Friday, January 30, 2015

Snow Brings The Birds (and some other guests) - Part 2

"Snow" Birds of Green Lane, PA, USA

Our Most Common Winter Birds in the Bird Yard 





This is Part 2 for the most common winter birds in our "bird yard".  The scene outside is snowy and all the critters who are awake want to find food and water.  This makes for a wonderful mix; I can't even be annoyed at the Gray Squirrels that are EVERYWHERE!  When food is snow-covered, we get other visitors (like Whitetail Deer and raccoons) coming by for a fill up:>)  Even a chipmunk or two will be running around on warm days; they are not true hibernators.  


Another active mammal is the mouse.  I found chewed paper in my glove box so my husband set a mousetrap in my car.  Sadly, we caught one.  They can be terribly destructive in the wrong place, but that doesn't make me feel any better about the whole trap thing.


I'm going to begin this bird post with some of the other animals that are inviting themselves to dinner.


First and foremost are the Eastern Gray Squirrels.  These are acrobats of the highest degree, making death-defying leaps from one tree to another, chasing each other  madly in upward circles, and scolding me loudly when I go out to fill the feeders.  You'll see a bit of our bird bath in the background.  It remains on the ground so it doesn't get tipped and broken by the larger animals that come to drink.


More info here: 


http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/eastern_gray_squirrel.htm



Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel


At night the masked bandits come out to play and eat - Raccoons are both adorable and pesky.  If I don't bring the suet into the house each night, it is GONE by morning.  They dirty the bird water because they stand in it and feel around looking for crayfish and other aquatic food.  They really don't wash their food, but in the morning the bird water sometimes looks like they've played in the mud and then washed their "hands".  More info here:


http://www.projectwildlife.org/animals.php?id=11


Raccoon stealing the suet

There was a snap of cold weather, then it warmed up into the high 30's (degrees F) and out popped a couple chipmunks.  They are industrious little critters, running around and stuffing their cheek pouches with seeds and corn.  This guy/gal was taking break from their hard labors.  More info here:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipmunk


Chipmunk



Whitetail deer are common, too, and hungry!  They brave the humans that live here to come feast on corn, seed, and peanuts.  The picnic table is their favorite stop (makes sense), then they have a lovely dessert of English Ivy and they are welcome to that!  More info here:




http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm




Whitetail Deer - Buck

Young Whitetail Doe

Young Whitetail Doe

Young Whitetail Doe

Now that you've been introduced to the main players other than birds, we can go back to our main subjects:>)

 

Part 1 of this post has the Northern, or Yellow-shafted Flicker pictures.  I'm adding this image that shows the bright white rump that makes it easy to recognize this bird if its flying away from you. 


See the white patch on the lower back


 

Pileated Woodpeckers are shy giants.  They are about as large as the crows but extremely wary.  They come to the suet a couple times a day when their natural food is scarce, but even a tiny Downy Woodpecker - a little bird the size of a Titmouse - can chase these big birds away with the most minimal show of aggression.  If you remember the cartoon bird, Woody Woodpecker, you now know where the concept came from.  Pileated Woodpeckers were the model for "Woody" with his bright red crest and his loud, weird laugh.   More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/id

 

Pileated Woodpecker - Male - Note the red cheek patch

Pileated Woodpecker - Female - Note there is NO red cheek patch


Pileated Woodpecker - Female - Note the golden color on the front of her crest

 

At the other end of the size scale are the little wrens.  We have Carolina Wrens in our yard - haven't seen a House Wren in years.  If you like perky, active birds that make a lot of noise, these are your buddies!  Both males and females sing, and a pair often sing together, each with their own part of the song.  Last year one pair raised four broods under the roof that is over our kitchen window.  We never heard a peep from them until it was time for the young to fledge (fly and leave the nest), and then it was Dad, singing non-stop, who announced the graduation of the kids to an independent life.  Wrens love meal worms.  They do visit the suet and they jump into the feeding trays and grab pieces of peanut or sunflower seeds that aren't in their shell, but their diet is mainly bugs.  More info here:


http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Carolina_Wren/id

 

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren


One of the most numerous birds to grace our winters is the Dark-eyed Junco (slate-colored).  They vary greatly in coloration from region to region, but every color iteration is lovely.  These birds are a kind of sparrow and are ground feeders, hopping and scratching to find fallen seeds; I wouldn't put it past them to snatch up a bug if the opportunity presented itself.  They are sometimes called "snow birds" in our area because they arrive just in time for winter and leave early in the spring.  More info here:



http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id

 

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate Colored)



Dark-eyed Junco (Slate Colored)

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate Colored)

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate Colored)

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate Colored)


The Red-bellied Woodpecker does, indeed, have a belly tinted red.  It isn't always easily seen, though, and since they have a red cap on their heads people will mistakenly call them Red-headed Woodpeckers.  Red-headed Woodpeckers are relatively rare and have their head completely hooded in bright red.  Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common and about the size of a Robin.   They are constantly at the suet and they love peanuts and sunflower seeds.  The picnic table in our yard is a regular stop for them and they often chase away blue jays and other birds while they pick the peanut they want and fly off to eat it.  More info here:


http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-bellied_Woodpecker/id


Red-bellied Woodpecker - Male

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Male

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Female - Note that her red cap doesn't come all the way to the front of her head.  She's digging for peanuts on the picnic table.

