Bird of Winter: Northern Cardinal

(Photo by Dan Vickers - click HERE to see larger image.)

Nancy Jones recalls: "When I was a young girl, I found a male cardinal with a broken wing. He had been engaged in a territorial battle with another male cardinal and was the loser in this fray. I picked him up and was quickly attacked with a very strong beak, I popped him into a small bird cage and took him to the vet. The doctor taped the bird's wing to his side and I took him home and kept him for several weeks. He would readily eat wild bird seed and took water from a small cup. It was so thrilling to untape his wing after his confinement and have him fly away".

*Not all wild animal rescue stories have a happy ending. Sometimes people interfere with an animal that doesn't need to be rescued at all but just left alone. If you find an animal you think needs help, contact the experts at AWARE animal rescue.

You can Download/Read more about The Northern Cardinal HERE.


Brown-headed Nuthatches Need Your Help

Neighbor and Volunteer Tom Taylor has been maintaining our bluebird boxes. Some of them will be modified to accommodate the Brown-headed Nuthatch.  AAS has listed these birds on the watch list for declining habitat due to climate change. [READ MORE

Tom tells us:

"Brownies only lay one nest a year with 5 to 9 eggs. Brownies like pine forests. They like soft nests, so I put some Boy Scout fire starter pine straw in them.  This pine straw is really soft, so it may be a good start for them. If Brownies take to the nest, they may use it year-round. We shall see what happens."

A typical nest

How can you get involved? Order a nest box through Atlanta Audubon - currently, they are taking orders for nest boxes. Simply contact Dottie Head at with your name, email address, phone number, and number of boxes you are interested in purchasing. Boxes will be $35 each including educational information. Dottie will contact you as soon as the boxes become available on a first come, first served basis.

If you prefer a do-It-yourself solution, you can build your own using these plans from their website.


NestWatch Bird Tracking

On July 28 2014, Blue Heron Nature Preserve partnered with Atlanta Audubon to band birds as part of the NestWatch program sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.

Top image is an Adult American Robin. Below is a Juvenile Robin with the speckled feather pattern.
(Click bird images to enlarge)

Very fine nets were strung in the Preserve at 6:30am to capture birds to be banded. In total, we caught 6 birds: 3 carolina wrens and 3 american robins. BH and AAS volunteers gathered to host Allie from the Smithsonian as we captured birds and recorded data. We hope these studies will provide information about urban birds such as: human impact, global warming, etc.

Above, Volunteers recording data. Below is a Carolina Wren.

It was a wonderful, intimate experience with birds and we all enjoyed it (except the birds)!


10 Avian Species Common to the Preserve:

Northern Cardinal

8.7” long, Year-round Resident. Like the robes of Catholic cardinals, males are bright red; females are greyish-tan. With powerful bills for cracking seeds, they are common at feeders but also eat fruits, beetles, bugs, grasshoppers, moths and ants. These excellent songsters are so territorial that they will attack their own reflections in glass for hours at a time.

Carolina Chickadee

4 ¾” long, Year-round Resident.Known for their call of chick-a-dee-dee-dee, it is greyish above, whitish below with a black cap and bibs contrasting with white cheeks. The sharp little bills of these acrobatic cavity nesters glean insects, spiders and their eggs. They also frequent birdfeeders, where higher-ranking birds bump those of lesser status.

Tufted Titmouse

6.5” long, Year-round Resident. Titmice, whose name means “small bird,” are grey above, whitish below with a black smudge on the forehead and prominent black eyes. To line their nests, titmice pluck hair from live hosts –both animals and people. They eat insects, but also seeds from feeders, often caching them in cracks.

Northern Mockingbird

10” long, Year-round Resident. With a long, slender torso, tail and legs, they are grayish above and whitish below with a dark narrow line through the eye. These omnivores are often found near the intersection of mowed grass and pavement. Highly territorial, they dive bomb dogs, cats – even humans. The gifted songsters can imitate anything—even car alarms—repeating phrases three or more times. 

Great Blue Heron

38-54” long with a 6’ wingspan, Year-round Resident. The largest of herons often feeds at the pond, eating any creature it can swallow. The lightning-quick jab of its dagger-like bill is dangerous; so, do not pick up any injured heron. Nesting can occur singly but is usually in large mixed colonies on relatively inaccessible islands or peninsulas.

American Robin

10” long, Year-round Resident. Grayish upper parts and black head contrast with reddish-brown breast and pot belly. Eating primarily earthworms in warm weather and fruit in winter, they run rapidly, pause to check for prey and predators, and then run a few more steps. Tiffany has trademarked the name of “robin egg blue” for its shopping bags and gift boxes.

