Dark-eyed juncos are always our favorite whenever they show up at our feeders. However, from the reports I have received over the past few years, they do not seem to be visiting Peach State feeders as often as was the case in the not too distant past. When they do make it this far south; instead of showing up in small flocks, folks that feed birds feel fortunate if one or two make an appearance.
When they do appear, dark-eyed juncos will visit a variety of feeders and dine on a wide range of food. Although they will dine at elevated feeders, it has been my experience they prefer to feed on the ground. When they glean seeds from the ground, they seem to prefer feeding near shrubs.
They eat a variety of foods including canary seeds, sunflower seeds, white millet, as well as both suet and suet mixtures offered in traditional wire suet feeders. However, some bird feeding enthusiasts have successfully attracted the birds to suet chopped up into small chunks served in a shallow pan placed on the ground.
I have also seen them dine on bits and pieces of deer fat that had accumulated beside a deer weighing station located on a wildlife management area.
Dark-eyed juncos will also avail themselves of baked goods such as white bread, cornbread, crackers, and doughnuts.
If you have a small log covered bark with deep fissures, juncos will eat peanut butter smeared into the crevices.
I recently stumbled across a sobering statistic. It seems that, if we are a typical homeowner living in the eastern United States, 90 percent of the landscape around our home is lawn.
Most wildlife enthusiasts would find this figure depressing. However, if you view this green carpet as a giant pallet, think of all of the ways you can transform this sea of grass into a wildlife haven, you cannot help but be excited about all of the possibilities it provides.
There is no better time to begin the transformation than right now!
My wife and I have noticed the last birds to our seed feeders are typically cardinals. Long after the chipping sparrows, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees and house finches have gone to roost male northern cardinals seem to glow in the fading light of the day. Once the cardinals finally call it quits for the day, as much as we probably don’t like to think about it, a number of unwanted guests are apt to visit our feeders under the cloak of darkness.
To some extent, which animals will visit our feeders depends on where you live in the Peach State. For example, if you reside in North Georgia or a handful of other locations scattered around the rest of the state where black bears make their home, during the warmer months of the year you might have a visit from a black bear.
For the rest of us, our feeders are more likely to be visited by rodents, raccoons, opossums, and white-tailed deer. Believe it or not, coyotes and foxes are also known to frequent feeders at night. In most cases, these animals are attracted to seeds that have been flipped out of feeders or scattered on the ground. That being the case, one of the best ways to discourage nocturnal visits by these furry critters is to clean up any seed left on the ground. This task can be made less daunting by putting out only as much seed as your think the birds will eat during the day.
Deer can often be thwarted by not feeding inexpensive seed mixtures that often contain corn. Corn is a favorite deer food.
If marauding bears are a problem, you will have to take your feeders down before sunset. If you don’t, you stand the very real chance of having feeders destroyed our hauled off into the woods.
You might find it surprising to learn birds use most of their energy just to keep warm. Studies have demonstrated that roughly 90 percent of the energy birds derive from the foods they eat in the wild and at our feeders is used by their bodies to keep warm. This leaves them with precious little energy devoted to reproduction and growth. This is in stark contrast to the green anoles, toads and other reptiles and amphibians living in our backyards. It seems they are able to employ 90 percent of the energy obtained from their diets directly into growth and reproduction.
Just when it appeared Baltimore orioles would not make an appearance at Georgia feeders this winter, within the past two weeks, two bird enthusiasts reported they are hosting orioles at their backyard feeders. Up until then the only Baltimore oriole report I had received this winter came from a woman the feeds birds in her backyard in Tennessee.
The first report originating from the Peach State came from a woman that describes herself as an amateur birdwatcher living in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. She first saw a female Baltimore oriole January 21. The bird was seen inspecting Hot Meats sunflower seeds at one of her seed feeders.
As soon as the bird flew away, she immediately put out half of an orange. Much to her delight a couple of hours later, the bird returned. The oriole has revisited the orange several times a day since it first dined on the citrus.
On January 27, she sent me an update on the status of the bird. Accompanying the message was a fabulous picture of the oriole eating grape jelly. She wrote that the bird had been coming to feed in her backyard frequently since her initial sighting on the 21st. She went on to say the bird was eating grape jelly from an oriole feeder she bought a year ago. Although neither a hummingbird nor oriole ever used the feeder before, her new winter guest visits it regularly. She fills the feeder with grape jelly water instead of nectar.
