Summer Birds

During winter, wildlife generally stays about the same, but now that summer’s here, I’ve seen all kinds of new animals. Mostly birds. In the last couple of weeks there’s been this red-headed woodpecker hanging around. He was attracted by some suet we put up, and started to visit our yard regularly, but at the same time the grackles found the suet and pretty much devoured it. Once it was gone, he stopped coming. We got some more, but I bet the same thing will happen.

I saw one of the eagles from the nest a couple of days ago. It was flying to its nest with a giant fish locked in its talons. Pretty cool.

I also spied an oriole hanging about by the river. They’re hard to miss, what with their bright feathers, but I haven’t seen them here before. I’ll have to get my oriole feeder up.

In other news, I’m going to be gone for a few weeks, so no more posts for a while. But I’ll have things to tell when I get back! 

Female Grackles

'common grackle feeding'

There have been Common Grackles in my yard for a while now, but it seems as though the males came first & the females followed. The females look nearly identical to the males, but if the light’s right, it’s possible to see that they are actually more brown than black, & they are slightly smaller. They are also slightly less glossy. The birds are ground foragers, but I see them quite often up on the birdfeeder, scaring away the other birds, & eating all the bird seed in a few minutes. They like sunflower seed especially, & often 3 or 4 of them will be on the birdfeeder, all trying to eat at the same time. (If there isn’t enough room in the feeder, they perch on top waiting for a chance at the seed.) Grackles are very aggresive, they have been known to raid nests, & kill & eat other adult birds. However the birds here sort of enjoy them, because they kick tons of seed off the feeding platform when they land to eat.  

The birdbath

'the bird bath in my yard'

Cardinals have become much more common at my bird feeder. They love the warm weather & the sunflower seeds. They also enjoy the bird bath in my yard. (Actually, I find that the bird bath is becoming more popular than the feeder.) The sparrows, house finches, robins, & cardinals visit it frequently, & angrily peck at it when I forget to fill it. The only birds that almost never come to it are the common grackles. I’ve only seen a Blue jay once this season, which is odd; previous years they’ve been quite common. I know they’re around though, I’ve heard their noisy calling in the trees in my neighborhood. Blue jays aren’t the kindest birds, they’ve been known for killing the eggs, adults, & young of other bird species, particularly western bluebirds, & taking over their nests.

Spring flocks

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mississippi river near my home (it’s just a couple of streets away), I saw two huge black birds flying overhead. They turned out to be a pair of turkey vultures, & they were wheeling & swooping over the river, close enough that I could see their bright red naked heads & black feathers. Evidently there was an appetizing bit of rotting flesh down there. Vultures have naked heads because it keeps them clean when they feed. If they had feathers on their heads the feathers would get very dirty when they fed, & possibly make them sick. These birds have, lately, become common around here. Turkey vultures must get something from the river they can’t get elsewhere; whenever I see them, they are heading to the Mississippi.

A few days ago I looked out my window & there was a Common Grackle at the feeder. These shiny black birds are hard to miss, they are at least twice as large as other common feeder residents, such as finches & chickadees. They will eat sunflower seeds, but they seem to scare the other birds away. When a grackle’s in my yard, it’s the only bird there. Brown-headed cowbirds seem to be getting more numerous too. I don’t see them that often, but every few years there’ll be a spring where they’re all over. What’s interesting is that when that happens, common grackles start to appear more too.

The house finch that was at my feeder a few days ago has come back, & he brought his girlfriend with him. I see them almost every day now. The female isn’t terribly colorful, & I often mistake her for a sparrow, as she has no red, but the pattern of stripes on her back is different, & she’s almost never without her mate. I also recently saw an American Goldfinch. I have never seen one in MN before, although they’re supposed to live all over America. They are tiny but beautiful birds, with their neon yellow feathers & black markings. The one I saw was such a bright color, I could barely see it in all the yellow-green leaves of the just-blooming trees.