Have you heard? Coloring books are all the rage with adults now. Not kids’ coloring books necessarily, but coloring books illustrated and published with adults in mind, too. From Zentangle to books featuring mandalas, grown-ups everywhere are finding coloring to be an old-hobby-made-new-again. For many, it’s a way to unwind and even be meditative. Personally, I enjoy listening to audio books or podcasts when I’m able to find time to color or do some other hands-on type of hobby or craft.

And what’s better than relaxing while coloring and feeling like a kid again? Not much, unless you throw in being able to learn something at the same time…like bird identification.

Peterson Field Guides Color-In Books: Birds

Peterson Field Guides Color-In Books: Birds

I was so pleased to discover Birds recently, part of the Peterson Field Guide Color-In Books series. Written by Peter Alden and John Sill and using illustrations based on Roger Tory Peterson‘s famous drawings and watercolors, this fun book can be used by anyone who wants to learn more about our North American birds.

Over 230 numbered bird stickers are included, which can be placed inside the book next to the bird you’ll be coloring. Each bird in the book is represented by a black and white drawing and a short paragraph that describes the bird and tells you a tidbit about it that you might not have already known. For example, did you know that the Great Blue Heron, number 7 in the book, is sometimes mistakenly called a “Blue Crane”?

Use whichever medium you like best with this book. Pencils and paints are recommended on the cover, but it seems to me like paints would seep through. Markers (again, there’s the possibility of the ink seeping through), colored pencils, or even crayons can also be used. I use a pack of 50 colored pencils that I purchased from Amazon, and they’ve been working very well for coloring the birds. Having at least 50 colors at my disposal gives me more choices for colors, of course, and the kid in me just thinks it’s cool to have so many. (You should have heard my giddy laugh when they arrived in the mail.) Colored pencils or crayons, in my opinion, make it easier to blend colors — a trick I learned from an artist friend of my mom’s when I was very young.

The first birds I tackled in the book were bluebirds: Mountain, Eastern, and Western. From there, I moved on to a Chestnut-backed Chickadee and then a Yellow Warbler and I’m still coloring away. You can see them all, below. What do you think? Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

Eastern, Western, and Mountain Bluebirds in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

Eastern, Western, and Mountain Bluebirds in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

Yellow Warbler in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

Yellow Warbler in the Peterson "Birds" color-in field guide.

If I can do this, so can you! Placing the stickers next to the birds really does help when it comes to matching colors and getting the markings correct. Coloring these birds — which uses not only visual but also kinesthetic (hands on) learning — has really helped solidify their appearance in my mind…almost on a new level. And if that’s what it did for birds I already know well, I can’t wait to tackle other birds in the book.

It isn’t just song birds that are covered in this color-in field guide. You’ll find raptors, waterfowl, woodpeckers, and more. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Links to purchase:

Peterson Field Guide Color-In Books: Birds by Peter Alden and John Sill

Crayola Colored Pencils, pack of 50

You might also like:

Nature’s Mandalas

Adult Coloring Books: A Collection of Coloring Books for Adults; Featuring Mandalas, Flowers, and Geometric Designs by Coloring Books for Adults

Creative Coloring Inspirations: Art Activity Pages to Relax and Enjoy by Valentina Harper

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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!

A Yellow Warbler. This image is ready for sharing on Twitter, Instagram (via mobile), and Pinterest.

Some time back, I’d decided that this month…June…would be Warbler Month here at Pacific Northwest Birds. Over the past few weeks, however, I found myself with very little time to write and knew I would need to rethink my plans. So I thought about it and soon realized my late start on Warbler Month might not be such a bad thing. Why, after all, should we limit talking about warblers to just one month? And so Warbler Month has happily become Warbler Summer: For as long as these little darlings are in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll be learning about them. (We’ll be talking about other Northwest birds, too.)

If you’re following us on Instagram at pacificnorthwestbirds, you’ve already seen a couple of the fun graphics that have been posted. The latest one, left, features the Yellow Warbler, who is also our Bird of the Week.

Though a number of warblers with yellow plumage are sometimes confused with American Goldfinches, the Yellow Warbler is probably mistaken for them more than any other. This is the warbler that is most uniformly yellow, and if someone spots it who doesn’t know their birds as well as they’d like to (and we’ve all been at there at some point as birders), it is often assumed to be a goldfinch. If you’re one of those who’s confused the two (no shame), here’s a handy side-by-side of two males to help you out:

Left: Yellow Warbler (male). Photo: Mdf (Creative Commons) | Right: American Goldfinch (male). Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Left: Yellow Warbler (male). Photo: Mdf (Creative Commons) | Right: American Goldfinch (male). Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Read on to learn more about the Yellow Warbler.

Scientific name: Setophaga petechia
Family: Parulidae

Size and markings: 5″ long. Yellow with olive coloring from crown to rump. The male is more vibrant in color than the female and has rufous streaks on his chest and belly.

