2012: The Year in Birds (Part II)

Since my head may be about to explode as a result of watching cable news and reading political blogs, this seems like a good time to work on the second installment of 2012: The Year in Birds.

A summary of the year would not be complete without mentioning the wild parrots in my neighborhood, though I’ve written about them before. Presumably, they are the descendants of escaped pets. They live in the Chicago area through the winter,  though it’s really hard to imagine how they’ve adapted to this climate.

Wild Chicago Parrots

When the parrots visit my yard it’s always about the peanuts. They may look out-of-place, but they don’t let anybody push them around at the peanut feeder.

A note for my fellow garden bloggers: this topic drew far more people to my blog from search engines than any other. So, for search engine optimization, just one word: parrots. And I’m not charging for that one.

Chicago parrots are tough, they’re not intimidated by starlings or grackles.

2012 has been a mixed year for members of the woodpecker family in the garden. The little downy woodpeckers are an almost constant presence, helping themselves to suet and peanuts. I used to buy the suet mixed with ground peanuts, but that stuff would be wolfed down by a motley assortment of nuisance birds, mainly grackles and house sparrows. There can be a problem with plain suet melting on really hot days, but since my bird feeders are all in part shade, I haven’t seen that happen.

Downy Woodpecker on suet feeder.

We also get the occasional hairy woodpecker, which looks like a downy on steroids.

On the other hand, we used to see red bellied woodpeckers and northern flickers, but they haven’t shown themselves all year. That’s a shame, because northern flickers are beautiful birds. By the way, it’s odd that red bellied woodpeckers have red necks and not red bellies. Maybe we don’t call them red necked woodpeckers because that sounds too much like a Jerry Jeff Walker song (“Up against the wall, redneck woodpeckers”).

Northern flicker of yesteryear.

We rarely saw nuthatches this year, but that changed dramatically a few weeks ago. Apparently, this is a year birders are calling a nuthatch invasion, especially for the smaller red breasted ones. Nuthatches are quick and charming birds. We’ve haven’t been able to get a good picture of the reds. They are another bird that loves peanuts.

White breasted nuthatch

Cardinals were a steady presence in the garden, as they are most years. They are particularly dramatic in a winter landscape (don’t worry, these photos are from last winter). Cardinals like fruit, and seem particularly fond of the dogwood, elderberry, viburnum, and wild currant berries.

Cardinal coming in for a landing on platform feeder in winter.
Two cardinals in a Deutzia shrub.

Well, my head is cleared. Guess I can turn the tv on again.

Which backyard birds are your favorites?

14 Comments on “2012: The Year in Birds (Part II)”

  1. Jason, Love your blog! I am out in the northwest suburbs and noticed the red-breasted nuthatches. Two days later, the Cornell Ornithological site noted that this is an “irruption” of them in the midwest–they move around as needed for food. They love my feeders and compete with the slightly larger white breasted nuthatches I have all the time. They compete with my other woodpeckers–northern flicker, hairies, downies and red-breasted. They pretty much all yell at me if I come outside and the feeders are empty. We have lots o’ dead trees/snags in our “wild” area, so I am encouraging them. Too bad they also make holes in any weak wood on the house!

    I am fascinated with the parrots. I didn’t know we had them in Chicago. You are so lucky! On the other hand, I do have a little pond I share with the neighbors and we have a spring/summer/early fall set of visitors including a Great Blue Heron, a little green heron, wood ducks, mallards (C. geese, of course) and kingfishers!!

    Hawks are also abundant and a Great Horned Owl lives across the street in the spruce!

  2. I’ve noticed that in the spring, red-bellied woodpeckers start living up to their name. Their bellies don’t turn bright red, but get a beautiful pinky-red wash over them – breeding colors, I presume.

    Glad for the heads-up about the nuthatches. Cornell FeederWatch starts this weekend – hopefully I’ll see a couple this year! They are fairly rare visitors to my yard/feeders.

  3. Wow, the northern flicker is really something. Wonderful that you get woodpeckers. I spent some time working in Chicago a couple of years ago, so it’s great to find your blog and read all about the greener side of life! I live opposite a wetland nature reserve and am a keen birdwatcher too. Really enjoying your blog 🙂

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