Backyard Birds – Some Rare and Not-so-rare Visitors

Backyard Birds: Some Rare and Not-so-rare Visitors

Backyarders have reported and photographed various rarities this spring. Here is the latest round of reports Hugh Kingery has received.

Summer Tanager

From Littleton, Bruce Rouse sent one May 12: “I have attached the best picture I can get for now  From what I can tell it is a First Spring Male Summer Tanager. Is that correct? It is roughly 5-6 inches I would guess. The catch is, I spotted this at my house in Littleton.” He hosted it for 2-3 days.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Tom and Dominique Loucks puzzled over a sparrow in their yard. With prodding from Urling, they saw the buffy wash across the lightly streaked breast, indicating it was a Lincoln’s Sparrow en route to the high country willow carrs to breed.

Lewis's Woodpecker

In Roxborough Park, Ellie Brown photographed a Lewis’s Woodpecker, which we don’t often see in the Denver Metro area.

Indigo Bunting

Down in Larkspur, Curt Frankenfeld managed a striking picture of an Indigo Bunting. They visit sparingly in eastern Colorado so finding one always strikes chord.

Leslie Hankerson emailed, “I work at Rambler Ranch in Elizabeth and I’ve seen Crossbills several times a year for the last 5 years. I keep the birdbath clean and full. They love it. Early last week, I saw parent birds (red and yellow) and 3 juveniles with beaks starting to cross. A day or so ago, I saw a second family fly in right after the first family. This family had 2 juveniles whose beaks were still straight. So, I have 2 families of Crossbills, and there are definitely enough pine cones for them to eat.”

Nearby, in April, Karen Metz “watched a male Red Crossbill and a begging fledgling at a pine cone this morning.”

On May 4, Liz Templeton reported squirrels causing consternation (both to birds and birdwatchers). She said, “We had a lovely pair of Eurasian Collared Doves nesting in our tree. A squirrel climbed up and into their nest. Now the doves are gone. Could the squirrel have destroyed the eggs? Will they abandon their nest? Any chances they will return?” The squirrels probably won this round.

White-breasted Nuthatch

In Englewood, Yoko Wilcox watched and photographed a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches. “Then a predator (squirrel) showed up, one nuthatch watching the squirrel and the other one seeming to defend—moving right and left and spreading its wings down below. It was amazing to watch.” She continued to see the nuthatches in her yard, so they may have effectively foiled the squirrel.

Black-capped Chickadees
Photo by Gene Reetz
Black-capped Chickadees
Photo by Gene Reetz

Polly Reetz emailed, on April 17, “This morning I was watching a chickadee in our aspen trees negotiating the melting snow. This bird was grabbing catkins and shaking them, then moving on to another. Eventually it flew off with three catkins in its beak. Nesting material?  Food? I wouldn’t think they have young yet, though I think we have a pair with a helper getting ready to nest somewhere around our house.”

“On June 14 we observed about 5 chickadees in the trees and bushes in our yard. At least 2 were young birds, being fed by adults. The young ones were very quiet, only fluttering their wings slightly when the adults came over to feed them – unlike the young crows in our neighborhood, which are being obnoxiously loud and demanding.

“I observed adults go to both the seed and suet feeders, then feed the young.  They also gleaned something (insect eggs?  larvae? ) from the branches of our hackberry and then took that to the young birds too. So it would seem that we have at least one chickadee family in the immediate area, with young now fledged.”


Kathy Reiner in Lone Tree photographed a Mallard family during an “Outdoor Assignment” for Denver Audubon’s virtual Naturalist Training.

Hidden hummingbird nest along trail.
Hummingbird on nest

Barbara Spagnuolo, who works for Castle Rock, reports that Gateway Mesa Open Space has a new trail, dubbed the Legacy Trail. She and her husband, on May 29, “walked the trail to work on their bird species list and found two interesting sightings. One find was a hummingbird nest in a sapling right next to the trail only about 3 ½ feet off the ground.”

Your contributions write this column. Thanks to all who send in these intriguing reports. Send a note or post card to P.O. Box 584, Franktown, CO 80116, or Email Hugh Kingery at