All photographs by David Lilly

Backyard bird photography can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby for bird enthusiasts and photographers alike. It allows you to capture the beauty and behavior of various bird species that visit your backyard. Here are some tips to help you get started with backyard bird photography:

Equipment: While having a high-end camera and lens can be advantageous, you can still achieve great results with a decent DSLR or mirrorless camera with a telephoto lens. A lens with a focal length of at least 200mm or more is recommended for capturing birds from a distance without disturbing them. I am using a Nikon D 500 with a Nikon 200 - 500mm lens.

Set Up a Feeding Station: Attract birds to your backyard by setting up a bird feeder or bird bath. Providing a reliable food and water source will increase the chances of birds visiting regularly and offer you more opportunities to capture them. I have recorded 51 species of birds in four years that I have been in this location.

Choose the Right Location: Position yourself in a concealed and comfortable spot, ideally near the bird feeder or any area where birds frequent. I use my basement window. Use natural elements like trees and foliage to create a pleasing background and to avoid distracting elements in your shots.

Be Patient: Bird photography requires patience. It may take some time for the birds to become comfortable with your presence, especially if you are new to the area. Spend time observing their patterns and behaviors to anticipate their movements and actions.

Use a Tripod: A sturdy tripod will help you stabilize your camera and lens, especially when using a telephoto lens with a longer focal length. It reduces camera shake and allows for sharper images.

Shoot at Eye Level: Whenever possible, try to capture bird images at eye level. This perspective creates a more engaging and intimate connection with the subject.

Use Natural Light: The best time for bird photography is during the golden hours, which are the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. The soft, warm light during these times can add a beautiful touch to your images.

Shoot in Burst Mode: Birds can be quick and unpredictable. Shooting in burst mode (continuous shooting) will increase your chances of getting the perfect shot when the bird is in action.

Learn Bird Behavior: Understanding bird behavior can help you predict their movements and capture more dynamic shots. Observe how they interact with each other and their environment.

Be Ethical: Always prioritize the well-being of the birds and their environment. Avoid disturbing nests or getting too close to the birds, especially during nesting season. Never bait or harm the birds to get a shot.

Post-Processing: After capturing your images, spend some time in post-processing to enhance your photos. Adjusting the exposure, contrast, and colors can bring out the best in your shots.

Remember, patience and practice are key to improving your bird photography skills. Enjoy the process of observing and capturing these beautiful creatures in your backyard. Happy birding!

Backyard Bird Photography

The Common Grackle, scientifically known as Quiscalus quiscula, is a medium-sized bird belonging to the blackbird family, Icteridae. They are native to North America and are commonly found across much of the United States and parts of southern Canada during the breeding season.

As I photographed this bird I tried to get them looking straight into the camera. it was more difficult than I thought. I like their whit eyes. they have a mysterious look - some might say they look evil.

Here are some key characteristics of the Common Grackle:

Appearance: Adult male grackles have iridescent black plumage with a purplish-blue or greenish sheen when viewed in the right light. They have bright yellow eyes and a long, keel-shaped tail. Females, on the other hand, are slightly smaller and have a more subdued brownish-black plumage.

Vocalizations: Grackles are known for their varied and complex vocalizations. They can produce a range of sounds, including whistles, squeaks, squawks, and chattering calls. During the breeding season, males often engage in loud and elaborate vocal displays to attract females and establish territories.

Behavior: Common Grackles are highly social birds and often form large flocks, especially during the non-breeding season. They are opportunistic feeders and have a diverse diet, which includes insects, fruits, seeds, and even small vertebrates. They are often seen foraging on the ground, searching for food.

Nesting: Grackles typically build their nests in trees, shrubs, or even on man-made structures. The nests are constructed using twigs, grass, and other materials, and are often quite large and bulky. Females are primarily responsible for building the nests and incubating the eggs.

Range: Common Grackles are found across a wide range of habitats, including suburban areas, agricultural fields, marshes, and open woodlands. They are especially common in urban and suburban environments, where they take advantage of human-provided food sources.

Migration: Grackles are generally migratory birds, but the extent of their migration varies depending on their geographical location. Some populations in the southern United States may be year-round residents, while populations in the northern regions migrate southward during the colder months.

It's worth noting that while Common Grackles can be fascinating to observe, they are also known to be quite bold and opportunistic, and they may sometimes cause problems for farmers and homeowners due to their foraging behavior and large flocks. Despite this, they remain an integral part of North America's avian biodiversity.

Some Facts About The Common Grackle

The yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a small to medium-sized woodpecker found in North America. As the name suggests, it has a yellowish belly, but its overall appearance can vary based on age and gender.

A young yellow-bellied sapsucker will typically have similar markings to adult birds, but they might not be as vibrant or pronounced. Here are some key characteristics of a young yellow-bellied sapsucker:

Plumage: Young sapsuckers will have softer and less distinct plumage compared to adults. The black and white pattern on their wings and back may not be as sharp, and their overall coloring may be less vibrant.

