The Lake Hills City Birds

Chattanooga’s Charming Visitor: The Eastern Phoebe

Chattanooga’s Charming Visitor: The Eastern Phoebe

Welcome to the scenic city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where nature enthusiasts are treated to a year-round spectacle of avian wonders. In this week’s Lake Hills City Birds, we’ll shed light on a delightful feathered friend who frequents the area – the Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe). This unassuming yet fascinating bird is a year-round resident in this region. In this blog post, we’ll explore its unique characteristics, its role in the ecosystem, and an intriguing tidbit about how it became the first banded bird in North America.

The Eastern Phoebe: A Familiar Face

The Eastern Phoebe is a small, unassuming bird. Yet, its presence in Chattanooga’s backyards and natural areas is anything but ordinary. These songbirds are known for their charming and distinctive appearance, making them a popular subject for birdwatchers, photographers, and even casual observers.

Identification and Appearance

Measuring about 6-7 inches in length, Eastern Phoebes are primarily grayish-brown in color with a paler belly. They possess a characteristic dark, square-shaped head, which adds a little sophistication to their overall appearance. The white underbelly and tail edges offer a beautiful contrast, making them relatively easy to spot.

Habitat and Range

The Eastern Phoebe’s habitat ranges from woodlands to suburban areas. It is found throughout the eastern United States, including Chattanooga and the surrounding areas. These birds are adaptable and can be spotted near rivers and ponds. They make their nests from mud and grass. They can be found on bridges, barns, and houses.

Diet and Behavior

Eastern Phoebes are insectivores and predominantly eat flying insects. Their meals would involve catching flies, beetles, and mosquitoes. They are known for their distinctive hunting technique, which involves perching in a prominent spot and flying out to catch insects mid-air. You might often see them perched on a branch or wire, returning to the same spot after each foray, which is a standard behavior.

The First Banded Bird in North America

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Eastern Phoebe’s history is its association with the practice of bird banding. In the late 1800s, an American ornithologist named Wells Woodbridge Cooke banded an Eastern Phoebe, making it the first bird to receive a leg band in North America. Bird banding involves attaching a small, numbered metal band to a bird’s leg to track its movements, behavior, and longevity.

This groundbreaking act marked the beginning of bird banding as a valuable scientific tool in ornithology. Cooke’s work led to a better understanding of avian migration, distribution, and lifespan. While Eastern Phoebes may not undertake remarkable migrations, their role in kickstarting bird banding paved the way for countless scientific discoveries in the field of ornithology.

Eastern Phoebes in Your Backyard

To attract Eastern Phoebes to your backyard, consider creating an environment with suitable nesting sites and insect access. Here are some tips:

  1. Insect-Friendly Garden: Cultivate native plants and flowers that attract insects, as these will become a vital food source for Eastern Phoebes.
  2. Water Source: A small birdbath or water feature can be a draw for Eastern Phoebes and provide them with a source of hydration.
  3. Avoid Pesticides: Refrain from using pesticides in your garden, as they can harm the insects Eastern Phoebes rely on for food.
  4. Quiet Observation: Be patient and enjoy quiet moments observing these delightful birds from a comfortable vantage point.

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In Conclusion

The Eastern Phoebe is a captivating bird that graces Chattanooga’s landscapes year-round. Its charming presence, distinctive appearance, and historical significance as the first banded bird in North America are of particular interest to bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. As you set out to enjoy bird-watching in Chattanooga, remember to watch for the Eastern Phoebe – a true gem of the city’s avian population.

The Lake Hills City Birds

The Enigmatic Drummer of Chattanooga: Northern Flicker Bird-Watching

The Enigmatic Drummer of Chattanooga: Northern Flicker Bird-Watching

Welcome to the scenic backyard bird-watching experience in the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee! Suppose you’re looking for a genuinely remarkable avian encounter. In that case, we invite you to join us in exploring the fascinating world of the Northern Flicker. This charismatic woodpecker species calls Chattanooga home and offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, mystery, and rhythm. Join us as we uncover the secrets of the Northern Flicker’s life, habitat, and behavior.

Getting to Know the Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker, scientifically known as Colaptes auratus, is a unique woodpecker species that stands out in the avian world. Unlike other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers forage on the ground for their favorite meal – ants and beetles. They are large, striking birds with a brownish-gray body, a prominent black bib, and a vibrant flash of color on their tail and wings, which varies between a golden yellow or red hue, depending on the subspecies.

Northern Flicker’s Preferred Habitat

Chattanooga, Tennessee, provides an ideal habitat for Northern Flickers with its diverse urban and rural environments. These birds enjoy open woodlands, suburban areas, and city parks. They enjoy foraging in open fields and lawns with plentiful ants and beetles. If you want to spot a Northern Flicker, keep an eye out for them, probing the ground with their sharp bills in search of their favorite snacks.

