Nikon D300, AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 400, 1/400th second at f/8, 4/4/2012 at 8:29 am
When I first became interested in seeing birds in the wild I picked up the term “dicky-bird” from a friend who was already an experienced birder. Since then the term has stuck in my mind and I sometimes apply it to various small bird, just as my NJ friend did. I’ve even found it defined this way on the internet.
So here are three species falling under that description that I photographed at the Gilbert Water Ranch on past visits.
Our first dicky-bird is a male House Finch in bright plumage, from seed heads. I thought this might be Brittle Bush, but my wife thinks otherwise. If yuo know please tell me in a comment! The House Finch is a very common and widespread bird across the United States, but that wasn’t the case originally. House Finches are native to the desert southwest, as apparent from their scientific name of Carpodacus mexicanus. Sometime around the 1940’s they were sold by pet stores in the New York City region as “California Finches,” at least until the dealers started worrying about the legal penalties of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So they released their stock to the wild and eventually the species established a small foothold in the mid Atlantic region.
Eventually the population in the northeast expanded far enough west to meet the expanding population from the southwest around Oklahoma and this bird could be seen just about anywhere. People who are still using the bird book they inherited from their grandparents can’t find the House Finch in the old guide and end up calling them Purple Finches by mistake; these people are often difficult to convince about the identity of the little red bird they see at their backyard feeders.
Female House Finches, by the way, lac the red color.
Nikon D300, AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), tripod, ISO 800, 1/160th second at f/8,2/29/2012 at 7:15 am
Our second dicky-bird is the White-crowned Sparrow. This is primarily a western species, closely related to the White-throated Sparrow of the eastern U.S. But small numbers of white-crowns show up each winter in the east, often mixed in with flocks of their cousins the white-throats, whle the opsite occurs in the west where a few white-throats show up i flocks of white-crowns.
Adult birds, as seen here, have alternating white and black stripes on the crown. Juvenile birds have tannish-brown caps until their first spring when they change into adult dress. Males and females look the same. There are two races, distinguished by the size and color of the beak and the extent of the black stripe by the eye.
Nikon D200, AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E (2x), tripod, ISO 400, 1/1000th second at f/85.6 4/25/2011 at 7:14 am
Our third dicky-bird is the Song Sparrow, another common and widespread species. There are many races across North America, so this Arizona bird may look a bit different from the one you know in your own part of the country. They are a bit more shy than the white-crowns but easy to detect when they perch high to sing on territory.
These photos are all of randomly encountered wild birds at the Gilbert Water Ranch where I spend a lot of time. I prefer taking photos of birds where they choose to be and not where I might attract them with food or water or a taped playback of their call. I enjoy the variety of settings I’m able to get and s how as a result, rather than be restricted to what I can engineer in the way of perch and background and lighting.