Yellowish Belly: Even as juveniles, yellow-bellied sapsuckers will have a pale yellow or buff-colored belly, which sets them apart from other woodpecker species.

Size: Juvenile sapsuckers will be smaller than adults but will still have a similar body shape and overall appearance.

Behavior: Young sapsuckers will likely exhibit similar behaviours to adult birds, such as drilling holes in trees to access sap and insects. They may also engage in drumming and other woodpecker behaviours.

As the young sapsucker matures, its plumage will become more distinct and colorful, and it will eventually resemble the appearance of an adult yellow-bellied sapsucker to the right.

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Belted Kingfisher

The belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a distinctive bird found in North and Central America. It's a medium-sized bird belonging to the kingfisher family, Alcedinidae. Here are some key characteristics and information about the belted kingfisher:

Appearance: The belted kingfisher has a stocky body with a large head, a long, straight bill, and a short neck. The bird displays sexual dimorphism, with males and females having different plumage. Both sexes have a blue-gray back and white underparts. The most prominent feature is a blue-gray band across the white breast of the female, while in the male, this band is replaced by a blue-gray band on the lower belly.

Habitat: Belted kingfishers inhabit a variety of aquatic

environments such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and coastal shores. They are often found perched on branches or wires near water bodies.

Feeding Habits: Kingfishers are known for their distinctive fishing behaviors. They hunt primarily by diving into the water from a perch to catch fish and other aquatic prey. Once they spot a prey item, they dive headfirst into the water to catch it with their sharp bill.

Vocalization: The belted kingfisher's call is a loud, rattling, and repetitive chattering sound that they use for communication and territory marking. Their calls are often heard as they fly along water bodies or perch on branches.

Nesting and Breeding: These birds typically nest in burrows that they excavate in sandy or earthen banks near water bodies. Both the male and female participate in digging the nesting cavity. They lay eggs in the chamber they've created and raise their young there.

Migration: Some populations of belted kingfishers are migratory, moving south for the winter months to escape colder temperatures. However, in more temperate regions, they can be present year-round.

Conservation Status: The belted kingfisher is not considered globally threatened and is categorized as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, like many bird species, they can face habitat loss due to human development and environmental changes.Belted kingfishers are captivating birds known for their distinctive appearance and their unique fishing behavior. Their presence along water bodies adds a touch of natural beauty to the landscapes they inhabit.

Rock Pigeons

The Rock Pigeons in this article are the 51st birds to visit my bird feeders.

I always see the pigeons in different places in the local area, but never in my backyard.

As you can see from the photos they can be a few different colors.

I like the orange eye it just makes them grand-looking.

Nikon D 500 with a Nikon 200 - 500mm lens

Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture in the photo to the right was in a dead tree close to my house. 

I always check the tree for bird species as I drive to my house. At first, I thought it was a Bald Eagle but a closer look with the binoculars indicated it was a Turkey Vulture.

The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) is a large bird of prey found in North and South America. Here are some key characteristics and information about the turkey vulture:

Appearance:  Turkey vultures are large birds with a wingspan of about 5.5 to 6 feet (1.7 to 1.8 meters). They have a distinctive appearance with dark brown to black plumage, a featherless red head, and a long, hooked beak. Their legs and feet are relatively weak and not adapted for capturing prey.
Range: Turkey vultures are highly adaptable and can be found throughout the Americas. They inhabit a wide range of environments, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and urban areas.
Diet:  Turkey vultures are scavengers and primarily feed on carrion (dead animals). They are equipped with a keen sense of smell, which helps them locate decaying carcasses from high in the sky. Their diet includes a variety of animals, from small mammals to larger roadkill.
Flight: Turkey vultures are known for their soaring flight. They ride thermals, or updrafts of warm air, to stay aloft for long periods without flapping their wings. This energy-efficient flight allows them to cover vast distances in search of food.
Social Behavior: These birds are often seen in small to large groups, especially when feeding at a carcass. While they may appear gregarious during these feeding gatherings, they are generally solitary when not in search of food.
Reproduction: Turkey vultures build nests in caves, hollow trees, or other secluded locations. They typically lay one to three eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks. The young vultures fledge, or leave the nest, after a couple of months.
Role in Ecosystem:  Turkey vultures play an important role in cleaning up carrion from the environment. By consuming dead animals, they help prevent the spread of disease and recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem.
Conservation Status: Turkey vultures are not currently considered globally threatened, and their populations are relatively stable. However, they can face various threats, including habitat loss, lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition fragments in carcasses, and collisions with vehicles.
In many cultures, turkey vultures have been misunderstood and sometimes vilified due to their association with death and decay. However, they are valuable members of their ecosystems, providing essential services to nature's cleanup crew.

Nikon D 850 with a Nikon 500mm PF lens