Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Flock to Food After Storms
January 12, 2024
By Steve Grinley

     If you haven’t had much activity at your bird feeders this winter, last week’s storm should have changed all that. Though we have been fortunate to enjoy a good number of regular feeder visitors in our yard, their numbers definitely swelled in the days following. Snow and ice cover often forces birds to look for other sources and our handouts are certainly welcome.

     The morning after the storm, before the sun was even up, many juncos were feeding on the millet spread out on the ground under the bird feeders. There were also white-throated sparrows, tree sparrows and one song sparrows. Some mornings we can also have thirty or mor mourning doves feeding on the ground but they arrived later

     On this morning, a male cardinal was the first bird to the sunflower in our tray feeder. Goldfinches soon arrived in the yard and eventually they occupied every perch on our several thistle feeders in our back yard. More goldfinches would come in and fight to displace the occupants. The larger house finches would easily take over a perch position when they arrive.

     We had our first purple finch at our sunflower feeders. They feed on our sunflower-filled Squirrel Buster feeder and our sunflower tray and sometimes at. the large hopper feeder which contains our sunflower-rich Cardinal-Finch Mix. This purple finch was a bright raspberry males. Still waiting for our first female which has brown stripes with dark, bold facial markings.

     Also enjoying the sunflower and our Cardinal-Finch Mix are our white-breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, chickadees, and occasionally a woodpecker. But the woodpeckers prefer the suet in the suet logs. We have up to six downy, male and female hairy, and a male and female red-bellied woodpecker that are regulars. Of course the nuthatches and titmice frequent the suet as well and only recently a starling or two have found it.

     Barrett has a Baltimore oriole visiting his suet in Rowley. It’s dining on mealworms and jelly. We have had an occasional sapsucker pass through our wooded backyard, but we have yet to see it visit the suet.

     Margo also puts shelled peanuts on the deck that the titmice particularly enjoy. We have a half-dozen titmice that take turns coming to the deck to choose the right piece to take to a nearby tree to eat. A nuthatch or chickadee sometimes join the rotation. We also have blue jays visit the deck and scatter the smaller birds. One jay will gulp down several peanuts at a time.

     The birds we most enjoy are the pair of Carolina wrens that come to demand that live mealworms be put regularly in “their” feeder. One of the wrens will sometimes chirp from atop its feeder, to alert us of his or her presence, and the lack of mealworms in the feeder that we have positioned on the floor of the deck. Once we fill the dish, we watch until one of them comes back and slides across the deck like a performer across a stage.

     We are also blessed with up to 11 bluebirds in our yard this winter. Margo puts dried mealworms in the tray feeders for them. She also spreads some dried mealworms on the deck because of the occasional marauding starlings. That way, we can control who feeds on them and watch the beautiful bluebirds up close!

     We have also had a number of interesting birds that have come through the yard, but have not visited the feeders. In addition to the aforementioned sapsucker, we have a pair of pileated woodpeckers that sometimes visit and pound away at the trees. We also have seen brown creepers circling up those trees, searching for food in and under the bark.. Neither the pileated nor the creepers have come to the feeders, but I am thinking of making the suet more available to them by putting some on a tree trunk or two. I am also considering smearing “tree butter” or peanut butter on a tree trunk. My biggest concern will be squirrels getting to it, but I may try it anyway.

     No telling what a little snow cover will bring to our yards!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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