House Sparrow

Scientific Name: Passer domestions

Diet: The House Sparrow eats seeds, human food, crops, and especially insects in the summer. The crops they eat include corn, wheat, and sorghum. They also eat crabgrass, ragweed, and buckwheat. The young House Sparrows eat insects.

Habitat: House Sparrows live all across North America and part of South America. They can be found in a variety of habitats, many of which are near humans. House Sparrows live in farmlands, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and urban areas, but avoid large grasslands, forests, and deserts.

Sound: The House Sparrow’s song is a loud cheerp! or cheep! repeated several times. The call is a quick chow!-chow!-chow!-chow!, or chatter.

Nesting: House Sparrows build their nests in a wide variety of places. They put their nests on eaves, bushes, nest boxes, cliffs, street lights, natural cavities, signs, nooks in buildings, or take over other cavity nesting birds’ nests. Both the male and the female build the nest. It is made of grass, twigs, and weeds, and lined with paper, string, and feathers. House Sparrows lay 3 to 6 eggs, and  incubate them for 10 to 14 days. They lay 2 or 3 broods every year.

Behavior: House Sparrows form large flocks, and hop around on the ground foraging for seeds and crumbs. When House Sparrows are nervous, they flick their tails.

Description/field marks: House Sparrows are about 6 or 7 inches long, and have wingspans of about 7 to 10 inches. The males are medium brown on the backs and wings, with streaks of light brown, white, and black. Their throats are black, and their breasts are white, but often speckled with black. Their undersides, flanks, and cheeks are white. The females are very plain. Their backs and wings are a slightly lighter brown than the males, but they are streaked like the males. Female House Sparrows lack the black males have on their throats and breasts, and their throats, breasts, undersides, and flanks are light beige. females also have a faint supercilium and eye line. Both the male and female House Sparrows have brownish pink feet.

How to attract: To attract a House Sparrow to your yard put out a seed feeder. They especially like milo, sunflower, and millet seeds.

Male House Sparrow

Male House Sparrow

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Rock Pigeon

Scientific Name: Columba livia

Habitat: Rock Pigeons are very common and can be found all across North and South America. They live in parks, farmland, cliffs, and cities. Rock Pigeons are often seen outside restaurants eating food that has been dropped.

Sound: The Rock Pigeon’s song is a series of deep cooings that sounds a lot like purring.

Diet: Rock Pigeons eat mainly seeds, but also eat fruit and bugs. Rock Pigeons also eat almost any kind of human food they can find. They eat popcorn, bits of bread, french fries, and a variety of other human food.

Behavior: Rock Pigeons are ground feeders. They peck at food on the ground, and when Rock pigeons walk their heads bob back and forth.

Nesting: Rock Pigeons place their nests on bridges, cliffs, skyscrapers, and window ledges. The nest is made of straw, sticks, and stems. The male brings supplies to the female, who builds the nest. Rock Pigeons use the same nest every year, so even though the nest starts out flimsy, after a while it gets to be bulky and sturdy. Rock Pigeons lay 1 to 3 eggs, and incubate them for 18 days. The eggs are white. When the young are born they are helpless and have down.

Physical features/field marks: The Rock Pigeon is about 12 inches long, and has a wingspan of about 9 to 14 inches. The Rock Pigeon’s marking vary widely, but almost all Rock Pigeons have a gray head, a shiny green and purple neck, red eyes, and red feet. Most Rock Pigeons have light gray backs and upper wings. They have anywhere from two dark gray stripes to so many dark gray stripes that there is almost no light gray at all. Rock Pigeons have dark gray lower wings and tails, and light gray breasts and undersides. But some Rock Pigeons are brown or white.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon eating

Rock Pigeon eating

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Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

Scientific Name: Poecile rufescens

Diet: The Chestnut-Backed Chickadee eats a variety of bugs including spiders, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, aphids, and wasps. They also eat berries and conifer seeds.

Habitat: Chestnut-Backed Chickadees inhabit wet and dense Pacific rain forests where they glean bugs from leaves and tree bark.

