The Northern Flickers are back in northwest Oregon. After their normal brief early summer absence, single birds are now beginning to be seen in the area. This is the time of year when they tend to spend more time on the ground feeding on ants, however occasionally they will still be seen visiting feeders.
While the flicker in this image may look to be either injured or suffering from a severe crick in the neck, it is actually perfectly fine. Birds have more vertebrae in their necks than most other animals – from thirteen to twenty-five depending upon the species in question (humans only have seven). As each vertebra in the neck of most any animal can only be rotated a certain limited amount, having more of these bones in the neck allows for greater rotation of the head. Having so many vertebrae in their necks allows birds to twist their heads quite far around, completely backward at times, in order to use their beaks to preen hard-to-reach feathers.
One of the benefits of having a Wingscapes BirdCam is that every so often it records a bird that is a bit of a mystery. Not just a bird that isn’t readily identifiable but that is not quite like anything found in the field guides either.
Take, for example, this Dark-eyed Junco image I downloaded from the BirdCam in my backyard in Scappoose, Oregon this past February. I like the image so I cropped it and filed it with my other junco images. However because I include it in a slideshow that is run at the Wingscapes display at the many events which the Wingscapes team attends, quite a number of people have seen it. Of those who have, the number one question has been “What is that bird?”
This has caused me to take a closer look at it. Indeed, it doesn’t quite match any single variation of Dark-eyed Junco. It lacks the white outermost tail feathers. The dark hood of the most common junco where the image was recorded, the “Oregon” form, is divided by a brown streak. The face bears some faint brown patterning reminiscent of a Song Sparrow. And most of all, it is far, far too brown (the same brown as the local Song Sparrows).
More than one visitor to the Wingscapes booth at birding events has asked if juncos hybridize with Song Sparrows. A quick check of the literature shows that such things have been recorded. Then again, it might just be a lesser recognized plumage and state of development of an average Dark-eyed Junco. Comments would be most welcomed.
As June began to wane toward July, I’d been noticing that the iron hook by which I hang the nut feeder from our deck was even more popular than the contents of the nut feeder itself. So I repositioned the Wingscapes BirdCam from focusing on the feeder to focusing on the top curve of the iron feeder hook where most of the birds seemed to prefer to perch. I captured a number of great images, often of birds not known for visiting nut feeders. However the best of the lot was this one.
This is a juvenile Steller’s Jay. What will eventually be jet black in his plumage is still a dark, ashy grey color. But the most noticeable difference between what the bird looks like now and what it will look like as an adult is the crest on its head. Instead of the debonair, back-sloping crest of an adult, the juveniles of the species have a more 80’s punk-type crest.
Back in the latter half of June, the regular Rufous Hummingbirds so commonly seen at our feeders in Scappoose, Oregon were joined by a somewhat larger male Anna’s Hummingbird. The Anna’s male is characterized by a gorget (the colorful and flashy feathers that cover the throat area of the males of many of the different hummingbird species seen in the U.S.) the color of which extends all the way over the face and onto the top of the head.
In full sunlight the colorful facial feathers of the male Anna’s Hummingbird can be so bright that it appears to glow with a vivid dark pink to reddish purple light. However, as can be seen in the image captured by the BirdCam while the bird was feeding and not in direct sunlight, the feathers are actually a dark reddish-brown. The bright color is caused by their being iridescent and highly diffractive of certain wavelengths of visible light. More interesting information about hummingbirds and how to photograph them using the Wingscapes BirdCam can be found in “All About Hummingbirds.”
Regular contributors to the Wingscapes BirdCam Life List – Shirley and Wayne from Cottonwood, Arizona – were recently featured in the Verde Independent newspaper along with many of their BirdCam photos of the Greater Roadrunner pair nesting on their property. We were very glad to read in the article that Shirley and Wayne continue to be “always ‘delighted and surprised’ at the pictures the camera takes” just as we’re always delighted and surprised with each new species they record and add to the Wingscapes BirdCam Life List.
Keep up the great work Shirley and Wayne!
By far, the most commonly seen bird visiting the feeder set up by the representatives of Swarovski Optik at the ABA convention at Snowbird were the Pine Siskins. They dominated the feeder and while generally content to sit and much the hulled sunflower hearts for long periods of time, they could also become quite feisty when a newcomer approached. In this image, an established feeder denizen defends against an approaching newcomer. If you look closely you can even see the tongue of the defender extended from his open beak as he lets out a loud, shrill warning call.
One of the points to always remember when watching birds in a montane area such as Snowbird, Utah, is that although the birds to be found there are quite interesting, beautiful, and not always easily seen at lower elevations, there are also fewer species in general to be observed. One of the species that is regularly seen is the Cassin’s Finch. The males are absolutely stunning in their raspberry red-headed plumage.
Occasionally, a camera shy Pine Siskin perched alongside a more colorful Cassin’s Finch would be digitally captured by the BirdCam.