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Feeding Wild Birds: Products for Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees and other “Avian Athletes”

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

Some of the most entertaining birds that come readily to winter-time bird feeders are those that cling, crawl and climb…many are more reminiscent of parrots than of the typical perching birds (i.e. robins) with which they co-exist.  Chief among these are the woodpeckers, with the downy, red-headed and red-bellied being particularly common feeder visitors, and they are quite comical to watch as they jockey for position at suet feeders. 

Acrobatic Insect-Specialists

Many specialized products are advertised as “woodpecker feeders/foods”, but there are actually a number of equally entertaining birds that relish the same foods and are able to cling, often upside down, to “woodpecker feeders”.  Tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, brown creepers and red-breasted nuthatches are common in much of the country, and are all likely to show up if you put out foods designed to attract woodpeckers.

Most of these forage for insects by clinging to tree trunks and branches with highly specialized feet.  They search below the bark, peering intently into holes and crevices and scurrying about in the manner of tiny rodents.  All favor high protein diets (in winter they subsist largely upon hibernating insects and overwintering eggs and pupae) and relish suet bars.

Feeders for Woodpeckers and Similar Birds

The log jammer, wire suet basket and similar products are specially designed for these acrobatic little birds, and largely exclude other species.  Attaching them to a small swivel or thin, wind-blown branch will challenge the bird’s abilities (don’t worry, they are up to it!) and bring you many hours of bird-watching pleasure.

Next time I’ll pass along some ideas for providing the insect-specialists that visit your feeder with nutritious, natural treats.  Until then, please pass along your own feeding tips and observations.  Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Cora, Bronx Zoo Mon. FOZ

    Nice site Frank! I mixed some peanut butter and put it on a Whole grain cracker outside for the birds. Any other suggestions since I don’t have fat drippings to make a suet.

  2. avatar

    Hello Cora,

    Nice to hear from you, thanks for your kind comment!

    There’s hardly a bird or animal around that doesn’t love peanut butter, but I find it expensive keeping both myself and the feeders supplied all winter. I rely upon suet cakes in a wire basket feeder.
    Woodpeckers, nuthatches and similar birds are also quite entertaining when provided with foods that require some effort to get at, such as hanging fruit/nut bells.

    If you use suet or hanging nut feeders on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo, try taking a look as darkness falls… southern flying squirrels are quite common there and used to visit the suet feeders that I put up behind the reptile house. You may also see them in the north Bronx, especially Riverdale.

    If gray squirrels consume the suet too quickly, you might want to distract them with a feeder that contains peanuts and other foods they would prefer over suet, but which requires them to work for thier food (thus “occupying” their mischievous little minds for a time!)….Audubon’s Munch Box Feeder will keep them busy and you entertained. You can also try covering the suet basket with a layer of wire screening….the smaller holes will slow the squirrels down, but the birds will still be able to feed easily.

    Thanks again, please stay in touch and let me know how it goes. Best to all the Bronx Zoo volunteers, Frank Indiviglio.

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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