Food: The Yellow Warbler eats mainly insects and is especially fond of caterpillars.

Habitat/nesting/behavior: This warbler can be found nesting in riparian woodlands (wooded areas found close to rivers, streams, and lakes) and even shade trees in residential yards and parks. They are particularly fond of cottonwoods, alders, willows, and dense underbrush. The male is first to arrive in the spring, followed up to two weeks later by the female, who then builds the nest.

Number of broods per year: 1-2
Number of eggs per brood: 2-7

Migratory pattern: The breeding range of the Yellow Warbler covers most of North America, from Mexico to Alaska and northern Canada. Winters for this long-distance flyer are spent in Central America and northern South America.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Not typically seen at feeders.

Recommended reading:

The Warbler Guide by Tom Stevenson and Scott Whittle

Stokes Field Guide to Warblers by Don and Lillian Stokes

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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!

Friday, May 29, 2015. 4:30 p.m.

It was bound to happen, but I’d hoped it never would…or that at least I wouldn’t know about it: My neighbor’s cat got a hold of one of our hummingbirds. My daughter is the one who found her, and I truly believe she interrupted the attack, scaring the cat away as she approached.

She ran into the house to get me, and I followed her to the old sport court in the lower part of our back yard. Lemon cypress trees planted on the ledge above the court had low, overhanging branches and had been dropping plenty of needles. It was on top of these needles that I saw her: a female Rufous Hummingbird, buzzing one wing and hopping frantically, trying to make the other wing, broken and uncooperative, carry her up, up to safety.

I told Bethany to get a small box so we could take her to a wildlife care center. Mind you, Rucy (so named by Bethany…a cross between Lucy and Rufous) was our first injured bird besides the many who’ve hit our picture window. I’ve had plenty of practice – more than I wish – to care for Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, and even a Wilson’s Warbler after window strikes, but have never dealt with the after-effects of a cat attack. Rucy would most likely have been done for, I told Bethany, if she hadn’t decided to play in that part of our yard that day.

What a great birdsitter! Rucy was safe and not jostled at all on the way to South Sound Critter Care.


As I was saying, this was our first injured bird that would need to be transported elsewhere for care. My first concern was getting her the heck out of here and over to South Sound Critter Care, the only licensed general wildlife center located in Washington state’s King County, before she went into shock and/or became dehydrated. I didn’t even think to add a soft cloth to the bottom of the box. I did pour some nectar into a bottle cap and placed that in the box with her, hoping she would understand what it was. She didn’t touch it, but it also didn’t spill, except for a couple of drops. I’ll be buying a small animal carrier, a soft cloth, and a single hummingbird feeder to keep on hand should this ever happen again (God forbid).

Bethany will make a wonderful animal rehabilitator someday. (She probably has other aspirations, but at least she’s getting good practice.) At SSCC, it was explained that a splint would be too heavy for Rucy’s wing, but I’m sure they’ve taken care of hummers before and know what to do. (Other rehabilitators I’ve read about online used paper tape to help those tiny wings heal.) I requested that I be contacted to come get her when she’s better, so I’m really hoping her injuries weren’t worse and that she’s made it this far. I’m going to call today to get an update.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to get to bring her home and release her into the yard she knows? If that happens, I’ll be sure to record a video of it and post it here on the blog.

Here are a few photos of our little Rucy:

Rucy, a female Rufous Hummingbird. She'd just been injured by a neighbor's cat, ending up with a broken wing and a few missing tail feathers.

Rucy was bright-eyed and very alert. Good signs.

Rucy in her box. The cap was full of nectar, which miraculously didn't spill on the way to SSCC. I really wish I'd put a soft cloth in the box for Rucy.

I’ll be ordering these to have on hand for future emergencies (that I hope will never happen). Stay tuned for more about Rucy!

If you’re in the South Puget Sound area and find an injured or abandoned bird or animal, call South Sound Critter Care at (360) 886-8917. Visit their website, too, to find out how you can help SSCC to continue doing what they do best in caring for these animals: South Sound Critter Care.

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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 Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Female Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

It’s finally May, and the Black-headed Grosbeak is making its way back into the Pacific Northwest. The first one to arrive in our yard this spring, a female, showed her pretty little face yesterday. I’m sure her mate won’t be too far behind.

The photo to the left is from two years ago, as I just wasn’t quick enough with the camera yesterday. I’d like to think it’s the same female, though, returning to her favorite bird cafe.

Are you still waiting to see the Black-headed Grosbeak? You may already be hearing it as it sings from nearby trees and shrubs.

Black-headed Grosbeak song (Opens in a new tab.)

To attract this bird, be sure to have sunflower seeds ready and available. Rumor has it that it will also drink from oriole nectar feeders, so try hanging one of those this year, too.

