Saturday, January 24, 2015

Snow Brings The Birds - Part 1

"Snow" Birds of Green Lane, PA, USA

Our Most Common Winter Birds in the Bird Yard 

 

With the exception of the group of wild turkeys shown below, these pictures are all in and around the area we call the "bird yard".  This is where we put various seed feeders, suet, and peanuts.  Feeders come in a universe of sizes, shapes, colors, and have all kinds of specific types, if you want them.  There are weight-sensitive feeders that close when a heavy critter (squirrel) steps on them; some feeders have battery operated perches that spin like mad when a heavy critter (squirrel) steps on them.  Some are made to feed thistle seed; some are flat to make birds happy that are ground-feeders.  My husband made me two feeders that are like trays with low sides and hang from a cable.  We have a couple round feeders for seed, a few that look like houses for seed (the birds don't care but they are cute to us humans), a picnic table that doubles in winter as a big space to spread seed and peanuts, and, of course, the ground.  Almost anything will work, and there are clever plans all over the internet for building bird feeders.  

 

 
Northern Cardinal male on picnic table - he was digging through the snow for black oil sunflower seeds.

 

Here are a few sites.

http://www.wayneofthewoods.com/bird-feeder-plans.html

http://www.birdwatching-bliss.com/bird-feeder-plans.html

http://www.50birds.com/bird-feeders/castle-bird-feeder-plans.htm

http://www.bird-feeder-plans.org/

 

House Finch male eating black oil sunflower seeds

 

There are many winter birds not pictured here.  We live in a wooded locale.   The more urban places have some different kinds of birds although there are a lot of birds in common with us.

 

Different birds like different seeds and feed in different ways, but our feeding is geared to bringing in as many kinds of birds as possible.  I've been down that long, expensive road of trial and error when it comes to what to feed.  My plan is very basic and seems to please our feathered friends.

 

The one thing I don't put out, but probably could to get a fantastic response, is meal worms.  We looked into that and found they are not difficult to raise, and raising them is waaaayyyy cheaper than buying them all the time.  That may be something we try in the future.  These beetle larvae can be bought in most pet stores and are a favorite for wrens and blue birds - others, too.

 

I also don't put out orange slices for the orioles.  This is a springtime thing and by then most of the bad weather is gone.  Folks who feed birds year-round often tempt the orioles in with orange slices.

 

If you choose to put out a feeder or two, be patient as you wait for the feathered visitors.   It takes a day or more for the birds to find the feeder and then to make it a regular stop.  Once you've enticed them in, they'll count on you as a dependable food source, at least until weather conditions permit them to forage for more natural foods.

 

This is a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that come to our suet during the harsh times.  The male has the red cheek stripe and all red crest, while the female (left side) has a little gold patch on the front of her red crest and she has no red cheek patch.

 

You'll find some differing opinions on how, when, and how much to feed wild birds.  I only feed during the late fall through early spring months when bugs and seeds are hard to find.  Birds do better on their natural foods, but we can help them survive the lean, mean months.

 

I feed black oil sunflower seeds, shelled corn (not cracked), peanuts (either in the shell or splits), and beef suet.  I've given up on safflower seeds and niger (thistle seed).  They are expensive and don't seem to draw any special birds.  All our birds still come to dine, even without those seeds available.  I gave up on those fancy, mixed blends long ago as being more attractive to the humans buying them than the birds eating them.  Our suet is bought in chunks from our local supermarket - not melted into squares and mixed with other things although that certainly does NOT hurt a bird's appetite!

 

Clean water is always appreciate by our feathered friends.  I use a heating element to keep water from freezing, and the water should be fresh every day.  Because we also have raccoons and other animals drinking the water, our bird bath is on the ground.  The critters can easily tip the bird bath.