The second report that I received was sent January 26. This message came from a wild bird enthusiast that resides in Warner Robins. She reported spotting two Baltimore orioles. The homeowner wrote, “Yesterday I saw a bright orange and black bird at my suet feeder.” The next morning she observed what appeared to be the same bird dining on suet. However, in the brief time it took her to grab her camera and return to the window, the bird disappeared. Much to her delight, in a few minutes, a second Baltimore oriole appeared. The plumage of this bird was much duller.
Wow! I wish a Baltimore oriole would show up at my home this winter. Although I have a small container of grape jelly waiting for them in the corner of one of my platform feeders, nothing resembling an oriole has visited it. However, the fact three orioles have recently shown up at two locales this late in the winter, gives those of us that have not seen an oriole in our backyards hope one may still make an appearance before spring arrives.
I enjoy watching chipping sparrows feeding on white millet seeds. I am amazed how a chipper can daintily pluck a single tiny round millet seed from a feeder with its bill. However, I find it even more even more fascinating that, while it takes the tiny brown up to three seconds to husk some seeds, it can remove the outer coat of a white millet seed in only about one second.
I find it is always a treat to spot a ruby-crowned kinglet in my backyard. Although a handful of these petite birds winter in my backyard each winter, they only occasionally visit my feeders.
Most of the time, I spot ruby-crowned kinglets looking for tiny insects, spiders, and their eggs among on twigs and on the undersides of the leaves of the shrubs and trees that are scattered across my yard.
When they do decide to visit my bird feeding area, they always dine on suet laced with peanut butter offered in a rectangular metal cage. I never see more than one ruby-crowned kinglet dining at a time. When I do spot one feeding at a feeder I cannot help but wonder whether I am hosting one or several kinglets.
Among the other foods ruby-crowned kinglets have been known to consume at feeders are cornbread, peanut hearts, peanut butter, hulled sunflower seeds, tiny chips of nuts such as pecans and even cake doughnuts.
Chances are ruby-crowned kinglets are hiding in plain sight in your backyard this winter. They are easy to overlook since they are just a bit larger than a ruby-throated hummingbird, olive-green in color, and sport two white wing bars. This male also flashes a bright ruby crowned when it is agitated.
If you are fortunate enough to coax one away from its leafy winter home with one of their favored foods, I am certain you will agree seeing one at a feeder is truly a treat.
In this day and time, it does not seem possible that the American robin was once shot for food however, it is true. It seems that up until the adoption of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act on March 4, 1913, each year thousands of robins were legally harvested for food.
This practice was more common in the South than anywhere else was in the country. The reason for this is large flocks of robins spend the winter throughout the Southeastern United States. Some of these flocks are tremendous in size. One year on the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Christmas Bird Count, observers recorded an estimated 2 million birds flying southward along the Ocmulgee River.
Spotting a black-and-white warbler is always a treat. Seeing one in your backyard is something extra special, especially in the winter. In my case, most years I can count the number of times I see this bird on the fingers of one hand.
I have never heard of anybody saying they attracted a black and white warbler to a feeder. However, since the bird eats insects, I suspect, if one did show up, it would come to a suet feeder.
Black-and-white warblers nest each summer above the Fall Line. However, even then most of the folks that live in the upper portion of the state often do not see the bird. However, in the winter, those Georgians that live south of the Fall Line have a better chance of seeing the bird than those living elsewhere. It is amazing to me that any of them choose to winter in the Peach State as the vast majority of their kin winter in the warmer climes of Central America, the West Indies, and Cuba.
The male black-and-white warbler’s back, head, and flanks are adorned with bold black and white stripes. The female appears to be a pale version of the male.
Since black-and-white warblers are definitely not feeder birds, if you want to enhance your chances of seeing the bird in your backyard this winter, you need to know something about its feeding habits. First keep in mind the black-and-white warbler is a loner. Also, do not look for this warbler feeding on the ground or on the small tree branches. This reason for this is the primary feeding grounds for this hardy bird are the trunks and large branches of trees. In fact, it is our only warbler that regularly feeds in such locations.
If you regularly look for this bird in the right places, you just might spot one this winter. If you do, please let me know. As for me, I have been vainly looking for the bird all winter.