[Tweeters] Where the birds are

Gene Bullock bullockg at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 17 10:38:39 PST 2007

[Tweeters] Antique Bird Book QuestionBurt,
It's an interesting question. In the winter, these roving mixed flocks can be found almost anywhere. They tend to follow the Chickadees, which are very good at finding food (feeders, seeds, etc.). When the group moves on, the area they've left seems empty of birds.
Gene Bullock
Poulsbo WA
----- Original Message -----
From: Guttman,Burton
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2007 9:57 AM
Subject: [Tweeters] Where the birds are

It has been said that birds are where you find them, but anyone with an ecological view of nature doesn't find that old saw very enlightening. I want to raise some questions about where birds live and congregate, and why. Dave Milne and I did part of the west side of Olympia yesterday for the local CBC. We drove about 25 miles, mostly very slowly, edging up to interesting-looking yards, lots, and woodlands, where we looked and listened; my ears are lousy, but Dave's are good. We walked several miles, often through such woodlands or patches of parks or lonely lanes. The weather was pretty good, until late in the day.

We generally found these natural areas quite empty of birds. To us, they looked like great habitat, and we kept saying to each other that if we were little birds, we would love to live there. But then we pulled up next to a lousy little vacant lot on one of the busiest west-side streets, across the street from a middle school, and it was swarming with birds! There were at least 15 juncos, several chickadees, both species of kinglet, and at least three Townsend's Warblers. This was a lot where a lot of cut-off tree limbs had been dumped, along with bits of human-made trash, and it was sandwiched between two relatively crummy houses. There was a lot of invasive blackberry in the underbrush. Similarly, we walked to a patch of junk shrub, also largely blackberry, near the waterfront and found it swarming with House Finches, with some sparrows and others.

Just what are the factors that make birds prefer one habitat over another, especially during the off-breeding season? Blackberry and other plants that we consider junk may have been one factor in what we observed, but I doubt that that's the only factor. I'd be really interested to see other people's observations relevant to the question and to hear some ideas about the factors that determine bird distribution.

Burt Guttman
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, WA 98505 guttmanb at evergreen.edu
Home: 7334 Holmes Island Road S. E., Olympia, 98503


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