Birds in the ‘hood

Who doesn’t like to see birds in their backyard? Here in James Bay, Victoria, BC Canada, our “signature bird” may be the Bewick’s Wren. We’re lucky to have her here because the Bewick’s has practically disappeared back east, possibly due to an increased range, encouraged by nest boxes, of the House Wren, which often takes eggs out of cavity nests.

In Victoria and to the east of Vancouver at places like Reifel and Tynehead, you may encounter chestnut-backed chickadees. These guys are tinier and even less shy than their black-capped cousins who haven’t yet made it to Vancouver Island—they can persuade you to feed them black-oil sunflower seeds out of your hand. Both kinds of chickadees will let you know when the feeder needs refilling. Or perhaps that’s just their curiosity: Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac wrote that the third commandment among chickadees is “thou shalt investigate every loud noise. When we start chopping in our woods, the chicks at once appear and stay until the felled tree or riven log has exposed new insect eggs or pupae for their delectation.”

You’ll probably also see lots of bushtits, travelling through in large noisy flocks. They’re quite tolerant of us humans when nesting and if you look hard enough you can often see their mossy socklike nests attached to trees in people’s front yards. They particularly like suet and it’s quite a site to see a block covered in the tiny birds.

In Montreal you may be graced with a vision in red—the Northern Cardinal has moved into the neighbourhood, ironically from more southerly latitudes. You may hear it before you see it.

Not so long ago, you might have seen a Crested Myna (descended from one or two original pairs from introduced from Hong Kong or Macao at the end of the 19th Century) in Vancouver neighbourhoods from Marpole to New Westminster to False Creek, but after a hundred years or so in residence, they’re now gone, apparently victims of competition from European Starlings as well as fewer crevices and ledges as buildings were replaced.

In the east, you’ll see traditional Blue Jays—beautiful, raucous, and aggressive. It’s known as a nest predator. The West Coast has their cousins, the Steller’s Jay. The provincial bird of British Columbia, it is a beautiful slate blue, gregarious creature who may grace you with her presence.

The Pileated Woodpecker is now visible in backyards. He prefers larger trees, but habitat destruction has forced him to adapt to other settings.

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