Winter Birding

Thistle Feeder, Goldfinches

Birds are around all winter, at least the ones that don’t migrate south. I see some on my daily walks around the neighborhood, but by far the greatest concentration is right around our yard, because of our feeders. So, for me, winter birding usually means looking out the windows! Can’t get more comfortable than that. The thistle tube feeder, above is usually manned by American Goldfinches in their drab winter plumage. They won’t show much gold until late April, and will really be stunning by mid to late May.

Sunflower feeder with Purple Finches

The other tube feeder, holding black oil sunflower seeds, is usually dominated by Purple Finches this year, though other birds do get in there too, and many also feed on the seeds dropped to the ground below.

Hopper feeder with Grackles

The hopper feeder in the front yard, also filled with black oil sunflower seeds, gets a wide variety of birds, including those like Mourning Doves and these Common Grackles that can’t feed well from the tubes. This feeder has been extremely popular this winter, one reason why I’m on my fourth 50 pound bag of sunflower seeds, when last year I only needed two for all of November to May. Note that this and the following photos are blurred because they’re shot through a screened window.

Suet feeder, Downy male

The suet feeder is also very popular with a surprising number of species. Of course the woodpeckers use it often, like this Downy male, and so do the Red-bellies, Hairies, Flickers and one immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.


But others one rarely sees at feeders come too, like the Brown Creeper, a little hard to see, hanging under the feeder here, while a female Downy also feeds. Others include Carolina Wren and Yellow-rumped Warbler, all uncommon feeder birds, but they’ve learned to take the suet. Other birds like the window feeder best, like the Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Red-Breasted Nuthatches, though that one is often dominated by Purple Finches as well.

Red-Tailed Hawk

A few days ago, while I was on the treadmill upstairs, overlooking the front yard (too cold to walk outside that day), I was surprised to see this large Red-Tailed Hawk glide in and land in an oak tree in my view, not far from the hopper feeder. We get smaller hawks, Sharp-Shinned and sometimes Cooper’s, preying on the feeder birds, but Red-Tails don’t try to catch small songbirds. They’re not equipped for it, not maneuverable enough; built for soaring and pouncing instead. This one may have been attracted by all the bird activity, and just curious, or it may have seen a vole feeding on the seeds dropped to the ground. There are about a dozen new vole holes around the feeder base, so I know that’s quite likely.

Red Tail again

Here he is about to take off, but he stayed in the area for a while, eventually coming back to this tree again later. I didn’t see him try to catch anything. But it’s always fun to see a large raptor in our yard, a rare occurrence. I’m still waiting for the day when an Eagle stops by, but that’s not likely. One can hope, though!

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