Some Northwestern Birds

Larus occidentalisWestern Gull, Larus occidentalis. Similar looking to Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), but note that heavier, down-turned bill. (All the Larus gulls seem to be able to interbreed, resulting in hybrids of this and that and making a mockery of the old definition of species.)Aphelocoma californicaAnd speaking of taxonomy: the Western Scrub Jay was divided into two species this year. Which makes this a California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica), now distinct from Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, found in the interior west. Aphelocoma californicaHere’s another California Scrub, this time in the rain. At a parking lot.Streptopelia decaoctoParking lots are actually great places to see birds. Friends who travel much more than we do insist that all the birds will be found near the parking lots. These Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) were. They were introduced to the continental U.S. in the 1980s and have spread through most of the country, barring the northeast, but they are on their way here, with the occasional scout already have shown up.Pipilo maculatusAnother parking lot, another bird, this time a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). More complication: the Pacific Northwest populations are darker, with fewer and more distinct spots, and have different calls. Might they be split off at some point? (Our Eastern Towhee was once lumped along with the Spotted as the Rufus-sided Towhee; the eternal battle between the Lumpers and Splitters, taxonomy’s version of the Ancients and Moderns.)Cyanocitta stelleriSteller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), one of my favorite birds. Wish I’d gotten better looks. A later one in the dark of the canopy was even harder to see. Closely related to our Blue Jays. Stellar is right.Haliaeetus leucocephalusAnother parking lot bird! At Ecola State Park on the Oregon coast, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was up to some nest maintenance. Corvus brachyrhynchosThousands of American Crows roost in downtown Portland. Twilight presents a spectacle of them flying, playing, and hollering through the sky as they find their trees and building perches for the night and share the intelligence of the day. I find it a joyous cacophany. Dawn presents the spectacle of their shit on the sidewalk, but that’s worth the joy.

Also saw some Common Ravens at Ecola, and one rehabbed bird at the Audubon who said “hello” (!); half-a-dozen Red-tailed Hawks perched next to highway 26 before it rose into the Coast Range; Brewer’s Blackbirds (parking lot); a Peregrine over Portland; several Pacific Wrens (formerly Winter’s); and three, count ’em, three House Sparrows, all lined up on the sign of Mother’s Bistro and Bar, which we can recommend. A first, or life bird, for me was the Red-breasted Sapsucker, joining my list along with the Western Gull, for a life total of 550 bird species, in case anyone is counting.

2 Responses to “Some Northwestern Birds”


  1. 1 Paul Lamb October 31, 2016 at 5:24 am

    Yep, been to Mother’s. So WHY was the collared dove introduced? Hunting?

    • 2 mthew October 31, 2016 at 8:44 am

      According to Cornell’s All About Birds: “Eurasian Collared-Doves made their way to North America via the Bahamas, where several birds escaped from a pet shop during a mid-1970s burglary; the shop owner then released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. Others were set free on the island of Guadeloupe when a volcano threatened eruption. From these two sites the birds likely spread to Florida, and now occur over most of North America.”


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