Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Relax and Enjoy the Yard Birds
December 31, 2021
By Steve Grinley
Now that the Christmas rush is over, and the Steller’s Sea Eagle is gone, I finally get a few days when I can exhale, relax and appreciate the birds in our own backyard. We do have a nice variety of birds providing much entertainment. Some add a little drama.
Most reliable are the woodpeckers. The downy woodpeckers are omnipresent either on the suet or on the peanut feeders. We have at least five or six downys that visit every day. A couple of the females seem to always be fighting, mostly jockeying for feeder position. Otherwise they all share pretty well and devoir the suet and peanuts!
Just this past week our pair of hairy woodpeckers returned after a long absence. Larger versions of the downy, they can dominate when they arrive. Their distinct sharp call pre-announces their arrival and clears a path to the feeder for them.
Competing with the hairy woodpeckers are our red-bellied woodpecker pair. Mrs. Redbelly usually rules the yard when she is here. Not even the blue jays intimidate her. They nested in a dead tree just off our deck a couple of years ago and they are visiting very day.
Occasionally we have had a yellow-bellied sapsucker come through the woods behind the feeder. They never seem to find the suet though. Less frequently a pileated will come through. Their loud calls alert us of their presence but they, too, just move through.
Then there are our other regular visitors. White-breasted nuthatches (or “nutjobs” as Margo likes to call them, tufted titmice, and usually lots of goldfinches. Only one or two chickadees come by so we are always happy when they do. There are always more titmice here everyday.
Then the blue jays arrive. They announce their arrival with loud, and sometime strange calls. Margo puts out peanuts (out-of-the-shell) along the railing of the deck for them. They come and gulp down seven or eight peanuts and put two or three more in their bill before flying off. We usually get three to five jays at a time.
At first, the other birds scatter with the blue jay arrival, but they come right back. The titmice and nuthatches come to the railing to steal a single peanut at a time. Mrs. Redbelly usually also comes to the railing and uses her sharp bill to poke the jays out of her way. She usually takes a peanut and flies off in the same direction each time to cache her food for later.
The Carolina wrens are some of our favorites. We spoiled them from the get-go by serving them live mealworms. Now nothing else will do. They just throw out the dried mealworms we try to mix in, while many of my customers shave very happy Carolina wren and bluebirds that dine regularly on dried mealworms! The wrens will also go the suet. They are most entertaining, singing all year long and bringing their young to the feeder after each nesting.
The mourning doves are usually the most numerous, taking over some of our platform feeders from the cardinals and other birds. But we lure the doves to the ground with white millet that also attracts our juncos, white-throated and song sparrows this time of year.
No winter finches yet this year. The evening grosbeaks, pine siskins and redpolls are absent so far and aren’t expected to visit this area this year in any numbers. Still we keep watch.
Regular visits from Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are inevitable at feeders, and they provide the drama in our yard as well. We either see them swoop in and scatter every bird in sight. Or we see the birds suddenly motionless for what seems to be an eternity.
Sometimes we see no birds at all and we know that there is a hawk nearby. We have seen a few casualties, and we realize that the hawks have to eat too. We just always root for the songbirds.