For the birds: Which Bird Will Be Your 2016 Special Bird?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Varied Thrush, male, winter visitor

Text and Photos by Christine Southwick

The first bird that you see, or hear, the morning of the New Year is your special bird for 2016.

Wintertime will present some birds like the vivid Varied Thrush and the camouflaged Fox Sparrow, and eliminate the summer birds like most of our warblers and finches.

So, what will it be?

male Spotted Towhee surveying his territory

Will it be a glorious male Spotted Towhee surveying your backyard?

It could be a local woodpecker— Downy, Hairy, Pileated,  Northern Flicker, or  even a Red-breasted Sapsucker;

Or a Red-breasted Nuthatch with its miniature tin-horn calls and its headfirst seed-snatchings.

 Maybe it will be a large Barred-Owl, or a small eight-inch Saw-whet Owl, swooping almost silently low above the ground?

Or perhaps even a majestic, impressive, Bald-Eagle flying high over your head?

Hairy Woodpecker, male (red on back of head)

You might see a bird that is far adrift from its normal habitat, like the southern-based Yellow-throated Warbler that has flown from eastern Texas and beyond, which has recently been seen on the Washington coast,  or a shorter-distance traveler like the  Common Redpoll from the Canadian boreal forests.

Of course it could be an everyday bird like our resident Song Sparrow, and chickadees. These birds are true northwest birds.

Is your bird a wanderer or a homebody? Is it a social and demonstrative bird like the American Crow? Does it mingle with other species like Downy Woodpeckers in the winter?  Does it stick with its own species only like Bushtits, or is it solitary, like Common Raven? Does it mate for life; is it seasonally monogamous, or poly-amorous?

Red-breasted Nuthatch getting seed its way

Whichever bird it is, become familiar with its habits.  Think of it as your guiding bird-familiar for the year.

What could that mean for you for 2016?  Maybe you’ll be standing on your head much of 2016…

Birding can be as fun as you make it.


Anonymous,  December 31, 2015 at 1:56 PM  

And in the new year will you be answering questions and writing articles on a regular basis? for instance - I need to prune some overly large laurel and rhodies - but fear I might displace a hummingbird nest without realizing - what to do? is there a time of year that if I took out their nest they would be able to rebuild and survive?

Anonymous,  December 31, 2015 at 2:18 PM  

Love these bird columns. They are so interesting and well illustrated.

Christine Southwick December 31, 2015 at 3:49 PM  

Some Anna's Hummingbirds may already be starting to breed, but most will wait a little longer. Many that are breeding now will make their nests in coniferous trees under an overhanging branch because of the added protection.
I don't know about laurels, but rhodys are best pruned during and right after blooming. Since no more than a third of a rhody should be pruned at a time, if you want blooms the following year, it shouldn't be too hard to look for a nest as you prune. Laurels will be harder, so if it were me, I would wait until about April--no guarantees, since some hummers will do a second brood.

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