Backyard Birds – December 21 – 27

Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus)
Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus) feeding on seed scattered on the ground.

I cleaned up a lichen covered limb of our lilac tree this week and instead of putting the branches into the city’s yard waste program left them as a brush pile in our garden area. The sparrows seem to like the extra habitat and I’m hoping that it will give them a little protection if the neighbour’s cats figure out a way around the chicken wire at the top of the fence on the property line.

Our feeders have been active and I’m in the process of putting up some black niger seeds in a tube feeder with the hope of attracting Pine Siskins and more finches to our yard. We had an impromptu visit from a flock of siskins this week and with more feed options perhaps they can be convinced to return. European Starlings are starting to become more regular visitors. I’m also adding another suet feeder this week and will see if that produces more woodpecker activity.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
One of many Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) helping itself to the suet feeder.

Three highlight species this week – a short, but spectacular, visit by a male Pileated Woodpecker (where did he come from?!?), a flock of Pine Siskins and a very animated flock of Bushtits. On Sunday, the feeders were visited by a Northern Flicker and a single American Goldfinch – hopefully they will make return visits. The single Ruby-crowned Kinglet continues to visit the suet feeder regularly, and a single White-crowned Sparrow is an almost daily visitor. The Mourning Dove made sporadic appearances throughout the week.

Here’s the species list for the week:

  • Song Sparrow
  • House Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco (including 1 Slate-coloured Junco)
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Spotted Towhee
  • House Finch
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker (new!)
  • Mourning Dove
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Pine Siskin (new!)
  • European Starling
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Goldfinch (new!)

As part of Project FeederWatch, I’m keeping an eye on our feeders two days out of the week to help scientists track winter bird activity, abundance and diversity. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two drinking coffee and peering out into the rain. I’ve also decided to start a yard list of all the birds that visit our backyard.

Project FeederWatch


  1. Wow! You get a lot of visitors. Lucky you and great pictures you take also. That common starling even looks pretty in that photo and I always think they are so plain looking. Happy New Year.

  2. I’m always amazed at how birds look close up, and starlings, despite their nasty reputation, are actually quite stunning birds. I have a feeling that the number of birds at our feeder is sort of an oasis effect – not many of our neighbours have feeders. Courtenay is still a small town in many ways, and there are a number of wooded lots close to our property that provide habitat for birds.

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