This beautiful Short-eared Owl was a former patient at South Sound Critter Care. Photo by Curt Pliler.

This beautiful Short-eared Owl was a former patient at South Sound Critter Care. Photo by Curt Pliler.


If you’re a nature and wildife lover living in the Seattle area, I have to tell you about a can’t-miss event coming up on April 24th: the 4th annual Wild in Washington Wildlife Benefit Auction! This year, the auction is being held in Renton, Washington, and all proceeds will support the rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wildlife at South Sound Critter Care.

South Sound Critter Care is a wildlife rehabilitation center in Kent, Washington, where I’ve been volunteering since July of last year. While volunteering at a wildlife center can be hard work, I’ve learned it’s always rewarding. The best part, really, is knowing we’re helping animals who can’t help themselves, and providing a service for the caring people who bring them to us.

"Fancy" is South Sound Critter Care's education crow. Having been raised by the public, she was turned in to SSCC when she got loose. Fancy now visits school functions and other public events. In the photo above, she's taking in the sights and sounds at SSCC's volunteer appreciation event last January.

"Fancy" is South Sound Critter Care's education crow. Having been raised by the public, she was turned in to SSCC when she got loose. Fancy now visits school functions and other public events. In the photo above, she's taking in the sights and sounds at SSCC's volunteer appreciation event last January.

Wildlife rehabilitation centers are not-for-profits that rely on outside sources to continue caring for the animals that need help. The Wild in Washington auction is a big part of that funding for SSCC, and we really hope you’ll join us. It promises to be a fun afternoon complete with the live auction, silent auction, a delicious catered lunch (covered by the price of your ticket), and an all-around good time. If you’re in the Seattle area, or will be on Sunday, April 24, please come and help support what we’re doing for wildlife.

(On a personal note, I’d love for as many of you to come to the auction as possible because I’d love the chance to meet you and put faces to names! If you do purchase tickets for the auction, please let me know so I can be on the lookout for you.)

We have so many fun things that will be up for auction, ranging from wildlife artwork to themed baskets (Pilates membership and goodies, for example), to a getaway at Lake Cushman, to concert tickets. Yes…concert tickets. We’re talking Billy Joel…Earth, Wind, and Fire…Steve Miller Band…and ADELE. I happen to know the tickets to see Adele are for a couple of really good seats. As in, you just might make eye contact.

For more details, to see what’s up for auction (ahem…those two tickets to Adele’s sold out show…), and to purchase your tickets, click on this link: Wild in Washington Wildlife Benefit Auction.

Please consider this your personal invitation. I’m looking forward to meeting you there!


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Male Cassin's Finch. Photo: http://thenaturespicsonline.com. Public domain.

Male Cassin's Finch. Photo: http://thenaturespicsonline.com

Cassin’s Finch was named for ornithologist John Cassin (1813-1869) by his friend, Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian Institute, though it was just one of five birds to bear his name. At one point the curator at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, Mr. Cassin also colored many illustrations for the multi-volume Pacific Railroad Surveys. One of the most well-versed ornithologists of his time, he led a fascinating life, even suffering — and ultimately losing his life — because of his years of bird study. (Read more about John Cassin at Towhee.net.)

Find out more: Eye of the Explorer: Views of the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey 1853-54

Cassin’s Finch is one of the roseate (tinged with rose) songbirds, and looks similar to both Purple and House Finches. The habitats of the three can overlap, especially in the Cascades (and especially on the Eastern slopes), making identification just a bit trickier.

Read on to learn more about this beautiful finch.

Scientific Name: Carpodacus cassini

Family: Fringillidae

Size and markings: At around 6.5″ long with a wingspan of 10″, Cassin’s Finch resembles the Purple Finch and House Finch but is slightly larger, with a longer beak. While the other two pink-washed finches have smooth crowns, the Cassin’s crown tends to be fluffier, often with a peaked look to the top of his head. The male has a reddish-pink crown, and his shoulders, throat, breast, and rump are tinged with the same, though not as brightly as the crown. Lightly-streaked underparts are light pinkish-white to white. The female, who is brown and heavily streaked, has a light chest with distinctive short brown stripes. She may also sport a white eyebrow. The wings of both are brown and streaked.

Female Cassin's Finch. Attribution: http://thenaturespicsonline.com. Public domain.

Female Cassin's Finch. Photo: http://thenaturespicsonline.com


Food: Cassin’s Finch dines on pine seeds, tree buds, sunflower seeds, insects, and berries and bud from various shrubs and trees.

Habitat/nesting/behavior: Tending to live at higher elevations (up to 10,000 feet), Cassin’s Finch can often be seen flocking together with crossbills and Pine Siskins. The female is an eclectic nester who builds her nest using a variety of materials, including animal hair, plant fibers, rope fibers, and grass stems, inside a loose — and often frail — framework of twigs and lichen. Cassin’s Finch will also mimic the songs of other birds.

