Best of the Tetons

American Goldfinch

Back Yard Birding in Jackson Hole:

It just takes a little food, a few perches and a lot of patience.

Each year, a winged group of visitors make their way to the Jackson Hole valley—some passing through and some making it their summer home. Birds of many species, sizes, and colors show up in my back yard and I feel almost obligated to try to capture images of them with my camera. This page contains images of many of them, taken in 2013 and 2014.

Cornell Labs All About Birds I’m not a trained ornithologist, so I created links to All About Birds for each bird. If you are interested, you can read more about the characteristics, color phases, weight, size, range,  and songs. For most of the birds below, I chose the male since they are usually more colorful. If there is a noticeable difference, you can see the female of each by clicking on the links I added.

You might also enjoy reading:
Why Do Birds Migrate? – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker’s are some of my most dependable year around birds. They are very good problem solvers and usually clean out peanut feeders as a team. They leave my yard for a few weeks when the White Bark Pine cones need harvesting, but otherwise come to the feeders anytime I put out peanuts for them. All About Birds : Clark’s Nutcracker

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadees can be found in my yard year around. They are difficult to photograph because of their jittery nature. The Native Americans called them the bird of seven songs. All About Birds : Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chicadee

Mountain Chickadees are equally difficult to photograph. They are a bit smaller than Black-capped Chickadees. All About Birds : Mountain Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches spend some winters in my back yard. Red-breasted Nuthatches are a little smaller and will occasionally feed in my yard. They typically walk “down” tree trunks. I’ve seen them go into cavities of other birds or squirrels to rob them of their stash of seeds. Both species leave about the time other migrating birds begin showing up. All About Birds : White-breasted Nuthatch & Red-breasted Nuthatch

Cassins Finch

Cassins Finches are some of the first “birds of color” to arrive each year. They arrive in waves, feeding mainly on sunflower seeds, before heading on north. I can sometimes have a few hundred of them in the yard at one time. All About Birds : Cassin’s Finch

Pine Sisken

Pine Siskins leave the valley during the coldest periods, then return in early March. They are smaller than most sparrows and prefer Nyjer seeds (thistle). All About Birds : Pine Siskin

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker’s often spend the winter in the valley and visit my feeders for suet and peanut butter. The males have a patch of red on the back of their head. All About Birds : Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers resemble the larger Hairy Woodpeckers but have shorter beaks. Both species are amazingly tolerant of me taking their photos. All About Birds : Downey Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers also visit the tree trunks and feeders, mostly in the winter and early spring,  in search of suet and peanut butter. All About Birds : Northern Flicker

Red-naped Sapsusker

Red-naped Sapsuckers occasionally pass through my yard, but never seem to stay long. All About Birds : Red-naped Sapsucker

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpies are also year around valley residents. They pick up peanuts dropped by the Clark’s Nutcrackers and are equally attracted to suet.  All About Birds : Black-billed Magpie

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are also some of the earliest birds to return in the late winter or early spring. The bird above is sometimes identified as “Slate-colored”.  Oregon Juncos look much the same, but have a darker cape and lighter chest. All About Birds : Dark-eyed Junco

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are not typically found in the Jackson Hole valley. This one spent the 2013/2014 winter here. I watched it follow a red squirrel to see where it stashed peanuts, then go there to take them after the squirrel left. All About Birds : Black-billed Magpie

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Orioles usually start showing up during the first week or two of May, adding a very bright splash of color. They can hang around until the first week of June, but will leave sooner if I forget to keep sugar water in the feeders or stop feeding orange slices. They are good at pulling the yellow “baskets” off Hummingbird feeders to get to the sugar water. All About Birds : Bullock’s Oriole

American Robin

American Robins are typically considered harbingers of spring. A large population spends their summers in Jackson Hole. Some can spend the winter in the north country, but I don’t see the them often in the Winter. All About Birds : American Robin

House Finch

House Finches resemble Cassin’s Finches in some ways, but usually have more red in their chest and lack some of the stripes found on the chest of the Cassin’s Finches. All About Birds : House Finch

Western Tanager

Western Tanagers are probably the highlight of the birding season for me. Males are extremely colorful and almost look out of place here. Check out this earlier Feature Page containing lots of photos of Western Tanagers:

All About Birds : Western Tanagers

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinches are among the wave of brightly colored birds that show up near the end of May. The earliest males often still have patches of brown, but change within a few days. All About Birds : American Goldfinch

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeaks are beautiful birds. I typically only see half a dozen pairs and they never stay around as long as I would wish. They focus on sunflower seeds. All About Birds : Evening Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeaks have quite a bit of color and are welcome in my yard anytime. Some nest in town, but I’ve never seen one nest in my yard. All About Birds : Black-headed Grosbeak

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers hang around in the willows on the other side of the creek that flows behind my house. They seldom come to my yard to feed. Yellow-rumped Warblers also visit my yard in early summer, but never stay long. All About Birds : Yellow Warbler

