Sunday, January 11, 2015

Feeding birds in the winter's deep.

I'm inconsistent about feeding the birds - except in these deep winter weeks, when creatures can quickly freeze to death if they fall short of food.  

I had a bucket of black oil sunflower seed left over from last year and put some out a few days ago when temperatures were languishing near zero and the wind chills were well below.  

A couple of hours later the first juncos and white throated sparrows had discovered the seed.  A Carolina wren joined them, followed by the chickadees and titmice.   Soon came downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, and song sparrows.  Goldfinches, mourning doves and house finches arrived the next day.  Even a small, un-spotted thrush arrived to see what the fuss was.

Robins and bluebirds, brown creepers and kinglets have been around, but they have no interest in sunflower seeds.

The species have their different dining styles.  Juncos, cardinals and sparrows are scratchers and won't perch on the feeder.  They'll take seed that I've put on top of branches or scattered on the ground.  The doves stroll around on the ground with them.

The chickadees and titmice on the other hand, grab a seed and fly up to a branch, where they hold the seed between their feet to peck open.  

The finches and wrens are happy to perch on the feeder as long as they can get away with it, cracking the seeds in their beaks one after another.  The downy woodpeckers will do the same, but they get restless and go foraging among the lichen.

The red-bellied woodpecker, on the other hand, will snatch a seed, fly to the trunk of a tree, wedge the seed into a crevice where it can be pecked apart.  The nuthatches are also fond of that strategy.

Jays arrive in a  noisy troop - some on the ground, some in the tree, some fluttering clumsily on the feeder.  They make a ruckus and don't stay long.

The air has been thick with the criss-crossing flight paths of scores of birds.

My stash of sunflower seed is gone.  These flocks made short work of it.  Tomorrow I will buy a bag to get through the rest of this cold snap . . .