Number of broods per year: 1-2

Number of eggs per brood: 2-6

Migratory pattern: This songbird lives year-round throughout much of the Western U.S., from the Eastern slopes of the Cascades to the Rockies. It is rare to see Cassin’s Finch to the west of the Cascades. Breeding as far north at Southern British Columbia, it then will winter in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico. Wherever it is, Cassin’s Finch will also “micro-migrate” to lower elevations during harsh winters.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Possibly any, but more likely during the winter months.


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Female and male Red-winged Blackbirds. Photos by Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Female and male Red-winged Blackbirds. Photos by Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Like so many others right now (or so it seems), I’m currently battling the flu. I’d wanted to write a new blog post today, but alas…I just can’t. So by necessity, I’m sharing with you a blast from the past about a favorite backyard bird — one that has recently been showing up at my feeders again. I know spring is about to spring when these beautiful birds with their fancy epaullets come to call. Enjoy. – Ed.

I always know when a male Red-winged Blackbird has come for a visit to my yard. As if he were a royal monarch announcing his own arrival, he’ll sit on the top of my shepherd’s staff feeder pole, or in the nearby Japanese maple, and let out a piercing “tseert!” for all to hear. And again, “Tseert!”

Not long after he toots his own horn, another Red-winged Blackbird will show up. Sometimes it’s a female or two, sometimes a male buddy. That’s probably what he was doing in the first place…just letting his friends know where the food is and that they should join him, like, now. It’s just more interesting to think of him as crying out, “I’m here! I’m here! All is well…carry on.”

If any bird fits the self-important, king-of-everything characterization, it’s the Red-winged Blackbird. After all, he even has his own harem. Highly polygamous, this very handsome blackbird will have his own clan of “sister wives”: One male can have anywhere from one to over a dozen females nesting in his territory.

The females are far from monogamous themselves, and have been known to lay clutches of eggs fertilized by different males.

If you see only one Red-winged Blackbird at your feeder, rest assured that others aren’t too far away. These birds are very communal and will roost together all year long, though flocks tend to be larger in winter months.

Here’s more of what you should know about the Red-winged Blackbird:

Species: Agelaius phoeniceus
Family: ICTERIDAE

Size and markings: Though roughly the same size at 7-9 inches long and with a wingspan of 12-15 inches, male and female red-winged blackbirds look completely different. The male is all black with the exception of red and yellow shoulder patches. The female’s plumage is a warm brown and heavily streaked. On both, the bill is sharply pointed.

Food: Red-winged Blackbirds feed on seeds, insects, berries, grain, corn, and small aquatic life, such as insects hiding inside aquatic plants.

To attract RWBB’s, try Woodlink’s Magnum Sunflower Seed Screen Feeder

Habitat/nesting/behavior: Cup-shaped, loosely woven nests are built in damp areas such as marshes and ditches, though some Red-winged Blackbirds choose to nest in grassy fields. Red-winged Blackbirds are polygamous, and several females will nest in one male’s territory.

Number of broods per year: 1-2
Number of eggs per brood: 2-4

Migratory pattern: Some Red-winged Blackbirds remain year-round in the Pacific Northwest, but some do winter in the southern United States and Mexico. Males are the first to return in February to set up their territories, with the females following later.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Any, though most likely from February/March through November.

Many of the above facts about the Red-winged Blackbird were taken from Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds.


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Male Red Crossbill. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson, naturepicsonline.com

Male Red Crossbill. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson, naturepicsonline.com

As bird lovers, most of us live for the day when a rare (to us) bird flies into our air space, and – instead of just passing through – decides our yard looks good enough for a stopover. This happened for me last year when a Lazuli Bunting stopped in for a bite and lingered for a few hours. Last week, it was a pair of Red Crossbills.

The Red Crossbill, a colorful yet smudgy-looking member of the finch family, has one very interesting feature. And if you’re seeing this bird for the first time, this feature – a curved beak that crosses at the tips – may look like a deformity. But that crazy beak isn’t a deformity at all. Rather, it’s a handy feature that helps it collect the seeds that are the main part of its diet.

Of the rare-to-me birds on my list, the Red Crossbill is the one I’ve been most wanting to see, and for one reason: to get a first-hand look at that crazy, curvy, crossed beak myself. And it finally happened.

As I was gazing at my feeder birds the other morning, I was perplexed by what resembled a too-small, “dirty” Evening Grosbeak. She was eating seeds from a snowman-shaped cylinder feeder and was soon joined by a reddish friend that at first glance appeared to be a male House Finch. Of course, I knew they weren’t either of those and set about to identify them. (I knew what I wanted them to be, but had to make sure). After snapping a couple of photos to get a closer look, I was very excited to confirm that they were the Red Crossbills I’d been waiting for (the yellow one was the female). Oh, happy day!

