For the Birds: Seasons Change - So Do the Birds…

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Red-breasted Sapsucker, resident, drumming territory
Photo by Elaine Chuang

By Christine Southwick

As the days grow shorter, our variety of birds grows smaller. Most migrating birds follow the daylight, and thefoods that are found where the weather is warmer.

Spotted-Towhee, male, surveying his territory
Photo by Christine Southwick
The long distance shorebirds are in full migration right now, and many will be at their “Snowbird” destination by the end of September.

Gone are the flycatchers and the majority of the Vaux’s Swifts—gone to places that will have bountiful winged bugs during our cold, wet season.

Swainson’s Thrushes and Western Tanagers are mostly gone, with an occasional late migrator being heard. You may even see a Black-headed Grosbeak heading south –juvenile birds leave later than the adults, so you can be pretty sure these late birds were born this year.

Even the American Robins that you see could be from Canada, and ours may have moved further south.

Bewick’s Wren eating in the winter
Photo by Christine Southwick
So what is left?

We live in such a mild climate compared to lots of other areas, that some birds winter here and then fly back North in the summer. Fox Sparrows are only found in our neighborhoods during the fall thru spring; likewise, Dark-eyed Juncos migrate from Canada and Montana to here and have been banded here during the winter.

And with this mild weather, it is to be expected that we have a large range of resident birds: Spotted Towhees, Bewick’s Wrens, Song Sparrows, all five of our woodpeckers, and our local owls. These birds eat bugs that live in our leaf covering (so keep those leaves under bushes, etc), or eat berries, especially blackberries. Our smaller owls eat moths, and our larger owls will eat shrew, voles, mice, rat

Townsend’s Warbler frequently seen in winter shrubs
Photo by Elaine Chuang
Many of our little birds, like Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bushtits, Downy Woodpeckers, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets may be seen in mixed flocks flying through the shrubs and evergreen branches, with the practical effect that many eyes will find more food, and spot predators more readily.

The practical effect of fall and winter is that “our” birds become easier to see as the leaves fall. Flashes of color, and hearing their calls can brighten up one of our dreary Northwest winter days, and lighten our hearts as we dodge the frequent raindrops.

Suet will bring chickadees, bushtits and woodpeckers; hummingbird nectar will ensure that you see our year-round Anna’s Hummingbirds. Help the birds, and they will repay you with random acts of beauty.


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