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Friday, November 13, 2009

Stokes Feeder Friday, Where Are The Birds, Cont.'d

Dark-eyed Junco

On our Stokes Feeder Friday, we devote the blog to talking about what's happening at bird feeders and what questions are on people's minds about feeding birds.
Seems that the lack of birds at feeders in New England and parts of the East continues. Here at our feeders in southern NH, we can't give away the bird seed. Chickadees are rare at our feeders, even though we know they're in the woods because we see them. The Zen Birdfeeder reports a lack of birds at feeders in eastern NY, NJ, southeast NY, CT, MA, NH. Do you have a lack of birds, and where are you?
The main reason for birds not being at feeders, is because this year there seems to be a superabundance of wild food available, including a bumper crop of pine cones, other cones, seeds, fruits, berries. The birds just don't need the feeders, plus it has been warm and their calorie requirements are lower. As you know, birds in the wild do not ever get all their food entirely from feeders. They go around their winter ranges each foraging in their own species way. Chickadees stay in a small fixed flock in a winter range of about 20 acres and glean insects and larvae from bark, as well as eat nuts and seeds. They visit feeders in their winter territory. In extremely severe weather however, when wild food has been depleted and or is covered with ice, then chickadees will visit feeders more and sometimes it can be life-saving.
For those of you, including us, that are addicted to seeing birds at our feeders, there are some birds coming to feeders now and here's how to entice them.
Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common feeder birds in the country. These northen breeders come down into the U.S. in winter. By us, some stay the winter, some migrate farther south. Juncos are a type of sparrow and love eating at or near the ground.

We built this brush pile and placed it about 15 feet from our bird feeder. It is about 4 feet high and 12 feet wide, made of saplings and even seed heads from our perennials. We sprinkle millet on the ground in front of it and in it. The Juncos and White-throated Sparrows just love it and visit often. These species naturally feed on the ground in the wild, and this set-up simulates their wild feeding situation plus gives then the cover of the brush pile to hide from predators. Millet is a tiny white seed enjoyed by sparrow species. It is not the favorite food of chickadees (black oil sunflower is). Even though we sprinkle it on the ground we monitor it and clean up any old seed. Mostly all our seed is in feeders and seed cleanliness is very important to the birds. We also put millet in platform feeders, and sometimes the juncos and other ground feeding species feed there. The brush pile also offers protection from predators to all the other birds who visit the feeders.

Blue Jay

Blue Jays also are coming to feeders now big time. You'll also see them flying across highways as you drive around. Jays have a habit of carrying off seeds and acorns in fall to cache (hide) them for later use. Jays have a mixed reputation; they can eat birds eggs, but they are also great alarmists, warning of hawks, and other birds may benefit from that. We enjoy their beautiful colors against the late fall landscape.
Meanwhile, have patience and keep feeders clean and filled, you want the winter feeder regulars to know you're there when they need you.
If you have feeder questions, email us.


Robert Mortensen said...

Here in the foothills north of Boise, Idaho I am experiencing that same thing and just blogged about it myself on my birding blog.

Westmoreland Sanctuary said...

Near Bedford, NY...We have a steady trickle of birds at the feeders throughout the day, but nothing like we normally see this time of year. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are our most common "customers" along with the Blue Jays that you mentioned.

Anna said...

I'm in the Berkshires, MA, and there are way fewer birds coming to the feeder than normal. Mainly Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Blue Jays, with a Purple Finch female here and there. (I'm seeing lots of White-throated Sparrows and Juncos in the woods, and of course tons of Chickadees, Titmice in the woods too.)

Heron said...

Here in SW Michigan, I do have a respectable number of birds at the feeders. We did not have the usual array of wild flowers and other seed producing plants here this summer due to poor spring weather and I believe the bird's natural food sources are reduced. My dog rarely found a burr or sticktight this autumn. Keeping feeders supplied will be especially important here this winter.

Also, I recently put out a new nyger feeder, your Stokes tube feeder with the green metal top. It is super, the birds and I all like it very much. Excellent design, especially the lower baffle, which keeps the seed from becoming moldy. The metal perches are easy to clean and the pivoted hanger/top very convenient for filling. Thanks !

Jayne said...

Boy, this post was timely! I just said to my husband this morning, that I must have gotten some bad seed or something as NOBODY has been partaking recently. Glad to know that there is abundant food right now. We'll just have to put out a bit less, and wait for the colder weather. Thanks Don and Lillian!

Habs said...

I'm in Bangor, ME, and my bird numbers have been steadily increasing the last couple of weeks. Project Feeder Watch started today, and my numbers are quite good, nice variety of backyard birds - so keep your feeders full, I think the show will be coming to your town soon.

Richard said...

Have a lower number of birds so far at the feeders in south-central Minn. Live on a lake surrounded by farm country. Still waiting for the influx of Juncos, Siskens, and Redpolls but that won't happen till it gets colder up north.

sandy said...

Hi! I'm in Michigan's upper peninsula 20 miles north of the Wisconsin border. There's LOTS of activity at my feeders here with a steady flux of Chickidees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and a handfull of Gold Finches. Also an occasional Purple Finch comes. There have been more Blue Jays flying around than last year at this time. There's plenty of Juncos on the ground. I'm skittish about putting out thistle seed because of the hoards (50 plus) of Siskins that comandeered our feeders here in Iron Mountain last year. I may get brave and try a thistle sock but if I see more than 10 Siskens out there I'll stick with the other feed mostly.

Wren Cottage said...

Hi Don & Lillian :) ~ We are in York, South Carolina (northwest corner of SC) and are hardly getting any visitors at the feeders, even our regulars, the titmouse, chickadees are not coming around. But you are right, it has been unusually warm.

Thank you for the tip, we have a few of those set up on the property but not near the feeder.
Thanks again for being here in blogland!
xo Madai & Mike

TinaG said...

My house borders a greenbelt and park in San Antonio, Texas, and the feeders are eerily quiet. I can sit for 10 minutes without a single visitor as compared to the early summer when I was going through 75 lbs of black oil sunflower and 30+ suet blocks a month. That was due in part to the severe 2 year drought we've endured. Then in September and October we got an explosion of rain, things turned green and the numbers dropped off, coinciding with the tail-end of migration in late October. The usual bird numbers have dropped so low I am not even seeing many House Sparrows (small blessings maybe).

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