Red-tailed Hawk

Scientific Name: Buleo jamaicensis

Diet: The Red-Tailed Hawk eats mostly small rodents including mice, rats, and voles. They also eat birds such as blackbirds, bobwhite, pheasants, and starlings, and reptiles, rabbits, squirrels, and occasionally fish and big insects are taken as prey.

Habitat: Red-Tailed Hawks live in a wide range of habitats, but they usually live in open areas. They can be found in parks, grasslands, urban areas, woodlands, and almost any other habitat as well.

Sound: Red-Tailed Hawks make a harsh scream sounding like creeeeer and trailing off at the end.

Nesting: Red-Tailed Hawks place their nests on cliffs, trees, cactus, and man-made buildings. They are made of sticks and lined with bark, plant material, and twigs. The nest takes 4 to 7 days to build and when it is done it is about 6 1/2 feet tall and about 3 feet across.  Red-Tailed Hawk mates stay together until one of them dies, and they reuse the same nest every year. They lay 1 to 5 eggs and incubate them for 28 to 32 days.

Behavior: The Red-Tailed Hawk is often seen soaring over open areas riding the thermals. Red-Tailed Hawks sit on a perch scanning the area for prey until they spot some.Then they swoop down and grab the prey.

Description/field marks: Red-Tailed Hawks are about 18 to 22 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 45 to 52 inches. They have rufous tails, and mottled brown and rufous wings, backs, and heads. Their undersides are mostly whitish beige with a line of mottled brown at the belly.

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Suet Feeders

Suet feeders are a good way to attract woodpeckers, chickadees, Bushtits, and other birds to your back yard. Suet has a lot of fat in it, and many birds like it because it keeps them warm. You can purchase suet at grocery stores or in wild bird shops. If you want to attract a woodpecker you can get a feeder that can be attached to a tree how woodpeckers like it, but you can also get a small cage that you can hang almost anywhere. Here is a list of birds that are likely to come to a suet feeder.

  • Woodpeckers
    • Downy Woodpecker
    • Hairy Woodpecker
    • Northern Flicker
    • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler
  • Sparrows
    • Dark-Eyed Junco
    • Song Sparrow
    • Fox Sparrow
    • Spotted Towhee
  • European Starling
  • Blackbirds
    • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • Nuthatches, Chickadees, and kin
    • Red-Breasted Nuthatch
    • White-Breasted Nuthatch
    • Black-Capped Chickadee
    • Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
    • Bushtit
    • Brown Creeper
  • Jays
    • Steller’s Jay
    • Western Scrub-Jay

Downy Woodpecker at a Suet Feeder

Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay at a Suet Feeder

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Red-Winged Blackbird

Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Diet: Red-Winged Blackbirds are omnivores. They eat mostly seeds and insects, and They eat more insects in summer and more seeds in winter. About 75% of the Red-Winged Blackbird’s diet is seeds. They also eat mollusks, fruit, worms, and spiders.

Habitat: The Red-Winged Blackbird inhabits a variety of wetlands including ponds, swamps, and freshwater and saltwater marshes. They also live in fields, meadows, pastures, orchards, and suburban areas.

Range: Red-Winged Blackbirds live in almost all of Washington year round, but in the north-eastern corner they can only be found during the summer. They live across most of the U.S. year round, and in the northern U.S. and most of Canada during the breeding season.

Sound: The Red-Winged Blackbird’s song is a scratchy whistle that sounds like chur-leeeeee!

Nesting: Red-Winged Blackbirds nest in marshes and ponds and place their nests among the vegetation. The nest is made of cattail and rush stems, leaves, and mud, and it is lined with grass. When the nest is finished it is 4 to 7 inches across. Red-Winged Blackbirds breed from March to July, and there can be up to 15 female Red-Winged Blackbirds in a single Male’s nesting territory! They lay 3 to 5 eggs which the female incubates for 11 or 12 days.

Behavior: Red-Winged Blackbirds travel in large flocks outside the breeding season, but even during the breeding season they nest in loose colonies. They forage on the ground and in shrubs and trees.

Description/field marks: Male Red-Winged Blackbirds are black all over except on the shoulder. On the shoulders the males have bright orangish red with a yellow line under the orangish red. The females are brown, and they are streaked with dark brown, light brown, and some black all over and especially on the underside. Both the males and the females have black feet, bills, and eyes. Red-Winged Blackbirds are about 7 to 9 inches long, and have wingspans of about 12 to 16 inches.

How To Attract: To attract Red-Winged Blackbirds put out a seed feeder or a suet feeder.

Red-Winged Blackbirds at a suet feeder

Male Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Male Red-Winged Blackbirds

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Bufflehead

Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola

Diet: Buffleheads eat more insects, insect larvae, and invertebrates in summer, and they eat more crustaceans in winter. Specifically, they eat clams, shrimp, snails, mollusks, damselfly larvae, caddis fly larvae, mayfly larvae, and other bug larvae. Buffleheads also eat some seeds.

