Friday, May 22, 2009

What bird is that?... Questions and answers

Question: "Hi Greg: I just posted some yard bird photos on my blog. Can you confirm if the last bird photo on the recent post is a Warbling Vireo? Thanks!"

Michele (aka NW Nature Nut)

Warbling Vireo Answer: Yes, Michele, your bird is Warbling Vireo. It is a common migrant in the Pacific NW in May. It nests in cottonwoods, ash, alders, willows along streamsides and in alder thickets in the mountains about 10-15 years following a clear cut, before the fir grows too thick. The Warbling Vireo pictured here I obtained at Calliope Crossing, Sisters, Oregon on 28 May 2005. I need a better photo.

Question: "Hello, This is being written to you to see if you would have any knowledge of what has happened to our bird population, they are all missing this spring. We have a very large back yard and put out bird feeders for our feathered friends, we feed many populations that come through our yard all seasons. We are not hearing anything about this on the news anywhere... [additional text cut] Could you please look into this as we do not have the sources that you do, some enlightenment would be very nice. Thank you,

Chuck & Chris in Oak Grove, Oregon

Answer: I'm sorry to hear that birds seem fewer in your backyard this year. Is there some severe population disaster of which you have not heard? No. At least, nothing that affects all yardbirds and that would be noticeable within just one year. Of course, your habitat (yard) constantly changes, as does the neighborhood, just like any wild place. For instance, over centuries, ponds dry up to become pastures, then savannahs, then forests. During this time the bird populations are changing ever so slightly from year to year. Weather patterns can affect where birds migrate and when, from one year to the next, so they may have skipped your yard this spring. But as for the summer residents, I cannot say why they are less common in your yard this year. I hope they come back! Please see the next Question and Answer.

Question: "Hi, This is probably a very common question. The only birds our yard seems to attract is blue jays and crows. Do you have any advice or could point me in the right direction with a link/contact? I am willing to plant anything to attract something else. We live on 1/2 acre in city limits of Salem, Oregon. Thank you!"

Amy in Salem, Oregon

Answer: Food, water, shelter.

Set up hummingbird feeders, seed feeder (tube or tray) using only black oil sunflower seeds for finches, thistle sock for goldfinches, suet block (until it gets too hot and it melts or it attracts too many starlings) for several winter species.

Set up a simple bird bath or an outdoor fountain or pond.

Plant trees and scattered deciduous and evergreen shrubs for perching and protection. Some native fruit trees are crab apples, elderberry, hawthorn, cherry. Check a local nursery for native plants.

Go to and type in: 'attracting birds to your backyard'

Here are a couple sites to get you started.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

Oregon State University Extension Service: Wildflowers that attract birds and butterflies

Send your queries about Pacific Northwest bird identification or behavior or other topics. I'll do my best to figure out what you saw. I'll do some research. Then I'll write an article to answer your question. If you have a certain question, no doubt others will, too, and appreciate knowing the answer. My goal will be to do one Q & A article each week, answering all the questions I receive that week. I'll just use your first name and city in my answers. If you send photos I will likely use them (perhaps cropping and adjusting exposure for the web) so others can see what you are seeing.

Send questions to me using this link: PNWBB Q & A

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