Some Spring Birds

Posted: March 14th, 2010 under photography, Wildlife.
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Spring is one of our busiest bird seasons, with winter residents often still around, spring migrants moving through, year-rounders breeding, and the first of the summer residents showing up.

This northern-bound American Goldfinch male is changing from winter drab to full breeding plumage and will be brilliant by the time he’s on his home territory.

Meanwhile, a pair of year-round residents, Inca doves, are dealing with the warmer weather and longer daylenghths by engaging in courtship behaviors.

The male is doing his best to spread his tail and show off for the female, who goes on eating seeds or grain from the ground.  He scuttles up to her (they have very short legs–it’s comical) and she moves away, still pcking at the grain.   Or she faces away and watched the photographer:

Since we have both winter-resident northern sparrows, and others of the same species that migrate through from winter homes south of us, it’s impossible to tell whether these individuals spent the winter with us, but they were certainly with us on March 9:

Another year-rounder is the White-winged Dove.  This species has increased its range northward and its numbers as well.   They are voracious feeders at any bird feeder, and they’re aggressive towards smaller birds.   They also have amazing coloration, though they appear monotone “dove colored” from a distance except for the white wing patch.  Since birds can see colors humans can’t, I suspect the faint hints of color are vivid to other mourning doves and have meaning.  In late winter/early spring, when the angle of sun is right, they show iridescent yellow that shifts to green/turquoise as they move in an area just behind the black stripe on the cheek.

Notice the faint purplish “bloom” on the top of the head and down the back of the neck, as well as the golden iridescence.   I’ve been trying to photograph this for a couple of years, and finally this year managed it–but not the green/blue flash this gold can shift to.   This bird was perched up in a tree in full sun–but low afternoon sun–and I had the big lens on the camera.  They’re quite shy around here and I had to sit very quietly for almost an hour before the white-wings returned to the tree.

Out on the land, the Great Blue Heron takes off before I see it, and I’m lucky if I get a shot before it’s just a distant silhouette:


  • Comment by wax lion — March 14, 2010 @ 8:26 pm


    Great photos! Yes, give our goldfinches a good sendoff, we eagerly await their arrival. 🙂 Is that top sparrow a chipping sparrow? I love those little guys…

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 14, 2010 @ 8:41 pm


    I’d like to have more of their summer plumage–but I enjoy watching them slowly morph from the drab birds that arrive to the spots of color and finally–just as they leave–some brilliant yellow.

    Yes, that’s a chipping sparrow. We get a few each winter, but the “bulk” of our winter sparrows are white-crowned, white-throated, Harris’s, savannah, and song. Some vesper and a few fox.

  • Comment by Joy K. — March 14, 2010 @ 10:59 pm


    Lovely heron picture. I just found a small colony of them by the river that runs through the back yard. I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to notice that the bird I was watching in the binoculars was sitting in a nest.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 15, 2010 @ 7:21 am


    A friend of mine in Austin found a colony of yellow-crowned night herons roosting in trees in the neighborhood–closer to someone’s backyard pond than any natural water! I suspect any fish in that pond become heron food.

  • Comment by AJLR — March 15, 2010 @ 8:10 am


    The collared doves ( that we get in southern England are similarly voracious feeders on the ground, although I haven’t noticed them bullying the smaller birds particularly.

    Our local sparrowhawk appreciates us keeping his local larder of doves going, anyway…

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 15, 2010 @ 8:19 am


    Collared doves are trying to move into this area–there’s a pair in the neighborhood–but so far they’re not outcompeting white-winged doves. As they’re a non-native species here, I hope they don’t…even though I call white-wings “feathered rats” on occasion.

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