Backyard Birds – Late August Report

Backyard Birds - Late August Report

The final weeks of August brought flocks of Black-billed Magpies and Common Nighthawks to local neighborhoods, while bluebirds continued to be scarce.


In August, Black-billed Magpies started to flock up in some places. Reports came from Kevin Corwin in Centennial, Wayne Wathen in Highlands Ranch, and Gary Brower at Cherry Creek Reservoir. Kevin (Aug. 25) reported “at least 100 magpies.  They were flying west in squadrons of 2 to 8 birds, 10 – 20 seconds apart. All on the same ‘path’ through the trees. Mostly quiet, just a few calls from time to time. At the house an hour later there were about 10 magpies at the feeders and on the ground in our little townhouse yard. Annihilated the suet cake!”

Preston Sowell in Boulder noticed these flocks and commented that “every time they seemed to be feeding on grasshoppers in the grass on hillsides.”

Jared del Rosso (Centennial) said that in early August, “a notable visit from an apparent magpie family. The family sought food in my yard. Who knows what—I saw one with an earthworm. Others were in the chokecherry shrubs. But the young did the young corvid thing, exploring anything that might be food. Two tugged at a bright orange tag, still affixed by a plastic ring to a solar light. (They failed to break the plastic ring and win the cardboard tag.) Then, one found a scrap of paper and worked at it for a time, before another stole it, surveyed it, then let it be.

“My favorite moment, though, came when 4 of the magpies lined up outside the fence keeping my chickens penned in. My 4 chickens lined up inside the fence, staring back at the magpies. The stare down lasted a hilariously long time. I wish I knew what messages passed between the two species.”

Black-billed Magpie in flight
Black-billed Magpie | Photo by Dick Vogel


On Aug. 18, Jared saw several flocks of Common Nighthawks. “The evening began at 5:40, with 8 Nighthawks feeding over my yard and nearby. Within 90 minutes, the flock had nearly tripled in size, with 22 or so making great passes over the area. Unlike swallows, who seem to zip circles over fields, nighthawks seem to take longer, less direct routes for food. They’d come and go from my yard, disappearing for a time, then returning, it seemed, endlessly. The flock closed the evening by lowering their flights—from a good distance above the neighborhood cottonwoods and Siberian Elm to just above tree level.”


Kevin Corwin summarized the discussion of bluebirds from Bluebird Babble: “Everyone we’ve talked with during this season has said the same thing… the bluebirds did not come back in the spring in their usual numbers. We’ve talked with other groups in the states and Canadian provinces north of Colorado and they’ve had the same situation.”

For example, Leslie Halverson in Elizabeth posted this: “two sets of bluebirds showed up for less than a week, went directly to my feeders and houses, but then disappeared. We had 5-6 couples in houses the prior year.”

Other birds

On Aug. 8, Amy Law’s brother saw an immature Turkey Vulture in a Broomfield park.

In Sedalia on Aug. 29, Brenda Beatty “had a Green-tailed Towhee and a flock of Evening Grosbeaks.” Urling and I briefly hosted two immature Evening Grosbeaks on Aug. 16.

Levin spotted a female Bullock’s Oriole briefly on Aug. 29. And in Aurora on Sept. 4, Jim Connell enjoyed watching a Cooper’s Hawk, sitting still for a half hour.

Randy Nelson in Parker emailed Sept. 4, “Over the last 2 weeks, we have seen several Wilson’s Warblers along with a bright Yellow Warbler, both near the small patio fountains.” Bill Eden photographed a Wilson’s bathing in a pool in his suburban Denver yard. Bill has turned his ordinary Denver backyard into an impressive native plant bird haven.

Randy also mentioned “Western Wood-Pewee flying sorties from the top of a Russian olive tree for the last two weeks, mostly at dusk and a female Western Tanager. Finally, a Mourning Dove briefly perched here a few days ago. We rarely see them in the yard lately as the Eurasian Collared-Doves have taken over.”

In Ken Caryl, David Suddjian monitors Common Poorwills. He posted a note on Aug. 28: “With about 3.5 weeks until the Common Poorwill departs the Front Range foothills to go south, poorwills are pretty plentiful right now. On an 8/28 evening DFO field trip to the hogbacks at Ken Caryl Ranch we heard at least 17 poorwills calling over a half-mile walk, and I heard 14 calling last evening 8/29 at another half-mile segment in the hogbacks.”

Turkey Vulture standing in the grass.
Turkey Vulture | Photo by Amy Law’s brother
A pair of Evening Grosbeaks eating from a bird feeder
Evening Grosbeaks | Photo by Hugh Kingery
Wilson's Warbler standing in stream
Wilson's Warbler | Photo by Bill Eden

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