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds have been coming to my feeders for the past four or five years. They are sleek and sly. You can hear them approaching by their catlike meow call. I like to try to capture them in an image showing the rusty orange underside of their tail. It is not an easy assignment. All About Birds : Gray Catbird

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Buntings are one of my favorite birds of summer. The males are brown for most of the year, but change to the bright blue during the breeding season. All About Birds : Lazuli Bunting

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbirds are fairly common in the valley. A group of them hang around my yard all summer, but most can be seen later in the sage flats and sometimes sitting on the back of a bison. All About Birds : Brown-headed Cowbird

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbirds show up about the same time as the Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Grackles and European Starlings. All About Birds : Brewer’s Blackbird

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows spend a lot of the time on the ground and less time on perches, making them difficult to photograph. All About Birds : Chipping Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows are also ground feeders and do a great job of making my photography life difficult. There are probably at least half a dozen different other kinds of Sparrows here in the summer. All About Birds : White-crowned Sparrow

Cecar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings usually follow the Tanagers into the valley. I look forward to their return in both summer and mid-winter. This year, for whatever reason, I only had a handful of them in the summer. If the prior few years, I had dozens at a time on the feeders. They are mainly interested in fruit and suet. Bohemian Waxwings often spend a month or so in Jackson Hole during the winter months, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one in my yard. By that time, Robins and other birds have cleaned off all of my berry bushes.  All About Birds : Cedar Waxwing

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves have been moving into the Jackson Hole valley for the past half a dozen years. They are fairly plentiful now, but are quite skittish when I am in the back yard. All About Birds : Eurasian Collared-Dove

Hummingbirds nest in the Jackson Hole valley. This earlier Feature Post shows several different species and includes some information about trying to photograph the:  The Teton’s Tiny Winged Visitors

All About Birds : Calliope Hummingbird  |  Rufous Hummingbird  |  Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Each year, there seems to be a “standard” set of species—yet it is never the same. Waxwings and Evening Grosbeaks were almost non-existent in 2013. Seems strange, knowing they had been regulars for several years prior. Occasionally, I have a Stellar’s Jay. One year was great for Red Crossbills and White-winged Crossbills, while Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were at feeders another year. Tree Swallows have been common in some years but not others. Right now, a Spotted Towhee is in the yard, but it stays just out of good shooting range. A Sharp-shinned Hawk patrols the area and occasionally kills an unsuspecting bird.  I spend a lot of time photographing the birds from a blind in the back yard as the songbird migration moves through. It saves gasoline! Of course there are lots of other bird species that visit Jackson Hole. This page features some of the birds that actually come into my yard. Overhead, Osprey, Swans, Eagles, and a wide variety of waterfowl fly by. A pair of Mallard ducks waddle into the yard regularly, so I probably should include them.

Summer Blind 2012Click this link for some additional photos and information about my back yard setup.  Attracting and Photographing Wintering Back Yard Birds:


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Comments (8)

  1. Mike – That Cedar Waxwing shot is one of best I have ever seen. Beautiful, as always!

  2. Mike, you have quite a collection! The image of the Cedar Waxwings is fantastic and my favorite. I have a couple of questions. Are you using a flash at all? I noticed that the colors are stunning even under the birds where I would expect a bit of a shadow. Also, the detail is fantastic. Are you using your D4 or D800 for most of these shots? Thanks!


  3. Bill,
    The only image on this page with a flash is the Northern Flicker. It was a dull, gray day and I was curious if they’d let me use a flash. Other than a couple of flutters initially, they didn’t seem to care. Almost all of the images were taken with a D4 and a 200-400mm lens. I typically don’t like to see a bird printed at a size larger than the actual bird (like a Hummingbird the size of a Robin or a Stellar’s Jay the size of a Hawk) so I know the resolution of a D4 will have plenty of resolution if I am close. The D800 is slower and the files are larger than I think I need. Still, it is just a personal preference.

  4. Lowell Schechter

    Hi Mike
    Lovely assortment of bird images and how you can capture this birds with just a simple setup.

  5. Hi Lowell, Bill, Jackie, Loren, and all the rest! Thanks so much for taking the time to add comments to my posts. It’s great to know people are reading them and hopefully getting some useful information from them. Cheers, Mike Jackson

  6. Another educational lesson from my mentor. Now that I have the 150-600 I should start taking shots in my backyard. Your collection of bird photos is beautiful and educational. probably more helpful that the bird books I have because your photos have better detail. I think you should “show-off” that amazing set of photos of the flickers from last year. Those shots were absolutely incredible and fun to watch the bird-family progress.

  7. susan Higgins

    Have you noticed a decline in species you depict since 2012? the western states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona and New Mexico are all reporting complete loss of birds in bedroom communities, national forests, any park city or otherwise. There has been reports of using five separate chemicals to disrupt bird habitat during migration or seasonal…there has also been a direct removal of privately owned habitat including old growth trees in private lands to remove birds…the health ramifications of air force release of Phthalate as well as electric subcontractors clearing power lines is just unfolding.

  8. Susan…not really! Those issues you speak of are probably affecting the various species, but I always seem to have a yard full of birds (if I feed them). Thanks for the note! MJ

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