Like birds of a feather, people and birds have similar ways of communicating. People can twitter and send text messages called tweets over the Internet. Twitchers are bird watchers that travel great distances to sight, socialize and record rare birds. Birds twitter and tweet during courtship, to announce danger and to talk to flock members.
Understanding our little feathered friends is fun for people of all ages.
To date, there have been 304 species of birds recorded in the Sudbury district. Of those there are 174 species that have been known to breed here.
Birds are fascinating. Children can acquire an early interest in nature by watching them flock to the backyard feeder. Even the seasoned birder can learn new things every day by observing birds.
The birds around us add colour, liveliness, and music.
Everyone’s favourite is the curious and chatty Black-capped Chickadee. Lovable and friendly, they quickly become accustomed to humans and can easily be hand-fed, especially with the incentive of sunflower seeds or peanuts held in an open palm.
Acrobatic chickadees hang upside down from branches and flit through trees and shrubs in constant search of food. At the feeder they take a seed, fly away to perch on a branch, hold the seed in their feet, crack it, and eat it. Then come back for more. Listen for their ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee or fee-beee’ song.
The small Downy Woodpecker is a regular at backyard suet feeders and is very approachable and tolerant. The Hairy Woodpecker is its big cousin. They both often appear at the same time so people can soon spot the difference. Woodpeckers come equipped with feathered nostrils that filter out all that sawdust when hammering for food. They also have unusually long tongues that retract around the inside of their skulls like measuring tapes. Rather than singing during courtship, woodpeckers drum on anything and everything, the louder the better. Steel roofs and stainless steel chimneys create especially notable rhythms.
The Blue Jay, one of the most recognizable birds with its raucous ‘jay-jay-jay’ is impossible to miss. Beautiful and resourceful, the Blue Jay can be one of the most annoying, bold and impish birds around.
The sweetest songbird voice award goes to the White-throated sparrow. Heralding spring and summer it sings a glorious ‘sweet Canada Canada Canada’ in a familiar tribute.
And weighing about as much as a nickel, the delightful Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeds on flower nectar and is capable of speeds of up to 100 km/h. It can also fly vertically and in reverse. Each year it embarks on an incredible, solitary journey that takes it across the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Central America.
“The trick to attracting birds to your backyard is simple,” says Monique Paajanen, co-owner of the Backyard Birder Nature Gift Shop in Sudbury. Offer them the same resources they find in the wild: food, water, shelter and nesting sites.
Here are a few suggestions: Set up a feeding station and keep it stocked with food, put out a birdbath, plant trees and shrubs that will feed birds in winter, shelter them in summer, and give them safe places to nest and raise their young. Provide nest boxes, birdhouses, hummingbird feeders and create a horticultural garden to attract birds and butterflies.
“One of the most interesting aspects of birding is the potential to find rare birds. People watch birds for interest, study them for science and record them for records,” says Chris Blomme a Sudbury biologist, author/illustrator, and chair of the Sudbury Ornithological Society (SOS).
Rare bird sightings in the Sudbury area include the Grey-crowned Rosy Finch that spent the winter of 2007 in Blezard Valley at one person’s feeder. This species is normally found at high altitudes in the mountains of B.C.
There was also a flock of 12 Black-bellied Tree Ducks that spent about two weeks in the valley. These are normally found in Florida and further south.
“The most recent rarity was a Western Tanager that stayed at a residence for about two weeks last fall. To be acknowledged as “real” wild birds versus escapees from aviaries has to be determined. One year two black swans visited Robinson Lake, and though very interesting, could not be counted on our checklist as they are exotic,” adds Blomme.
For more information about birding contact the Sudbury Ornithological Society (SOS). The club meets the third Monday of each month from October to April. Field trips are also offered in the spring.
Contact: [email protected]
The Bird Checklist District of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, third edition is available at the Backyard Birder as well as at any bird club meeting. Many types of field guides are also available from local book stores and the library. A good field guide to the birds of North America will cover potential sightings.