2016 Faves—Passerines, part 4: skip to H….

While there are numerous birds between E and H, none of the ones I’ve photographed fall into the perching / passerines category. AND, to be fair, the first one here doesn’t fit the passerine category either—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 [or two] 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)

So, for those who prefer bold print:
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. Please don’t get too bent out of shape by this issue.

So H brings us three birds, one a well-known woodpecker, a common but colourful finch, and last, but certainly not least, a somewhat drab but very entertaining wee performer.

Hairy Woodpecker at Harmon Lake, BC.

This handsome Hairy Woodpecker allowed me a front row seat to his excavation at Harmon Lake, BC.  Much larger than the similar Downy Woodpecker, portrayed in Part 2 of this series, the Hairy’s bill is nearly as long as the width of his head. This guy gave me a great look at his endeavours!

The House Finch is taken for granted in southwestern BC, and southeastern Canada….

The following account from  the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website betrays an American (i.e. US bias. They’re not found in most parts of Canada.
“The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across.”

In actuality, the map may be changing more rapidly than I know. Certainly, HOFIs are common at The Coast and up here in the Okanagan, especially in our exurbs. We are particularly blessed in our neighbourhood where I’ve been able to take scores of photos like these. They are year-round residents, but on the coldest winter days they make themselves scarce. Give us a warm spell, however, and they soon reappear….

Our final “H” bird is the House Wren, which folks where I grew up in Manitoba used call the “Jenny Wren.” More widely distributed in Canada, chances are that you’ll hear one before you see it: Again from Cornell’s website:

“A plain brown bird with an effervescent voice, the House Wren is a common backyard bird over nearly the entire Western Hemisphere. Listen for its rush-and-jumble song in summer and you’ll find this species zipping through shrubs and low tree branches, snatching at insects. House Wrens will gladly use nestboxes, or you may find their twig-filled nests in old cans, boots, or boxes lying around in your garage….

In summer, House Wrens are at home in open forests, forest edges, and areas with scattered grass and trees. Backyards, farmyards, and city parks are perfect for them. In winter they become more secretive, preferring brushy tangles, thickets, and hedgerows.”

Ironically, here in the  Okanagan, I rarely see them in town. There are a couple of reliable locations, however, where they are wonderfully accessible: the amazing Beaver Lake Road area and Bertram Creek Park, both of which have provided many of the photos in this blog.

I’d love to post a lot more shots of each species, but that was not the plan, so I won’t….


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