Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Birds At My Feeders, a GBBC Update

The cold and snow brought throngs of hungry birds to the feeders. I thought I wouldn't get to count many birds since I stayed home almost all day Friday, but to my surprise a Pine Siskin showed up with the Lesser Goldfinches. Then, today he brought back a buddy, so I added 2 Pine Siskins to my Great Backyard Bird Count today. But the surprises didn't end there. Can you tell what bird this is?

I took numerous photos, checked numerous bird guides and websites....

Notice the buffy streaked breast, the eye ring, and the gray eyebrow?

The conclusion? A Lincoln's sparrow!

I was enjoying watching this little guy and shooting his photo when a male House Sparrow flew into the yard and landed right near him. He flew at the Lincoln's with beak and claws and drove the poor bird away. The house sparrow was much bigger than the Lincoln's, to my surprise. Though I don't have the same problem with them as Mary does, I do have a few house sparrows around. The most I've seen at one time is probably about 5 or 6, but I just read Amy's post on Twelve Acres about live trapping them and humanly disposing of them. I didn't know what to think of her post but Susan Gets Native commented that if you ever saw a house sparrow attack a bluebird you would change your mind about feeling sorry for them. Well, I may just be changing mine.


Amy said...

Kathie, I'm glad you got to see for yourself just how vicious they are. They aren't sparrows, actually, but weaver finches. They have large, powerful beaks that are very good at pecking holes in blue bird and tree swallow skulls. If you read the articles I linked to in my post, you can find more information about them.

My grandpa taught me to treat all animals gently, including those rare times when you have to dispatch one. There is a very painless and efficient way to dispatch a bird that I will share with anyone who wants to email me for instructions. My grandpa taught me the method when I was very young and I am convinced it is the most humane way.

I would encourage any who have bird boxes mounted on their property to monitor them and keep them sparrow-free so that our natives have a better chance of successfully raising their young.

Mary said...


Now that's a rare find! Lucky you to see a Lincoln's Sparrow!!!!

Regarding HOSP, they just started visiting my feeders a few months ago. I have six. But I'm afraid I'll have much more as time goes on. I haven't noticed aggressive behavior yet, as they are the least minority. This morning I saw something that upset me very much, though... There's a nest up in the corner of my front porch. I made it for Barn Swallows (a long story). For the past week, I'v seen a Carolina Wren bedding down at night. Until today when I saw a male house sparrow foraging around in it. I will be monitoring them for a while...and destroy every nest they make.

You are having a great count! I've submitted a few counts this weekend, too. I enjoyed it.

NW Nature Nut said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll check back to see your updates. You have beautiful photos. I've been to Tuscon a couple of times and had a lot of fun seeing the birds you have there.

Larry said...

I was hoping to see a Pine Siskin this winter but haven't yet.-

I don't have a problem with people dispatching House Sparrows in order to protect bluebirds but I do sometimes wonder something.

Suppose House sparrows were native and Eastern Bluebirds were introduced.-let's say that the bluebirds were agressive towards the House Sparrows in going after nesting cavities.-Would people be dispatching the bluebirds? I don't know the answer but it's an interesting thought to ponder.

Larry said...

Oh yeah-congratulations on the Lincoln's Sparrow!

Kathie Brown said...

Amy, while I know that house sparrows are really weaver finches I had not personally witnessed their aggressive behavior. But, I have to say, all birds are aggressive in one way or another. I saw a house finch trying to kill another house finch in my feeder one day. I see mourning doves chase away finches, gila woodpeckers chase away doves, and curved-billed thrashers chase away everyone else. The problem with the house sparrows appears to be their tendency to take over the nesting cavities of native species, thereby displacing them and not allowing them to reproduce. Larry's question is interesting because we are all drawn to the beauty of bluebirds. If the tables were turned, would we still feel the same way? I don't know. People have fought pretty hard to save the parrots or parakeets in San Francisco, but I don't like to think of a world without bluebirds.

Mary, so glad you counted this weekend. I feel like by participating in the GBBC I am adding to a body of knowledge that will exist long after I'm gone. Who knows how the world will change or what impact this small effort will have on the future of wild species. I'm sure Amy and Susan will cheer you on in your house sparrow nest destroying. I hope your barn swallows will come back. Haven't I read some posts about them on your Blog?

NW Nature Nut--love the name! Glad you stopped by to visit. I'll be back to visit you soon!

Larry, always nice to see you. You raise an interesting question, for we humans are greatly affected by beauty and cuteness. One of my favorite birds, the brown creeper, isn't so pretty but it is awfully cute (in my opinion). House sparrows are also cute, but not as cute or pretty as bluebirds. Is there really a solution to this problem? And, thank you for the congratulations!