2016 Faves—Passerines, part 2: C and D….

For viewing instructions, see Passerines, part 1.

The first bird in this post is NOT one we would normally classify as a passerine or perching bird or song bird. to begin with, its feet are wrong . “Most songbirds [passerines] have three forward-facing toes and one backward-facing toe. Most woodpeckers, however, have two toes facing forward and one facing back. This is known as a zygodactyl foot and allows woodpeckers to easily climb and grasp trees and other structures. Woodpeckers move up a tree by hopping and depend on their especially stiff tail feathers to serve as a prop. They work their way up a tree, peering and poking into every nook and cranny, and then either fly in an undulating fashion to a new area or glide down to a neighboring tree to begin their foraging anew.” (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

However, the California Quail does perch-er-roost in trees, and it does offer distinctive vocalizations that might, to some folks, pass as songs…. So, we’ll treat it here, for our purposes, as a passerine of sorts, even though it isn’t. Try not to get too bent out of shape about this. 😜

Environment Canada, in its inimitable taciturn prose, tells us this about the bird above:
“Native to Oregon and California, the California Quail is an introduced species in Canada. Most of the Canadian population is in the British Columbia interior, where Breeding Bird Survey data indicate that populations have shown large increases since 1973. Populations on the British Columbia coast are not faring as well. The reasons for the difference between the two population trends are unclear.

The California Quail was introduced to British Columbia several times between 1860 and 1912 (Campbell et al. 1990). Wet springs reduce breeding success (Calkins et al. 1999) and cold, snowy winters can have a significant negative impact on local populations (Cannings et al. 1987). There are no conservation concerns for this introduced species.”

For a far more engaging account (by journalist John Macdonald)  of this wonderful Okanagan transplant (can’t call it an invader if it was brought here to populate the area!) click the link below:
Everything you need to know about quail in the southern interior

CAQUs’ keys to survival here are the relatively dry climate and their prolific breeding—up to three enormous broods a year. Their numbers are held in check by predators, both mammals and raptors that eat them, especially the youngest, weakest members of the brood. Because it’s Nature’s Way, we can appreciate both the birds that survive and the creatures who harvest the non-survivors…. Certainly, visitors to the Okanagan almost always find this species an entertaining surprise!

A bird that is less commonly seen, but thrives in the Interior, is a finch that is sometimes mistaken for species more common, the House Finch and the Purple Finch, both of which are quite familiar to British Columbians at The Coast. In my eyes, however, once we’ve seen a Cassin’s Finch in breeding season, we’re unlikely to mistake it for one of its cousins:

Cassin’s Finch in breeding plumage…. It’s all about the cap!

Waxwings, in Kelowna, vary with the season. In winter, we’re blessed with Bohemians, which are a circumpolar species. I’ve covered them in a separate post. In spring, the BOWAs rather quickly give way to the CEWAs, Cedar Waxwings that breed locally and stick around through until their fledglings are ready to head south. Occasionally, one or two will try to stay through the coldest months.

While the next species is found throughout the region and throughout the year, I see it mostly in spring and early summer. A corvid, the Clark’s Nutcracker often shows up in small, noisy flocks, as this individual did at Okanagan Lake Park in June.

Clark’s Nutcracker, probably a juvenile or second year bird….

NOTE: ALTHOUGH WOODPECKERS ARE NOT CONSIDERED PASSERINES, I have included one here because it doesn’t fit into the other broad categories that I’m using. This is NOT intended to be a scientific blog; it’s a highly personal one. Again, don’t get too bent out of shape by this issue.

An active pair of Downy Woodpeckers in Belmont Park.

I am the target text.

Downy vs Hairy Woodpeckers

While most of Canada is blessed with an abundance of woodpeckers, there are significant variations in the species east and west of the Continental Divide. Some, like these Downy Woodpeckers, however, are found in virtually all parts of Canada. For some reason, just seeing one makes me happy; when I get to see a pair interacting, cavorting, actually, the thrill is even greater. Males stand out with a flash of red on the back of their head. Downies resemble their larger cousins, Hairy Woodpeckers. A key diagnostic, if one is not sure which species (s)he’s seeing, is the length of the bill, which is less than half the width of the head in the case of the Downy, and much more elongated in the Hairy.

Find photos of other woodpeckers in series parts that contain their first names….
Hairy  ……..
Northern Flicker ……..Pileated


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