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Yard Birding

posted by Tim Avery at
on Monday, July 16, 2012 

Growing up in the city (as much as you can call Salt Lake a city) I was always accustomed to having just a handful of regular bird visiting the feeders. Maybe 5-10 birds that I saw everyday, the most common yard birds. Of course over the course of a decade turning up another 60 or 70 species is not surprising. But depending on what time of year there were always those few birds. The European Starlings, House Sparrows, House Finches, American Robins, and Mourning Doves. Those were the birds. In the winter there were occasionally goldfinches, juncos, and woodpeckers. In the spring there might be warblers and waxwings. In the summer there were hummingbirds and hawks. And in the fall you might get a falcon--but were more likely to get a few finches.

Pine Siskin
When we bought our home in Sandy I knew it was a great location for birds. It was in an ancient river bottom, a natural kind of funnel from the mountains into the valley. There is a stream a few blocks away--the trees in the neighborhood are mature. Oaks line hillsides at the top of the street, and less less than 2 miles away are those mountains. It's a pretty good location for yard birding. I expect between 10-15 species most days--and have had a handful of 20+ days. I don't think I ever had a 20 species day growing up at my parents house. The quality of birds has been amazing as well--especially the hummingbirds.

The 2nd Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
we had at the feeders.

But not just the hummingbirds--the finches, the hawks, warblers, and woodpeckers too. In just a couple years we have had as many species as I had in 10+ years in Sugarhouse. I know of better yards, and way better places to live for yard birding--but for the "city" it ain't bad. Some days I just enjoy sitting in my office with my windows open watching the feeders, and listening to the activity outside. Yesterday was one of those mornings, and the pictures below are a handful of the birds that joined the party.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Bullock's Oriole

Mourning Dove

Some days you don't even have to leave the house for some real good birding. Feel free to share some of your great yard birding memories or stories in the comments section below.

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Anonymous Sarah said...

I envy having yard birds. Living in an apartment I'm lucky to get more than 10 species a month.

July 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Sarah: I know how you feel. I think the entire time I lived in Indiana (8 months) I had maybe 20 species of bird from my balcony. Having a yard, feeders, trees, and a good location all play into "yard birding" quality.

July 17, 2012 at 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Margaret Sloan said...

Watching birds at my backyard feeder has always been very relaxing, and I always enjoyed the handful of regulars that showed up. When I retired, I took classes at our local Audubon Society and soon became a serious birder. I quickly learned to really see birds, not just at the feeder but in the creek behind my home, flying overhead, and in the shrubs and trees. My home in the Houston area is in a subdivision about 40 miles from the Gulf. In May, I experienced a birder's dream day--a grounding of migrants in my backyard. The migrants had already come onshore when they encountered a "norther." I awakened to a chorus of birds! My birding buddies and I spent the weekend in awe of the visitors. The species count for the weekend was 71 including 16 warbler species, orioles, tanagers, vireos, flycatchers and more. How amazing that my best birding day of the year was in my own backyard!

July 17, 2012 at 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was surprised to see you list a ruby throated humingbird. According to Sibley, they are only found east of the mississippi.

July 26, 2012 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@anonymous yes Ruby-throated Hummingbird are TYPICALLY found east of the Rockies but vagrants are found to the west annually. The vast majority of migrants--eastern or western have individuals that for various reasons end up out of their normal range.

As for the birds I've had, both were photographed and documented well with several important characteristics present to help separate them from the more common Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Also as an FYI, field guide maps are just a general guideline to the EXPECTED range of a species. Many of these maps are far from complete, wholly accurate, up to date, etc. The truth be told there is a lot about species ranges, migration, etc that is still unknown and being discovered as we go.

July 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM  
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