It’s hard in the wintertime to be cooped up inside the house. One of the things that make it tolerable is the bird feeder in front of my window. Every morning, I sit with my cup of coffee and enjoy the birds at my feeder.
There are many small and large birds that come to eat at my dinner table. Some of my favorites are the juncos or snowbirds as they are commonly called. They are small and puffy with their white bellies and dark gray heads and chests. They hop around on the ground a lot looking for seeds that have fallen from the feeder, but they also fly up and perch on the feeder too. This is the winter range for these birds. In the summer they retreat to coniferous forests in Canada, the western mountains and the Appalachians.
I love it when the blue jays visit. Their brilliant blue backs amaze me. They don’t show up here until mid winter, but it’s worth the wait. These birds are larger than robins, but not as big as a crow. Their backs have blue, black and gray markings and their heads have a crest. They tend to live on the edge of forests and love acorns. But they also love the sunflower seeds that are found in most commercial bird food mixes. They will often stuff the seeds in their throat pouch to carry away and eat elsewhere. They are loud and their distinctive call carries a long way.
I love the brilliant red of cardinals. The male has a bright red crest with a black mask around his eyes and a short, thick beak. The female is typically less colorful, sort of a dun color with a little red tinge. She also has a crest. These birds are especially beautiful in the winter against the snow. They are often seen in pairs and are a common sight at bird feeders. Cardinals tend to mate for life and are permanent residents in their range.
I also have two types of woodpeckers that visit my feeder. I’ve seen a red bellied woodpecker for quite a while. They are a medium sized woodpecker with black and white stripes on their back and a striking red head. Resist the temptation to call them a red headed woodpecker. There is such a bird, but it is fairly rare. This is red bellied, even though I can’t see any red on its belly. These are common in eastern woodlands and forests, but can also often be seen around bird feeders. They tend to pick at the bark of medium sized trees rather than drilling into it.
I have just started to see a downy woodpecker at my feeder. Downy woodpeckers are on the smaller end of the woodpecker clan. They have vivid black and white markings on their heads and wings and have a white stripe down their backs. They have a small red spot on the back of their heads. Their beak is fairly short and can be the distinguishing characteristic between the downy woodpecker and its close cousin, the hairy woodpecker. When I first saw this bird at my feeder, I got out my binoculars to check it out in more detail. I got out my bird guide and it told me that the downy woodpecker had a smaller beak than the hairy woodpecker, but if you don’t have them both to compare, how do you know which has the smaller beak? I finally decided on the downy because of its small size. These birds are commonly found in shrubby areas, backyards and deciduous trees.
These are only some of the birds that visit my feeder. I’ll write about the chickadees and red and yellow finches in another post.