About Chris Bosak

Bird columnist and nature photographer based in New England.

For the Birds: Wrens, bobolinks and cranes (yes, cranes)

Photo by Chris Bosak – Bobolink in New England field.

House wrens and American goldfinches have been my main source of avian entertainment this past week.

Both of these birds nest, on average, later than most other songbirds. While birds such as phoebes and robins get started in March or April, house wrens and goldfinches start in late spring/early summer. I hear the disjointed, but still rather cheerful, song of the house wren every time I walk out my door. The goldfinches are more quiet, but highly visible in their bright yellow plumage going back and forth to the nest site.

Goldfinches feed their babies a vegetarian/seed diet so the early insect hatch that prompts so many other songbirds to nest is of no practical to goldfinches. Rather, they must wait until flowers to bloom and go to seed before raising their young. Their primary diet consists of milkweed, thistle and other “weeds.”

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For the Birds: Watching the babies grow

Photo by Chris Bosak — Three young eastern phoebes getting ready to fledge.

As big a thrill as it is to have a bird visit your backyard feeder, it’s an even bigger thrill to have a bird visit a birdbath in your yard. Having a bird land on and eat the dried seeds of a flower in your garden tops both the feeder and bath sighting, in my opinion anyway.

However, a bird nesting in your yard beats them all. Whether the bird makes its own nest in a tree or bush, or if the bird uses a birdhouse, there’s nothing like the thrill of watching birds grow from egg to hatchling to fledgling. 

The birds that nested in my yard this spring have all been very inconspicuous. I see tons of catbirds in my yard and several come around to scold me when I come out to use the grill or sit on the porch. A male cardinal usually joins the admonishment. But I haven’t found a single nest in the brush. 

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For the Birds: Crows and their deserved reputation

Photo by Chris Bosak An American crow in Danbury, CT, winter 2019.

It’s like clockwork.

At 6:45 p.m. the crows glide in and land on the upper branches of the mostly dead, huge maple tree in the front yard.

It’s not a massive number of crows like you’d see in the winter at dusk; rather, it’s a small gathering. First two adults land, then two youngsters follow. They sound a few seemingly innocent caws, but their disagreeable reputation as egg-eaters precedes them.

The crows’ arrival puts the other birds in the neighborhood on alarm. Robins sound off from the surrounding trees but remain out of view. Cardinals, also unseen, use their high chip alert calls to keep in contact with each other. Orioles join in but keep their distance.

Blue jays and grackles are more aggressive in their attempts to drive the crows away from the neighborhood. The blue jays squawk and dive-bomb. More jays emerge from the trees and join the effort.

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For the Birds: Baby birds: Sometimes the best way to help is to do nothing

Photo by Chris Bosak Young Barn Swallows beg for food as a parent returns to the nest with a morsel in this June 2012 file photo.
Photo by Chris Bosak, Young Barn Swallows beg for food as a parent returns to the nest with a morsel.

Here’s a follow-up to a recent column I did about helping birds in the summer. It seems that I missed a few important tips.

I received a text message from a friend last week after she found two baby birds on her deck. They had recently fallen out of a birdhouse she has hanging near the house. What to do with the babies? It’s a question I get fairly often in late spring and early summer.

If you come across baby birds that have fallen out of the nest, the best thing to do is put them back in the nest. That is assuming you know where the nest is, of course. In my friend’s case, she did know and she placed the baby birds back into the house. The mother returned shortly thereafter and all seems to be good.

That advice may surprise some people because the old adage was that you should never touch a baby bird because the mother will reject any baby that has been touched by a human. Birds do not have a great sense of smell (well, most birds anyway) so they will not abandon a baby that was touched. Besides, a mother or father bird has no way of getting the baby back into the next.

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For the Birds: Bluebirds, windows and houses

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern bluebird gets a drink from a birdbath in New England, February 2020.

I’ve been getting quite a few emails about bluebirds lately. I see that as a good sign about the rebounding eastern bluebird population.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s AllAboutBirds.com, my go-to website for information about North American birds, says the eastern bluebird is a species of “low concern.” The site reads, “Eastern Bluebird populations fell in the early twentieth century as aggressive introduced species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows made available nest holes increasingly difficult for bluebirds to hold on to. In the 1960s and 1970s, establishment of bluebird trails and other nest-box campaigns alleviated much of this competition, especially after people began using nest boxes designed to keep out the larger European Starling. Eastern Bluebird numbers have been recovering since.”

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For the Birds: Helping birds this summer

Photo by Chris Bosak A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019. Dead trees are valuable to birds as homes and food sources.

It may be early in the summer season, but it seems like a good time to prepare for the hot days ahead.


Here are some things you can do to protect and help birds this summer:


Feeding hummingbirds is one of the great joys of summer in New England. No matter how many times they have visited already, it is always a thrill to see one land on your feeder, or better yet, feed from flowers planted in your yard. It is important, however, to keep the sugar water fresh and the feeder clean.


Sugar water should be changed every couple of days during hot weather. It can be a bit cumbersome, I know, but it is worth the effort as it keeps the birds happy and safe. Also, sugar water should be made with four parts water and one part sugar, and that’s it. No red dye. It’s unnecessary and potentially harmful to the tiny birds.

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Sandhill Cranes in New England

Kevin Peters sent in these terrific photos of a sandhill crane family he saw last week (mid-June 2022) east of Plainfield, Massachusetts. I’ll add these to the Reader Submitted Photos page on this site, but I thought sandhill cranes in New England warranted a post of its own. According to eBird reports, other people have reported sandhill crane sightings in the Berkshire region this year. Numerous sources say sandhill crane sightings are increasing in New England. Definitely something to keep an eye on. Thanks for the photos Kevin!