Posted by Bob Lefebvre
The Pine Siskin is a familiar, tame little finch. They are often very approachable, enough to see their beautiful feathers. They are quite noisy, even while they feast on niger, black oil sunflower seeds and the seeds of pinecones, among other foods. Pine Siskins are common in Calgary and can be seen year round.
The Pine Siskin is a very curious bird; the bird in this photo is curious as to who is bothering him.
Posted by Matthew Sim
For the past two weeks I’ve had two Eurasian Collared-Doves, likely a breeding pair, coming to my yard every day. They feed on the lawn (lately, on the snow), eating sunflower seeds that have spilled from the bird feeders.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are not yet a common backyard bird in Calgary, but that may change. They were introduced to North America in the Bahamas in the 1970’s and have rapidly spread across the continent. I think they were first reported in Alberta in 2003, and in Calgary in 2004. I know of two pairs that have nested in the SE quadrant of the city in each of the past two years: one pair in Shepard, and another in Dover.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are pale buff-grey to pinkish-grey in colour. They are about the same length as a Rock Pigeon, but slimmer and with a longer tail. On the back of their neck they have a narrow black half-ring, edged with white, from which they get their name.
This preening bird shows off its black collar…
Eurasian Collared-Doves are becoming more common in the rural areas south and east of Calgary, and are being seen regularly in the city as well. They seem to occupy an ecological niche between that of the Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove. It remains to be seen if they will become a common backyard bird like the Rock Pigeon, or primarily a rural one like the Mourning Dove. If you see any in your yard, please let Birds Calgary know!
Posted by Bob Lefebvre
At this time of year, American Tree Sparrows are moving through the Calgary area on their way north. They like to frequent brushy thickets and back yards across the city. I’ve had a pair in my yard since April 2, and I’ve seen them in many other parts of the city in the past week. These sparrows can also be seen in Calgary on their southward migration in the fall, with some of them occasionally overwintering.
American Tree Sparrows have a brownish-red cap and eyeline, and a dark spot in the centre of the breast. Despite its name (which was bestowed due to its resemblance to the European Tree Sparrow), these birds forage and nest on the ground. Their nesting areas lie north of the treeline.
They seek shelter in thick bushes…
Like many of our native sparrows, they prefer to feed on the ground…
American Tree Sparrows are a beautiful little bird with a beautiful song: one or two clear notes followed by a sweet, rapid warble. Just this week, I heard that song in my yard for the first time.
So don’t just assume that all of those little brown birds in your yard are House Sparrows and House Finches; if you look carefully, you might find that one of them is actually an American Tree Sparrow.
Posted by Bob Lefebvre
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK has proclaimed October 24 as Feed The Birds Day. It serves as a reminder of all the things we can do to help the birds through the coming winter.
We’re good at providing fast food for birds in our feeders, and this is certainly a life-saver in the cold snow-covered conditions. But what about ‘slow food?‘ There are many things you can do in your garden and yard to provide food for all wildlife.
These are just a few ideas for helping the birds along this winter. If you have other suggestions, please leave us a comment below!
Feed The Birds Day in Calgary this year was accompanied by rain, sleet and snow in the morning. I made sure all my ‘fast food’ feeders were full, and was rewarded by a yard full of Pine Siskins. These little seed eaters were everywhere, at every feeder. I don’t believe I’ve ever had that many in the yard at one time! These birds are year round visitors in Calgary, so they served as an additional reminder to remember the birds in the coming frigid months!
I have a first-year White-crowned Sparrow in my yard today. This isn’t too unusual – I usually get a few of these going through in both spring and fall. But a few years ago, before I became serious about birding, I never would have noticed this bird. It would have been lost among the dozens of House Sparrows in my yard.
One of the first things a beginning birder should do is familiarize themselves with all the common birds they see every day. For the backyard birder, this means not only birds like magpies and chickadees, which are distinctive, but also all the little brown birds which crowd the feeders every day. The vast majority of these in Calgary will be House Sparrows, and in the last few years, House Finches.