Speaking of food, did you know the Black-headed Grosbeak is one of the only birds that can eat the Monarch Butterfly? Monarchs are toxic to many birds because of the milkweed they feed on, but the Black-headed Grosbeak will consume many of these butterflies.

Read on to learn more about the Black-headed Grosbeak!

Scientific name: Pheucticus melanocephalus
Family: CARDINALIDAE

Size and markings: The Black-headed Grosbeak is 8-8.5 inches long and has a wingspan of approximately 12.5 inches. Its beak is finch-like but large, and the upper part is darker than the lower. Tail is fairly short. Warm orange colors the breast, neck, and rump of the male, while his belly is a lighter orange that turns into a creamy white tinged with lemon-yellow. His head is black, and his back is chestnut-brown/black, mottled with orange. Its wings are black, as well, though interspersed with white markings and two white wing bars. The female is tan and brown with a striped head and face. Both male and female may have a yellowish tint to the belly.

Male Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Male Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

Food: Besides berries and fruit, the Black-headed Grosbeak loves to feast on insects and other invertebrates like wasps, bees, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. It will readily come to backyard birdfeeders, especially when sunflower seeds are offered. This grosbeak will also feed at oriole nectar feeders.

Habitat/nesting/behavior: The Black-headed Grosbeak feels at home in various types of woodlands and forests, including near bodies of water such as rivers and lakes. Suburban gardens, orchards, and edges of forests are also attractive to this grosbeak. When a good location to build a nest is found, the nest is then built loosely on outer branches with no mud to hold it together. Both sexes are equally defensive of their nesting territory, and both will spend time sitting on the eggs.

Number of broods per year: 1
Number of eggs per brood: 2-5

Migratory pattern: Though it spends its winters in Mexico, this bird breeds throughout the western United States. Males reach their breeding areas and sing when the females arrive.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: Spring and summer months, typically from May to August.

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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 and Twitter!

In some parts of the world, it isn’t rude to spit. In fact, it’s highly desirable…if you’re a bird. Even better if you’re an Edible-nest (or Cave) Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus), a member of the swift family that builds its nest from its own dried saliva. It’s the male that builds the nest by laying down one strand of saliva after another, eventually forming a small, bracket-shaped nest that adheres to the sides of limestone caves, cliffs, and even buildings. This bird is a smart one, often nesting in hard-to-get-to, high, cavernous caves where many nest collectors have fallen to their deaths.

Swiftlet on nest. Photographer unknown. Source: http://speakupforthevoiceless.org/2014/05/29/bird-nest-soup-mafia-china-thai-connection/

Swiftlet on nest. Photographer unknown. Source: http://speakupforthevoiceless.org/2014/05/29/bird-nest-soup-mafia-china-thai-connection/

The Swiftlet is a small bird at just 4-5 inches long. Found in Southeast Asia, this dark bird with pale undersides creates a nest that is seen as many to be an aphrodisiac or tonic for whatever ails you. A dish that started in China around 1,200 years ago, it has grown in popularity throughout the region, to the point that the harvesting of these nests leave many worried about the bird’s conservation status. In other words, the extensive harvesting of and demand for these nests often occur at times that harm and kill nestlings and fledglings (the young birds are simply “thrown away” or the female no longer has a place to lay her eggs), putting the species at risk of extinction. As you’ll read in the next paragraph, there is a ravenous market for these nests. As long as they can be sold, and/or until better nest harvesting practices are put into place, these birds will continue to be in jeopardy.

Edible nests. Photo by Wikipedia user Kowloonese.

Edible nests. Photo by Wikipedia user Kowloonese.

Regarding his photo of the Swiftlet nests to the left, photographer Kowloonese has this to say: “The top image shows the inside of a nest (shown here upside down). The bottom one shows how it would look when stuck on the wall of the cave. The nests are about 3″ long in this photo. These nests are still slightly moist hence requires refrigeration though most are sold completely dry. As of 2005, dried bird nests can be priced between US$1000 to US$3000 per pound in San Francisco area depending on the type of nest and moisture contents. The moist variety costs less per pound because it weighs more for the same amount of material. The sample in this picture cost about US$20 each. The nests are double steamed until they are broken into tiny Jello-like bits.”

Ten years later, the price for the nests has gone up, reaching up to $4,500 per pound and creating a mafia-like atmosphere surrounding the cultivation and sale of these nests. Here’s to hoping that someday cooler heads will prevail and the nests will be collected in a more sustainable way (or, better yet, will no longer be considered a delicacy). If not, yet another bird will be added to the list of extinct species.

Oh, people. Just eat something else.

Read more: Healing Powers of Birds’ Nest Soup Remain Mysterious

Bird’s Nest SoupM

Bird Nest Soup Mafia — China & Thai Connection

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Learn more about your backyard birds in the newly revised and updated 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 and Twitter!

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