Monday, March 14, 2011

Rainbow Six: Bird Feeder Edition

One of the biggest myths of wildlife-watching is that you have to be at a zoo, a state or national park, or a wildlife refuge to see anything.

But here in East Falls Church, my simple bird-feeder stocked black oil sunflower seed continues to attract a wide range of birds. In fact, a bird showed up last week that I don't think I've ever seen before. When I first saw it, my brain thought "blue jay lite" - blue back, white chest, crested head - but it was way too small and not nearly as shrill. My National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds told me it was a tufted titmouse. (Yes, I keep a bird guide under the window. If the interns at work are going to call me a dorky old man, why not own it?)

Tufted titmouse in Falls ChurchThe titmouse crept up on the feeder in a precision assault, picking off one seed at a time, always in the same fashion - from a tree across the parking lot, to my fence post, to the feeder, to the balcony upstairs to eat - pausing for only a moment at each stop to reassess the situation.

Another first-time visitor showed up the same day: A Carolina chickadee. The bird guide indicated that likely wasn't a coincidence, as the titmouse is known to hang out with other birds, maybe for protection in numbers.

So far, the species I've spotted in just the few months since I started putting out birdseed:
And of course, plenty of squirrels. The National Wildlife Federation can teach you more about making your own yard (or even a porch, patio or balcony) a friendlier place for wildlife. I wouldn't be disappointed if all you get is sparrows the first few weeks, especially if you're right in the city. But spotting even one cardinal or blue jay in the morning can make the commute to work seem a little less dreary.

UPDATE 3/15/2011: The original post referred to the second bird as a black-capped chickadee. However, I told the story to my NWF colleague Doug Inkley, who says it was much more likely a Carolina chickadee. Doug says the two birds look nearly identical, but in this region the black-capped hangs out at higher elevations (like the Appalachian Mountains) while the Carolina is at lower elevations (like Falls Church).

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