Backyard Birds – December Report

Backyard Birds - November Report

A wood duck, his apple, and more!

Courtney James emailed, on Nov. 19, “Since October 30 I have been seeing a single male Wood Duck in a neighborhood creek near my house in Lakewood. This is a creek where in six years I have never noticed anything but Mallards, although I now wonder if my complacency caused me to overlook some other visitors.

One day I witnessed a particularly interesting interaction between the Wood Duck and the Mallards. The Wood Duck found an apple floating in the creek and kept pecking at his prize, until a male Mallard approached. The Wood Duck immediately yielded to the larger Mallard, and soon other Mallards arrived on the scene. The Wood Duck would attempt to steal or defend his apple from the female Mallards, but never from the males. Eventually he lost out entirely and the apple was surrounded by a gang of hungry Mallards.”

Wood Duck by Dick Vogel

On Nov. 25, Doug Ward sent this message: “We had a surprise, and very late, Lincoln’s Sparrow show up in our yard today (Athmar Park neighborhood, SW Denver. This guy or gal has an injured right eye, though otherwise seems healthy. In addition to our new visitor, the adult White-throated Sparrow which showed up a couple of weeks ago is still around and generally pretty cooperative.”

In mid-November, Kevin Corwin hosted a Lincoln’s Sparrow in his Centennial town home lot.

From Franktown, also on Nov. 25, Karen Metz ruminated “I saw a male towhee here yesterday that lacked white spots. He wasn’t hanging out with the Spotted Towhees just then. I will look for him today and hope he holds still for a photo, as he could be an Eastern Towhee.” Urling and I did see an Eastern Towhee 10-15 years ago in the gully next to our house. Karen decided that hers probably ranked as an Eastern.

She added, “This isn’t as populous a November here for Spotted Towhees as usual. I have never seen more than 5 males and 1 female at any time this season, after a very successful breeding season here.” Among the many birds that she sees, “more Pygmy Nuthatches than I can (or dare to) count: 2 dozen are, however, a snap to count and I think the population must be more like 3-4 dozen. Recent Accipiters have included all species: adult female and juvenile male Sharp-shinned Hawks, occasional Cooper’s (after fledging 2 young here last summer), and a juvenile female Northern Goshawk that perched outside my kitchen window Nov. 2.”

Spotted Towhee by Jerry Kirshenbaum
Pygmy Nuthatch by Bill Schmoker

Kevin Corwin distributed summaries of the Colorado Bluebird nest monitoring project for this year and last. They show a striking drop in bluebird numbers. In 2021, Mountain Bluebirds fledged 536 young – only half of last year’s count; Westerns fledged 1169 young, 61% of the 2020 count. In contrast, chickadees increased impressively: Mountains from 82 to 135 (65% increase) and Black-capped from 13 to 23. Pygmy Nuthatches burgeoned from 43 in 2020 to 88 this year – a 105% increase, and White-breasted increased 42%, from 43 to 61 fledglings.

Jill Freeman told us of some unusual tenants on the Cherokee Ranch trail in Douglas County: Doug and Jane Forster found, in two different boxes, nesting Rough-winged Swallows – the first time I’ve heard of them ever using next boxes.

If you have next boxes, or if you would like to work on a box monitoring route, contact Kevin at and to get started.

Western Bluebird by Gina Gerken
Mountain Bluebird young by Tim Deger
Mountain Bluebird nest by Jill Holden

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