Tag Archives: bird

Birdie Went a-Courtin’

Love; Exciting and New

I was typing away at my computer when some unusually boisterous tweeting outside the office window grabbed my attention. There on the deck was a male house finch energetically bowing, curtsying, flashing some tail, and singing up a storm while a lady perched opposite him looked on. Because I had a mouthful of tea, I lightly whacked Joel on the side and pointed out the window so that he’d have a look.


(Gulp) “He’s courting her! That’s soooooo sweet. Look at him go! Why don’t you curtsy and sing like that when I enter a room?” I asked.

My male just chuckled. Noted.

House Finch 3 is a Crowd

 Uh, I’m trying to work here pal. 

The passionate suitor then fluttered up in the air a few inches away from her, teasing her into a game of chase.

Will You Accept this Seed?

I’ve also been watching a cardinal couple for several days now. It’s touching to observe just how much this male cares for his lady. Always a gentleman and protector, he lets her have prime seating at the feeder while he hops around to nibble on what remains scattered on the floor.

Cardinal Couple Feeding

Even after she has eaten, he passes along a cracked sunflower seed as a gesture of sire suitability .

Cardinal Couple Courtship Male Feeding Female

Sure, she can crack her own shells but it’s nice to have someone else do it from time to time, no? 

Notable Courtship Displays

Superb Bird-of-Paradise – I was the unimpressed recipient of a very similar dance given by a strange gent at a nightclub many moons ago. Just like the female in this video, I too fluttered away.

Flamingos – They move as a group like a beautifully choreographed ballet. Or a music video from the 80’s where everyone you meet while dancing down the street jumps in to join you, somehow magically knowing all the moves.

Greater Sage-Grouse – Some guys are less about the pomp and ballyhoo and more about making sure that you get a good eyeful of the size of their air sacs.

Green Thorntail Hummingbird – Considering how quickly hummingbirds deplete their energy, the length of this fella’s aerial dance is impressive. I bet he’s wondering how much longer it is going to take her to make up her mind.

African Weaver Bird – In my opinion, this guy wins the courting game hands down! He builds a HOUSE for his prospective lady! The other fellows can go take their flashy hips elsewhere.

Finch Courtship Get a Nest


For the Love of Birds or an Excuse for a Nap?

Feeling energized to get a jump on yard work, I set out before lunch to do some raking around our plantings under the deck. Seconds out the door, I heard a flurry of fluttering. My eyes immediately followed the fluttery mass towards the top of the closest tree. While the birds silently looked on, I scoped the area to see what the fuss was all about. I’m confident that it was all about this:

New Bird Nest Under Deck

Under Construction

 That little ledge isn’t exactly well hidden from (my) prying eyes but it does seem inconvenient for things with talons or grabby paws. Considering that it is only about three second’s flying time from the feeders on the deck, I can understand why they picked this spot.

I wanted to check yard work off my to-do list but I also didn’t want to discourage the builders from coming back, so I made quick work of cleanup from around just a few shrubs. While I tidied up, I found a bunch of feathers buried under leaves that I set aside in a small pile close to the nest. Literally, an early house warming gift:

feathers in the yard

I hope our guests will be pleased with this assortment. 

Since it’s the birds’ world and I’m just living in it, I wrapped up my task much sooner than planned. As far as I’m concerned, any wild birds that survived The Winter of 2013-2014 get to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.

And so just like the birds, it only took seconds for me to decide that I should flutter back to bed for a leisurely read and an afternoon nap.



This photo taken on May 8th is the final result after several teardowns. They appear to come and go from a side entry; all the branches are bunched up to the top of the “roof.” I also think there is a bit of slit somewhere in there which acts as their window.  I try to sneak peeks to figure out just how they are getting in and out but they are lightning fast.

Bird: 1 Human: 0

final nest build under deck 2014


June 10th: We are officially now on fledgling crossing alert.

baby sighting in nest under deck June 2014

Dishpan Talons

It finally dawned on me why the birds dart away more often than not when I start to wash dishes at the sink.

dish gloves make hands look like talons

No dishpan talons for me!

I am so sorry little friends! It never occurred to me that it must be confusing that the same nice lady who provides you with a bounty of seed and fresh water also employs a beast of a bird with claws of death that hover about the window from time to time, just waiting to wash a dish and make a kill.

These gloves are bad for business. Predator-free dining is a Seed n’ Feed guarantee.

I have since switched to a nice lavender-hued set of gloves. At worst it may seem that we now have a Blue-Footed Booby tending to dishes, but fear not! They primarily eat fish and don’t live anywhere near here.

