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A Closer Look at Backyard Birds

Golden-crowned sparrow

Because he’s out every single day, looking, Gearhart photographer Neal Maine often gets us close to birds not all of us see for ourselves, such as migrants that might stop for a day or two and move on. Meanwhile, plenty of songbirds live here year-round. As a result, it’s easy to take them for granted. But there’s lots to love about these birds that you’re likely to see in your own backyard, on the north coast or throughout western Oregon.

Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee (used to be called rufous-sided towhee)

Start by putting up a feeder, such as a suet block. If it’s close to a window, and you are watching, you may get a look at some or all of these birds that we share habitat with, almost any day.

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Neal’s tip #1: Scatter seed on a platform. “You can naturalize a platform feed by just finding a nice moss- or lichen-covered branch and nailing it to the back of the feeder.” (Was the branch in these photos starting to look familiar?)

House sparrow

House finch

“The branch creates some perching space for the birds coming into the feeder. And it gives the shy or small birds a spot to wait for the feeder to clear.”


“It also makes for a natural-looking setting for photographing the birds that are coming to the feeder.”


Chestnut-backed chickadee

A set-up like this invites birds to linger a few extra seconds, giving you time to focus on their features. Pretty soon you will have no trouble distinguishing one of our local chickadee species from the other …

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

… and the chickadees from the junco.

Oregon junco

Oregon junco

Ultimately you might start recognizing not just species but individuals. Just like people—and trees, and every other living thing, as Neal is fond of pointing out—”They’re not all the same bird.”


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