 

 

Wild Turkeys in Snowy Field - not our bird yard - LOL

 


One of my favorite little songbirds is the White-breasted Nuthatch.  These guys like to be upside down and more often than not are walking down trees head first.  They eat suet and seeds.  More info here:

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







 All songbirds, in fact all birds, are favorites so I'll lay off the "one of my favorites" phrase from now on.  Northern Cardinals are common and may be almost as well-known as robins.  The male is a gorgeous, dramatic red while the female is (to me) an even more lovely subtle olive green, buff, and red-tinted color combo.  The female does sing, even while sitting on her nest, and this is not the norm for songbirds.  The cardinals come for the black oil sunflower seeds.  More info here:

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


Northern Cardinal - Female

Northern Cardinal - Female

Northern Cardinal - Male
Northern Cardinal - Male
Northern Cardinal - Female

Northern Cardinal - Female

Northern Cardinal - Male


Next we have the Yellow-shafted or Northern Flicker.   They are large woodpeckers with beautiful patterns and colors.  They feed mostly on the ground, but they will eat ants (a favorite food) and other bugs out of trees.  They come to the suet all winter long, preferring to feed on the ground beneath the suet and pick up crumbs.  More info here:


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


Northern (or Yellow-shafted) Flicker

Northern (or Yellow-shafted) Flicker

Northern (or Yellow-shafted) Flicker

Northern (or Yellow-shafted) Flicker


Wild turkeys are not as common as they once were, and they tend to be shy.  They do love to come into the bird yard and vacuum up the corn and seeds, however, and they can eat volumes!  This turkey was chased away from the table but he knows I'm not really a threat and is waiting for me to go back in the house so he can resume his meal.  More info here:


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


Wild turkey - these are BIG birds!

Brown Creepers are common birds but generally not noticed.  Their brown coloration and patterning camouflage them perfectly against tree bark.  They usually fly to the bottom of a tree then ascend in a spiral motion.  In our bird yard, they spiral upward on the old oak, gathering up crumbs of suet that cling to the bark.  More info here:

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


Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper - notice how difficult it is to see it on the tree


Mourning Doves are as gentle in their voice as they are soft in color.  They "coo" to each other and go around in large flocks.  When they descend on the picnic table, they can cover the whole thing and still have many on the ground.  Shelled corn is what they want and they gorge until full then fly up to sit, like leaves on the winter-bare trees, digesting their food.  More info here:


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


Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves resting with a Blue Jay

That gives me an excellent lead in to Blue Jays.  They are everywhere - loud, bouncy, biggish, very blue.  They arrive in the bird yard in what I think are family groups, gobbling up peanuts, and seeds - sometimes they go for a bit of suet.  More info here:


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


Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

The Tufted Titmouse is a small songbird with a big personality.  The best word I can think of is "perky".  They fly in to the feeders, grab peanuts first (shelled or un-shelled makes no difference) and carry them off to a branch somewhere.  They also love black oil sunflower seeds and eat plenty of them.  Active and cheery, always talking and flitting about - gotta love these pretty little things:>)  More info here:


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


Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse


Black-capped Chickadees are similar to the Tufted Titmouse.  They hang out together, kind of like cousins, and when one arrives at the feeders the other is only moments behind.    Chickadees are friendly and can be coaxed to eat from your hand if you have the time and patience to work with them.  They rarely sit at the feeders to eat; rather, they grab a seed or a peanut and fly off somewhere.  More info here:

 

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-capped_chickadee/id

 

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

 

Another woodpecker that we see late fall and early spring is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  They travel through here and don't stay, and we don't officially "feed" them, but they like our old apple tree.  They poke holes into the trunk and branches and eat both the sap and the insects that get caught in the sap.  Their tongues are different, specially made with a brush-like tip to make sucking sap easy:>)  I think they look like the punk rockers of the woodpecker world.  More info here:


http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/yellow-bellied_sapsucker/id


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


This seems like a good place to end this post - Part 2 next time, same subject just more of it:>)

 

I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the birds.  Please come back next time when I finish up this subject.  I appreciate each and every one of you!  Thanks.

PS:

We do feed hummingbirds all summer long.  They arrive the end of April and hover at our living room window as if to say "HEY!  Where's our food?" We know then it's time to put out the hummingbird feeders.  My husband makes the food and uses only a 1 part sugar to 3 parts water as the ratio for the nectar.  Mix the sugar into the water and heat until all the sugar is absorbed.  Don't boil (or if you let it boil DO NOT let it go for long or you'll have syrup - ICK!)  WARNING:  NEVER ADD FOOD COLORING!!!!