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Goldfinches, the last songbirds to nest each summer, are exceptionally vocal at this time of year. Males are communicating with their mates and often sing as they fly around or perch in the nesting area. Other noisy birds at this time include blue jays, as parent birds teach their youngsters the ropes, and young robins, who are practicing their species’ song, sometimes incessantly. Overall, though, things are much quieter out there, and this will be true until next spring’s dawn chorus erupts.
Q: I noticed a fairly large bird with a long beak standing on top of a tree and thought it was a green heron, but the throat and chest were covered in brown streaks, so I’m wondering if it was an American bittern.
A: That’s an interesting observation, and the first thing that came to my mind was a green heron, since the bird was on top of a tree. A bittern would be a possibility but these birds tend to lurk in the reeds and cattails and are seldom seen. Young green herons have spotted necks and chests, as you described, and this species has a fairly long beak. So I’m betting that the bird you saw was a green heron.
Q: Two very pale birds, sort of a light beige color, have been coming to our feeders along with the sparrows. Could these be albino sparrows?
A: These birds probably are sparrows, since they’re spending time with other sparrows, but they’re not albinos, if they have any color at all in their feathers. They sound more like leucistic birds, which means that while they have some color, they lack the normal pigmentation of others of their species.
St. Paul resident Val Cunningham, who volunteers with the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.