Warbler Yellow 512

Passerines is a bird group that makes up more than half of all bird species and are sometimes known as songbirds or perching birds. They are well-adapted for perching with 3 toes forward and one backward. They are smaller than most birds, excepting for the Raven. They are mostly found in the refuge along the tree line and in the sagebrush or taller forbs. Passerine chicks are born blind, featherless, and helpless when hatched from their colored eggs. Passerines often feed on berries or small insects. There are many different species of passerines that live and breed here during the warmer months. The birds below are a sample of the songbirds on the refuge. A complete bird list can be downloaded here as a PDF. See our Passerine photo gallery here.

  • Woodpeckers

    Flicker Male 150

    There are four common woodpeckers in the refuge, the Northern Flicker, the Hairy Woodpecker, the Downy Woodpecker and the Red-naped Sapsucker. A few others are occasionally seen, like the 3-toed Woodpecker, the Williamson's Sapsucker, and the Black-backed Woodpecker. The woodpeckers are different from other Passerines in that they have 4 toes, the first and the fourth facing backward and the second and third facing forward. This arrangement is good for grasping the limbs and trunks of trees as they walk up and down the tree trunks foraging for food. They have strong bills for drilling and drumming on trees and long sticky tongues for extracting food.

  • Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, cowbirds


    The Icterids include medium to large-sized songbirds. Those found on the refuge at various times include the Western Meadowlark, the Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbird, the Bobolink, Brewer's blackbird, Brown-headed cowbird and very rarely, the Common Grackle, and Northern Oriole. All of these birds have a strong, straight and pointed bill used in "gaping" where they insert their bills into the ground or tough vegetation and open it wide to expose insects and other food. The Meadowlark is especially colorful and beautiful to refuge visitors and often can be found sitting on a fence post singing melodious territorial songs.

  • Wood Warblers

    Warbler Yellow 150

    Wood-warblers are mostly small New World songbirds that are quite active and often brightly colored. On the refuge the most common warblers are  Wilson's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, and the Common Yellowthroat. Less frequently seen are the Tennessee Warbler, the Orange-crowned Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, the Northern Waterthrush and the American Redstart. The Yellow Warbler acquire prey by gleaning in shrubs and on tree branches, and by hawking prey that tries to fly away. 

  • Jays, Ravens, Magpies

    Raven 150

    Corvids are medium to large sized perching birds. They are bold, noisy and gregarious birds. On the refuge, the Black-billed Magpie is the most common corvid, followed by the Common Raven, the American Crow, the Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Stellar's Jay and Pinon Jay. Most feed on insects and seeds, but the magpies, ravens and crows eat carrion. They store food in caches for later recovery. The ravens and crows are among some of the most intelligent of all birds. Corvids are also very social birds, even sporting "lookout" or guards that alert the rest of the family of impending dangers. Sexes are not distinguishable by coloration, but small size differences may exist. Generally, the corvids mate for life.

  • Flycatchers

    Eastern Kingbird 150

    Tyrant Flycatchers are a class of very small to medium size birds found in the refuge. They often have large heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies. They have a wide broad bill that increases their chances of catching insects as they are flying through the air. A true dietary staple of these birds is the true fly, although they do eat other insects and in the winter, berries and fruits. On the refuge the most conspicuous flycatchers are the Western Wood Pewee and the Willow and Dusky Flycatcher. Less commonly seen are the Eastern and Western Kingbird, Say's Phoebe and the Olive-sided flycatcher.

  • Swallows

    Swallow Cliff 150

    Swallows are probably one of the most noticeable passerine birds on the refuge. Due to the many varieties of insects hosted by the wetlands on the refuge, the swallows are numerous. Swallows hunt insects on the wing thanks to a slender, streamlined body and long pointed wings, which allow great maneuverability, endurance and gliding. This body shape allows for very efficient flight, which costs almost 3/4 less for swallows than the equivalent passerines of the same size. Swallows usually forage at around 18-24 m/h, although they are capable of reaching speeds of between 30-38 m/h during migration. The most common swallows on the refuge include the Barn, Tree, Cliff and Bank Swallows. Occasionally the Violet Green Swallow, and the Northern Rough-winged swallow can be spotted.

  • Sparrows

    Sparrow White-crowned 150

    American sparrows are also in both appearance and habit to finches. They are often brown and streaked and use their conical shaped bills for cracking seeds in winter. They are an abundant type of bird in the refuge. Many species inhabit the grasslands and marshes of the refuge. These birds forage on the ground, mainly eating insects and seeds. Outside the nesting season they often feed in small flocks. Sparrows that are commonly seen in the refuge include the White-crowned, Vesper, Savannah, Chipping, Brewer's, Song and Lincoln's Sparrows. The Dark-eyed Junco is also a familiar sparrow in the refuge. The Lark, American Tree and Fox sparrows are occasionally seen.

  • Finches

    Goldfinch american 150

    Finches are small to medium song birds found on the refuge. The male and females have different plumage, with the male usually most colorful. They fly fast and undulate in the air. They inhabit the forest edge and the open forest. They have conical bills like the sparrows and relatively short tails. They eat seeds and buds mostly on the plants, compared to the insects and ground seeds that many of the smaller birds here devour. The Pine and Evening Grosbeak are finches (albeit larger) that are frequently seen in the refuge. The beautiful Cassin's finch, Common Redpoll and Pine Siskin are also common here. Occasional sightings of the Rosy Finch, American Goldfinch, Black-headed Grosbeak and Lazuli Bunting have been noted in the refuge.

  • Other Passerines

    Robin 150

    The refuge is situated at the convergence of the Pacific and Central flyways for migration of many birds. Other birds not covered above are both common and rare. The American Robin is common, as is the beautiful Mountain Bluebird, Western Tanager, the European Starlings, Vireos, Kinglets, American Dipper, and Chickadees. Rarer birds that have been seen here include the Swainson's Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Shrike, Loggerhead Shrike, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and much more. The value of such a refuge is the diverse environment it offers to so many birds. Visitors can spend hours and find a special bird or just enjoy the never-ending antics of the common birds. Enjoy our photo gallery of passerines.

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