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Male


House Finches are pretty birds that travel in flocks.  Some days we have a few, some days they fill the feeders, but mostly we notice there are as many as in years past.  They LOVE black oil sunflower seeds. The Purple Finch is very like the House Finch and hard to tell apart.  More info here:


http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/house_finch/id


House Finch - Female

House Finch - Male


Our American Goldfinch is another bird that travels in flocks, and they often appear at the feeders when the House Finches come.  I love the winter colors, muted and soft, compared to the dramatic yellow and black coloring of the males in breeding season.  They go to feeders, to the picnic table, and even forage on the ground.  One of these days I'll get a really good picture of these lovely birds.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_goldfinch/id

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch


White-throated Sparrows are medium sized, chunky birds that forage on the ground and in low shrubbery.  In the springtime they add to their diet by eating new buds on vegetation; in the winter they search for seeds and bugs.  Ours arrive in small groups, perhaps a family?, and spend an hour or so hopping and scratching.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-throated_Sparrow/id

 

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow


Another winter sparrow that visits the bird yard is the Song Sparrow.  They, too, are ground feeders and look similar to to White-throated Sparrows except they have boldly streaked breasts and sides.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/song_sparrow/id

 

Song Sparrow - Note the bold stripes

 

The Hairy Woodpecker is slightly smaller than the Red-bellied Woodpecker and is mainly black and white.  The male has a little, red cap  the female has no red cap.  These have a smaller look-alike called the Downy Woodpecker which could be their identical twin except for size.  The Downy Woodpeckers are small, like the Titmouse.  The Downy has a shorter bill but that is hard to see and judge; size is the best indicator of identification (as compared to the larger Hairy Woodpecker).  Both of these woodpeckers LOVE suet, but they both also eat sunflower seeds and peanuts.  More info here:


http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hairy_Woodpecker/id

 

Hairy Woodpecker - Female

 

 
Hairy Woodpecker - Male - NOTE THE RED ON THE HEAD

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Downy_Woodpecker/id

 

Downy Woodpecker - Male - Note the red cap

Downy Woodpecker - Female - Note she has NO red cap.

Red-tailed Hawks are ever-present.  We don't feed them, per se, but they aren't averse to taking a squirrel as it cavorts in and around the bird yard.  We've also seen them eating carrion, but they are superb hunters and will glide over fields and meadows watching for movement, like a mouse.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-tailed_hawk/id

 

Red-tailed Hawk

 

American Crows are very large, black, and imperious birds.   They congregate in groups and if there are more than 10 crows in a group the are called a "Murder" of crows.  They chase owls and hawks mercilessly.  They come to the bird yard for suet, seeds, peanuts (one got 3 whole peanuts in his beak at once), and if I throw out bones from supper, they eat those.  As birds go, they are extraordinarily intelligent. They are also extremely wary and will fly away if they see us in the window.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_crow/id

 

 

 

 

There is a constant presence of the large, graceful soaring bird, the Turkey Vulture.  They use thermal currents to carry them along as they sniff for fresh killed meat.  I include them here because they are part of the landscape and they are important to the environment.  They are nature's garbage men and they keep things clean.  The  picture was taken in late fall.  More info here:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/turkey_vulture/id

 



Turkey Vultures

There are so many wonderful birds!  I haven't got pictures yet of common winter residents like Oven Birds.  I guess that's okay as it leaves me plenty more to do:>)

 

If you are thinking of feeding the birds, I recommend you offer them a brush pile.  We've been adding to ours for a few years and the birds love it.  A brush pile offers them protection form predators and a nice place to sit and wait their turn at the feeders.  Nature is not neat but is, rather, efficient.  A brush pile is an efficient way for birds to have shelter, rest, and piece of mind.  I'm putting a link to some good information on what birds like what food.   I hope the link works!


http://feederwatch.org/learn/common-feeder-birds/?__hstc=75100365.d4d6d6292607f6819b673e89c05d7721.1422411252215.1422411252215.1422411252215.1&__hssc=75100365.4.1422411252215&__hsfp=2450219962#_ga=1.252185545.13489699.1422411252


There are five birds in the brush pile.


Wishing you a gentle winter.  Enjoy your outside time and don't forget to look down, look around, and look up:>)

Thank you for visiting!