Winter brings with it unique bird-watching opportunities, as cold weather forces otherwise-shy species to visit feeders in search of food. Rare visitors driven south by severe weather and others blown off course during migration also brighten birders’ days. Today I’d like to alert you to several new (and standard) bird feeding products, and highlight some ways to see the unusual avian visitors to your neighborhood.
Wherever you are located, winter birding is an exciting prospect. Often, unexpected birds tend to stay put for quite awhile, due to disorientation and the need to remain near a newfound food source. Checking with the many on-line and telephone services (yes, phone-based reports still exist, check here!) is a great way to remain aware of what’s going on nearby; if luck is with you, you can then go out and see the bird that has been reported.
Local birders in and around NYC have already posted sightings of Snowy Owls, Nashville Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows and Winter Wrens. In Los Angeles, recent notable visitors include Eurasian Widgeons, Short-Eared Owls and Mountain Bluebirds. Regularly checking the North American Rare Bird Alert or your local Audubon Society chapter will keep you informed about both unusual and regular avian visitors.
Winter Bird and Wildlife Feeders
Winter drives squirrels to even greater food-stealing efforts than usual. The Bird Buffet Squirrel Proof Feeder and similar models will help to thwart them. If squirrels, raccoons, opossums, cats or other animals become a serious problem around your feeders, you may wish to consider a humane live trap (please write in for advice if you are not experienced in animal trapping).
Some folks, myself included, enjoy watching the antics of Red, Gray and Flying Squirrels. The Combo Squirrel Feeder can be set to serve either or both furry and feathered visitors.
Suet Feeders should always be available to provide high protein foods to Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Creepers and other insect specialists.
While most any appropriate food will be useful, certain items are especially suitable for harsh weather, when energy needs and other factors influence both people and wildlife.
No Mess Patio Mix contains hulled seeds; ideal for severe weather when it is difficult to clean up around feeders, or anytime you are not physically able to do so (and you’re not paying for shells, only seeds!).
Peanuts, cracked corn and Squirrel Logs are ideal for those who wish to feed squirrels, chipmunks, deer and other mammals. Many birds, including Bobwhite and California Quails and various doves, also relish cracked corn. Peanuts will attract Blue Jays, Monk Parrots and numerous others.
Wild Delight Food Blocks are available in a variety of mixes that are specifically formulated for finches, woodpeckers and general use. Protein and energy-rich Suet Bars and the newer Suet Pellets are important winter standards for woodpeckers, chickadees and many others.
Quails, Doves, Pheasants and other ground-feeding birds are especially at risk following heavy snows. Birdlover’s Quail, Dove and Pigeon Mix spread about on a cleared patch of ground will help them to get by.
Nuthatches, Thrashes, Woodpeckers and many other birds continue to feed upon hibernating insects, and their eggs and pupa, throughout the winter. Freeze-dried mealworms will be greatly appreciated by both insectivorous and omnivorous birds.
Extras and Fun Items
The simple wooden Audubon Bird Call that we currently carry is the exact same model I used over 40 years ago! While I can’t say I ever accurately mimicked any bird, the sounds I created caused just about every species to stop and look around, allowing me a better view without scaring them away. I even used it while working at the Bronx Zoo, in order to attract the attention of meerkats, bald eagles, flying squirrels and all sorts of other creatures…a unique item that should be useful to photographers as well.
A supply of open water is a very important but often over-looked winter necessity. A Birdbath De-Icer will simplify the task of providing water when temperatures drop below freezing.
National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count
Snowy Owl Winter Migrations: video and information
Preparing Your Feeders for Winter
Mountain Bluebird image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Elaine R. Wilson
Flying Squirrel image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Steve Ryan
Feeder in the Snow image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Algont
I also love watching the flying squirrels. They’re like anime versions of grey squirrels! Very high on the cuteness scale! They’re small enough to thwart my caged and weighted feeders, but I don’t mind.
Thanks for writing in…they really are something, aren’t they? I’ve always been fascinated by them. When I was 14, I live-trapped a few in upstate NY (didn’t realize at the time that they actually live in all 5 boroughs of NYC…even today!). I became so excited when I saw the first one that I fell out of the tree with the trap and cracked 3 ribs…but kept the trap door closed! I bred them for years, and donated some to the Bronx Zoo…their descendants are likely in exhibits and loose on the grounds there today.
Enjoy and please keep me posted.
Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.
I very much enjoy reasing your column. Can you please provide a column on Pionus parrots? I have a male Blue-Head Pionus who I love to pieces.
Thanks so much for the kind words.
Here are several that might interest you
Bronze Winged Pionus
Pionus Seizure in Brazil
I look forward to hearing from you again, and will try to write more on this interesting group in the future.
Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.
Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.