Catching Up with Wild Kingdom’s Star Jim Fowler: Part 3

The wonders of nature have never stopped fascinating Jim Fowler. The 85-year old zoologist has encountered some of the most dangerous animals as the host of the Emmy Award-winning television show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and now he is content admiring his backyard birds.

“I’ve been around awhile, but I’m learning new things every day just observing birds in my backyard,” he says. “I’m amazed at how some birds fly in formation and how fast they fly and maneuver and stay at a distance from each other.”

Fowler’s also found that there’s a shadow that crosses and when the birds see it they all take off.

“A bird watcher can learn an awful lot about nature just by observing,” he says.

He’s quick to point out that Jim Fowler’s supposed to know what to do about nature, but says, “It’s fun to sit here and amazing to see what kinds of birds I have right here in my yard in Rowayton.”

Jim Fowler’s Backyard Birds

Fowler says he finds birdwatching very interesting in his yard because he’s had some unusual birds visit.

“I’ve had a Baltimore Oriole come in here, and they’re quite colorful. But the most common bird here at the Fowler Feeder is the Purple Finch.”

Jim Fowler has seen the color Baltimore Oriole at his Fbird feeder

Jim Fowler has seen the color Baltimore Oriole at his bird feeder

Difference Between Purple Finch and House Finch

Fowler’s quick to point out the difference between the House Finch many people see in their yard versus the Purple Finch.

House finches are a classic red or red-orange like a ripe strawberry color

House finches are a classic red or red-orange like a ripe strawberry color

“Bird names are often not literal. Purple Finches aren’t purple, and House Finches don’t just live near houses. But the key to distinguishing the male Purple Finch is that they are Raspberry-red, and their feathers look like they’ve been stained by wine.”

He notes females and young males of both species have brown and white-colored plumage so identification can be especially tricky.

Purple finches are more of a pink or rosy hue similar to a raspberry

Purple finches are more of a pink or rosy hue similar to a raspberry

“Female birds get the short end of the stick having little or no color unlike their male counterparts,” he says. “And identifying the juveniles can be quite a challenge.”

Female Purple Finches have a distinct white mark above each eye and are more crisply patterned. Observing the bird’s structure and behavior are also useful.

Fowler recommends bird watchers reference their favorite bird book to help with identification.

Fowler’s Favorite Bird Guide

And what bird guide does Fowler, a noted zoologist and ornithologist use?

“I use the Peterson Field Guide. It’s one of the better ones,” says Fowler.

Peterson Field Guide to Birds is Fowler's preferred field guide

Peterson Field Guide to Birds is Fowler’s preferred field guide

He says he’s always identified the predators.

“Birds of prey have been my specialty. Some of the smaller birds I can’t immediately identify because my sight is a little bad, but with the help of these binoculars and the Peterson Guide, I enjoy my backyard birds.”

Check back for the fourth segment of Catching Up with Wild Kingdom’s Star Jim Fowler.