Sun. Dec. 1, 2019

This month’s sightings were once again compiled entirely from eBird and illustrated with photos embedded via the Macaulay Library. (Feel free to submit interesting observations and photos to me directly by email.)

Anna’s Hummingbird: This November brought an early-season Arctic blast, not weather that one usually associates with hummingbirds. But, sure enough, a hummingbird showed up at Jean Leonatti’s house in Columbia, and she went out of her way to accommodate both the bird and the birders who wanted to see it. Many birders did visit, as the bird turned out to be an immature male Anna’s Hummingbird that had strayed from its usual western range. According to eBird, this is only the second record of an Anna’s Hummingbird in Boone County. For more details, check out the hummingbird discussion on the MOBIRDS listserv (mostly during the 2nd week of November).

Birds eating bush honeysuckle berries: Like humans, birds will eat what is easy, cheap, and available, whether or not the nutritional profile of that food promotes optimal well-being. Cedar Waxwings, Northern Cardinals, American Robins, and other birds will certainly gobble up bush honeysuckle berries. I’ve heard repeatedly that the fruits of invasives aren’t of much value to birds, and I finally decided to hunt down some more details. I found this interesting research paper that assessed the fat and energy content of invasive and native fruits in New York state; the authors found that the several species of invasive fruits (honeysuckle among them) that they tested were consistently and substantially lower in fat and energy than alternative berry-producing native fruits. However, given the choice between low-fat junk food and no food, most will choose the former. Thus, simply removing invasive honeysuckle isn’t enough to help the birds; it is at least as important to provide better food options. If you enjoy watching birds, please consider planting native, fruit-bearing plants in your yard. A few options that provide fall fruit include spicebush, native viburnum species, and native dogwood species.

Birds of prey, with prey: To continue on the topic of what birds are eating, here are a couple of great photos a bit higher on the food chain. Both of these were from Eagle Bluffs.

Fall sparrows: Quiz: Which of these ones is not like the others? The taxonomic answer is below.

song

Quiz answer: The House Sparrow is the taxonomic oddball here; it belongs to the family of Old World Sparrows (Passeridae), having been introduced to North America (and much of the world). All of the others, including the Dark-eyed Junco, are New World Sparrow of the family Passerellidae.

Please submit sightings! The “Sightings” column contains a sampling of interesting bird and nature observations made since the prior newsletter, with emphasis on the six-county region (Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard, Monroe, Randolph) served by the Columbia Audubon Society. If you see an interesting behavior, encounter an unusual species, notice unusually high or low populations of a species, get a great photo or audio recording, or otherwise have something interesting to share, please send an email to me (Joanna Reuter). Reports can (and preferably should) be brief; alternatively, simply send me a link to an eBird list if it contains comments explaining the observation.