The Pine Siskins are mobbing the thistle feeder. These little drab brown birds have hidden yellow feathers in their flight feathers and at the base of their tail.
They fan their tails in aggressive moves as they jockey for the best place at the feeder. When these little finches are feeding en masse, you can go broke buying the expensive feed that they like.
Pine Siskins are known in the bird world as “vagrants”. Flocks of Pine Siskins and other species of Finch follow seed crops. Where there is an abundance of their preferred food, there are the birds. Trees generally produce their seed cyclically, one year there may be tons of seed, the next year none. So finches have adapted to that.
I love to watch the Pine Grosbeaks come in to feed.
In my backyard, I throw sunflower seeds right on the ground for all the birds.
When the Pine grosbeaks come in to the yard, they will sit on a branch up in a tree and survey the situation for a little bit. They must be checking to see if things are safe enough to come in for some seeds.
When they deem it safe enough, they will put their head down and just fall off the branch head first – it seems like, at the last possible second they will put their wings out and come in for a nice soft landing. If you are sitting in your house and can’t see the branch they launch off of, it looks like little bombs dropping in from the sky.
All Pine Grosbeaks are gray and then their sex determines the complimentary color. The female pine grosbeaks are an orangey-rust color, the males a beautiful red color. In between there are the young males – they look sort of a orangey-pinkish color. As winter progresses the pink gets stronger.
In Central and South America there is a creature called the Sloth. It’s a slow moving animal that spends most of it’s time up in a tree. Sloth’s eat leaves. Our MN version is called the Porcupine, also a creature that spends much of it’s time up in trees and it’s also a slow moving animal.
This fall I have noticed that there have been many more Magpies in the area. The Black-billed Magpie is a very beautiful bird that is closely related to the Crow and Raven, as well as the Blue and Gray Jays; the family that they all belong to are called Corvids.
The species that we have in most of North America is the Black-billed Magpie. They are considered a “western” species of bird in that they are mainly a bird of the northern plains of the midwest. There is a small population of Yellow-billed Magpies that only occurs in a small area of northern California.
The Magpie used to follow herds of Bison on the plains using that to their advantage. After the Bison were almost extinct, the Magpie switched over to cattle. Ranchers aren’t real crazy about Magpies and they even had a bounty on Magpies in the first half of the 20th century.
The Magpie’s range is worldwide in that they occur in North America as well as Europe and Northern Africa. There’s a sub-species in Australia too. And this particular bird is held in disdain in many of the places where it lives. People accuse the Magpie of raiding nests of songbirds and other destructive behavior.
The Magpie also has a mystical side too, the bird is mentioned in the old and new testament of the bible several times. The most famous perhaps is the story about the pair that would not board Noah’s Arc, instead stubbornly sitting in a tree and making fun of the other animals.
The cartoon that some may remember from their childhood portrayed the birds as mischievous and intelligent.
While researching the Magpie in Minnesota on the internet, I found out that there is a seasonal movement of birds in the fall. The juveniles will search out new territories and move about in flocks as they expand their range to the east. I also read that they will follow wolf packs around and scavenge off their leftovers.
Maybe that will explain why I saw a Magpie up at Lake Kabetogama and then shortly thereafter a pack of 5 Wolves crossed the road in front of my car.
This is northern Minnesota’s version of the Roadrunner!
Ruffed Grouse running
I took these photos in July…
The mama Ruffed Grouse had 9 little ones that she was trying to get safely across the road. It was hilarious watching the little Grouse take off running. They can fly too – short distances – I scared up a couple more that flew into the bushes when I thought they had all crossed over.