Let’s Hear It for the Year-Round Birds

Yes, the migratory birds have arrived in Central Oregon. They do that every spring, flitting into town in March or April or May to great acclaim. (Mid-May is the best time to see and hear them, by the way, but many stay through summer.)

When they arrive, birders rush out of their own stick-built nests, binoculars bouncing on their chests, to claim their precious FOYs (first-of-years).

The birders point and exclaim with joy: The swallows are swooping over the river!

A cliff swallow captured mid-flight. Photo: John Williams

A cliff swallow captured mid-flight. Photo: John Williams

Look, they say, the deeply at-risk Lewis’s woodpeckers are back at Shevlin Park!

Lewis's woodpeckers populations are in steep decline. Photo: Tom Lawler

Lewis's woodpeckers populations are in steep decline. Photo: Tom Lawler

Oh my, they say, look at that beautiful Wilson’s warbler tucked in among the willows!

Note the little black cap that indicates a Wilson's Warbler. Photo: Tom Lawler

Note the little black cap that indicates a Wilson's Warbler. Photo: Tom Lawler

Over there—that Osprey just caught a fish!

Osprey eat almost nothing but small fish. Photo: Chuck Gates

Osprey eat almost nothing but small fish. Photo: Chuck Gates

And did you hear the Canyon Wren singing this morning?

Canyon wrens are hard to see, but their song is unmistakable. Photo: John Williams

Canyon wrens are hard to see, but their song is unmistakable. Photo: John Williams

What a bunch of showoffs all those migrants are! They strut about with their tropical colors and serenade one another with their gorgeous songs. They even try to impress us with their astounding journeys across thousands of miles—I mean, they fly, right? How hard can it be?

Like tourists, migratory birds know how to time their arrival in Central Oregon just right, settling in only after the hardships of winter have passed and just as the plants start to bloom and the insects begin to buzz. Then, before birders start to yawn about how common they are, off these snowbirds will fly in late summer, back south usually, where they can find plush accommodations through winter.

Well, I’ve had it with the mass hysteria over migratory birds—“temps,” we might call them. Let’s instead turn our attention to the stay-at-homers, the 365-ers, the homebound birds of Bend. They’re the real heroes, the most loyal, year-round, tough-as-nails birds you could hope to find.*

And you can find them! Because they’ve been here all along, right here beside us through the third-snowiest winter in the recorded history of Central Oregon.

While Olive-sided flycatchers were catching flies in balmy Brazil, our Clark’s nutcrackers were right here, living off thousands of tiny seed caches that they spread across the landscape. You've got to think ahead if you want to survive winter in Central Oregon.

That tough beak is just right for tearing into whitebark pine cones. Photo: Mark Lundberg

That tough beak is just right for tearing into whitebark pine cones. Photo: Mark Lundberg

While the rufous hummingbird was in its usual bad mood in Latin America, a few Anna’s hummers were somehow surviving off tiny insects and little else in frigid Central Oregon.

Anna's hummingbirds are the only species that sometimes over-winter in Central Oregon. Photo: Kris Kristovich

Anna's hummingbirds are the only species that sometimes over-winter in Central Oregon. Photo: Kris Kristovich

While other birds of more renown were sunning themselves on beaches in Belize, mourning doves were puffing out their feathers to survive one more below-freezing night in Prineville and Bend and Madras.

Mourning doves are native, and may be getting pushed out by the larger Eurasian collared doves. Photo: Tom Lawler

Mourning doves are native, and may be getting pushed out by the larger Eurasian collared doves. Photo: Tom Lawler

So go ahead: Celebrate the birds that travel to exotic locales and deign to drop into Central Oregon to soak up our few months of warm sun. Go ahead and jump on the migratory bird bandwagon.

But me? I’m going to cheer the California quails of the world, and be thankful that all of us year-rounders made it through another year together.

A mother quail tucking her chicks safely beneath her. Photo: Alice Doggett

A mother quail tucking her chicks safely beneath her. Photo: Alice Doggett

  • In case you're wondering, this is all quite tongue in cheek. Both our migratory and resident birds are rather amazing, don't you think?