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