Birds in our backyard

RK Nagar
RK Nagar

Every year since last five years when we first placed a bird feeder in our backyard garden in Toronto, we are visited by a number of beautiful, playful birds throughout spring-summer. We invariably leave the feeder in a covered part of the yard even during peak winters for the occasional visitors as most of these migrate to warmer places.

This year our old feeder fell on the hard ground and broke into two. This accident provided us with an opportunity to look for more ‘bird friendly’ models. We picked one on which more birds can perch easily. We also added two new attractions- a feeder specifically meant for woodpeckers and another one to attract Hummingbirds.

Regular past visitors

The first among the regular past visitors. Is the American Robin.

This rather shy bird doesn’t rely as much on the feeder as on the neighbours mulberry tree. The branches full of ripe berries lean over in our yard and these are their favourite part of the garden.

They are mostly busy picking on small insects from the flower beds. What they seem to enjoy the most however is the bath- be it in the bird bath placed in the middle of the lawn or in one of the fountains.

Next on the list are the Cardinal. The bright red coloured male and his greyish/ yellow red mate are invariably seen together throughout the season.

This season was special as we not only saw multiple pairs but also a number of younger cardinals accompanied by the parents. It was wonderful to witness the parents train the next generation look after itself.

The next regular to visit us is, of course the the ever playful, small grey white Chickadee.

These little beauties are seen hopping on the feeder anytime of the day. But they just come in, pick the biggest nut or seed from the feed mix and fly off, presumably to their nests where their chicks are eagerly waiting for the parents to bring in some food.

They are very playful and a treat to watch.

And when it comes to birds, how can one forget the humble House Sparrow?

These days we hardly get to see them in Indian cities where they were, in my childhood days, virtually a member of the family. They used to build their nests behind pictures hanging on the walls and the first thing you ever heard in the morning was a ‘chirp’ from the nest. Fortunately here in the Toronto suburbs, they are easily spotted, especially if you have a bird feeder in the backyard.

Moreover, they do not come in one or twos, they come in as a large flock, practically invade the feeder, eat less and spill more on the ground but then we don’t mind that as it attracts other birds that do not seem to like eating from the feeder.

Another regular visitor for the last few years is the Downy Woodpecker. The male is with a red crown on the head while the female has a more simple look. They always show up together, first peck on the main branches of the apple trees- possibly picking on some very small insects and then on to the feeder.

The number and frequency of their arrival increased this year as we put a new feeder especially meant for woodpeckers, though evergreen flock of sparrows too enjoys picking on the feed brick as much as the woodpeckers.

Their hopping between the feeder and the apple trees is quite a treat, and so is their fight with the bunch of sparrows who love to invade the woodpeckers’ feeder.

Less frequent visitors

As yet another delightful bird that visits us every year and is seen either in early morning hours or in late evenings is the Finch. Always seen in pairs, the male is bright yellow and black while the female has pale yellow feathers. Like Chickadees, they are also very playful.

I have seen them enjoy the bird bath more than the feeder, where they stay just to pick a grain and fly out of sight. I think they are more shy of humans than other birds. They are however seen less often- only twice or thrice a week.

This bird likes to make only a rare appearance. In the past years, it made 3-5 visits over the season, but this year it has appeared only once. I am not sure if it is plain shy or likes a different kind of habitat. I haven’t seen her wait for long near the fence. Yes, it does take its pick from the feeder and then quickly flys off. This is the famous Canadian Blue Jay. Indeed a very beautiful bird. I wish to see her visit our backyard more often.

New visitors of the season

This year we had two new birds that were not seen in previous years. When I first saw this bird, I mistook her for a sparrow that seemed to accidentally have red feathers over her head and upper body. Over the next few days, I saw more of these. I then searched for this bird on internet and found that this beauty is the Canadian House Finch. Her behaviour is every bit like the house sparrows except that they do not spill the feed as the sparrows do. They have been appearing everyday and mostly along with the flock of sparrows.

Common Grackle is another beautiful bird. It’s feathers are shiny and the feathers around her neck are a delightful mix of peacock blue and other darker shades of blue. She is also among the occasional visitors but when she comes, she stays for few minutes, picks her feed from the feeder, enjoys hanging in there before she disappears for a few weeks.

And the next new arrival of the season is the beautiful Canadian Dove. One fine morning I found a pair of them on the fence. They flew off as soon as they saw me and I was very disappointed as I thought that I will never see them again.

After about a week, they reappeared, saw me but didn’t fly away. After a couple of days, sensing safety, they descended on the lawn, walked a few steps, picked a grain or two and waited patiently for me to make a move. I quietly sat on a chair on the patio and watched them stroll around the lawn.

I think we broke the ice as ever since, they come everyday- early in the morning, in the afternoon and in the late evening, feed merrily on the grains spilled on the ground by the sparrows and make themselves comfortable on the fence or on the roof top of either our or neighbours house. And since they have become very comfortable of our presence, we hope to see more of them in coming years.

And the most sparingly seen bird has been the Hummingbird. She has made appearance only 2-3 times on the feeder specifically meant for her. It looks that we will have to learn more about their behaviour before we can attract them in larger numbers- next year. But overall, it has been a delightful bird watching experience so far. The show is still on and hopefully will continue till late fall.

Acknowledgment : The first five pictures included in this blog are clicked by the author and the rest taken from social media and internet sources.


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  3. PT Jacob Avatar
    PT Jacob

    Absolutely an enjoyable hobby, very relaxing too. Good to know that you have started real “bird” watching. It’s good at this age. Are these your photographs? Really stunningly beautiful. At Puja’s place in Melbourne too there are innumerable birds. And of course Kangaroos. If at sll I go there again, I must imitate you. Enjoyed sharing your joyful moments. Warm regards and prayers. Jacob.

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