Unique Drumming Behavior

One of the most captivating aspects of the Northern Flicker is its distinctive drumming behavior. These woodpeckers are often called the “Hollywood Drummer” because of their rhythmic and attention-grabbing drumming sounds. While their primary purpose is not to create a musical performance, they drum to communicate with other Northern Flickers during mating season and to establish territory.

During your bird-watching adventure, pay close attention to the distinctive drumming sounds of the Northern Flicker. It often begins with a few slow taps, followed by a crescendo of rapid drumming, which you can hear from quite a distance. Each individual has a unique drumming pattern, so if you hear one, you can identify it again later.

Northern Flicker Migration

The Northern Flicker is a migratory bird, and Chattanooga is a popular stopover for them during their migration seasons. In the spring, look for their arrival as they migrate northward; in the fall, witness their return journey south. These migrations provide incredible opportunities to observe Northern Flickers in action and see their unique behaviors.

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Bird-Watching Tips for Northern Flickers

  1. Timing is Everything: Northern Flickers are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. Be sure to plan your bird-watching outings accordingly for the best chances of spotting them.
  2. Use Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars will help you get a closer look at these birds, especially when they are high up in the trees.
  3. Camouflage Yourself: Blend in with your surroundings as much as possible. Wear neutral colors and creep to avoid scaring off the birds.
  4. Bring a Field Guide: A bird guidebook specific to your region can be a handy reference for identifying different species.
  5. Keep a Bird Journal: Taking notes of your sightings can help you keep track of the Northern Flickers you encounter and their unique behaviors.


Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a fantastic location for bird-watching, and the Northern Flicker is one of its hidden treasures. This woodpecker species will surely captivate your heart with its charming drumming habits and beautiful plumage. So, grab your binoculars, head out to the scenic spots in Chattanooga, and immerse yourself in the intriguing world of the Northern Flicker. Happy bird-watching!

The Lake Hills City Birds

The Charming House Finch: A Guide to This Colorful Backyard Bird

The Charming House Finch: A Guide to This Colorful Backyard Bird

When it comes to the world of backyard birds, the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a true star. These charming little creatures are common in many parts of North America and have found a way to thrive in urban and suburban environments. Today, we’ll look closer at the House Finch, exploring its fascinating characteristics, behavior, and tips for attracting them to your backyard. So, let’s dive into the world of this delightful avian neighbor.

Understanding the House Finch

  1. Physical Appearance: House Finches are small birds measuring 5 to 6 inches long. Their plumage is a blend of brown streaks and vibrant colors, with males sporting a bright red crown and throat while females have a more subdued brown and streaked appearance. These differences in appearance make them easy to distinguish.
  2. Range and Habitat: House Finches are incredibly adaptable birds, and you can find them throughout North America. They are often seen in urban areas, parks, gardens, and farms. Their versatility in habitat choice has helped them thrive in various environments.
  3. Dietary Preferences: House Finches are primarily seed-eaters. They have a particular fondness for sunflower seeds, but they’ll also enjoy various other seeds, berries, and fruits. Providing these foods in your backyard can attract House Finches and provide them with a reliable food source.

Behavior and Interesting Facts

  1. Singing Talent: These little birds are known for their cheerful and melodic songs. The males often sing to attract females or defend their territory. Their musical notes can add a delightful touch to your backyard.
  2. Social Creatures: House Finches are social birds, often found in small flocks. Watching their interactions can be entertaining as they engage in playful antics and vocalizations. There is a belief in popular culture that the House Finch mates for life; this assertion isn’t true. They are monogamous for the duration of the mating season and may produce up to three clutches of younglings in a single season, but the bond does not carry on throughout their lifespans.
  3. Nesting Habits: House Finches are known for their adaptable nesting habits. They readily take advantage of man-made structures, such as hanging planters, eaves, and even outdoor light fixtures. Nesting materials like twigs, grass, and boxes can encourage them to make your backyard home. 

Attracting House Finches to Your Backyard

  1. Provide Food and Water: Offering a variety of bird feeders stocked with seeds and a clean birdbath for drinking and bathing can make your backyard a House Finch hotspot.
  2. Plant Bird-Friendly Plants: Planting native shrubs and flowers that produce seeds or berries can create a natural food source for House Finches. Consider options like sunflowers, coneflowers, and berry-bearing bushes.
  3. Nesting Boxes: Installing nesting boxes or providing nesting materials can make your backyard attractive for House Finches. Just be sure to place them in safe, secure locations.

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The House Finch, with its vibrant colors, sweet songs, and adaptable nature, is a delightful addition to any backyard. By creating a welcoming environment with food, water, and suitable nesting spots, you can enjoy the company of these charming birds year-round. So, turn your backyard into a haven for House Finches, and you’ll be treated to a colorful avian display that will brighten your days. Happy birdwatching!

