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The Mystery of the Little Brown Jobbie

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I have a bird feeder and some spilled seed on the deck of our new house, and I’ve been enjoying seeing what kinds of birds show up.

Taking photos helps me identify some of the birds, because many are what my ornithology professor used to call LBJs (Little Brown Jobbies) since they all kinda look the same and can be difficult to identify.

By far the most common visitor is Cassin’s finches:

We get pretty little lesser goldfinches (green-backed form):

 Oregon juncos, which seem to be more a winter bird:

Evening grosbeak:

And sometimes a bunch of Steller’s jays show up and dominate the scene.

Just today we had some lovely new visitors, lazuli buntings! Gorgeous little things.

Here’s another new arrival just today, an LBJ with a very striped head:

I’m thinking it’s a white-crowned sparrow.

But oddly, it was this drab brown bird that had me most puzzled.

Earlier, readers had corrected my mis-identification of this bird (which at first I thought was a song sparrow) as a pine siskin, but that  just didn’t sit well with me. I knew pine siskins had dull yellow on their wing tips and tail, and come what may I could never see any yellow on these birds. And they were at the feeder all the time. They were as common as Cassin’s finches.
Then just this morning, a tiny LBJ – significantly smaller than our mystery bird pictured above – showed up at the feeder. Whatddaya know, it had yellow on its wing tips and tail. Hallelujah, pine siskins! Lots of them.

Look at the size difference between the petite pine siskin (at bottom) and our mystery LBJ (at top):

I finally had a head-clunk moment. The mystery LBJs – which were as common as Cassin’s finches – were … Cassin’s finches! Females, that is. Facepalm, why did it take me that long to realize it?

Now I’ll be able to sleep at night.


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