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There's a new bird at my feeder

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This bird showed up recently. I don't know what it is. It's a uniform brown except for a lighter patch at the throat - no field marks. It's bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin, with a no unusual proportions. The bill, now that I see it in a picture, suggests a grosbeak (as alliebono points out, it's more of a finch beak), but...

[This shot is through the window; the birds are spooking when I open the window, and usually this bird uses the ground feeder, so shots are more difficult.]

There's also a blackbird of some sort - another uniform brown bird with an insectivore bill - not a starling, and not the long tail of a grackle. I haven't gotten a picture to study yet.


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What a great shot, dondi.


Ok dondi, that is all good, but what we need now is more pics, more birds and more puzzles :-)


I'm well aware of the variations of plumage and song, and in this case there simply aren't any real field marks except all brown and finch-like bill. But a good rule is that the first choice is the bird you'd expect to see, and that's the brown-headed cowbird. Range guides are approximate, but it's known to winter south of the Adirondacks all across the state. It's quite reasonable to expect them to appear in the St. Lawrence Valley, which is similar habitat and altitude, and not far from their known range. I've already noted birds in this area which are not generally recognized as being this far north; I suspect it's because of a combination of sparse observer population and the time since the range maps were created.


dondi, the bird study class I took years ago, the instructor said it was very hard to identify a bird by finely detailed markings alone since there is such a variation with colour. One must use all tools including size, shape, location, song, behaviour and many many guide books. Even then keep an open mind!
One method she taught was to learn the most common birds and try to rule them out, one by one, by useing the books and sort of narrow down the list of possible birds, I still use this method today.


Well, keep an eye out - this picture was only 20 miles from the border!

I'm holding out for the brown-headed. It seems much more likely to me that a bird which is known to winter in central New York came up the St. Lawrence valley (or has a slightly larger range than recorded) than that I picked up an accidental South American species recently established in Florida and Texas (accidental to Oklahoma I can see, but Maine and New Brunswick? Say what?).

The Cornell Ornithology Lab picture of the shiny cowbird female ( looks very close, and they do say "paler below", but it shows a fairly dark throat. Of similar species they say, "Female [brown-headed] has thicker bill, slightly more rounded head, longer tail, and paler throat." I can go with the thicker bill and paler throat; the others are hard to judge without comparison.

Their picture of the brown-headed cowbird ( does seem to show a bit of specking on the breast, but they describe it as "solid gray-brown overall". Maybe I should send them a couple of pictures.


Yes I see what you mean, she is a much better match to a female Shiny Blackbird.
I would like to change my guess and take my hat off to the warbler...
and as they say in these parts, "Never seen one oh dem in Canada eh."


I thought Brown headed cowbird early on but it didn't seen right. THen I looked it up and it is different-striped breast, whiter throat, more white around the eye. As I was looking, I thought, man, a female Shiny Cowbird is what it looks like but they are just moving up from Texas and Florida, maybe to North Carolina. Then as I read the description just now, it says:Mainly South American species, arriving in south Florida in 1985.... accidental to Oklahoma, Maine, and New Brunswick. Look at female Shiny Blackbird-I think that's it. Size, colorization, eye, size, its all correct. Its range has expanded and I need to start looking for them here, too. Molothrus bonariensis


I think you're right; the short tail and this observation: "The bill has a distinctive shape: it’s much shorter and thicker-based than other blackbirds', almost finch-like at first glance." We're a little north of its reported winter range (central New York), but since it's reported to northern New Hampshire in the winter, that may be a function of sparse observers in my area.


I think it might be a female Brown-Headed Cowbird..


He is a cutie .... regardless what he is..


I just noticed Pumpkins comment maybe she will find it.Try for another photo. I'll keep tabs, too.


Well, it has a dark eye, a light white chin, no wing bars that I can see, a very slight eye stripe, a darker back, no markings on the tail, a dark uniforn color of the beak so far as I can tell, dark legs. Its smaller than the dove behind it. I think the bill is too pointed for a grosbeak. I skimmed through my birdbook here by my computer, a pretty good one, and it didn't stand out to me. This is the time of year when oddball birds can show up, also.


Wish I could help with an ID, dondi. When they are the basic brown or grey, I have a tough time keying them out. Will try to remember to bring my bird guide upstairs so i can see if I can find him. Meanwhile, I will see if Warbler can make an ID for you.


if it were a European bird - I would tell u but not familiar with American ones sorry!
Probably a female from the colouring. A finch but beak not big enough to be a grosbeak. Hope someone will let u know. keep up the good work!


I can't help with ID but whatever it is, it sure helps himself to survive :)