The Lake Hills City Birds

Mourning Doves: Graceful Visitors to Your Backyard

Mourning Doves: Graceful Visitors to Your Backyard

If you’ve ever spent a tranquil morning sipping coffee in your backyard, chances are the gentle cooing of Mourning Doves has serenaded you. These elegant birds are expected guests in backyards across North America, and today, we’re here to introduce you to their world.

The Elegance of Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves are renowned for their understated beauty. Their soft gray feathers, slender tails, and striking ringed eyes give them a unique charm. Their wings emit a soothing sound when they take flight, adding to their elegance. It’s no wonder that they are considered the symbol of peace and grace among birds.

The Musical Duo: Mourning Dove Calls

One of the most captivating aspects of these doves is their melodious cooing. Their call can be confused with an owl’s to those listening with an untrained ear. If you’ve ever wondered who’s responsible for those mournful yet soothing sounds in your backyard, it’s likely a pair of Mourning Doves. They use their calls for communication, especially during courtship.

Intriguingly, each dove has a slightly different coo, and these coos can range from a gentle “cooOOoo-woo-woo” to a more rhythmic “coo-coo, coo-coo.” These calls can be enchanting, adding a harmonious touch to your outdoor space.

Mourning Dove Behavior

Mourning Doves have fascinating behaviors that make them a joy to observe. They are ground feeders, primarily dining on seeds and grains. Scatter some birdseed in your garden, and you’ll likely find them pecking away gracefully.
When it comes to nesting, Mourning Doves are models of loyalty. They often mate for life and share the responsibility of raising their young. Their simple nests can be found in trees, ledges, or even on your porch if you’re fortunate. It’s truly heartwarming to witness their devotion.

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Mourning Doves in Your Garden

If you want to attract these lovely birds to your backyard, it’s surprisingly easy. Consider setting up a bird feeder stocked with seeds. They’ll also appreciate a birdbath for a quick dip. Providing a peaceful and safe environment will make your backyard an inviting haven for Mourning Doves. 

Mourning Dove Conservation

While Mourning Doves are common, it’s essential to be mindful of their conservation. Their populations are stable, but responsible bird-watching and conservation efforts are still crucial. By providing a safe and welcoming space for them, you’re contributing to their well-being.


In your backyard, these graceful creatures bring an air of tranquility and beauty. Mourning Doves are the perfect companions for your morning coffee, adding their gentle coos to your moments of serenity. As you watch them feed and care for their young, you become a part of their world, and they are a part of yours.

So, next time you hear their mournful coos, take a moment to appreciate the elegance and charm of Mourning Doves. Share your dove-watching experiences with fellow backyard bird enthusiasts and join the community of those who find joy in these beautiful visitors.

The Lake Hills City Birds

White-throated Sparrow

I have a flock of these cute little birds in my backyard. They are brown and black above and gray below. This bird has a black-and-white-striped head with a bright white throat. There is a yellow spot in front of each eye. Its length is between 6.3 – 7.1 inches. It weighs between 0.8 – 1.1 oz. with a wingspan is between 7.9 – 9.1 inches.

These birds stay near the ground. I have not seen them on any of my feeders. They scurry quickly across the ground so it is difficult to get a photo. They blend in with the fall leaves. They can be seen scratching through the leaves for food. In my backyard, these birds like the shrubs in my front yard and the overgrowth along the fence line. They live here year round.

They eat mainly seeds from grasses and weeds. If they visit a feeder, it is usually a platform feeder. I need to add one of those to my backyard. They will eat black oil sunflower seeds and millet from backyard feeders. I throw some seed down on the ground where they are always scratching through the leaves. As you can see in the video, one bird in particular has claimed the territory as his own. In the spring, they can be seen eating the buds and blossoms of trees. In the video, this small bird took on a male Cardinal and won.

The Lake Hills City Birds

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The Lake Hills City Birds

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

These little birds are difficult to get a photo of because they are so quick. They are constantly flicking their wings. I was not sure what type of bird is was when it first showed up in my backyard. From afar I thought it was a Pine Warbler because of the size. When I finally got one on video, I was able to identify it as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Both male and female measure between 3.5 – 4.3 in. They weigh between 0.2 – 0.3oz. They have a wingspan of 6.3 – 7.1 in. They are olive green birds. They have a white eye ring. They have a white wing bar and blackish bar in the wing.

The first time I saw a male, I thought it hurt its head. It looked like a blood stain on the top of his head. I did not realize that was the ruby patch that can be seen on males. I’ve read that the patch usually stays hidden unless he is excited. I believe these birds are nesting in my very old pine trees in the backyard. I see them flying to and from the tops of those trees a lot.

For food, they like insects. I see them foraging through the leaves on the ground, through my garden, and in the trees for insects. They also eat seeds and fruits. I have seen them on my feeders a lot this week. I’m happy they’ve made my backyard home.