Sound: The Chestnut-Backed Chickadee’s call is a high-pitched See-see, See-see, mixed with Chee-chee. The Chestnut-Backed Chickadees other call is a gruff Chicka-dee or Chicka-dee-dee.

Nesting: Chestnut-Backed Chickadees breed from mid-May to early April. They may excavate their own nest holes, use old woodpecker holes, use nesting boxs, or use natural cavities. The nest takes 7 to 8 days to build, and it is made of bark strips, moss, and lichen, and lined with animal hair. Chestnut-Backed Chickadees lay 5 to 7 eggs, and incubate them for 12 to 18 days. The eggs are creamy white and lightly speckled. The young Chestnut-Backed Chickadees eat mainly caterpillars and wasp larvae.

Description/field marks: Chestnut-Backed Chickadees are small birds. They are about 4 to 5 inches long, and have a wingspan of about 7 inches, which is a bit smaller than Black-Capped Chickadees. They have white breasts, undersides, and cheeks, and have black caps and throats. Chestnut-Backed Chickadees have chestnut colored flanks and backs, and their wings and tails are gray.

How to attract: To attract Chestnut-Backed Chickadees to your backyard put out a suet feeder or seed feeder. Chestnut-Backed Chickadees also use nest boxes so put one out in March.

chestnut-backed chickadee

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

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California Quail

Scientific Name: Callipepla californica

Habitat: California Quail like shrubs and brush nearby for cover. They can be found in a variety for habitats including parks, forest edges, shrubby backyards, desert edges, woodlands, and chaparral.

Diet: The California Quail eats mostly seeds and grains, but California Quail also eat acorns, flowers, poison oak berries, leaves, snails, and a variety of bugs including mites, millipedes, beetles, and caterpillars.

Sound: The California Quail’s most common call is three notes described as chi-ca-go! that rises and falls in pitch.

Nesting: California Quail are ground nesters, but occasionally nest up to ten feet up. Their nests are small depressions in the ground lined with leaves, stems, and grasses. The nest is placed under shrubs or brush, or next to a log for cover, and when the nest is finished it is about 5 to 7 inches across, and 1 to 2 inches deep. California Quail lay 12 to 16 eggs, and incubate them for 22 to 23 days. The eggs are white, and lightly speckled with brown. California Quail live for 6 to 7 years.

Description/field marks: California Quail males are purplish blue on their breasts and backs, and their faces are black with two white stripes, one on the cheek which is nearly vertical and one above the eye which is nearly horizontal.  The crowns of California Quail are brown, and on their heads they have black plumes. The sides of California Quail are streaked with white, and the undersides checkered with brown and white. The females are brown on their faces, backs, and tails, and their head plumes are much smaller. The Gamble’s Quail is easy to mix up with the California Quail, but Gamble’s Quail have black undersides, and right under their blue breasts they have beige streaks. The sides of the wings of Gamble’s Quail are brown.

Behavior: The California Quail is a ground forager. They form coveys in winter where there can be up to 75 individual Quail. They are often seen scratching at the ground to uncover seeds or other food.

How to attract: To attract California Quail to your backyard, plant shrubs to provide cover for the Quail and sprinkle seed on the ground.

california quail

California Quail

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Wood Duck

Scientific Name: Aix sponsa

Diet: Wood Ducks eat a variety of water plant seeds, aquatic invertebrates, and fruits and seeds, including acorns, fruits, duck weed, wild cherries, and smart weed.

Sound: The female Wood Duck’s call is a loud and screeching eee-ek!  eee-ek! eee-ek! repeated several times. The male’s call is a high whistling that rises in pitch.

Habitat: Wood Ducks live in forested wetlands such as slow moving rivers, ponds, lakes, marshes, and swamps. They prefer deciduous forests, and freshwater wetlands.

Nesting: Wood Ducks are cavity nesters. They nest in nesting boxes or natural cavities. They often use  old Pileated Woodpecker holes. The nest hole can be up to 65 feet high. Wood Ducks lay 9 to 14 eggs, and incubate them for 25 to 35 days. The nest hole is lined with down.

Behavior: Wood Ducks forage in the water. They peck at the surface of the water or dabble. Wood Ducks may up-end or dive to get to food under the surface of the water.

