Archive | December 2018


       If you are one of the many of folks that take a trip during the Christmas holiday season, you might be wondering whether you should be concerned that the birds that have been visiting your backyard feeders will have enough to eat while you are away.

       In most cases, your feathered backyard diners will not suffer greatly if they are not fed for a few days.  The primary reason for this is studies have revealed that most of the birds that visit our backyard diners obtain only about 25 percent of their daily food from feeders.  This is especially true for birds that are members of a wide-ranging flock such as mourning doves, and chipping sparrows.  Each day these birds forage for food across a feeding territory that is many acres in size.

       However, if your feeders represent the primary source of food for stay-at-home birds such as the eastern towhee, your absence may create a problem.  This situation would be especially dire if a heavy snow falls and/or temperatures plummet below freezing.  This has been borne out by reports of juncos and finches that were suffering from a lack of food actually dying during extremely cold nights.

       With that in mind, if you are at all concerned about the fate of your birds while you are away on a holiday trip, arrange for a neighbor or friend to feed your backyard neighbors while you are away.


       During the winter, a Carolina chickadee must eat an average of 150 black oil sunflower seeds per day just to survive the bitter cold. 

       The birds rarely depend solely on our food offerings to survive.  However, our feeders offer the birds a dependable source of food when natural foods cannot always provide the tiny birds with enough food to meet their nutritional needs.

       Although the birds prefer sunflower seeds to all other feeder offerings, they will also dine on suet and pieces of various nuts.


              This week a blogger from Warner Robins reported that Baltimore orioles have shown up at her feeder.  This is the first report I have received of Baltimore orioles appearing in the Peach state this fall.

              As anybody that follows this blog knows, Baltimore orioles have become regular winter visitors throughout the state.  As such, those of us that feed birds are constantly trying to offer foods that will attract these gorgeous birds to our backyards.

       Recently during a talk gave in Warner Robins, I mentioned grape jelly seems to be the oriole’s food preferred winter food.  However, I mentioned that repeatedly folks that have fed orioles grape jelly claim the birds don’t cater to just any jelly.  It is their contention the birds far and away prefer Welch’s grape jelly to all other brands.

       One of the people in the audience that day added grape jelly to her backyard bird-feeding menu that includes such favorites as black oil sunflower seeds, and dried mealworms.

       This week she thrilled that Baltimore orioles have shown up at her feeders.  While she expected the birds would partake in the jelly, she was surprised to see the birds are currently only dining on mealworms.  

       Based on this experience I am adding mealworms to the list of foods bloggers have reported being used by Baltimore orioles.

       Here is a complete list of these foods:  grape jelly, sasanqua petals, hummingbird nectar, satsumas, grapes, and dried mealworms.

       If orioles show up in your yard this winter, please let me know when they arrived and what foods they are eating.

       For a complete list of all of the blogs I have written on Baltimore Orioles, type the word oriole in the search bubble found in the top right hand corner of the first page of the blog.


        As far as Georgians are concerned, the pine siskin is a boom-or-bust bird.  By that, I mean some winters they feed at our backyard feeders in large numbers and then are not seen again for years.  

       This year is shaping up to be a boom year.  Many Georgians have already been treated to the sight of pine siskins visiting their feeders

       This behavior is not unique to the pine siskin.  The list other birds exhibit this behavior includes the purple finch and red-breasted nuthatch. This odd behavior qualifies them as being irruptive.

       An irruptive species is one that irregularly winters well beyond its normal winter range.  Although, it is extremely difficult to predict when an irruptive winter flight will occur, such flights often occur every two to ten years.

       A number of factors seem to trigger these movements.  However, in most cases, a failure of the bird’s most important winter food crops is the culprit.  In the case of the pine siskin, failures in pine and alder seeds crops seem to be linked to their mass migrations into the Deep South.

       To me, pine siskins display a subtle beauty.  They are smaller than an American goldfinch.  Their bodies are covered with brown streaks.  However, their tails and wings are highlighted will yellow feathers.  On the other hand, pine siskin bills are short and far more sharp-pointed compared to the bills of goldfinches, house finches, and sparrows.

       If you are like me, you enjoy hosting pine siskins.  It seems you rarely see one or a few siskins.  If they are wintering in your areas, chances are the diners will arrive in a flock. 

       One reason backyard wildlife enthusiasts are so fond of them is they are extremely tame.  If you slowly approach them while they are feeding, the birds will often allow you to walk to within a few feet before flying off.

       Although they will occasionally eat suet, they are particularly fond of nyger and black oil sunflower seeds.  They also routinely drink and bathe at birdbaths.

       Interestingly while they are in Georgia, pine siskins are extremely nomadic.  A flock feeding in your yards today might suddenly leave and feed in backyard miles away.  In one instance, a wintering pine siskin did not stay put in the yard where it was banded.  Later is the same winter it was recaptured at a feeder located some 450 miles away.

       If you have never seen a pine siskin in your backyard, this may be there year you will.  If you have hosted pine siskins in the past, the winter of 2018-2019 may be the year you will get to renew an old acquaintance.