My wife and I have lived in Erskine, a small village in central Alberta, since 1992. Erskine is south of Buffalo Lake and west of the town of Stettler. This is a farming area and it is part of the Aspen Parkland ecozone. We have many mature trees and various shrubs around our house. On the deck to the north of our kitchen window we have a heated bird waterer and, to the east, we have two bird feeders and a hanging onion bag filled with beef suet. We love watching birds. Several winters ago, we had a Townsend’s Solitaire show up and it stayed for around a month. This winter, another one showed up on December 27 (see below) and we have seen it regularly ever since. This nature note is devoted to this species as it is seldom seen east of the Rockies and foothills.
Townsend’s Solitaires are in the Thrush Family. They are slim, gray birds with short beaks, a noticeable white eye ring, buffy wing patches and white sides on the tail. They are a little larger than a Bluebird and a Thrush and are smaller and thinner than a Robin. We have never seen one at our feeders or on the suet bag. All of our sightings have been at our heated bird waterer (see above). Apparently, the birds we have seen feed primarily on berries. In our yard we have Nanking cherries, highbush cranberries, apple trees and thorny buffaloberries while a neigbour has junipers. We also saw a bird on a rose bush where it may have been feeding on rose hips.
The above image was taken yesterday (February 6). It was a cold morning, around -17 C, and you can see the bird all fluffed up sitting on the edge of our heated bird waterer.
Townsend’s Solitaires are birds of coniferous forests in the Rocky Mountains and foothills. They ordinarily fly south in the fall and winter in the United States and Mexico.
You can read about the bird in your favourite bird book or you can do an internet search.
Happy birding and don’t forget the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 13-16 – http://gbbc.birdcount.org/.