Description/field marks: Wood Ducks are about 18 to 21 inches long, and have wingspans of about 26 to 29 inches. Male Wood Ducks look spectacular. The tops of their heads and crests are emerald green, and they have black cheeks with white streaks coming up from the white throat. Their breasts are brown, and their undersides and their sides  are beige. Wood Ducks’ backs and wings are a mixture of black, dark blue, and dark green. The bills are reddish orange. Females are brownish gray, with white eye rings, and blue patches on the sides of the wings. The females’ bills are slate gray.

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Band-Tailed Pigeon

Scientific Name: Patagioenas fasciata

Diet: The Band-Tailed Pigeon eats a variety of seeds, nuts, and berries. They eat cherries, pine nuts, flowers, wheat, oats, barley, and insects.

Behavior: Band-Tailed Pigeons are usually found in groups of 2 or 3. They forage for food in trees often, but also forage on the ground for food.

Habitat: The Band-Tailed Pigeon can be found in city parks and suburban areas with some trees around, forest edges, and greenbelts. They prefer conifer forests, but also live in mixed coniferous-deciduous forests.

Sound: The Band-Tailed Pigeon’s song is a deep who, who, who, and if sounds a bit like an owl.

Nesting: Band-Tailed Pigeons nest in small colonies. They place their nests in trees, 15 to 40 feet high. Band-Tailed Pigeons usually put their nests on a horizontal branch in a fork, or at the base of a branch by the trunk. The nest is built of twigs that the male gathers and brings to the female, who builds the nest. Band-Tailed Pigeons lay 1 to 2 eggs, which are plain and white. Incubation lasts for 18 to 20 days.

Description/field marks: Band-Tailed Pigeons are about 13 to 16 inches long, and weigh about 12 to 13 ounces. They are light gray almost all over. The ends of their wings are dark gray, and the backs of their necks are shiny green, with a white stripe at the top of the green that does not go all the way around their necks. The white stripe is only on the backs of their necks. Their bills are yellow with black tips, and their feet are yellow.

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Song Sparrow

Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia

Diet: Song Sparrows eat a variety of seeds and bugs. The bugs they eat include grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, weevils, crane flies, dragon flies, and spiders, and the seeds and plant foods Song Sparrows eat include wheat, sunflower seeds, rice, and a variety of berries. In winter Song Sparrows eat more seeds, and in summer they eat more insects.

Sound: The Song Sparrow’s song is two clear, bell-like notes, followed by a short trill. The song is 2 to 4 seconds long, and varies from place to place. The alarm call is a sharp chip!.

Habitat: Song Sparrows live in a variety of scrubby areas including shrubby gardens, chaparral, city parks, greenbelts, forest edges, suburban areas, and thickets.

Behavior: The Song Sparrow is a ground forager, and often hops around with its tail cocked up, flitting from thicket to thicket. Song Sparrows pump their tails downward as they fly.

Nesting: The nest is placed on the ground or in a shrub up to 4 feet above the ground. The female Song Sparrow builds the nest out of weeds, leaves, grass, and bark, and she lines it with hair, rootlets, and grass. The nest takes about 4 days to build, and it is 4 to 8 inches across when its finished. Song Sparrows can lay up to 3 clutches in a season.

Description/field mark: Song Sparrows are about 4 to 6 inches long, and have wingspans of about 7 to 9 inches. They have brown tails, wings, and backs. The wings and backs are streaked with dark brown and black. Song Sparrows have brown eye lines and white supercilia with brown crowns. The cheeks are striped. On a Song Sparrow’s breast there is a large brown spot, and the rest of the breast is speckled and streaked.  Song Sparrows also have streaked sides, and the undersides are white.

How to attract: To attract Song Sparrows put a seed feeder near shrubs or a thicket, or plant shrubs in your garden.

song sparrow

song sparrow

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Turkey Vulture

Scientific Name: Cathartidae aura

Habitat: Turkey Vultures can be found in grasslands, foothills, open country, shrub lands, and cliffs. They are often found near open forests for nesting.