Habitat: Buffleheads live in wooded lakes and ponds that are freshwater during the breeding season. During the winter they live mostly in saltwater in lakes, bays, and estuaries, but they sometimes live in freshwater during winter as well as saltwater.

Sound: The Bufflehead’s call is a soft, burry, ahh! ahh! ahh! that is repeated.

Nesting: Buffleheads are cavity nesters. They nest in aspen and poplar trees especially, but they also use old Flicker nest holes and nesting boxes. Buffleheads nest fairly close to the water and place their nests 2 to 42 feet off the ground. The nest is lined with down. Buffleheads lay 6 to 12 eggs, but they usually lay 9.

Behavior: Buffleheads dive for their prey, and eat it underwater. They prefer to hunt in shallow water.

Description/field marks: Buffleheads are about 13 to 16 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 22 inches. The male Buffleheads have white triangles on both sides of their greeny purpley heads, and their backs, bills, feet, and part of their wings are black. The other part of their wings and their sides, flanks, breasts, and undersides are white. The female Buffleheads are much plainer. They are dark brown on their wings, backs, tails, and heads, and the females are lighter greyish brown on their sides, flanks, and undersides. Their breasts are grey, and right under their eyes there are white spots that look a lot like a Common Golden-Eye’s spot.

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Canada Goose

Scientific Name: Branta Canadensis

Diet: Canada Geese eat a variety of aquatic plants, and they also eat seeds, berries, grass, and grain. Also, they eat skunk cabbage, eel grass, clover, wheat, corn, and oats.

Habitat: Canada Geese can be found across most of North America, and they live in almost any wetland area. Canada Geese live in ponds, bays, fields, parks, lakes, and marshes.

Sound: The Canada Goose’s flock call is a loud, nasal, Honk! Honk! Honk! repeated several times. The flight call is almost the same, but it rises in pitch at the end.

Nesting: The female Canada Goose chooses the nesting site and builds the nest. Canada Geese Nest near water, and the nests are made of grass, weeds, sticks, moss, and lichen and lined with down. Canada Geese lay 4 to 7 eggs and incubate them for 25 to 28 days. When the chicks hatch they are covered in down, and they can feed themselves, walk, and swim almost immediately.

Behavior: Canada Geese travel in large flocks except during the breeding season and graze in fields. They fly in a v formation while honking loudly.

Description/field marks: Canada Geese are about 30 to 43 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 50 to 67 inches. They have long, black necks and black heads with white “chin straps”, and their feet, bills, and tails are also black. Their breasts and undersides are white, and their backs and wings are grayish brown. Canada Goose males and females look the same.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

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American Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Caruelis tristis

Diet: The American Goldfinch eats almost entirely seeds. They eat seeds from grass and weeds and trees. The seeds they eat from grass and weeds include sunflower, thistle, dandelion, and ragweed, and some trees they eat seeds from are western red cedar, elder, elm, and birch. American Goldfinches also eat some insects during the breeding season, particularly aphids.

Habitat: American Goldfinches live in open areas with some shrubs and trees nearby. They can be found in overgrown fields and grasslands, city parks, thickets, suburban areas, backyards, and orchards.

Sound: The American Goldfinch’s song is a combination of trills and clear whistled notes and chirps that are repeated several times. The call is a scratchy ti-chi! ti-chi! ti-chi!

Nesting: American Goldfinches don’t nest until late in summer. The nest is placed in a shrub or sapling. It is made of spider webs, strips of bark, and grass, and lined with thistle down. The nest takes about 6 days to build, and it is about 3 inches across when it is finished. American Goldfinches lay 4 to 6 eggs, and incubate them for 12 to 14 days. When the young hatch they are helpless. The young are fed insects.

Behavior: American Goldfinches are acrobatic foragers. They hang onto seedheads  with their claws while eating seeds from the plant they are on.

Description/field marks: American Goldfinches are about 4 to 5 inches long, and have wingspans of about 7 ½ to 9 inches. During the breeding season the males are bright yellow on the throats, breasts, undersides, backs, and napes, have black wings with a few streaks of white, black crowns, and have white undertail coverts. Males have orangish pink bills. The females are dull yellowish brown everywhere the males are bright yellow, and the females lack a black crown. The females also have black wings with a few streaks of white. Females have pinkish brown bills. During the winter the male looks the same as the female.

How to attract: Put out a feeder to attract American Goldfinches. They especially like thistle seed.

 

American Goldfinch

Male Breeding American Goldfinch

 

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Feather Diagram

feather diagram

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White-Crowned Sparrow

Scientific Name: Zonotrichia leucophrys

Diet: White-Crowned Sparrow eats seeds, bugs, fruit, and grains. They eat a variety of bugs including spiders, wasps, bees, beetles, and caterpillars. They also eat elderberries and blackberries for fruit, and barley and corn for grains.

