Backyard Birds – 2021 Beginnings

Backyard Birds - 2021 Beginnings

2021 has provide us all with a fantastic selection of birds. Here are your sightings, as reported to Hugh Kingery.

Patty Echelmeyer (Wheat Ridge) puts out a bowl of water for the birds. On Dec. 26, a Hermit Thrush came into her yard; it perched on the twig of a bush and pumped its tail 2-3 time. Then it came to the water along with a Townsend’s Solitaire – a bird she doesn’t often see. They both came again the next morning, in tandem, both to drink from the water bowl again.

Barbara Spaguolo emailed, “Just last week as I was walking my dog in my Highlands Ranch neighborhood, I heard the distinct whistle from one that I saw perched atop a large pine. Been in this house for 13 years and this was the first time ever hearing this bird around here! Not super noteworthy overall, but definitely was for me and my ‘neighborhood list’.”

Urling and I see solitaires regularly – yesterday we counted 8 around our house. Others see them occasionally: Bill Eden in Denver, Betty Glass in Littleton, George Mayfield in Wheat Ridge.

A friend of Karen Metz sent photos of a female Hairy Woodpecker that has brown, not black, primary and tail feathers. They wondered, “Might this be a characteristic of too little melanin or excess of carotenoids or another substance?”

Tony Leukering explained otherwise: “This is surprisingly common in woodpeckers. I’ve banded two or three like that and seen many more. From the birds in hand, it seems obvious that it’s a fading problem, as only the parts of the primaries that extend beyond the tertials when the wings are folded get pale like that.”

Paz emailed about crows: “This year the volume of birds is crazy-heavy.  The roosts are all over, from City Park to Uptown to Cap Hill – – all over, seemingly random locales.  You can tell where they roost though by the unreal amount of bird droppings covering the sidewalks, literally covering.

If interested, I walked downtown yesterday, and the droppings were especially heavy at the 3-way corner of 20th St, California St, and N. Broadway – on the side of the street by the Stout Street Children’s Center.

Two observers reported Northern Goshawks! Betty Glass in Littleton and Cindy Valentine in Castle Rock—hers probably a female due to its large size. Betty also sees an Eastern Screech-Owl as well as her regular Great Horneds.

Emily Hertz spotted two Red-tailed Hawks on a post near the Audubon office; perhaps one of the ‘babies’ that hatched last year. And Ellie Brown saw a pair of Bald Eagles near a nest where they have attempted to breed (and failed) for the past two years.

Through the winter, a Fox Sparrow has come in with juncos to feed on millet that Urling spreads on the ground. We see it 4-5 times a week, usually for only a minute or two, and not at the same time each day. It boasts quite strong reddish markings; it ignores our invitation to spend more time and come more regularly.

Our daughter Kate gave us as a Christmas present some ‘seed packets’ – suet packed with seeds and shaped into stars or trees. When Urling put one on a seed tray, nothing ate it. But when we hung them on a cottonwood branch, chickadees and nuthatches came to peck on them. They pecked them down until the ribbon that held them separated from the rest of the packet and they tumbled to the ground.

Around New Year’s Day, several rarities graced yards in the Aurora/Cherry Creek Park area. Joey saw a Northern Cardinal, a female. Art Hudak snapped a picture of a Golden-crowned Sparrow. Deb Hebblewhite pictured a Harris’s Sparrow.

Our neighbor, Tim Deger, watched a coyote stalk a flock of Wild Turkeys. Turkeys run rampant in our area; we’ve counted up to 80 along our one-mile road.

National Audubon sponsors a project called Climate Watch. Observers pick 12 stops within a particular square and then in one day, once in winter, once in early summer, visit each stop for 5 minutes and count all the birds that they see and hear. They target several species groups – nuthatches, goldfinches, bluebirds, and towhees, but ask you to report everything you see. We conduct one near our home and find nuthatches at most stops in winter, bluebirds at most in summer.

Betty Glass “did the Audubon Climate Watch survey in Littleton and for the first time ever we had Bluebirds – incredibly Eastern Bluebirds!  How strange; they were in a neighborhood close to Columbine High School.”

If you’d like to try this, contact Tracy Rackauskas to see where you could conduct a count next summer.

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 80116, or Email Hugh Kingery at