Northern Cardinal looking right at you

Photo by Chris Bosak Northern Cardinal at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Northern Cardinal at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Getting back to my common backyard bird series … the Northern Cardinal is common, but certainly not plain. The cardinal is a favorite bird of many people — and it’s hard to argue.

My favorite thing about the Northern Cardinal is that it is a year-round bird for us here in New England. It doesn’t fly south when the days shorten or temperatures drop, like most colorful birds we see here. It breeds here and remains here, giving us a flashy bird to look for all 12 months.

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Purple Finch: A welcomed visitor to the feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A male Purple Finch eats sunflower seeds from a feeder in New England, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male Purple Finch eats sunflower seeds from a feeder in New England, Oct. 2014.

The Purple Finch doesn’t exactly fit in with my series of “Common Backyard Birds,” but this handsome fellow visited my feeder over the weekend so I’m including it anyway.(No, that’s not your cursor on its bill, that’s a sunflower seed shell.)  It doesn’t fit in with the series because, sadly, the Purple Finch is not really a common backyard sighting in New England. The introduced House Finches certainly are, but the native Purple Finches visit less frequently.

Purple Finches and House Finches can be tricky to differentiate, but that’s mostly because we don’t see enough Purple Finches to get used to their looks. Some particularly colorful House Finches can resemble Purple Finches and throw off the ID. But, as someone once told me long ago, “When you see a Purple Finch, you’ll know it.”

I can differentiate the finches because the Purple Finch is larger and bulkier. Its “purple” (really reddish pink) is also more widespread on its plumage. The females are even more tricky, but again, are bulkier than their House Finch counterparts.

So an October sighting of a Purple Finch was most welcomed. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come this fall and winter.

Did you know: The Purple Finch is the state bird of New Hampshire.

Kicking off a celebration of our common backyard birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

This photo of a Tufted Titmouse is pulling double duty. It accompanied my latest column in The Hour (Norwalk, Ct) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH), which may be found here.

It is also being used on this post to kick off a celebration of our common backyard feeder birds. This is a great time of year for feeding birds as the feeders are active with titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and other birds. Under the feeder, birds such as White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have returned. So to celebrate that, I’ll post a series of photos highlighting some of our more common, but beloved, backyard birds.