Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hello, Chickadee!

Getting to Know our Backyard Birds Personally

We have not been able to go out to the woods for our nature walks this winter, but we have been learning a lot right here at home. Our bird feeder has been a great source of joy, and even though it is taking some time for the birds to discover us, the boys have been getting to know the ones that do come. To me, this getting to know a few birds personally is so much better than learning about many more from a book.

American Goldfinches
First one came, then two, then three. We've discovered that these birds like to hang out in little flocks. We've seen up to eight or ten at the feeder at once. And we love their musical chatter! They went for the sunflower seeds first, but also ate from the mixed seed. They ate both from the feeder and from the ground around the feeder. They are a dull grayish yellow colour in the winter. Sometimes the yellow is almost undetectable (female, winter), but we know them now.

Black-Capped Chickadees
The chickadees were the next to discover the feeder. At first we thought they were nervous, because they would come for two seconds, then fly away again, then come again, then fly away again. But we have discovered they are friendly enough, because they don't worry about other birds at the feeder at the same time, and they don't go away when we're playing in the yard. I enjoyed the way SA "translated" their call: "Mama, black-capped chickadees say 'chip Bee Bee Bee.'" Which they do. We love the way they swoop when they're flying. They like the sunflower seeds as well, but will also eat the mixed seed.

European Starlings
The starlings are much larger than the goldfinches or chickadees. In the winter they are black with white spots and brownish wings. They were the first to go for the peanut butter/suet log we have. We often see two or three at a time when we see them. We haven't managed to hear their sound yet.

Blue Jays
Blue jays are so beautiful! They came about three weeks after we put up the feeder, and they love the sunflower seeds, which they eat from the feeder or the ground. SA thinks their call sounds like "Cheep." I wouldn't have used that word, associating it with the little sound baby chicks make, but I hear what he means. The blue jay's cheep is very loud and long compared to that. When I was young, my mother told me they were saying, "Thief! Thief!"

We always have a lot of crows around, and they don't normally come to the feeder. One morning SA was all excited, though, because there was one on the ground near the feeder. He thought it was a raven because it was so large. I thought it was a crow, so we had to look up how to tell the difference again. We do have both kinds around here.
I always look at the beak first. A raven has more of a "roman nose" than a crow.
The size is also a clue, but not as much of one as you might think. There are some very big crows around here! Also, depending on the distance they are from you, it can be hard to tell how big they really are. Ravens are generally larger than crows.
The tail of a crow is squared, while the tail of a raven is more pointed.
The flying style is a big clue when you're just watching them flying from far away. Crows flap almost constantly when they're flying, but ravens often soar.
Also, ravens are much more likely to be alone, while crows are often in company with other crows.

The Great Backyard Bird Count
We are excited to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year for the first time! If you haven't heard of this event, here is a video telling you how to get involved.

I am linking up with Fisher Academy International for February's "Nature Study Monday." (Yes, I know it's not Monday today.)