Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looking for Dicky-Birds

Although Florida has more than its share of large birds that are easy to approach and photograph, I have a sweet place in my heart for the little "dicky birds." Spring and fall migration brings us warblers, vireos and other small perching birds that show up in good numbers. Many stay here all winter, but during the late spring and summer breeding season we see relatively few small birds in our neighborhood. 

Mary Lou and I usually start out walking briskly together, but soon I am panting in her wake (or idly checking out something high in the sky-- is it a bird or a plane?). 

Mary Lou walking away 20120221

Admittedly, seeking out the little tykes has one great advantage. With advancing age I increasingly welcome the chance to find a shady place where I can just stay still and watch for movement in the foliage. It is a bit like fishing-- there is joy in the anticipation, the rapt attention to the slightest ripple in the leaves, and the many that "got away" to fuel dreams of future success. Like fishing, golf and other individual pursuits, this habit does not strengthen the marital bond, except when I can share some of my trophies (if not in the larder or on the fireplace mantel, at least on the computer screen).

Among the "smallish" local breeding birds are the Downy Woodpecker (6.75") and Common Ground-Dove (6.5"), but I'm talking here about birds that are no bigger than most sparrows. I can count on one hand the number of sparrow-sized and smaller species that build their nests locally. 

We do not even see House Sparrows (6.25 inches long), so common in the more urban areas of our city.  I photographed this male House Sparrow near our second home in NE Illinois:

House Sparrow 20110512

The House Finch (6.0") is known to breed within our County, but I have seen it only once locally, this female on September 30, 2011:

House Finch 20110930

I found this male House Finch near our daughters's home in Batavia, Illinois on a dark and dreary day in May, 2011. I had to use flash with an exposure of 1/4000 second at f/5.6 and ISO 640, so the image is soft. 

House Finch 20110503

The Pine Warbler (5.5") breeds in Everglades National Park, which is about 50 miles south of our home, as well as in coniferous forests far to our north, but it has never been reported in Broward County during the months of June or July. I have seen them locally only from September through March. This beautiful Pine Warbler visited the Slash Pines at Chapel Trail Nature Center about 2 miles north of our home, in March, 2011:

Pine Warbler 2-20110311

Pine Warbler 20110311

Moving down the size scale, the smaller birds that I know to breed in the adjacent water preservation area are:

Carolina Wren (5.5"), in our local wetlands, June 5, 2014...

Carolina Wren 4-20140605

...and another on August 27, 2014:

Carolina Wren 20140827

This White-eyed Vireo (5.0") stares at me so intently that it seems to be angry about sitting for a portrait.

White-eyed Vireo staring 20130925

White-eyed Vireo 20120120

All of these little birds, particularly this Common Yellowthroat (5.0"), are reclusive, hard to find and seem unable to hold a perch for more than two seconds. This is an adult male:

Common Yellowthroat male 20131009

This immature male has not yet developed a full mask:

Common Yellowthroat immature male 4-20130912

The female is rather non-descript but always shows its eponymous yellow throat:

Common Yellowthroat female 20131011

The Prairie Warbler (4.75") is a bit easier to capture in the viewfinder, as it usually forages along a single branch before flying to the next. It is one of my favorite subjects. The male is boldly marked:

Prairie Warbler 2-20091025

"What was that you said about me?"

Prairie Warbler 3-20110325

The female has the same general pattern, but the streaks are more subdued.

Prairie Warbler 2-20141102

Believe it or not, that's it-- there aren't any more!


  1. you get to see some i've never seen! beautiful shots! love the straight-on vireo. :)

  2. HI Kenneth Even though these birds are smaller than a lot of the Florida birds you still can photograph them really well now my favourties are the White eyed Vireo staring right into the camera and the second to last shot. Have a great weekend.

  3. Gorgeous little birds! I like the yellowthroat.

  4. Wow, an impressive collection and beautiful birds.

  5. So many great pictures of these little guys. They are hard to get.

  6. As you say Ken the tiny tykes are often difficult to capture but as usual you produced a wonderful selection.

  7. Wow....I really, really like the white eyed vireo that is looking straight at us. And the "What was that you said about me?" photo!!
    They're all exceptional. {I have never seen a finch in this area...bummer}

    Thank you for sharing your link at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend!!!

    1. Hi again....I'm back this morning catching up on those that visited Hootin' Anni's over the weekend. Now, I am humming "Yellow Bird"....

      By the way, sad to read your comment and those that own ATVs tearing up YOUR landscaping too.

  8. a great selection of birds. Love to see all small ones.

  9. Love the "rosy finches" and all the little guys.

  10. What pretty shots of the birds!

  11. great shots of all the sweet birds. I love the vireo staring right at you!

  12. Truly wonderful birds. You can always come over to my place in Tucson. The House Finch rules our feeders. Interesting to see what's not so common in Florida.

  13. Maybe they rename it the wild eyed vireo..hahahha... we get the small birds here ...lots of sparrows ... house finches and chickadees...

    I haven't heard Dicky Birds much... my Mum used to say it all the time... she was British.....

  14. You got some amazing photos of a wide variety of birds! Love the yellow throat especially, but they are all stunning. I am the bird watcher of the "sit and wait" variety as well because I cannot walk very far, but I never get photos like these!

  15. Beautiful pictures! There was a warbler just looking at my feeders today, but I think its scare of the chickadee. I only put out sunflowers seeds, so maybe he was not that hungry after all. Your warblers pictures are so pretty!

  16. Wow! Such a variation of birds and colours. All superbly captured.

  17. Lovely little birds. I like the stare you're getting from the Vireo.

  18. @BumbleVee-- my Grandma was from Ireland, and her canary was named Dicky-Bird. She called the House Sparrows "chippies," and the wrens were "Jennies."

  19. Splendid set of pictures - and the small ones don't even let you get closer too them as a proportion of their size (if you see what I mean) which makes the pictures even harder to get!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne.

    PS: sorry for slow reply, I've been away from home because of work!


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