Diet: Turkey Vultures eat mostly carrion, and they are scavengers. They eat small dead mammals, but they also eat dead cows! Turkey Vultures also eat some fruit, insects, and invertebrates.

Sound: The Turkey Vulture is mostly silent, but the nestlings make a hissing sound.

Nesting: Turkey Vultures don’t build nests, and they place their 1 to 3 eggs in sheltered places such as in hollow trees or logs, cliffs, thickets, caves, or abandoned buildings. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs, and the time they are incubated for is about 28 days. When the chicks hatch they have down and are helpless.

Behavior: As Turkey Vultures soar over scavenging areas they try to locate carrion by using sight and smell. Turkey Vultures usually scavenge alone, but sometimes gather around food.

Description/field marks: Turkey Vultures are about 25 to 32 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 67 to 70 inches. They have heavy bills, and their heads are pink and have no feathers. A good way to identify this vulture in flight is to look at the underside of the wings. The primary and secondary feathers are gray, and the upper part of the wings are brownish black, like the rest of the body. The feet and legs are pink.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

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Northwestern Crow

Scientific Name: Corvus caurinus

Habitat: Northwestern Crows can be found mainly in coastal areas, beaches, forests near shores, cities, towns, dumps, and campgrounds.

Diet: Northwestern Crows are Omnivores. Since they usually live in coastal areas, Northwestern Crows eat a lot of aquatic food such as fish, shell fish, and aquatic invertebrates. They also eat seabird eggs, berries, insects, carrion, and human trash.

Sound: The Northwestern Crow’s call is a harsh and grating caw! caw! caw!

Behavior: Northwestern Crows walk with jerky strides, and often forage for food at dumpsters and garbage cans. To crack the shells of shell fish they drop the shell fish on rocks or roads, and then eat the meat inside. Northwestern Crows are intelligent and curios birds. They can often be observed holding things in their bills, and they eat almost anything they can find.

Nesting: Both the male and female help build the nest. It is made of sticks and twigs, and lined with rootlets, mud, grass, and the bark of cedar trees. Northwestern Crows lay 3 to 6 eggs, and incubate them for 17 to 20 days. The nest is usually placed in the canopy of a tree or in a shrub.

Description/field marks: Northwestern Crows are completely black. They are about 16 inches long, and have a wingspan of about 32 inches. Northwestern Crows have black eyes, and males and females look the same. The Northwestern Crow is easy to mix up with the American crow or common raven, but the Northwestern Crow is considerably smaller than both.

Northwestern Crow

Northwestern Crow

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Pine Siskin

Scientific Name: Carduelis pinus

Diet: The Pine Siskin eats mainly seeds. It eats the  red alder, birch, willow, thistle, spruce, and hemlock seeds. Pine siskins also eat tree buds, spiders, caterpillars, and grasshoppers in the summer. Pine Siskin chicks eat aphids.

Habitat: Pine Siskins can be found in coniferous and mixed forests. They also live at forest edges, suburban areas, parks, and pastures.

Sound: The Pine Siskin’s call is a loud, grating bzzzzzeee! that ascends at the end, and the song is harsh rasping chattering.

Nesting: Pine Siskin nests are made of twigs, leaves, rootlets, grasses, weeds, strips of bark, and lichen, and are lined with moss, fur, grass, and feathers. The nest is placed on the end of a horizontal branch, usually in a coniferous tree. Pine Siskins lay 3 to 4 eggs, and incubate them for about 13 days. When the chicks hatch they are helpless, with a little down.

Description/ field marks: Pine Siskins are brown and stripy. They are yellowish white on the underside, but are heavily streaked with dark brown. On the tail, wings, and back Pine Siskins are streaked all over with brown, black, and white, and are tinted with yellow. They have medium brown heads, and extremely faint superciliums.  Male and female Pine Siskins are the same in appearance except that the wing bars on the upper wing are white on females, and yellow on males. Pine Siskins are about 4 to 5 1/2 inches long, and have wingspans of about 7 to 9 inches.

How to attract: To attract Pine Siskins put out a seed feeder. They will come to sunflower seed, and, like American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins like nyjer.

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