For the Birds: What’s Your First Bird of 2021?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Anna's Hummingbird by Craig Kerns
By Christine Southwick

Many birders pay attention to the first bird they see (or hear if the birder knows the call) on New Year’s Day.

Why do they do this? (For all you new birders)

Birders like to challenge themselves to learn more about birds they see. Many New Year’s Day birds are resident birds and are often overlooked while looking for migrants.

So, say the first bird you see New Year’s Day is a Dark-eyed Junco or a Black-capped Chickadee, a wintering Fox Sparrow, or maybe a vagrant Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, or even a Snowy Owl.

Bewick's Wren with grub by Craig Kerns
What does that mean?

This can be your birding inspiration for 2021! How? Look up the bird you sighted.

Does it live here year- round? If not, where does it usually stay? Does it winter here, then move further north to breed? 

Is that its regular migration, or is it one of those species which follows crops, and is considered to have an irruptive pattern? Or maybe it is a long-distance migrator that is off course!

How many eggs does “your” bird usually lay? Does it stay with the same partner each season (seasonally monogamous) like juncos, long-term partners like Black-capped Chickadees and many raptors, or dalliers like many Song Sparrows. 

Wintering Fox Sparrow by Christine Southwick
Do both parents feed their nestlings and fledglings, or is the nest-building and all the offspring raising left to the female, like it is for Anna’s Hummingbird?

Where does it build its nest? Merlins and Band-tailed Pigeons need tall evergreen trees. Juncos, song-sparrows, towhees all nest on the ground, so they need native shrubs, hiding places, and spaces free from dogs and cats. 

Your yard can make a major difference.

What does your 2021 bird eat?

The majority of birds, like Black-capped Chickadees, Bewick's Wrens, Bushtits, and all warblers eat and feed their nestlings bugs and caterpillars, so don’t use pesticides. 

Path with leaves welcomes wintering Fox Sparrows
and Varied Thrushes, plus nourishes the soil and
prevents weeds. Photo by Christine Southwick
Most birds eat seeds; some like American Goldfinches just eat grains and seeds and prefer open areas where these foods are found. 

Anna’s Hummingbirds need nectar in the wintertime - if you have native flowers in your yard, summertime hummingbird feeders are fun to watch, but not really necessary. 

A really good book explaining the whys and how-tos to make your yard a nature conservation site is Nature’s Best Hope (A new approach to conservation that starts in your yard) by Douglas W. Tallamy.

Learn all about “your 2021 bird” and enjoy watching it grace your yard.


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