Monday, January 7, 2013

Backyard Birds: Common Feeder Birds - Part I

 In response to a number of queries through this site relating to backyard birds, I thought I would create a mini-series of pictures to assist in backyard bird identification in Newfoundland. Beginning with the most common, the Dark-eyed Junco is without doubt the most abundant. (Not all juncos look like this one. The female has more brown, and the juvenile is mottled. For more images of the variation of each species, try running a search via the search box on this page.)
Feeder visitors in terms of species, field marks, and commonality vary throughout the year. Species pictured here focus on what may show up in the middle of winter. The Black-capped Chickadee shown above and the Red-breasted Nuthatch are very entertaining little visitors. They fly in quickly, grab the food and rush away to eat or stash their goodies. There is very little variation in the field marks of these two species. Although, I do have some shots of immatures of both of these species I will post in the future.

The American Goldfinch is another very common feeder bird, often throughout the year. Their markings remain consistent, but following their spring molt, they emerge into a beautiful bright, lemon-colored yellow.

The Pine Siskin is yet another common feeder bird; however, they have been more scarce this year. They have a voracious appetite and will sit and eat for long periods of time at the feeder. The Northern Flicker is another beautiful, head-turning bird that is showing up frequently at the suet feeder.

This is the time of the year we should be seeing more Purple Finch (check female variation) at the feeders, but they, too, are showing up in very low numbers.

So what feed should be put out to draw these common birds to a backyard feeder? A little of everything is always good. I have a mix of black-oil sunflower seeds, mixed finch food, thistle, peanuts (oh, I forgot a picture of a Blue Jay,) and different kinds of suet.

Juncos, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatch will all eat black-oil sunflower seeds. So, if it is only one type of seed put out, it should be that kind. However, I have seen the Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, and of course, the European Starling enjoy the peanuts and suet. Contrary to many references, I find the American Goldfinch gravitate to the sunflower seeds over the thistle.  In fact, most thistle I put out ends up molding in the feeder before it is eaten. To prevent this from happening, last week I poured the thistle into an an open, flat feeder, and it was then that four Northern Flickers flew in and cleaned it up.

With the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up in February, it is a great time to become familiar with all of the species frequenting the surroundings. In Part II of this mini-series, I will address less-common feeder species.

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