[Tweeters] how "good" is a bird?--entirely a matter of perspective

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Thu Jun 20 12:15:52 PDT 2013


Hello, tweets.

Had a good bird in the yard this morning - a cowbird. What? I should explain that I've lived in the same house for almost 22 years now and have seen the changes in bird populations in our yard and neighborhood, and a cowbird is an exciting sighting!

For a few days in May and again right now, we've had a first-year male Brown-headed Cowbird coming to our feeders. Charming, as we hadn't seen one here since 2006.

House Sparrows were abundant when we moved in in 1991, but they virtually disappeared a few years ago. Now it's exciting when one occasionally turns up at the feeders.

At least one Olive-sided Flycatcher could be heard in the neighborhood through a fair part of the summer for the next 14 years (through 2006). Had to be more than one bird, as they don't live that long. The only ones I've heard after that were on single days in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Barn and Violet-green Swallows and Vaux's Swifts were daily occurrences overhead every summer, but I never see them now. Last swift was in 2005, last Barn Swallow in 2006; I've seen sporadic Violet-greens, however.

Although I see Black-headed Grosbeaks every summer, they seem to be sporadic, with no indication that they have ever bred within hearing distance of our yard. They come and go from the feeders, usually first-year males but occasionally mature ones, then immatures in fall. I guess their status has remained consistent, as I see them at least briefly every year.

Olive-sided Flycatchers, like so many other neotropical migrants, are known to be declining, as are some of the swallows, but the loss of cowbirds and House Sparrows from the neighborhood was a little more surprising. Other losses, e.g., Golden-crowned Sparrows, can probably be attributed to the increased forest canopy in our yard.

On the other hand, Dark-eyed Juncos, only winter visitors, began to breed in the neighborhood in the summer of 2009 and have done so every summer since then. I never saw Yellow-rumped Warblers in the winter at first, but they have visited our suet feeders during the last two years, perhaps lured in by the ever-present Townsend's.

Has anyone else seen changes comparable to these?
-----
Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
206-528-1382
dennispaulson at comcast.net



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