Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Backyard Birds: Less Common Feeder and Backyard Visitors - Part II

 While this list is far from being all-inclusive, it does represent a good variety of birds that will visit a well-developed yard. Yards with trees and shrubs or are surrounded with mature vegetation and a water supply tend to attract a wider variety of birds.
Among these may be the Downy and/or Hairy Woodpecker. These engaging little birds are drawn to peanuts or suet.
Pine Grosbeaks, while particularly scarce this winter, may move into feeders over the coming months due to the absence of a good cone crop.
Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills are a little more particular about the areas they choos to frequent.  They seem to like tall trees and heavy growth for protection.  They also tend to gravitate to the same feeders year after year. Once attracted to the yard, there is a good chance they will return.
Bohemian Waxwings and American Robins will visit yards if there is a berry supply. Once the supply dries up, they move on, quickly.  Bohemian Waxwings can be seen moving together, often in very large groups, gobbling up every berry in sight.
The Common Redpoll is much less common in St. John's. I am aware of only two feeders where they flock. Only one of those has Redpolls last year.  These lovely little birds and are very entertaining. It is also interesting to study the group to determine if there may be a Hoary Redpoll (quite uncommon) among them.
The Red Crossbill, pictured here with a Purple Finch, can be quite aggressive and will eat an enormous amount of sunflower seeds.

To cater to the waxwings or the robin, some bird lovers collect Dogberries in the summer, freeze them and put them out in the winter to attract these berry-eating birds. These birds will also eat Partridge Berries or Blueberries, as well as apples. Two years ago, numerous members of the birding community dropped off apples to a home in the St. John's area to help support a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings that stayed in the area for several weeks.

A variety of sparrows are also attracted to yards by the available seed and other birds. More often than not, the sparrows will be found foraging on the ground for seeds that have spilled out of a feeder. Among those more common sparrows reported this year are the White-throated, Song and Fox Sparrows. In large numbers, House Sparrows also tend to return to the same yards each year.  Attracting House Sparrows is a bonus, because they seem to stay around all winter and attract a variety of other species with them.  Mourning Dove can also be found collecting morsels from the ground.

Common Grackles are also drawn to suet blocks around the St. John's area. They move around town in large numbers, feed and move on to the next feeder.

Like any bird-busy backyard, there also can be seen a marauding Sharp-shinned Hawk regularly dropping by to hunt for its daily meal. All of these birds provide hours of entertainment and pleasure and could show up in a yard at any time, provided the desired food and water supply is available.

Part III of this series will take a look at some of the prized, rare birds that drop by feeders in Newfoundland.

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