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Need help identifying birds with yellow markings - Tacoma, WA


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#1 blacknall

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:34 PM

I have two kinds of birds who have been frequenting our feeders (we feed only suet and sunflower seeds at this point), and I have been unable to identify either one. Both were sighted in mid- to late-April in the Tacoma/Olympia area of Washington. We live near a marshy area with lots of blackberries behind the house, and coniferous forests edging us. We tend to have lots of chickadees, house finches, spotted towhees, dark-eyed juncos, crows/blue jays/Stellar's jays, and red-winged blackbirds.

The first ones are much smaller, like the size of a large chickadee. They are mostly buff, but when they fly the underside of the wings is canary yellow. I was thinking they may be lesser goldfinches, but I'm not convinced. They tend to show up in large flocks with lots of movement and flitting around. They eat straight from the feeders and have absolutely no fear of us. We can get within inches of them.

Attached File  Bird.JPG   106.55KB   112 downloads

The other ones just showed up yesterday. I think they are too large to be a kinglet, because they are about the size of a large sparrow, but they have really similar markings. They have buff to light brown bodies and a dark head that extends down over their eyes. They have a bright yellow stripe in the middle of their heads. They tend to either hang out on the fence and peck at it or forage on the ground. I know the image is crummy, but they caught me by surprise.

Attached File  Bird Flock.JPG   216.68KB   112 downloads

I would appreciate any help in identifying these birds! We keep a list and they have been stumping us. :)

#2 Raptor

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:03 PM

1. Pine Siskin
2. White-crowned Sparrows
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#3 Sgtmac1

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:27 PM

Agree with Pine Siskin. Based on the yellow stripe on the second one, I'm seeing Gold-crowned Sparrow.
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#4 BarnSwallow

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:29 PM

Agree with Sgtmac. Nice birds!

#5 TheBillyPilgrim

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:38 PM

Another vote for GCS

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#6 Melissa :)

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 10:38 PM

Agree with Pine Siskin and Golden-crowned Sparrows. Nice Pine Siskin picture!!

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#7 blacknall

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 02:55 AM

Wow, thank you all so much! That was quick. :) I have a 5-year-old who is obsessed with identifying them and we were scouring the internet but couldn't figure it out. Can anyone recommend a really good bird identification book for us?

#8 Carolina

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:06 AM

Nice Pine Siskin picture!!


Seconded!

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#9 blacknall

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:08 AM

Wow, I looked up information on the Golden-Crowned Sparrows, and listened to recordings of their calls. I have been hearing that call from the blackberry bushes all week and it was driving me nuts because I had never heard them before. That solves that mystery. I am sad to see that they are probably on the way up north for the breeding season; hopefully they will stick around a while or come back next year!

In the meantime, I need to get my zoom lens on and keep the camera handy. :)

#10 Sgtmac1

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:15 AM

Wow, thank you all so much! That was quick. :) I have a 5-year-old who is obsessed with identifying them and we were scouring the internet but couldn't figure it out. Can anyone recommend a really good bird identification book for us?


I really like "The Stokes Field Guide to birds of North America" because it shows several actual photographs of each species. "Birds of Washington State" by Bell and Kennedy published by Lone Pine, also serves me well. It lists the best sites to locate each species here in the State. I use both of these books together usually. Sgtmac in Yakima.
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#11 Limpkin

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:24 AM

Wow, thank you all so much! That was quick. :) I have a 5-year-old who is obsessed with identifying them and we were scouring the internet but couldn't figure it out. Can anyone recommend a really good bird identification book for us?


Welcome to Whatbird! My favorite field guide is "The Sibley Guide to Birds of North America", because it have multiple illustrations of each species showing them in the different plumages, etc., and it comes in smaller Eastern and Western versions, too. That one is arranged based on the taxonomy of the birds, which I like because it helps me learn more than just identification, but it can be confusing when you're starting out because closely related species often look very different from one another. Some guides are organized by the color of the bird, which I haven't tried, so you might want to think about one of those - there can be some confusion because of color differences between males and females of the same species, though, since they can look pretty different from one another (I imagine that they're placed in different color sections of the guide? If anyone could enlighten me on this, please do!).

One thing that I'd suggest as well is thinking about participating in some citizen science projects - there are several different projects at the moment through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that are easy to participate in and often very kid-friendly. They provide identification help and detailed instructions of what to do, and can be a lot of fun. Check some out, for sure - here's a link to the page:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citsci/

#12 Pat B.

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:30 AM

If kids are involved you might consider the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America. At the front of the book the table of contents has pictures of the various broad types of birds. New birders often complain that, when trying to find something in a field guide, they need to know the general type of bird and so they give up. What seems obvious to more seasoned birders ("it's some kind of Heron or Egret," "a Jay of some kind," etc.) is not at all obvious to someone new. Kenn Kaufman is highly competent and deserves to be in the running with Sibley and Stokes.

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#13 Pat B.

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 03:37 AM

Some guides are organized by the color of the bird, which I haven't tried, so you might want to think about one of those - there can be some confusion because of color differences between males and females of the same species, though, since they can look pretty different from one another (I imagine that they're placed in different color sections of the guide? If anyone could enlighten me on this, please do!).


The first field guide I bought when I moved to Utah was Stan Tekiela's Birds of Utah. It is one of those arranged by color, which is quite a novel approach and works well. Yes, the males and females are in different color sections if that's appropriate, with a little inset of the other sex with its page #. I don't use it so much now that I've "graduated" to Sibley's, Stokes, and Kaufman, since they are more comprehensive, but Tekiela's books are great for beginners.

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#14 blacknall

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 06:41 PM

Thank you all for the help! I will be sure to check out the book recommendations. Our feeders are just exploding; today we had some mountain chickadees and a downey woodpecker show up and my flock of golden-crowned sparrows came back. There are three of them that like to come hang out and poke around in all my potted plants. I am about to put out some millet and hummingbird feeders (I have some Anna's hanging around) to see what else we can attract. Not too bad for a yard the size of a postage stamp. :)

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#15 Desertthorn

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:21 PM

Have you taken your son out to the Nisqually NWR, its a bird haven out there. They also have lots of books about birding for all age groups and some pretty knowledgeable folks to talk to.

#16 dklucius

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 10:03 PM

like Pat B. i used the Stan Tekiela book but mine was Birds of Colorado. He does not list all the birds in the state but does show most of the everyday ones. and i like the color index also since then i have accumulated a variety of others and each have good points and bad features.
But being mainly a back yard viewer i often try for photos and compare them to several good web sites such as Cornell Labs and Audabon
and national geographic

#17 Sgtmac1

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:29 PM

Have you taken your son out to the Nisqually NWR, its a bird haven out there. They also have lots of books about birding for all age groups and some pretty knowledgeable folks to talk to.


Excellent suggestion Desertthorn. I love that place. I make it a point to go there when I come to that side of the mountains to visit family (birds),Mac.
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#18 ceylon

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 07:40 AM

Your last picture of the gold crowned sparrow was brilliant.
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#19 cabirds

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:59 AM

Your last picture of the gold crowned sparrow was brilliant.


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