Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Quest

What would qualify a bird to be the native, Union Bay Christmas Bird? It could be a bird that visits Union Bay only in during the winter. This swan for instance returned to Union Bay around the first of December.
By the way do you know whether this is a Trumpeter or a Tundra swan? If you would like to determine which it is you can read, Trumpeter vs TundraWhile beautifully white and elegant it still doesn't really make one think of Christmas, although it does make me think of snow.

(Speaking of birds and Christmas you might enjoy the following birds from the 12 Days of Christmas which popped up while doing research. Click here to see it. )

Given that Christmas colors are red and green maybe we should focus on birds that show us both colors. For fun you might try to list all the Union Bay birds you can think of that qualify.

There are a number of birds that almost qualify. These birds have green but their "red" coloring is reddish brown at best.
So we can discard the Mallard, the Northern Shoveler and the Green-winged Teal because their reddish color is not sufficiently red. Sadly, the Green Heron's colors must also fall in this category even though they are very complimentary.

What about hummingbirds? Does the Anna's hummingbird actually reflect red as well as its normal green?
Yes, it does reflect red sometimes, but it is generally more of a purple red so it still doesn't quite have that Christmas color feeling.

The Bufflehead generally appears to be a black and white bird. However when the light catches its iridescent feathers just right the Bufflehead seems to explode with color.
Still the reddish color is also more purple than red. Click on the photo to see a larger more colorful version.

What about the Common Merganser?
Now we are getting close. The green on the head is right and the red on the beak is almost right. The rest of the body doesn't make one think of Christmas. As a matter of fact the head and body actually don't even look like they belong together.

 What about the Wood Duck?
It has a crazy mixture of colors which tend to make one think of a child's toy that could be given as a Christmas gift.

The closer one looks the more the Wood Duck seems appropriate as the Christmas Bird from Union Bay. Not only does it have the green and red but it has a wild iridescence that can range through blue and purple as well. 

Does this make you wonder what causes some feathers to be iridescent? Here is one answer, Click Here (If you have trouble sleeping tonight, click on and try reading this link, iridescense.)

If you think of another bird you would like to recommend as the Union Bay Christmas Bird please send in an email with a photo or leave a comment below. The first photo of each new type of red and green, Christmas Bird will be added to the post with the name of its "discoverer".

Happy Holidays!


Odds and Ends:

By the way we had a Summer Tanager visit Seattle last week. If anyone has photos of this beautiful red bird and would like to share, please send them in and we will add them as well. Even though this bird lacks any green color, because it wandered so far from home to visit Seattle just before Christmas, it seems fair to consider it our honorary Christmas Bird of Seattle for 2012.

On another note, here is a Snowy Owl related email from a reader who is interesting for her premonition, location and philanthropy.

Hi Larry

I was staying at the 11th Avenue Inn on 11th Avenue ;-> in Seattle when the snowy owl was there.  Seeing the snowy owl was one of the highlights of my vacation.  She was absolutely beautiful!!!  She chowed down on the seagull as any number of us oh-ed and ah-ed about how wonderful she was.

One of the stranger twists of her "stay" for me, was the evening a photographer was taking pictures with a spotlight focused on the snowy owl.  I said I thought the bird must be injured or sick to let us get as close as we were to her.  He preceded to tell me how the snowy was fearless because she was the top of the food chain.  He might have been right but I was concerned about local dogs seeing her.

I was quite pleased to hear she had been picked up by the rescue organization. I am sending a donation to that organization.

So thank you so very much for your update on the snowy owl of 11th Ave!  I have wondered about her recovery since returning home.

Your own photos of snowy owls were WONDERFUL and your "guest's" photos of the green heron were also delightful!  Loved those red dragonflies :->!

Good birding
Munich, Germany


  1. Wood Duck wins hands down! What awesome images. Thank you for this website. We are so lucky to have the Arboretum and Foster island on our urban doorstep. (a Montlake neighbor)

    1. Thank you! When you live in a 90 year old house with somewhat major failings from time to time it is good to be reminded that we are very lucky to live where we do. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for your blog and for the hours you must spend out in the cold, waiting to capture a photo! I recently saw a new blog, sweeneyfit.wordpress.com which I enjoyed and was glad to see more photos of birds in our wonderful Pacific Northwest.

    1. Thank you! I saw a quote somewhere that said, "There is no such thng as bad weather, just poor clothing". I don't quite have that attitude yet, but I am working on it. :-) I like the Short and Tweet blog as well. I have added the link in my favorites. Thanks again.

  3. The hummer has the intricate ornament feel to support it's use. And it's not quite so cliche' as the whole red and green thing.

    1. It is funny I stated out thinking I would end up picking the hummingbird or maybe the bufflehead because of their amazing iridescent colors. However as I worked through writing the blog the Wood Duck kind of popped up and surprised me. I certainly can see the delicate and ornate beauty of the hummingbird. Happy Holidays!