FEBRUARY BIRDS, BEES, AND BUTTERFLIES
The Great Backyard Bird Count, The Christmas Bird Count. Get out there and count the birds, she says. So what’s the big deal? you ask. I like to look at the birds and listen to them sing, but geez, they all look alike to me. Why do I need to go to all that trouble to COUNT them?
Good question. Have you ever heard of Silent Spring? Or Their Fate is our Fate? These books tell us that birds are indicator species. What happens to them, can often predict what can happen to humans. Birds are one of the easiest species to study, not only because they are highly visible, but many can live a long time, and people enjoy their colors, songs, and sometimes their behavior. We care about them. Scientists can’t be everywhere, but “citizen scientists” all over the globe can collect information on birds during these special count days. Last year during the Great Backyard Bird Count, 160,000 people, amateurs to scientists, participated in creating “the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird population ever recorded.”
A couple things we have found from these counts is that more than one half of North American bird species that winter over, have moved north 200 miles in the last 60 years. Forty species of North American song birds have moved to higher elevations. They are trying to escape the increasing temperatures so that they can find the proper food, keep their nesting cycle, and avoid disease. If only scientists were doing the recording, we wouldn’t have this data. Every year we learn more and more about our local situation and global situations. This helps determine where the money will be spent and what further research is needed.
For the birds, and for ourselves, why not get involved, become a citizen scientist and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. Hopefully, most of you can identify most of these ten birds we’ve studied since September.
OUR LAST THREE BIRDS
1. Northern Flicker 2. Downy/Hairy Woodpecker 3. Anna/Rufus Hummingbird
1. The Northern or Red Shafted Flicker, considered a woodpecker, may be found at your suet feeder or on the ground looking for insects. (Sometimes he has a hard time fitting on that hanging suet.) He is quite conspicuous. There is no short description because he is quite intricately colored. This is a large bird often noticed from behind in flight by the white tail or orange feathers. He has a gray head with brown crown and nape, red mustache stripe, black crescent on breast, back and upper surface of wings barred grayish -brown and black, rump white, underparts light tan, heavily spotted with black, top of tail black, underside salmon, underwings salmon, large long chisel-shaped bill. Female lacks red mustache. His tweed-like back feathers distinguish him from most other woodpeckers.
2. Downy Woodpecker is a small one with a very short bill. He may show up with the mixed flocks of chickadees and nuthatches. It will go to the suet or inspect smaller trees and branches. The adult has black and white striped head, black upperparts with white in center of back and white spots on wings and white underparts, outer tail feathers white with narrow black bars. Male has small red patch on nape, female does not. The downy and the hairy are our only two woodpeckers with the white patch on the back. The Hairy Woodpecker is medium- sized, with long bill, black and white striped head, black upper parts, white on center of back, white spots on wings, white underparts. Male – has small red patch on nape. Description sound familiar? The only difference between these two woodpeckers is their size. This is how I remember them: Downy -dinky, Hairy-huge. (Ok, so it isn’t very academic.)
3. Anna’s Hummingbird – OUR hummingbird. Often over-winters. Folks who come from other areas are usually surprised to see this little creature hanging out in the snow, but we have learned to go out early in the morning in our robe and slippers to switch unfrozen and frozen feeders. At 4” this is medium sized, with greenish sides. Males- bright, iridescent dark rose cap and throat, grayish below, black deeply notched tail. Female – similar, center of throat just flecked with red, tail corners are white. Rufus Hummingbird – a seasonal visitor, migrates here in spring and leaves early summer. Male – bright orangy, rufous above, on sides and top of tail. Breast white, throat bright iridescent orange-red, crown greenish. Females – whitish below, rufous sides, rump, tail, greenish on upper wings and back.
TaDa. You have been presented with 10+ birds that you may be able to identify at your feeders. I hope this has been useful to you. We will review a bit, and…..there will be a test.
Birds, Bees, and Butterfly Chair
An Audubon Handbook Western Birds
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America