In the Garden

I was interviewed on In the Garden with Mike Darcy on June 27 and discussed what you can do to attract birds to your yard in the summer. Due to various circumstances, including the continuing heat wave, I didn’t get out on a birding trip this week. Instead, I spent a little time observing the critters in the yard.

rufous open billRufous Hummingbirds have been visiting in good numbers, a few weeks earlier than normal. Perhaps the drought has pushed them out of their more normal habitats.

rufous reaching
rufous in flight
anna'sThe resident Anna’s Hummingbird is not pleased with the Rufous invaders.

song sparrowThis Song Sparrow has been enjoying the bird bath.

house finch frontjuvenile House Finch at the feeder

cabbage whiteA Cabbage White, probably contemplating laying her eggs on my kale

beesThe bees are loving the Purple Coneflowers.
nalaCharismatic Megafauna

Random February Birds

I have spent very little time outdoors this month, but here are a few nice birds from the past few weeks.

yellow-rumped backThis Yellow-rumped Warbler was displaying his namesake near Ankeny NWR.

shrikeNorthern Shrike, also at Ankeny.

lewis's 1This Lewis’s Woodpecker has spent the winter near Ankeny. It is unusual to find them west of the Cascade Crest. You have to love a green woodpecker with a red belly.

anna'sPortland’s recent “Snowpocalypse” was not appreciated by the local Anna’s Hummingbirds.

white-throatedThis White-throated Sparrow has spent much of the winter on our property, but I haven’t seen him since the big snow melted.

modoMourning Dove at the feeder

downyThis Downy Woodpecker has made several visits to the dead cedarĀ  outside our living room window.

Anna’s Hummingbirds

feeder right 1 With the cold weather we have had this week, the Anna’s Hummingbirds have been staying close to the feeders. Here are some random images from the last few days, all taken through dirty windows.
pairThis male begrudgingly shared the slushy feeder with a female for a while.
anna's 2The dim light hit this guy’s head feathers just right to reveal the absurdly pink color.



In the Bleak Midwinter

In honor of the winter solstice, in a month that brought Portland 7″ of rain, here are a few dark grainy images from recent weeks.

orange-crowned warblerOrange-crowned Warbler

anna's hummingbirdAnna’s Hummingbird

dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed Junco

american and lesser goldfinchHere is a nice comparison of American (foreground) and Lesser Goldfinches. Notice that the American Goldfinch has white undertail coverts, while the Lesser has yellow.

american goldfinchHere is a very dull American Goldfinch (probable first-year female) in front of a Lesser (probable first-year male).

chestnut-backed chickadeeChestnut-backed Chickadee, looking ever perky

Yard Birds

I spent more time working on an article about birds this week than I did actually birding, so I had to get my birding fix by looking out the window. Cloudy skies and dirty windows aren’t the best conditions for viewing, but it is better than nothing.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

The Western Scrub-Jays have been hitting the feeder hard, filling their crops with seeds and flying off to hide them somewhere.

House Finch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

American Goldfinch

hummingbird tongue fungal infection

In case you need further motivation to keep your hummingbird feeders clean, here is a photo of a male Anna’s Hummingbird with a swollen tongue. The condition is caused by a fungal infection, usually acquired at hummingbird feeders. The condition is often, if not always, fatal.

If you feed hummingbirds, please use a mixture of one part WHITE sugar to four parts water, and clean the feeder at least once a week in cool weather, more often when temperatures are warmer. Using any other ingredients, or allowing the nectar to spoil, can be deadly.

This post has received a lot of comments over the years, mostly questions about veterinary care of individual birds and other topics that I am not qualified to answer. If you are a veterinarian or wildlife rehabber, and have insight or advice regarding this condition, please leave a comment. If you are seeking advice about this condition, please contact a vet or a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Helping evolution along

Anna’s Hummingbird was first reported in Oregon in 1944. The first specimen wasn’t collected until 1966. But today, this species is a common year-round resident in western Oregon. They winter as far north as coastal British Columbia, and have even successfully wintered in central Oregon, where they get actual winter weather.

What has caused this rapid range expansion to the north? Climate change is having a measurable effect on some species, but Anna’s Hummingbird has undoubtably been helped along by the presence of bird feeders and exotic winter-blooming plants. While most of a hummingbird’s nutrition comes from the insects he eats, a reliable source of calories provided by a feeder of sugar solution can enable a bird to survive episodes of severe winter weather that would prove fatal without this supplemental food source. A higher winter survival rate provides more birds to breed in the spring, thus establishing the species in new areas.

Bird feeding is credited with helping other species expand their ranges. Northern Cardinal is a prime example in this country. In England, bird feeding is reportedly changing the evolution of one species. The European Blackcap historically migrated to Spain for the winter. With the increasing popularity of bird feeding, this species has stopped migrating south, opting instead to winter in the UK. In just 50 years, the bird has developed shorter wings (longer wings are useful in migration) and a narrower bill (better suited to eating out of bird feeders). These British birds are well on their way to becoming a new species. Read the story here.