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Mon, Feb. 17

Recent bird sightings keeps birding interesting

There has been a lot of bird activity this week, both at my home and at Jay's Bird Barn. For instance, I had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what would have been species number 60 for my Watters bird list. David, who works for Watters, spotted a roadrunner and alerted me to its presence. However, from the time David saw it until I ran out of the store to see it, the roadrunner literally vanished. Darn. It would be fun to get a roadrunner on my store list. Maybe there will be another opportunity.

However, I was not to be denied seeing 60 species for very long. Today I saw my first rufous hummingbird on the nursery grounds here at Watters, bringing me to 60 species since I opened Jay's Bird Barn on Oct. 30 of last year. Now I'm going for 70 before the year's end.

Here at home I had a beautiful male blue grosbeak in the back yard on Sunday, and on Tuesday I saw both male and female lazuli buntings. Wow!

Seeing these birds in my yard is an indicator that migratory birds are on the move, so watch your feeders, and especially watch for ground feeding birds under your feeders. Remember, lazuli buntings, while they look similar to bluebirds, have two distinctive white patches on their wings.

Another key to identifying them is by their feeding behavior. If you see 'bluebirds' eating seed down on the ground, then they are buntings. Buntings are seed eaters, whereas bluebirds are fruit, berry and insect eaters.

As you know, over the past few months I have been writing about the pair of blue grosbeaks that have nested twice this summer here on the nursery grounds. I am very happy to report that the young birds from the second nesting attempt successfully fledged and left the nest recently. Now that mom and dad are not tied down to the nest they are more difficult to see and less predictable around the nursery grounds.

Just today I received yet another report of northern Bob Whites in Williamson Valley. In fact, one couple has seen both a male and female bobwhite in their yard. Bobwhites are a non-native species in this area, and I assume that the birds being seen are escapees from captive birds used for hunting purposes.

I remember an experience growing up in Tucson when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. I went outside to turn off the water in the garden and as I approached the garden I saw a chukar sitting in the garden, under the sprinkler, thoroughly enjoying himself. Chukars and ring-necked pheasants are examples of other non-native game birds that either escape or are released into the wild.

For ornithological purposes, I would like to record each of the occurrences of bobwhites by location so I can plot on a map where the birds are occurring. So far, bobwhites have been seen three miles, five miles and about eight miles out Williamson Valley Road. Most likely these are probably all separate birds, and not the same bird being seen by three different people, since the distance between the sightings is fairly substantial.

It will be interesting to see if bobwhites can actually survive in this area. Our climate is certainly much drier here than where they occur naturally (primarily east of the Rockies). I don't know that our temperature extremes are much different than where they occur naturally, but certainly our vegetation is different. The fact that many home owners provide wild bird seed in their yard might contribute to the bobwhites' ability to survive here in the wild. Call me at Jay's Bird Barn with your sightings, and stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Speaking of staying tuned ... if you are not too busy Saturday morning (today!) I invite you to tune in to KYCA radio, AM 1490, at 11 a.m., when I will be a guest on the Jay Robbins show. Anybody with two bird names (Jay and Robbins – hey, it's a little different spelling but it sounds the same) ought to be a really great guy!

If you have specific questions, or issues related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, P.O. Box 11471, Prescott, AZ 86304, or e-mail your questions to jaysbirdbarn@juno.com. Until next week, happy birding!

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn located at Watters Garden Center. He has been an avid birder for close to 40 years.

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