Arden Refreshing Seed and Water Winter

Yes, we’re open!

Birds in Their Holiday Finery

What makes a bird lover’s holiday merry and bright? Why, feathered friends conveniently cloaked in colors befitting of the season of course! Surely these winged lovelies could coax even the most obstinate scrooge into chirping out a holiday tune or two: 

Australian King Parrot
Santa honey, there’s one more thing I really do need…the seed.  

543945045_35435391df_z King Parrot Prescott PymPhoto by: Prescott Pym

Red Crested Turaco
Red Crested Turacos were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of snail snacks danced in their heads.5744224495_aeb32a78f3_z Red Crested Turaco Anne White

Photo by: Anne White

Bay Headed Tanager
O Bay Headed Tanager, O Bay Headed Tanager!
How are thy feathers so verdant!

8767703589_f1c00b2ab5_z Bay Headed Tanager JPC Raleigh

Photo by: JPC Raleigh

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Nectar came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!4602880799_94e7892aa6_z Broad Tailed Hummingbird Pat Gaines

Photo by: Pat Gaines

Chattering Lory
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the forest
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Chattering Lory 

8336185855_f79fbfdbc3_z Chattering Lory Salis

Photo by: Salis

All photos are Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution from Flickr.

A Bird Crush On: American Goldfinch

Once I start my regular volunteer shifts at the wildlife rehabilitation center, my Saturdays get rather birdy which is exactly how I like it. While I’ve had a lot of fun this year caring for many feathered friends, I have to say that my crush for the season must go to the American Goldfinch. The center received a few nestling goldfinch in August and September, well after the usual rush of little ones that check in for care and a second chance. I recently learned that their breeding season is later than most other North American birds because it is the time of the season when fibrous seeds, used for feeding young, are produced from plants like thistle and milkweed.

I’ve always thought that goldfinch are as pretty and fun to watch as most other birds at our feeders, but now that I’ve been able to care for some little ones, I’ve fallen hopelessly beak over talons for these squeaky little golden nuggets.

female American Goldfinch nestling orphan

Orphaned young female American Goldfinch nestling.

As this one female goldfinch started to learn to feed herself and was getting weaned off of hand-feeding, I discovered that she liked the food placed upon branches. She would gape like she wanted to be fed, but would then back away, like her instincts were kicking in at the same time, telling her that she should be feeding herself. Following her lead, I would place little bits of food on the branch. I’m not a bird expert, but judging by her reaction, food that would magically appear on a branch just millimeters from her beak seemed to go over exceptionally well.

female American Goldfinch fledgling orphan

Eating on her own and perching pretty!

I’m simply delighted that this sweet little bird, the only survivor from a fallen nest, was recently released.

There is a sibling trio of orphaned goldfinch that will be ready for release soon as well. Like any other group of siblings, this bird bunch has squabbled, jumped on each other, fought over food, knocked each other over, chatted about who-knows-what, learned from one another, and become bothered when temporarily separated.

American Goldfinch sibling orphans

Thick as thieves.

As the trees start to display their autumn colors, as falling temperatures coax us in to fuzzy sweatshirts, and as marketers wheedle us in to purchasing pumpkin-inspired everything, I find that my eye has perhaps wandered a bit here and there towards a devilishly handsome crow that is recovering from a wing injury. Is this popular symbol of the season already vying for position as my new corvid crush?

PLEASE consult a licensed wildlife rehabilitator any time you find orphaned wildlife. Providing the wrong food or feeding improperly can lead to the death of that bird or animal.

Intake Bird #106

Joel called me some time after lunch to ask what he should do about a little robin that was hopping around a parking lot where he was working. I asked him why he was asking. He explained that he was in a large parking lot hosting an outdoor event and had been watching a little robin that had been running around the lot for some time.

“It has been aimlessly hopping against the brick building and against windows for a few hours, gaping at anything that comes near it.”
“Has any parent been trying to feed it?”
“You haven’t seen any bigger robin hovering around it?”
“Does it seem like he’s trying to feed himself?”
“Do you see a nest?”
“Can you place him in or by the nest?”

This is when I got a very detailed description of the setting, represented by the graphic below. The screen shot is the lot where Joel was working. The arrows represent everywhere the bird was hopping, including making his way towards a busy four lane road. The dashed yellow line represents 10 foot-tall fencing around spindly trees at least 30 feet high where Joel saw two nests. He said that placing the bird at the bottom of the trees would mean thrusting it through the fence and leaving it on trash-littered gravel.

where baby bird was found

I asked Joel to place him in a box by the trees (represented by the red box) where he could keep watch for the parents just in case they found all those scary big blue stick figures too intimidating. Another hour came and went with no parental care.