Unfortunately, the pictures didn’t turn out well – see below – and I wasn’t able to get a great look at their beaks, but it was enough that they had finally showed. And hopefully they’ll be back.

If you, too, would like to see that amazing beak in action, watch as this female Red Crossbill devours an immature pinecone in slow motion:

And here’s a nice close-up of the Red Crossbill’s fabulous beak:

Want to learn more about the Red Crossbill? Read on.

Scientific name: Loxia curvirostra
Family: FRINGILLIDAE

Size and markings: The Red Crossbill is 5.5-7” in length with a wingspan of 11-12”. Its heavy finch bill is crossed at the tip. The male is a dull brick red with brown wings, and the red is lighter on the rump. The female is a yellow/olive-green with brown wings and also has lighter coloring on the rump. Tail is short and brown.

Food: The main diet of the Red Crossbill consists of seeds from pinecones. It also eats other seeds, berries, and insects.

Habitat/nesting/behavior: This bird forms loose colonies with other crossbills in coniferous forests. Its chunky nest, built on a branch, is made up of twigs, grasses, and lichen. The Red Crossbill has been known to breed “off-season” if a plentiful supply of pinecones is found.

Number of broods per year: Varies. At least one, but possibly more if plentiful food is found.

Number of eggs per brood: 3-4

Migratory pattern: The Red Crossbill is a year-round resident throughout much of the Pacific Northwest, but will micro-migrate nomadically in its search for pinecones.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Most likely to be seen at lowland feeders during the winter months, though rare.


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Male Mountain Bluebird. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson

Male Mountain Bluebird. Photo: Elaine R. Wilson

There are three bluebird species in North America: the Eastern Bluebird (perhaps the most well-known of the three), the Western Bluebird, and the Mountain Bluebird. Of the three, only the Western and the Mountain Bluebirds call the West their home. While both are bluebirds and have their similarities, they are quite easy to tell apart. Read on to learn more about the beautiful Mountain Bluebird.

Scientific name: Sialia currucoides
Family: TURDIDAE

Size and markings: This member of the thrush family is 6.5-7” long and has a wingspan of about 12”. Unlike his cousin, the male Western Bluebird, the male Mountain Bluebird has no rufous coloring. During breeding months, he is sky blue on the head, neck, wings, and upperparts. The blue gradually gets lighter from the chest downward. Gray coloring around the eyes and on the lores (cheeks) can be seen in the winter. Females have sky blue on the tail, rump, and edges of the wings, while upperparts and underparts are rufous-gray or, at times, grayish-white. Females are further distinguished from the males by their white eye ring, a common marking of thrushes, which the males lack.

Food: Insects are the main food of the Mountain Bluebird, who will forage for them on the ground or catch them on the wing (while flying). This bird is also a fan of berries and other fruit and will eat mealworms and suet offered on platform feeders.

Female Mountain Bluebird. Photo: Linda Tanner

Female Mountain Bluebird. Photo: Linda Tanner


Habitat/nesting/behavior: The Mountain Bluebird prefers open habitat dotted by trees. It’s undaunted by colder habitats during the winter months and even in summer will be found where it’s cool, in mountainous areas higher than 7,000 feet. Mountain Bluebird pairs are monogamous cavity nesters but will nest in bluebird boxes when offered.

Number of broods per year: 1-2

Number of eggs per brood: 4-8

Number of days young spend in nest: 21-23

Migratory pattern: In breeding months, this bird is found in the mountains of western North America as far north as Alaska, usually at elevations of 7,000 feet and up. In the winter, it is more likely to be found at lower elevations from central Oregon to Mexico. Stragglers who stay in the Pacific Northwest are seen in more open areas of mountain foothills, but are considered rare.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Winter months and migration.


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!







Search Our Site…
Hey, What’s That Bird??
Need to brush up on your backyard birds? Get Birds of the Pacific Northwest for your Kindle or Nook today! (On sale right now for just $2.99.)

No e-reader? No problem! Read it on your tablet, smartphone, or computer with the free Kindle reading app
.






Or Click Here to Buy On
Kindle Fire HD7
The best way to read Birds of the Pacific Northwest!
Got Hummers?
The feisty Rufous Hummingbirds have left us for the winter, but our Anna's Hummingbirds are still around! Check out the great deals on hummer feeders at Amazon.

Got Suet?
Let’s Connect!
Have you joined us? We love your pictures and stories!
 
"Like" Us on Facebook!

Sign up for the Pacific Northwest Birds newsletter!

Email Format
IT’S EASY TO…
Follow Me on Pinterest
About Our Posts
Posts on this page may contain one or more affiliate links. Patronage of these links helps to keep Pacific Northwest Birds up and running and full of fun information about our beautiful Northwest birds. Thank you!
Be a Part!
Your contribution helps to keep Pacific Northwest Birds online and ensures more fun, informative content will be heading your way. Thank you for your support!
 
FREE Ground Shipping