Friday, April 03, 2009


The just released report, State of the Birds is a beautiful report that catalogues the alarming decline of bird species in the United States. There are a few exceptions, on a habitat basis, such as waterfowl and other species associated with wetlands, for which conservation efforts seem to be helping.

Here at our very urban home we put out a seed mix and suet cake for our fine feathered friends, and a few furry ones as well. If you know me at all, you have guessed that I keep a list, and here it is:

Oregon junco*
Scrub jay*
Black-capped chickadee*
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Western tanager
Pine siskin
Audubons warbler
House finch
House sparrow*
American goldfinch
Anna's hummingbird
American robin
American crow
Northern flicker
Downy woodpecker
European starling*
Sharp-shinned hawk
(overhead: Red-tailed hawk, Great blue heron)

* these are the most frequently seen, and are here throughout the year. Some are occasional seasonal visitors. The Sharp-shinned hawk was heard before it was seen - a bone-crunching sound - it was sitting on the back fence eating a small bird (a starling, we hope).

This isn't a huge list of species by any means, but it's many more than we thought we'd see here after moving from a more forested neighborhood a few years ago.

And oh yes, the furry visitors: some big red squirrels eat a major share of the seed. There was also a young opossum walking along the top of the back fence one evening. And our neighbors fought a battle with raccoons who came into their yard at night and rolled up the newly placed grass sod to get at the worms and bugs underneath.

I've sometimes wondered if feeding the birds is a good thing or not; maybe we shouldn't make the birds dependent on us for their food, you now, let nature be nature. But, on the other hand, this neighborhood used to be forest, and humans are part of nature, so feeding them is a good thing. It's hard to imagine a world without birds.

1 comment:

  1. Is there anything better than the sound of bird song in the spring?

    Unfortunately, pet cats are a major reason for bird decline. One way to combat this is to restrict cats to the indoors or simply put a bell on their collar. Here's a link to more info on this issue:

    You mentioned raccoons in your post - I read in the UK papers a couple of weeks ago that, shock! a woman had seen a raccoon in her backyard! I guess raccoons are not so common in the UK if a sighting makes the national papers. Or maybe it was just a slow news day!