Not the Usual Suspects, by Steve Kent

Pin-tailed Whydah, by Steve Kent

I really enjoy reading about other birds seen in my area. The usual suspects that frequent my yard include the beak-clicking Black Phoebe, somewhat elusive Lesser Gold Finches, flitting Bushtits, occasional Orange Crowned Warbler and White-Crowned Sparrow, swooping Anna’s Hummingbirds, and often noisy, but intriguing American Crows. Moreover, let us not forget the ubiquitous House Finches, House Sparrows, and the multitude of Mourning Doves that consume 90% of my birdseed. My favorite is the Dark-eyed Junco foraging under our feeders. These all form the familiar family of birds we expect to see on a mostly regular basis in East Long Beach.

However, June of 2018 marked some extremely exciting observations. As most birders use sound to identify birds before seeing them, I heard an abnormal call that caused me to start searching the skies for this new visitor. I immediately ran for the binoculars to spy a bird that did not fit the normal expectations of a Southern California birder. Spotting a small bird on the power line with three extremely long tail-feathers, and black and white markings astounded me. Thanks to my son’s passion for drawing exotic birds, he had a good idea that this was a Pin-tailed Whydah. Wait! What? After a little research, we found that a bird from tropical Africa was visiting our part of the world! Apparently, these exotic pets have escaped their cages, like the many Parrots now in Long Beach, and have begun breeding and thriving in the “wilds” of suburban Orange County.

Another foreign visitor this month included the Nutmeg Manikin! At first, I thought this was a juvenile Dark-eyed Junco, but closer investigation revealed that the brown head, not black, and scaly black and white breast are indicative of the Tropical Asian Munia, also known in the pet trade as the Spice Finch. This is a gorgeous sparrow-sized beauty thriving in our neighborhood, and probably goes unnoticed by most of our neighbors.

I have only been paying attention to the birds in my area for a few years, but I am quickly learning that if you keep your eyes and ears open you find beautiful little creatures all around you. Most become familiar after a short time, while others surprise you to the core.