Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Regina Backyard Birds: Finches, Sparrows, Siskins - April 2015

Purple Finch on backyard feeder.  ©SB
I've counted more than 15 species around our backyard Regina, Saskatchewan, bird feeders in spring: Purple Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows, Pine Siskins, American Tree Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Common Grackles, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, American Crows, American RobinsHouse FinchesHouse Sparrows, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, A Downy Woodpecker also dropped by our front yard for a while. 

Yes, late April is a wonderful time for backyard bird watching. Some of the early migrating songbirds are still here, and new birds are arriving every day. 

However, at a quick glance, all but the large Robins and Grackles (and huge Crows) look like little brown birds, well camouflaged by the grass, dirt and seeds in the feeder. Difficult to tell apart.

But read on, and then look closer. With a longer camera lens or a steady, patient gaze, the differences will become clearer. (And, if you'd like to see more photographs, including birds, from, Regina or other shots of my backyard birds, you can search the blog for those.)

First, our most common bird — the House Sparrow. Their population is apparently declining in Europe, but not in my backyard where at times dozens squawk, feed, fight and fly away. House Sparrows are easy to recognize. House Sparrows over-winter in Regina, so are highly visible all year. The males are larger than most other little brown birds, and have distinctive facial markings, while the female House Sparrows are notable (to me) for their overall brownness. 

Male House Sparrow. I think these birds look fierce! ©SB

Female House Sparrow. Much more gentle looking. ©SB

House Finches also common, and those that visit us have tinges of colour ranging from pale yellow through bright scarlet. The males, that is. The females are plainer — but easy to tell from the female House Sparrows because of the blurry streaks on their bellies. We've had House Finches all winter in the past, but this year, they disappeared for a few weeks, then came back in March.   

Male House Finch, with typical brown streaking   ©SB

Male House and Purple Finches.  ©SB

Purple Finches are new at our feeders this year. They look a bit larger than the House Finch, and the males are a soft wash of deep raspberry (no brown streaks on chest or belly), while the females have strong white and brown facial markings. I don't know if we'll be lucky enough to have them stay, or if they're already on their way north. 


Male Purple Finch ©SB
Female or immature Purple Finch  ©SB

Pine Siskins are a little like the finches — streaky brown, but far tinier, with pointy, delicate beaks. You can also identify them by the flashes of yellow on their wings, especially if you're lucky enough to catch them in full feather-opened flight! The one pictured below dropped in to visit before strong daylight, then vanished, but I have shots of Pine Siskins from a few years back, wings dramatically yellow.



Pine Siskin -- if you look closely, you can see the flash of yellow
along its wing. Check my recent Pine Siskin page for more dramatic pix 

taken at the same time as the one below. ©SB
Why I love Pine Siskins... They look calm and boring -- but
catch them with wings and tail wide, and they are so lovely! ©SB

Dark-eyed Juncos were our first spring arrival and are still hanging around our yard — but not likely for long. We see them in fall, too, when they migrate back south. These songbirds have strong gray and white markings, with pink beaks, and are easy to identify in flight by their flashing white tail feathers. The males' colouring is bolder than the female — a darker gray, for stronger contrast — while the females have a greater ranger of grays and browns in their upper feathers. (This is easier to see when both a male and a female Dark-eyed Junco are nearby...) 

Dark-eyed Junco  ©SB 
And, another Dark-eyed Junco.  ©SB

So far, the only migratory sparrows that have reached our backyard are the White-crowned Sparrow, the White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, and the American Tree Sparrow. Of these, the White-crowned and White-throated are the most distinctive. 

White-crowned Sparrows have bright white stripes on the top of their heads, with pale gray neck, chest and belly feathers. 

White-crowned Sparrow ©SB

White-throated Sparrows may also have white crown feathers, but in addition have a white throat patch that to me looks like a beard, along with a yellow lore (spot between the bill and eye.)  Some White-throated Sparrows are tan-striped, with light brown crown markings — but these, too, have the distinctive white throat and yellow lore. 

White-throated Sparrow  ©SB

Tan-striped White Throated Sparrow ©SB 

Lincoln's Sparrow really does look like a little brown bird. Tough to see sometimes, unless I watch closely for movement in the dirt! It's small and lighter coloured than a female House Finch. Look for its crisp stripes and a crown that's often peaked. 

Lincoln's Sparrow ©SB

American Tree Sparrows resemble House Sparrows, to me — but only at first glance. Look closer, and you'll see their red heads and eye stripes, paler buffy breasts, and reddish wing feathers.  

American Tree Sparrow  ©SB

As for the Black-capped Chickadees, American Crows, American Robins, Common Grackles, Blue Jays and Red-breasted Nuthatches, I'll let their pictures tell their stories.   


Black-capped Chickadee waiting above the feeder.  ©SB
American Robin  ©SB
American Robin pulling up a worm  ©SB
American Crow ©SB
Downy Woodpecker - yes this pic has been here
before... a few of these are from past years. ©SB
Red-breasted Nuthatch  ©SB
Blue Jay eating peanuts in the backyard.  ©SB
Female (or immature?) Common Grackle  ©SB

Male Common Grackle  ©SB

Regina has a surprising number of micro-climates/bird zones — surprising to me, at least, when I see lists of birds that people from other parts of the city observe, compared to birds that land in my backyard. If you live near the lake or creek, you'll likely have an even greater variety than I do.

And most of these pictures were taken in April, 2015 — but birds don't always cooperate and pose well in great lighting! So some are pulled from my photo files to illustrate the birds we've seen this month. 


What are these?  April backyard birds: American Crow — Corneille d'AmériqueAmerican Robin, House Finch, Purple Finch, House Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Grackles and Red-breasted Nuthatch,
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.   
Photo dates: House Finch, April 25, 2015;  House Finch with Purple Finch: April 22, 2015; Male Purple Finches: April 22, 2015; Female (or immature) Purple Finch, April 27 2015; Pine Siskin, April 27, 2015, and May 2013; Dark-eyed Junco: April 10, 2015; White-crowned Sparrow, April 25, 2015; White-throated Sparrow, April 26, 2015; Tan-striped White-throated Sparrow, April 28, 2015; American Tree Sparrow, April 25, 2015; Black-capped Chickadee, Sept. 9, 2013; American Robin: April 17, 2015; American Crow: April 22, 2015; Downy Woodpecker, Dec. 2, 2014; Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sept. 9, 2013; Blue Jay, Oct. 20, 2013; Grackles: Female, April 25, 2015, male, Sept. 29. 2015. 

~~~~~

7 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos . I do enjoy looking at them all.

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  2. Thank you for the information on house finches. I had never seen the house finch until this summer. I came across your website as I searched for the name of the scarlet breasted bird that has been visiting my front window for the past two days, sitting on the ledge and singing its adorable song.

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    1. Thanks - I love these birds, and we're so lucky to have them visit!

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  3. I keep hearing this strange bird call late each night. also I live in the south end of regina. it sounds like a whoop whoop whoop. I think maybe its an owl, any ideas?

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    1. Could an owl. Or if early morning, a dove, maybe? All About Birds (easy to search for) has tabs for bird sounds, so you could try a few species.

      My current favourite app is Audubon Birds, which may now be free... It's great because it links in e-Bird data, so you can see what other local (even Regina) birders have noted recently. The app has sound files, too. Or you can check sightings on the e-Bird website, although I don't find that as easy to navigate.

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  4. Such terrific shots and explanations. Helped me identify an American Tree Sparrow at my feeder. Many thanks.

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  5. Thanks for letting me know!

    All my best,

    Shelley

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