Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spinus Soiree and a Sharp-Shinned Buffet

Oh man, it's great to have a feeder again. In Florida we had Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and trained the neighborhood Blue Jays to eat peanuts straight from our hands. It was Xanadu. Our Savannah apartment had a patio with a spectacular sunset view overlooking a marsh, but, alas, it was screened and we had no place to put a feeder. Now we're making up for lost time.

Most prominent among our new set of visitors are members the Spinus trio: American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, and Pine Siskin.

Pine Siskins are handsome birds, but they're nothing if not modest. At rest, you can hardly say they're flashy, covered as they are in relatively uniform brown streaking. But catch them just right, and you might find these unassuming finches flaunting more color than you suspected they had. 

Even the siskin on the far side of the feeder wants to catch a glimpse

Far more brilliant than the siskins are two of its congeners, the goldfinches. We have both Lesser and American in the Willamette Valley. The Lessers had been the more prevalent this winter, but now they're starting to get outnumbered by their larger cousins. 

Pine Siskin (left) and Lesser Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

No offense to the above, but my favorite feeder birds are absolutely our Western Bluebirds. As many as seven have visited at one time, and they make me smile without fail. I don't know if its their color, their size, their shape, or the fact that we catch them out there only only once or twice a day.

Part of the charm is that they're nearly too big for the perches on our tube feeder, and have constantly to perform an impressive acrobatics routine just to stay on long enough to eat.

Just don't let a bluebird catch you laughing at it, or it might give you "the look." Western Bluebirds don't take kindly to your sass.

These are two different photos that I edited to show side-by-side. This House Finch and the Western Bluebird were, at different times, on the exact same part of the feeder tray, striking the exact same pose. This amuses me.

While the occasional siskin or goldfinch will fly at the sliding glass door, the collisions are always slight we have yet to suffer any casualties. One morning, I heard something SLAM into the glass, much harder and louder than anything I'd heard from our usual feeder birds. I jumped up the instant it happened; fast enough to watch a Sharp-shinned Hawk carry away its quarry. "Please, please, please don't be a bluebird" was my silent prayer to the raptor gods. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk and a former European Starling

The Sharpie only flew as far as the other side of the driveway and I was able to scope it from the porch. Thank goodness: that lump of feathers clasped in its talons was no more than a starling. Our starlings are such bullies they even give the flickers a hard time of it. Nevertheless, I wish the Sharpie could have dispatched with it more efficiently. As you can see from the video, some fairly fancy footwork was apparently required to entirely subdue it.

On each the following two days, the Sharpie stalked our feeder. The first day, I even caught it hovering inside the patio long enough to see that the suet was unattended. The second day, it was flying wide circles over our apartment. After that, I don't know that it's returned, and we haven't caught sight of it for over a month.


  1. Good on ya' Sharpie!

    You all seem to have a regular boarding house going.

    1. Indeed! I need some way of summoning a Sharpie whenever the starlings are around. That would be pretty badass.