Northern Flicker 2000x ab BINNS 1D2A6776 copy copy

IN THE BACKYARD : Philadelphia late-June

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Jul 7, 2020 | by Adrian Binns

June is the month for breeding bird activity in Philadelphia. A nice variety of common backyard birds breed in or near my garden, finding ample food, cover, and nesting spots among native perennials, shrubs and trees. It’s surprising how many birds inhabit a quarter-acre suburban lot!

Downy Woodpecker

My peanut and sunflower seed feeders attract a young male Downy Woodpecker on a regular basis – it’s crown is rusty-red  instead of bright red. A pale female Northern Flicker has been foraging on the ground, crossing paths with numerous speckled young American Robins, some barely out of the nest!

American Robin juvenile

As summer temperatures rise, many birds take turns cooling off, bathing and drinking. I have three bird baths in my backyard, and they all seem to be occupied from sunrise to dusk. It’s great fun to watch Gray Catbirds, American Robins, Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinch and House Finches line up on nearby branches awaiting their turn in the bath. They step in carefully, then shake and spray water over their bodies.

Gray Catbird bathing

To drink, most birds dip their bills into water then tip their heads back for the water to run down their throat, like the Northern Flicker in the photo below. Mourning Dove is one of few birds that has the ability to suck-up water through their bill, like through a straw. This flicker is special in another way too… check out the diluted coloration of the bird’s plumage. Instead of a brown mantle with black striping, this female “Yellow-shafted Flicker” has a sandy back with brown striping! Also the gray on its head is lighter than normal! A pretty interesting bird!

Dilute-plumage “Yellow-shafted” Northern Flicker drinking.

Dilute-plumage “Yellow-shafted” Northern Flicker.

As June rolls into July, I look forward to sunny days watching recently fledged birds hop around my yard, and relaxing with cold drinks as fireflies start flashing in treetops!

updated June 15-30, 2020

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