In the icy, short days of winter, you may think that Nature itself has curled up to hibernate. Our gardens are colorless. Deciduous trees are stripped down to bare limbs and twigs. Many songbirds bid us farewell before flying south. In truth, what remains to be seen and heard of nature here in winter is more subtle and less complex. Now is the time to learn calls and songs of birds that reside here year-round, to hear them in solo performances, before the confusing springtime symphonies of birdsong.
This first bird calls its own name.[sound: “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” #9 Songbirds of the Rocky Mountain Foothills]. That would be a chickadee. Black-capped Chickadees take sunflower seeds one at a time from our feeders. When I’m out snowshoeing or skiing in our forests, inquisitive chickadees are my welcome companions. They put some joy in a wintry day.
Sometimes a winter chickadee flock has other birds. [Sound: “annk-annk” #48 Songbirds of Yellowstone]. This bird sounds like a child’s squeak toy, but that nasal call belongs to the red breasted nuthatch. Look for this chunky small bird at your suet feeder, or cruising up and down tree trunks in its search for bugs.
We also have a minimalist in our winter bird repertoire. [Sound: “tew” #62 Songbirds of Yellowstone]. That single note belongs to the Townsend’s solitaire, which looks like a lean robin, but the somber gray of an overcast sky. Solitaires get through our winters dining mostly on juniper berries. Their call stakes out their winter feeding territory. They are regulars at are heated birdbath, I suppose washing down all those puckery berries.– Winter is the time to appreciate Townsend’s solitaire, before their singular tune is drowned out by the chorus of returning migrants.
You often hear chickadees, nuthatches and solitaires before you see them, as their plumage is neither colorful nor splashy. If you notice these calls on a winter’s day, it is because you are quiet and focused on the nature around you, leaving civilization’s hubub behind. Winter birds can do that for you. We will share more of Kevin Colver’s bird recordings with you this winter on Wild About Utah.
Bird Sounds: Courtesy and Copyright 2008 Dr. Kevin Colver, Songbirds of the Rocky Mountain Foothills and Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text: Jim Cane and Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society https://www.bridgerlandaudubon.org
Black-capped Chickadee, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Black-capped_Chickadee.html
Red-breasted Nuthatch, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Red-breasted_Nuthatch.html
Townsend’s Solitaire, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Townsends_Solitaire.html