One aspect that is unique to the hobby of bird watching is that you can participate in this sport no matter where you are. If you like to golf, you have to go to a golf course. If you enjoy skiing, you must go to a ski resort. And if you like to fish, you need to go somewhere where there is water.
However, with birding, it doesn’t matter where you are. In my opinion, you can go anywhere on this planet, and you are likely to encounter birds. I can honestly say I have never been any place where I didn’t see any birds at all.
This is true even in very high-traffic, urbanized settings, such as large commercial shopping centers. On a regular basis, I am asked by individuals, “What are those large, noisy black birds that are smaller than ravens that I see in the parking lot at the Fry’s shopping center on Willow Creek Road?” The answer is great-tailed grackles.
Some bird species tend to do better in urban settings, and would be absolutely lost if they were in a pristine, wild habitat. Species such as grackles, pigeons, starlings and house sparrows thrive on human-provided food sources—even when that food is provided unintentionally.
For example, in the shopping center where our store is located, there is a Little Caesar’s pizza business. Do you have any idea how much pizza ends up in the parking lot over the course of a day’s time due to teenagers? Fortunately, we have a built-in cleanup crew, called Common Ravens. Not much escapes their glance, and they are quick to swoop down and eat whatever is left behind.
Earlier this week, as I arrived at work, I was walking the short distance between my car and the front door of the store, when a ring-billed gull flew over the parking lot. Within seconds, the gull was dive-bombed by a raven, which chased it relentlessly right out of the shopping center. The raven was not going to tolerate a gull in its feeding area!
I lived in Utah for several years while I was attending college, and both ring-billed and California gulls were as common in parking lots there as ravens are here. They were always on the lookout for a handout.
On Monday of this week—the day after the big snowstorm—there was a lone great-tailed grackle pacing the sidewalk in front of our store. It kept peering into the store, almost as if it knew that if it could just get inside the store it would have a lifetime supply of food.
One day last week, as I was walking to my car, an American kestrel flew high overhead. And it was just a few weeks earlier, as I was having a meeting in the parking lot with some of the individuals in charge of the façade facelift for the shopping center, a killdeer flew by, high overhead. I was super excited to see the killdeer, but everyone else in the meeting seemed quite unimpressed! But then, when it comes to birds, it doesn’t take much to get me excited.
On a regular basis, I see Say’s phoebes in the shopping center. Of course there are rock doves (a fancy name for pigeons) and house finches almost every day at the shopping center, as well.
On a different note, I still have my lone Anna’s hummingbird frequenting my hummingbird feeder at home. I continue to bring the feeder in each night so the sugar water doesn’t freeze, and I put the feeder back out at first light.
Until next week, Happy Birding, even if it is in a parking lot!