Habitat: The White-Crowned Sparrow can be found in suburban areas like backyards, road sides, and city parks. They also live in shrubby areas, forest edges, wetlands, and fields.

Sound: The White-Crowned Sparrow’s song is a few clear whistling notes, or a trill. The call is a sharp peek! peek! peek! peek! that is repeated several times.

Nesting: White-Crowned Sparrows usually place their nests on the ground, but can be up to 10 feet up. It is often built at the base of a shrub. The nest is made of strips of bark, feathers, sticks, pine needles, and sticks, and lined with hair and grass. White-Crowned Sparrows lay 3 to 7 eggs, and incubate them for 11 to 14 days.

Behavior: White-Crowned Sparrows are ground foragers. They often forage in open areas near shelter. White-Crowned Sparrows scratch in the leaves and dirt with their feet to find food.

Description/field marks: White-Crowned Sparrows have Greyish white undersides, breasts, throats, and napes, and brown backs streaked with white, black, and light and dark brown. They have black eye lines and white superciliums, and white crowns with black stripes on either side of the crown. Their bills are yellow and their legs are pinkish. White-Crowned Sparrows are about 6 inches long, and have wings spans of about 8 to 9 inches .

How to attract: Put out a bird feeder with sunflower seeds and other seeds to attract White-Crowned Sparrows. It is a good idea to put seed on or near the ground since White-Crowned Sparrows are ground feeders.

white-crowned sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

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Hooded Merganser

Scientific Name: Lophodytes cucullatus

Diet: The Hooded Merganser eats small fish,  aquatic insects, some aquatic plants, frogs, insect larvae, and crustaceans,particularly crayfish.

Habitat: Hooded Mergansers live in wetlands. In the winter they can be found in coastal bays, marshes, and inlets. During the breeding season they prefer vegetated wetlands. Hooded Mergansers live in slow-moving rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes. They live in salt water, but generally prefer freshwater.

Range: Hooded Mergansers can be found in most of Washington year-round, but in the upper-right corner they are only present during the summer, and they don’t live in the lower-right corner at all. In the U.S. they can be found almost every where at some point in the year except in the south-western corner.

Sound: The Hooded Merganser’s call is a slow croaking that descends in pitch. They also make a high-pitched, quick, whistling noise.

Nesting: The Hooded Merganser is a cavity nester. It nests in a natural cavity in a tree or nesting box. Hooded Mergansers nest from 10 to 50 feet up. The nest is made of materials that are found in the cavity, and lined with down. The female lays 8 to 12 eggs, and incubates them for anywhere from 26 to 41 days. An important part of the young Hooded Mergansers’ diet is insects.

Behavior: Hooded Mergansers dive for their prey. They have underwater vision, which helps them to forage underwater.

Description/field marks: Hooded Mergansers are about 16 to 19 inches long, and have wingspans of about 24 to 26 inches. The males have large, white, fan-shaped crests that they can spread out, or fold down. The males also have white breasts and stripes on their sides. They have black faces, necks, backs, and tails. Their  sides are brown, and their undersides are creamy white. The females are much duller. They have greyish brown bodies and heads, and redish brown, small, pointed crests. The females’ eyes are brown, and the males’ are yellow.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

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Northern Mockingbird

Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos

Habitat: The Northern Mockingbird lives in farmland, forest edges, suburban areas, city parks, and anywhere there is open county with some thickets.

Diet: Northern Mockingbirds are omnivores. They eat mainly insects during the summer, and they eat mainly fruits and berries during the winter. The invertebrates Northern Mockingbirds eat include beetles, grasshoppers, moths, butterflies, bees, wasps, spiders, snails, and earthworms.

Sound: The Northern Mockingbird’s song is a pip-pip-pip-pip trill that sometimes sounds scratchy and other times sounds flute-like. The call is a sharp chek! chek!

Nesting: Northern Mockingbirds place their nests in shrubs or low trees. The nests are usually 3 to 10 feet off the ground, but can be up to 60 feet up. The nest’s foundation is made of twigs, and the inner cup is made of leaves, grass, and weeds, and lined with hair, leaves, moss, and rootlets. Northern Mockingbirds lay 3 to 5 eggs, and incubate them for 12 to 13 days. When the chicks hatch they are helpless, blind, and have down.

Description/Field Marks: Northern Mockingbirds have wingspans of about 12 to 14 inches, and are about 8 to 10 inches long. They are grey all over, but the wings and tail are a darker shade of grey than the rest of their bodies. When Northern Mockingbirds fly, you can see white flash markings on the wings and the outer tail feathers.

How to attract: To attract Northern Mockingbirds, either put out a bird feeder with cracked corn, or plant berry producing trees in your yard.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

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