Some Puzzling Birds at Col. Sam Smith Park / October 30, 2019

In fall, it can be difficult to identify birds at times. For example, the Red-necked Grebe no longer has a red neck:

Pied-billed Grebe

Some duck species are so far out in the lake that it takes a lot of concentration to see what species they are:

Red-breasted Mergansers
Red-breasted Mergansers
Bufflehead (female) with Gadwall (male)
American Wigeons

European Starlings have a summer plumage and a winter plumage. Today we saw the winter version:

European Starling
European Starling

Male goldfinches are gold in summer but now they resemble females:

American Goldfinch

Sparrows can look alike and we had a challenging one today on this 12 degree, overcast morning.

Chipping Sparrow

This sparrow has an un-streaked breast but is it a Clay-coloured, a Field, a Tree or a Chipping Sparrow? That black line through the eye identifies it as a Chipping Sparrow.

Another challenge was this duck:

Redhead (male)

It appears to be a male Redhead but males have a black chest and grayish sides.


Females are brownish but don’t have red heads.


Both male and female have blue bills.

In many bird species, all of the juveniles look like females for a time and then the males begin to take on male characteristics. That is what is happening here. The red head indicates male and the chest and sides will soon also.

Redhead (male)
Redhead (male)

We also had a good look at a Pied-billed Grebe:

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe

Species list: red-necked grebe, pied-billed grebe, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, gadwall, American wigeon, redhead, bufflehead, red-breasted merganser, ring-billed gull, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, ruby-crowned kinglet, American robin, European starling, house sparrow, northern cardinal, American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, chipping sparrow, white-throated sparrow, song sparrow.  (25 species)

American Robin
Dark-eyed Junco (male)
Ring-billed Gull

Park scenes:

This morning’s group:


Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies       – John Keats (1795ā€“1821)

Miles Hearn

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