“Bring him home.”

Around 7:00 that evening, Joel walked quietly through the kitchen from the garage and gently handed over the box. I pulled back two of the four flaps and saw an older nestling/young fledgling-aged American robin on a branch snoozing away with his head tucked under his wing. I fixed up a nice little nest for our new house guest by lining a small plastic bowl with tissues and placing him in a towel-covered enclosure so that he could rest safely, comfortably, and quietly for the evening.

orphaned baby robin guest

Our little guest’s next trip was to the wildlife center. In three years, this was my first time bringing in a patient. He became bird intake #106. Not only did I get to care for him during my shift, it hadn’t been more than a few hours before he was joined by another orphaned robin that also needed a little extra time before braving the world on his own.

Over time, he was joined by several more robins and I got to continue caring for them all on my shifts. I was happy for him because it meant that he and the other birds were learning how to be robins.

I was able to be there and take photos on the day of release. “Our” robin was released with six others on a beautiful, sunny day to an area thick with trees and vegetation.

robin release peeking out

They were hesitant at first to make a move when the door was opened. Within about a minute, one robin jumped up and took flight while the others cautiously peered out. Slowly but surely, one by one, the others came out of the cage and took flight up and in to the nearby trees.

robin release peeking around a little further

The American robin is a common bird across the North American continent. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “…only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.”

Were the car trips, daily feedings, and daily cage cleanings for this one little common bird that odds say won’t live that long even worth the effort?

Robins show us how to enjoy a bath like it is Christmas morning. They assure us that winter is  over and spring has once again arrived. They tell us that it’s time to wake up with their dawn song. Some of their hearty and spirited calls sound like laughter, as if they just heard a really good joke. They pump their tails in time to their chirping, and that’s just kind of cool.

Aside from my own selfish ideas about their value (read: entertainment), I can only assume that if the birds got a vote, they too would raise a wing to say, “Yes, it’s worth the effort.”

released robin in the tree

Free as a Bird

My article as published in “Snitch’s Scoops” distributed by the Fox Valley Wildlife Center.
feather 1 gray

Perhaps because it was the first bird to fascinate me as a child, I was instantly enchanted with a sparsely-feathered cardinal nestling that checked in to the center during my shift.

Male Cardinal Nestling Incubator

Baby bird in his incubator.

Not only was it late in the season to receive a baby bird, we could only wonder why the little fellow was found out of his nest and without his parent’s care.

I was honored to help the team provide for his needs and watch him grow over time in to a lively, healthy bird. As such, I got the privilege of assisting in the release of this cardinal to his “forever home” back out in nature.

Male Cardinal Soft Release

Cardinal in the soft release flight enclosure.

The day had come (late October 2012) for the cardinal to be released. Selfishly, it broke my heart to have to say goodbye but this is what we all worked so hard to do-give this little bird a second chance. The weather was mild and the wind had disappeared. It was a beautiful day for release. The container housing the bird was placed not far from sunflower seeds and a tray of water. Happy tears rained down as the lid was lifted. The cardinal quickly fluttered out of the box and on to the deck where he looked around a bit before taking off into an evergreen in our backyard. While we couldn’t see him, we heard the unmistakable cardinal call from that tree for a couple of hours. After that, he went silent. We were left to simply wonder if he was still there or if he had left.

Male Cardinal Release and Final Look Before Leaving

Exchanging goodbyes

Around noon the following day, I was ecstatic to spot him on the patio hopping around and pecking at seeds. Wow, was I ever treated to the most magnificent private cardinal show! I watched him chase after a leaf, shoo away a finch, and peck for seeds in the cracks of the walkway and in the mulch. He frequently zoomed around the yard and made little pit stops in the grass, but always came back to the seeds. The behavior seemed almost playful, and it went on for well over an hour. At one point, I noticed him fly towards the fence but stop just short of going past it. My impression was that perhaps he didn’t know he had his freedom to fly beyond the fence and as far as his wings could take him.

Male Cardinal Day After Release

About an hour later, I noticed him hopping around in the grass under the fence. I knew the time had arrived for him to continue to explore his new world. In a matter of seconds, he swooped through the fence, zipped across the neighbor’s yard, and flew around the corner until I couldn’t see him any longer.

Thanks to the center, this once helpless little bird would grow to discover that he could fly as far as his wings could take him.