Late Winter Bird Food

A Downy Woodpecker and Goldfinches sharing a meal

A Downy Woodpecker and Goldfinches sharing a meal

The ground has been solidly snow covered for weeks.  As a result, traffic at bird feeders is heavy, with birds often emptying our feeder in less than a day.  It’s especially tough on birds that feed on the ground, like Cardinals,

Female Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal with American Goldfinches and Song Sparrow

Male Northern Cardinal with American Goldfinches and Song Sparrow

White-throated Sparrows

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

and Dark-eyed Juncos.

Dark-eyed Junco with American Goldfinch

Dark-eyed Junco with American Goldfinch

In our yard, a flock of Goldfinches moved back and forth from the feeder to the ground below,

American Goldfinches with Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinches with Dark-eyed Junco

joined by a trio of Pine Siskins, visiting us for the past few weeks.

Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches

Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches

Pine Siskins

Pine Siskins

Birds take advantage of the food we provide, but what else do they eat in winter?

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Just as in the warm months, insects are still an important part of their diet.  As soon as there is open ground, birds begin tossing and probing leaves, looking for overwintering insects to eat.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse searching for food

Tufted Titmouse searching for food

Watch for Chickadees and Titmice searching branches of trees and shrubs for eggs, chrysalises, caterpillars and other insects sheltering there.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Chickadees investigate curled leaves clinging to branches, knowing that a leaf might be a winter insect shelter.

Carolina Chickadee searching for an insect in a leaf

Carolina Chickadee searching for an insect in a leaf

Nuthatches travel down tree trunks probing bark crevices, looking for a winter insect snack.  Brown Creepers cover the same territory in the opposite direction, eating what the Nuthatches miss.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Downy Woodpeckers explore both branches and tree trunks looking for food.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

This Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

found a branch that promised her an insect reward, probably Carpenter Ants.

Pileated Woodpecker, excavating a branch for ants

Pileated Woodpecker, excavating a branch for ants

Signs of spring are beginning to show.  Look closely at the plumage of male Goldfinches and you’ll see some splotches of bright yellow, the beginning of their molt to summer garb.  This White-throated Sparrow is already sporting its summer suit, in spite of the snow!

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

 

15 thoughts on “Late Winter Bird Food

  1. Very interesting information and excellent photos. We have had hundreds of Pine Siskins at our feeders this year in Northeast Alabama. Far more than in any of the last 10 years. Would you please tell me what camera and lens you are using for your exceptionally sharp photos. Just my curiosity as a photographer. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the information and exceptionally sharp and close up photos. We have more Pine Siskins here in NE Alabama than in any of the previous 10 years. Literally hundreds on our feeders. Would you please comment on the camera and lens you used, just curious as a photographer.

    • Thank you! Interesting that you’ve had that many Pine Siskins as far south as Alabama. I’m in New Jersey.

      I use a Canon Rebel T3i, and for bird shots generally I use a Canon 400mm f5.6L lens.

  3. Such varied & detailed sightings; wonderful photos including the pileated woodpecker; plus evidence of Spring on the march! Perfect way to start the day. Thank you!

  4. We have male and female cardinals feeding pecking sunflower seeds from the hanging feeder, as well as feeding on the ground – here in Bucks County.
    As usual, your photos are superb!

    • Thanks, Pat! The ground feeders seem to be branching out. We’ve had Juncos and White-throated Sparrows at our feeders, too. When the ground is snow-covered it’s time to get creative!

  5. The other week we had a huge flock of robins here feasting on holly berries. Quite a sight. Think they are ready for better weather!

    • I saw just 2 or 3 at BHWP the other day, all tossing leaves looking for insects. I was just listening to a weather forecast. It sounds like there’s still some winter weather to come before we see the spring.

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