I swore I’d never become a bird watcher, and I still have no desire to travel around tallying up how many yellow-throated whatcha-ma-callits I’ve encountered. But I am interested in identifying the birds that pass through our yard, especially since we have several feeders now. I’m really bad at remembering which birds are which, so that’s why I started this page, which then grew into cataloging all the other animals that we find in our yard.
The birds are grouped and sorted by their taxonomic family.
Dec. 28th, 2019 I was in our backyard admiring the blue sky when a large bird flew over. At first, due to it’s size I thought it was just the normal Turkey Vulture that we see all the time. But then I noticed it’s white head, and realized I had just spotted my first Bald Eagle outside of Alaska, in my own backyard! Audubon says they’re a rare winter visitor to this area, I hope we get a return visit soon.
(Cathartes aura) – Our backyard used to have several old snags that the vultures loved to use as places to hangout. Those trees have all fallen down, one in particular was destroyed after the vultures exceeded its maximum seating occupancy.
(Cyanocitta stelleri) – Lori and I heard a racket out in the backyard and since it wasn’t a bird noise I’d heard here before I was worried that one of the cats had gotten ahold of a bird and I was hearing a plea for help. Going out to investigate, I found a group of Steller Jays up in the trees, a very safe distance from our cats. This was the first time we spotted jays in our yard, and within a few minutes they had taken their noisy conversation elsewhere. I grabbed the camera and lens that was handy and it wouldn’t have been my first choice. Hopefully they’ll return so I can get better pictures. (spotted 7/26/2019)
Fringillidae – Finches
House Finch – Female on left, male on right
(Haemorhous mexicanus) – We originally thought we were seeing Purple Finches at the feeder, but this photo shows them to be House Finches. The two similar birds can both be seen in our area, so we might have both in our backyard. We’ll have to pay more attention when we see them to be sure.
Female American Goldfinch courtesy of Wikipedia
Male American Goldfinch courtesy of Wikipedia
(Spinus tristis) – Of the two goldfinch species, this is the brighter yellow one.
(Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) – I’ve been trying to photograph the swallows around our house, but they are very quick, erratic, and don’t seem to land. Since they feed on bugs they have no interest in our bird feeder so identification is hard. Even getting them in the frame of the shot is hard. While this shot is pretty blurry, the coloration and lack of a forked tail provide the identification. (spotted 7/19/2019)
Bank Swallow courtesy of Wikipedia
(Riparia riparia) – Photographed the at the same time as the Cliff Swallow above, this one appears to have the neck band indicative of the Bank Swallow. I could be wrong on either of these swallow identifications. Until I can manage to get clearer photos it’s only a guess. (spotted 7/19/2019)
(Hirundo rustica) – The barn swallow can be identified by it’s deeply forked tail.
(Euphagus cyanocephalus) – These birds were never taught to not talk when their mouths are full. This male was chattering with a mouthful of caterpillars that he probably wanted to feed his young but he didn’t want to give away his nest location in my rose arbor. He was later joined by his mate, who had also been busy hunting, and she joined him in voicing their displeasure of my presence in the garden. The males are black with yellow eyes, while the females are dark grey/brown and have black eyes.(spotted 7/1/2019)
Female Bullock’s Oriole
(Icterus bullockii) – We mostly notice the males, but with their bright orange plumage, they are more noticeable. The photo of the female is the only time I recall seeing a female. Sorry about the quality, it was way up in the tree. (spotted 7/19/2019)
(Passer domesticus) – It turns out this bird has a very appropriate common name. Lori and I had been trying to identify the little bird who sleeps up in the corner of our front porch every night. He doesn’t have a nest there, he just tucks into the corner under the roof, making it hard to see what he actually looks like. Just as I was planning to set up my camera to remotely shoot him, I saw him in the rose arbor and manage to get some photos and we were able to finally identify him as a house sparrow. Since he’s also one of the few birds that I know is the same bird when we see him, I decided to name him Carlton, as he hangs out by our front door. (Rhoda TV show reference if you don’t get it.)
Female House Sparrows
Watching Carlton, I noticed one night there was another sparrow in the other corner of the porch. I thought maybe Carlton found himself a girlfriend. Then a couple of nights later they were both sitting on the same side together. I thought it was so cute I tried getting another photo setting my D600 to ISO 6400 so I could photograph them by the porch light. This photo came out much better than my first attempt, and after looking at the photo on my monitor I realized we have two females. We’re going to have to come up with a new name for Carlton.
(Melospiza melodia) – These sparrows are the cleanup crew, they love to forage on the ground for seed, insects and spiders, so we have started seeing them at the base of the bird feeder eating the seeds all the rest of birds spill. Nice to know some of that seed is going to good use and not just turning into weeds I need to pull.
(Cardellina pusilla) – I had been trying to get photos of the yellow birds frequenting the willow trees in the backyard the last month. I thought they were goldfinches but they wouldn’t come to the feeder like goldfinches do, instead they hid and hopped around the trees making it impossible to photograph them. I finally got this on clear shot of a male, and using Seek to confirm the identity, I was surprised to find out it was a Wilson’s Warbler. They are insectivores, so of course they’re not interested in our feeder. (spotted 8/21/2019)
(Dryobates pubescens) – Lori first saw a male on one of our fence posts but it flew away before we got a good look at it. She noticed the red on the back of the head, which sounded like a woodpecker to me. But was it a Downy or Hairy? A couple of days later I spotted a female in the willows, and using binoculars I was able to identify it as a Downy. It’s going to be hard to get pictures of these birds. I most often hear them lately, but they’re way up in the trees hidden from view. (spotted 8/12/2019)
A week later I was in the backyard and heard the familiar knock of the woodpecker in a willow close to the house. After much searching I finally located him and was able to get a photo of one.
(Colaptes auratus) – We used to see these far more often when the two large Black Cottonwood trees were around. Now they are a rare sighting. After a long absence, we saw a pair of them in July 2019. Hopefully they’re making a return, as their flash of orange when they fly is fun to watch. Hopefully I can get a better picture, a car drove by right after I snapped this first shot as I approached it, and it flew off. (spotted 7/5/2019)
(Calypte anna) – These are very common in our yard, especially now that we have a feeder up and they are the only hummingbirds here year-round.
Male Allen’s Hummingbird courtesy of Audubon Society
Female Allen’s Hummingbird courtesy of Audubon Society
(Selasphorus sasin) – The Allen’s and Rufous are very similar, and both are migratory in our area.
Male Rufous Hummingbird courtesy of Wikipedia
Female Rufous Hummingbird courtesy of Wikipedia
(Selasphorus rufus) – It’s always a pleasant surprise to see these when they migrate through. They’re pretty bossy though and will try to dominate the feeder. While the males are easy to identify due to their orange head, the females look similar to Allen’s.
(Empidonax difficilis) – Fortunately I had my camera ready the first time I spotted one of these and was able to grab a photo and identify it. I have since seen it once again in the backyard. (spotted 8/11/2019)