Backyard Birds – Bluebird Update and Spring Sightings

Backyard Birds - Bluebird Update and Spring Sightings

Bluebird sightings may be looking up, plus a few other spring sightings in this edition of Backyard Birds with Hugh Kingery.

After I wrote the blog about the dearth of Bluebirds, Urling and I have started to see them daily on our walks around our Franktown patch.

We see small flocks – three to fifteen of Westerns and fewer Mountains, but they have arrived. We hope that this bodes well for the breeding season, though we haven’t seen any that have commandeered a bluebird box.

Leslie Hankerson emailed on April 17 that she has “seen up to six Western Bluebirds at my feeder at once: four males and two females. I’m not sure if they’re returnees or just passing through. I guessed that they’re finding my feeder quickly as a sign of last year’s birds returning, but I think the original group may have moved on after filling their bellies for a day or more. The birds here today are approaching from a different part of the yard and in groups of two.

“Starlings are driving me nuts eating all the food I put out for the bluebirds. Since they’re similar in size I’ve not been able to block the starlings.

“I’ve also noticed a strange association of Pygmy Nuthatches and Western Bluebirds. I have the nuthatches year-round, but some seem to stay close to the bluebirds and drink and feed alongside them. Is it a version of a feeding flock?”

John Ealy reported the first hummingbird, a Broad-tailed at one of his Roxborough feeders at 5:40 p.m. on April 11. On April 14, Jill Holden, nearby, saw her first one at 6 p.m. “He has been back at least a couple more times since then. I hope he will stick around and get plenty of calories from the feeder, at least until the snowy weather passes, and I would like for him to stay at my house for the summer. It seems like often the first hummingbirds coming through continue on and then it is those that come later that stay for nesting somewhere in the area.”

Rosanne Juergens emailed on April 21, “The Common Raven that we often see at South Glenn shopping center was feeding two babies today. For anyone interested, the nest is above the west doors of Macy’s.”

Steve Packard admired his first American Goldfinch of the season on March 31.

Ellen Chilikas photographed three Buffleheads at the Littleton Golf Course, also on March 31.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Photo by Steve Packard.
Group of buffleheads on water
Buffleheads. Photo by Ellen Chilikas.

Robert Sanchez passed on a study published by the Royal Society that “details how noise has changed bird habitat, particularly in Pinon Pine forests in New Mexico adjacent to fossil fuel drilling sites. The noise drove away key bird species, particularly the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, thus reducing seed dispersion for the Pinon Pine, leading to replacement of Pinons with other plant species.” The study found similar effects on Western Bluebirds.

The noise acts as an ‘acoustic blanket,’ according to the study, which muffles cues that birds rely on to detect predators, competitors, and their own species. The survey found 75% fewer seedlings near noisy natural gas well sites than near quieter ones. Noise levels near the New Mexico natural gas well are similar to those of busy roads and streets, which run 50 to 70 decibels on average — very loud even for humans. It suggests noise probably affects plants in these areas, as well.

Removal of the noise doesn’t necessarily immediately result in a recovery of ecological function. Twelve years later, seedlings at previously noisy sites that had since quieted down still hadn’t returned.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay in grass
Woodhouses' Scrub-Jay. Photo by Hugh Kingery.
Landscape of Pinon Pine habitat
Pinon Pine habitat, near Royal Gorge. Photo by Hugh Kingery.

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