river talk

Backyard birding

By SANDY LONG
Posted 5/13/20

Being largely housebound due to self-quarantining can have its benefits. In this case, I had the unexpected opportunity to observe migrating birds I might have missed had I not been sheltering in …

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river talk

Backyard birding

Posted

Being largely housebound due to self-quarantining can have its benefits. In this case, I had the unexpected opportunity to observe migrating birds I might have missed had I not been sheltering in place when two feathered travelers, unrestricted by COVID-19, found their way to my backyard recently.

Both bore speckled breasts and were somewhat cinnamon-colored. As they pecked through the leaf litter, I trained my camera on each and discovered they were two species that don’t typically turn up in my yard.

Later, I visited a favorite online resource for information on birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO). The site offers abundant information ranging from identification tips to educational courses and links to live cams (www.allaboutbirds.org/cams) that will thrill one’s nature-loving soul. (Do consider supporting their work with a donation today.)

The smaller of my backyard birds was a hermit thrush. This perky upright bird was busily hopping around while foraging through the leaf litter for insects. According to the CLO, this species rarely visits backyards, however, during migration they might be spotted foraging in yards with trees or shrubs—a good reason to favor a forested backyard!

Hermit thrushes also occasionally practice “foot quivering” by shaking bits of grass with their feet in search of insects or to relax after seeing a flying predator. Best of all is their hauntingly beautiful but melancholy song, often delivered at dusk. (Listen at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/hermit_thrush/sounds.)

The larger bird sported the telltale yellow eye and sturdy proportions of a brown thrasher. Two black and white wing bars are another marker of this robin-sized species. Like catbirds and mockingbirds, brown thrashers are mimics capable of vigorous repertoires of more than 1,100 song types. (Hear several at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brown_thrasher/sounds).

This species favors scrubby woodland edges and tangled shrubbery. Keep a respectful distance from their nests (typically built low in a tree or shrub) as the brown thrasher has a reputation for being an aggressive defender, sometimes striking those who unwittingly wander close. They primarily eat insects and some berries, seeds and nuts, sweeping their bills in a sideways motion through leaf litter and loose soil.

Keep watch for all the natural wonders sharing your home habitat. You might be surprised to discover who is passing through, who is moving in and who has been there all along.

birds, backyard

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