Black-Capped Chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black Capped Chickadee

The Black-Capped Chickadee is often confused with the Carolina Chickadee because of the nearly indistinguishable differences in the following features; caps, neck/beard, color of breast/side, wing color, and size.

The beard and cap of the Carolina is very clearly defined against its cheeks and breast, almost as if drawn in a straight line. The Black-Cap’s beard and cap is more rough around the edges, slightly bleeding into its white cheeks and breast. As it turns out, that is the single most defining feature, as the washed red coloring on the sides and breast of both can vary so much, it’s nearly impossible to tell apart – especially in the field without a guide.

Another good determining factor is location. Think of a US map and draw a line from the Pacific to Atlantic half way between the Northern and Southern borders. The Black-Capped is located above that line all the way to northern Canada, and the Carolina is located south of that line – roughly – with the western limit in Eastern Kansas and running straight down through Texas. There is some overlapping, again making it difficult to tell. When you factor in interbreeding, especially in the crossover regions, it’s anybody’s best guess as to the species.

I was sure this one I captured here was a Carolina Chickadee, but upon closer inspection with my field guide and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, I determined it was a Black-Capped – I think.

Red Bellied Woodpecker



Red Bellied Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker

I caught this red-bellied heading up to one of its favorite holes in a tree in our back woods.

One of the most interesting things about a red-bellied woodpecker is that its tongue can extend up to a full two inches beyond its beak. The tip of it is barbed like little fish hooks. Combined with its sticky spit, snatching a delicious insect is a snap.

The red-bellied woodpecker is often mistaken for a red-headed woodpecker, and you might guess why. However; he is named for the tiny bit of a washed red color on his abdomen. The red barely visible in this picture, I’m guessing it’s a female.

Like most woodpeckers, red-bellieds like to nest in holes and with fierce competition for sites. Existing holes from previous nesting seasons are often fought over until the strongest bird prevails. I witnessed one of these full-blown fights list spring. It lasted for at least 5 – 8 minutes, and the red-bellied prevailed.

To attract woodpeckers to your yard, try red-pepper suet, peanuts or a woodpecker house – a welcoming site when nesting holes are scarce.

Mourning Dove

Over the weekend, we had a beautiful snowfall for about 3 hours. Thick clumps of snowflakes coming down made everything silent. This Mourning Dove took refuge on a branch during the storm. They typically stay on the ground. He was also positioning himself for a little drink at the bird bath.

Mourning Dove on branch in snow
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove at Bird Bath
Mourning Dove at Bird Bath

It’s fairly uncommon to see a Mourning Dove perched in a tree. These ground foragers can always be found in my backyard, and typically only fly to a nearby branch when my tabby cat stalks them and tires to attack. Most of the time, they make it.  They are rather slow, sloth-like birds. Part of the pigeon family, they jerk their head each time they walk. I hate to say this, but they are rather dense too. You know, not very bright. Stupid. Our old cat Maggie actually caught one once, and brought it to the door for praise. Then she proceeded to eat it; feathers, bones, feet and all. I was incredulous that she would eat the feathers. Beautiful package (and tasty I guess), but not too much going on inside.

I have a story to support my criticism. About 10 years ago, two Mourning Doves were trying to make a nest on a rather small and very thin beam running between an inside corner of our house on the patio. We used to hang plants from it. They would come to the beam with a twig or two, and throw it down. Over the course of an afternoon, after many trips and building up of the nest, it would invariably fall down to the ground, and they would start over again the nest day. Once, they did manage to keep a pile of twigs there and mama actually laid an egg, which promptly fell onto the ground.

Finally, I couldn’t bear to watch it anymore. I purchased a nesting shelf, which is just a square wooden frame, typically with a screened bottom, and wedged it in the corner, affixing it to the beam. Mourning Doves lay about 5 – 6 clutches during a nesting season, typically producing two juveniles in each brood. I think they appreciated the nest shelf, and did end up building a decent next, however; it was positioned in such a way that I was unable to see any eggs, and didn’t want to get too close. Eventually, they abandoned the nest, probably because it was located near our sliding door, and couldn’t take the commotion of 3 little boys running in and out. They are very timid birds, and will take flight at the slightest sign of danger or concern.