A cypress’ second life (plus a fun finch fact)

There’s a dead cypress tree in our backyard — a diminished-looking thing that one might otherwise consider an eyesore if it were not for the fact that it attracts birds like a magnet.

A couple of months ago, I spotted a northern flicker perched on one of the parched branches — pretty exciting, considering this is a species I typically spot only when I am up in the higher elevations of nearby Mount Charleston.

Regardless, the primary visitor to the tree for the past few weeks has been the house finch. The males are more interesting to look at due to their auburn flourishes, while the females are drab with their washed-out white and brownish hues.

Still, one interesting aspect of the females I’ve noticed lately through observation is how they throw themselves at the males. It’s funny: Several will gather around a sole male on a branch and make a fuss over it, often ending in unrequited admiration, with the male abruptly fleeing the scene.

Also, I wanted to mention that I’ve been seeing great-tailed grackles again in the yard. Nothing exciting, as these birds are ubiquitous in my area — some might say to the point of being a bit obnoxious, as they are a raucous species. But I haven’t seen them in the yard for weeks on end, and now, there they are again.

It’s interesting how that happens. I mean, how a certain native species will just drop off the map for several weeks or so and then suddenly show up again in any given spot.

Here in the metro area, grackles are scavenger birds that like to dumpster-dive and forage in trash cans. I’m thinking maybe the food sources they have been frequenting elsewhere have been depleted. Either that or the Bird Man across the way has put out a new bird feeder or is lately scattering bread morsels. But I kind of doubt it, since there would be much more of a hubbub happening in his yard. But all is relatively calm there at the moment.

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