Eastern Phoebe

7” long, Year-round Resident. With drab upper parts that are darkest at the head, they frequently bob their tails up and down and issue an insistent call of “phee-bee.” Phoebes dine mainly on flying insects caught in midair and berries plucked in winter. As they often nest under bridges, they are seen near Rickenbacker Bridge. If you remain motionless and quiet, our curious phoebe might even light on your head or shoulder. 

Eastern Towhee

8 ½” long, Year-round Resident. The hood, back, wings, and tail are black for males but brown for females. Both have white bellies with rusty flanks. They nest and feed on or near the ground—exposing insects, beetles, and spiders by grasping leaf litter and then hopping backward with it. Listen for its call of “tow hee.”

Red-headed Woodpecker

9.25” long, Year-round Resident. The only North American woodpeckers whose entire heads and necks are red, they nest in the dead tree near the Community Garden. The diet is primarily botanical, but they also drill for beetles and even catch flying insects in mid-air. Not singers, they drum to establish a territory or attract a mate.

Song Sparrow

6” long, Year-round Resident. These streaked, stocky sparrows have rounded heads and tails and often a large central breast spot. Watch for them flitting between tall weeds and low branches in the field near the Community Garden. The males sing while perched at shoulder level, pumping their tails with each wing beat. To uncover food, they scratch the ground.



Welcome to all "Birders"!

If you are an avid bird watcher or just an amateur, our birding page has offerings just for you! Check this page for recent sightings, our bird of the month and links for adults and children.

Wintering Hummingbirds

We received an email from Gary Suters last week during the bitterly cold weather we have had. She has seen a hummingbird at her feeder, when they should have migrated already. This occured last year as well. Here's her story:

"This year I have identified this Hummer: he is an immature male "Black Chinned". He was hard to identify, he has a black spot on the underside of his neck! Your e-mail which was sent to me said to call the Non-game Conservation Station (phone 476-994-1438), which I did. They, in turn, told me to call Terry Johnson (478-994-2568). Mr. Johnson is an expert on Hummingbirds.  He is so nice and spent a long time talking about his "specialty". He is VERY knowledgeable about the subject!

Terry lives in Forsyth and gave me permission to give you his contact information. I think he would be a good person to call on if you ever had hummingbird questions (he said he bands the little birds). Here is the link to the conservation center and some of his own literature."

Some info. on wintering hummingbirds from the Georgia DNR website can be found HERE.

To report wintering hummingbird sightings in Georgia, please contact the Nongame Conservation Section  office in Forsyth at (478) 994-1438 or write to:  Wintering Hummingbirds, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

"So far, sadly, I have not seen my Black Chinned. He was so healthy when I saw him last, he really drank a lot of sugar water so maybe he is OK and I have just missed seeing him. I will let you know if I see him again.

Note the immature black chinned hummer with dark spot on neck. Mr Johnson said the Black chinned's wings are longer than other hummer's wings and indeed, from the picture, they ARE very long!"


Do you have photos to share?

Throughout the year a variety of birds either make BHNP their home  or refresh themselves during migrations. We will be sharing sightings of species and/or photos sent in by neighbors and birders.

On Sunday (11/10/13), we had lots of aquatic visitors at Blue Heron including a beautiful family of geese and mallards.

Some of the birds were having a wonderful Sunday snooze on one of the pond's small islands in the sunshine.

"This Cooper's Hawk nearly landed on my 4th Floor balcony!" Photo by Gail Fore

click HERE to enlarge image

Watching for a fish dinner to float through this rocky passageway in the evening.
Photo by Nancy Jones.

We invite you to submit your stories and/or images of birds (on or off the preserve) to our webmaster for inclusion on this page. Please include the species name, date and time of day sighted and location. Images can be provided in any format or size.


Blue Heron fishing - Spring 2013


Migratory Visitors

Hot news of the day at Blue Heron! We had 5 migratory blue wing teal ducks here today (3/29/13) on the Roswell Road pond. Barbara, who is an Audubon birder, identified them and said they have probably stopped off on their way north for the summer.


Blue Heron Resident

Here is a recent blue heron photo at our pond, courtesy of Libba Shortridge.


Blue Heron Feather??

This photo is (we think) a blue heron feather found floating in our pond on Saturday, 6/9/12. Jamie Hawk at Atlanta Audubon seemed to concur that it is most likely a primary flight feather from a Great Blue Heron.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology currently has a live feed of a blue heron nest at: Very cool!!


Documents and Links of Interest

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