A CLOSER LOOK, by Kimball Garrett

A CLOSER LOOK is a column written by Kimball Garrett that ran in the Western Tanager for a number of years.

A CLOSER LOOK—Mountain Chickadee

By Kimball Garrett

Originally published in the Western Tanager Vol. 46 No. 9 June 1980


Previous "Closer Look" articles have treated southern California bird species which vary in their appearance according to age, sex, season, geographical locality, etc. But many other species, including this month's subject, the Mountain Chickadee, are remarkably uniform in their appearance. Subtle differences in measurements and in plumage pigment saturation in the Mountain Chickadee would surely be overlooked by even the keenest field observers. But the chickadee represents another type of within-species variation which is familiar to most bird-watchers—that is, geographical variation in vocalizations.

A CLOSER LOOK—Hairy Woodpecker

by Kimball Garrett

Originally published in the Western Tanager Vol. 46 No. 8 May 1980.


Woodpeckers are at once unique and familiar, and there is ample opportunity in southern California to study some thirteen species in or near the region. Their suite of adaptations to scansorial (climbing) locomotion and bark and sub-bark foraging is so impressive, complex, and successful that creationists opposing a theory of evolution through natural selection have even used woodpeckers as an example of how far-fetched (in their minds) natural selection must be! This month, however, we will deal with only a few aspects of plumage variation in the Picoides woodpeckers, using the widespread Hairy Woodpecker as an example.


by Kimball Garrett

Originally published in the Western Tanager Vol. 46 No. 5 February 1980


The Bushtit, a common and characteristic resident of our brushy habitats, seems a plain and uniform enough bird to allow one to forego any field identification below the species level. Its fussy four inches are a rather somber gray-brown, with no important markings. But careful study of a passing flock will reveal a distinct sexual dimorphism in eye color. Furthermore, there are two rather distinct subspecies groups of bushtits found in southern California, and occasional vagrancy of flocks means that racial identification can yield important distributional information. This month we'll take a closer look at variation in the bushtit.