Backyard Bird Visitors 2012 — Part II

This post features the more colorful avian visitors to my rural New Jersey back yard. In case you missed it, here’s the link to Part I.


The Northern Cardinal

The cardinal is a common, year-round New Jersey resident. The bright red flash of the male cardinal in winter brings joy to the heart. The female is more brown, with reddish crest, winds, and tail. Cardinals mate for life and return to the same breeding area year after year. If a cardinal nests in your yard, stay well away from the nest. I learned the hard way that a pair will abandon a nest if too closely or frequently inspected.

June 3


Cardinals eat insects, fruits, and seeds and, if your bird seed mix includes sunflower or safflower seeds, are regular bird feeder visitors in the winter.


The Orchard Oriole

Although I’ve seen Baltimore orioles around the yard this year — their bright orange and black colors are easy to spot if they aren’t hiding high in the trees — I didn’t catch them in any photos. I wasn’t sure about the identity of this bird until I asked my birder friend.

Male orchard oriole feeding in the mulberry tree, June 13


The orchard oriole, the smallest North American oriole, is less common in New Jersey. Like the cardinal, the males and females are quite different in appearance. The male is a dark brownish orange with a black head, neck, tail and wings with white wing bars. The female has a dark yellow back and lighter yellow underneath with a black neck and black wings with white bars.

Male orchard oriole, June 13


Orchard orioles eat insects, fruit, and nectar and may visit hummingbird feeders.


The American Goldfinch

Male goldfinch, June 19


Goldfinches usually pass through my yard too quickly for me to photograph, but this year, with the meadow are we did not cut, they’ve been more frequent and lingering visitors. The black-capped, black-winged, bright yellow male is easy to spot. The duller olive-yellow female is harder to spot.

Male (above) and female goldfinches, June 13


The goldfinch eats mainly seeds, but it will also eat small insects and berries. Thistle seeds will entice goldfinches to a bird feeder.

Male goldfinch, June 25


The House Finch

Male house finch, June 19


While not as colorful as their golden cousins, male house finches sport reddish eyebrows, foreheads, breasts, and rumps. There is wide variation in the brightness and amount of red on males, which sometimes makes it hard to distinguish them from purple finches, so I consulted my birder friend for this identification as well.

Females house finch hiding among the branches, June 25


House finches are another bird where the females don’t have the same coloration as the males. Female house finches have no red but are gray-brown with wide, blurry streaks and indistinct markings on the head.

Male house finch, June 25


House finches aren’t fussy eaters; they will eat seeds, buds, fruits, and insects. They will gather at bird feeders or eat on the ground.


The Blue Jay

The blue jay is a large, year-round resident with a blue crest and various shades of blue upper feathers, a black collar and black bars on the wings and tail, and a white breast. Unlike the rest of the birds featured in this post, males and female blue jays look alike!

Blue jay outside the sliding glass door, July 5


Blue jays have a loud, raucous cry and can be counted on to warn other birds about the location of my cats. Some blue jays are very protective of their nests and have been known to dive at pets and people who get too close.

Blue jay (through glass) on the rail of the back steps, July 5 This photo isn’t the best quality. Normally I wouldn’t include one like this, but the blue jay’s pose is so endearing that I couldn’t leave it out.


Blue jays eat nuts, seeds, fruit, and insects. They prefer tray or hopper feeders on a post. Peanuts (shelled or whole), sunflowers seeds, and suet will entice them to bird feeders.

What birds do you enjoy watching in your back yard?



About J. Thomas Ross

Since retiring from a career as a high school English and history teacher, I've been pursuing a career as a writer. My main interest is in writing novels, but I've also written short stories and poetry and done a little editing on the side. I am currently working on a Young Adult novel. One of my poems - "Winter" - won an award at the 2010 Philadelphia Writers Conference, and you can find my fantasy short story "A Rock Is a Rock Is a Rock ... Or Is It?" in the anthology Tales of Fortannis: A Bard's Eye View, which is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon and as an e-book from Double Dragon Press.
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