You a Birder?

Kris and I are amateur birders, and we have a well-worn Roger Tory Peterson Guide to prove we’ve been at it awhile. Neither of us is good at bird calls, but I envy those who can identify the odd migrating warbler by sounds/songs. I can’t, though I know most of the birds in our area. I “observed” a nuthatch at Northern Seminary’s president’s home the other day (at our retreat) before I saw the little thing land on their plentiful feeders. But this piece on the songs/sounds of the chickadees is something to cherish. Here’s a clip:

We thus have considerable evidence that the note composition of calls of Carolina chickadees is associated with detection of predators (both perched and flying), food detection, individual flight and motivation. The calls also vary in ways that may suggest markers for individual, flock, population or some combination of the three. Variation in the note types that make up the call corresponds to different contexts and to population-level characteristics. Studies of call variation have also been carried out in other parid species. For example, as a 2012 review article by Krams and coauthors reveals, perched predator contexts have been shown to have a similar effect on call note composition in black-capped chickadees, Mexican chickadees (Poecile sclateri) and willow tits. Call variation seems to be associated with food contexts in black-capped chickadees and with flight contexts in mountain chickadees (P. gambeli). Krama, Krams and Kristine Igaune in 2008 documented variation in the comparable call system in crested tits (Lophophanes cristatus), based on whether individuals were close to the relative safety of vegetation or were exposed in open areas away from cover. Another interesting finding about this species is that dominant individuals use their calls differently than subordinate individuals, which suggests possible personality-like influences on call variation.

What birds are you spotting these days? Our hummers seem to have gone South, but we’ve not seen many migrating ducks (grebes though are visible at our lake) or birds yet.

And don’t get me started about the skunks digging up our back yard. War has been declared. 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://theparsonspatch.com Mark Stevens

    We are seeing more Kookaburras come into our area. We even had some in our tree recently. They are such a splendid and beautiful bird. Very family orientated and every morning we awaken to their laughing!
    I’m no birder but here in Australia we don’t seem to get the same migration patters you get. At least not with the most common birds like parrots.
    Did you see many birds while you were here?

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick O

    We moved a couple of months ago and so I’ve been curious about the different birds we would see. Not that far of a move, just down the hill a couple of miles, but a different kind of landscape, with a little more space around us.

    Put a hummingbird feeder out but the hummers just looked at it and didn’t seem interested. (I even put a good mix of sugar water in it!)

    More fun, for me, is the scrub jay family that has been using the birdbath outside my window. A family of goldfinches adds some nice color. Crows are around here as well. Which is noteworthy only because in the other place, there weren’t crows but there were ravens. The other place also had hawks flying over and a merlin in the trees on occasion. I would run along trails to a nearby lake and see all sorts of great water birds, the occasional heron, lots of coots, and a variety of ducks.

    This new place is also getting a taste of our exotic residents of Southern California, the local wild parrot flocks. I’ve not seen them close up here, but I’ve heard them flying over and in nearby trees (high in the branches).

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Really neat, what can be learned in nature, creation. We have a bird feeder in our front yard, and it’s good to see them come, and hear their sounds, when we can.

  • http://www.helenleeauthor.com Helen Lee

    Blue jays, who tend to stay away during warmer months, have begun to re-emerge so I have whole peanuts in my feeder. You can always hear their loud squawking before they arrive! We always have a suet feeder up which makes the woodpeckers happy. Otherwise, it’s the usual collection of cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, mourning doves and sparrows for us. And hummingbirds are still around as well. We have also learned that chickadees particularly like water that gently mists out of a garden hose, like a miniature fountain. I’ll turn it on for a few minutes a day while we are in sight of the hose, and it doesn’t take long before we see the chickadees showering! Enjoy!

  • Leigh Ann

    My 17 year old daughter and I love to watch birds and we’re setting up our feeders for winter right now. Last year and again this year, we were blessed to see a migrating flock of cedar waxwings stop at some berry bushes that line our driveway. It was wonderful! They would divebomb those bushes, scarf down some berries, and then head to a large tree where they’d hang out for a bit. Then, after a few days of visits to our bushes–and gracing the tops of our vehicles with the, uh, leftovers–they move on their way and are gone for the winter. We enjoy chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, house and purple finches, cardinals and other typical feathered friends. My daughter has a worn bird guide from her great-grandfather and she adds her “seen!” check-marks next to his, connecting with a man she never got to meet. We saw a great blue heron and grey catbird this year to add to our list! Happy birding!

  • Scot McKnight

    Leigh Ann, waxwings are our favorites too.


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