort.

With a nyger seed feeder (plastic or sock tube) you will attract Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins.  The male Lesser Goldfinch has a bright yellow breast, olive back, and a black head.  Females and immature are duller, lack the black cap, and have olive backs and breasts.  Often at the same time the Goldfinches are feeding you will see Pine Siskins.  These birds are just a little bigger than the Goldfinches, and they are mostly brown with definite brown striping on a light colored breast.  The wings have a small patch of yellow and two white wing bars.

If you have a feeder with sunflowers seeds, millet, and milo, you will attract a nice variety of birds.  Look for the Black-Headed Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadee, and two types of Nuthatches:  Pygmy and White-Breasted.  The Black-Headed Grosbeak is stunning with a mix of black, orange, and white.  The Mountain Chickadee is mostly black and white with a black cap; it is a small, busy bird, also easily identified by its call, which sounds just like its name: “chick a dee dee dee”.  Nuthatches are small birds with almost no necks.  They creep up and down trees, head first, jamming nuts into tree crevices and then “hatching” them apart with their large bills to get to the seeds.  With this type of seed, you will also get Band-Tailed Pigeons, and if seeds fall to the ground, you will be visited by Mourning Doves.

When you add a feeder with peanuts, you should see Acorn Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays.  The Steller’s Jay has a black and crested head, iridescent dark blue body, and loud call.  You may also attract the American Crow.  While sitting on our deck and writing this article, an American Crow came to our bird bath and dunked unshelled peanuts in the water, and then either opened and ate them here or flew off to eat them in the woods.  I don’t know from where the Crow got the peanuts, but our bird bath was the next stop for the Crow’s meal preparation.

Fresh water is a thrifty way to attract birds, especially dripping or spraying water.  I am thrilled to report that while taking a break from writing this article and turning on our front yard sprinklers in the late afternoon, I spotted a Red-Faced Warbler flitting from tree to tree.  I have been trying to see this bird for six years. There it was: a small, mostly-gray bird with a brilliant red head and neck, showing up at the start of a phone call with my mother in Illinois as I was sitting on the front deck and monitoring the sprinklers.  It stayed around for over 15 minutes, giving me great looks with and without binoculars, while my patient mother heard about this “lifer” during the phone call.  This bird is very rare in the United States – only found in the high mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.  As I’ve stated in past articles, you never know when you may run across that special bird, so always keep your eyes and ears open.

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