Chances are, if you fill a feeder with sunflower seeds during the winter, you are going to attract tufted titmice. Once they find a feeder stocked with sunflower seeds, they spend much of their time making forays to the feeder. On each visit, they daintily pluck one sunflower seed and quickly fly away with it.

       If you have spent any time watching titmice feed, you have probably wondered how many titmice you are feeding. Whenever I have attempted to estimate the winter titmouse population in my backyard, I quickly discovered I could never come up with an answer more definitive than more than one.TUFTED TIMOUSE - BLOG - 24 Jan2018

       Fortunately, for those of us that ponder such questions, there are ornithologists that have conducted studies concerning the winter habits of titmice in winter. Their findings have revealed during the winter titmice form small flocks principally made up of family members. As such, a flock often numbers no more than three individuals (a mated pair and one of their young that hatched the previous spring). At times, one or two others join them.

       The group will forage for food throughout an area ranging from 15-20 acres in size. This tract will include the adults’ nesting territory.

       One day about the time winter has loosened its icy grip on the Peach State it will dawn on you tufted titmouse seem to be visiting your feeder less frequently. This is a sign the winter flock has broken up. After the breakup, often the only birds left in the area will be the pair that nested there the previous year. The others will be elsewhere trying to find their own nesting territory.

       By that time of the year, I am willing to trade my not being able to see tufted titmice as often as I have over the previous few months for the arrival of spring.



Now that temperatures are finally beginning to drop, activity around our bird feeders is on the rise.  When this happens, we have the opportunity to witness the fascinating feeding behaviors of our feathered guests.

       A behavior I particularly enjoy watching is caching.  One bird that routinely stores seeds in my backyard is the Carolina chickadee. 

       If you feed birds, you are undoubtedly familiar with this feathered sprite.  It is particularly fond of black oil sunflower seeds.  Typically, a Carolina chickadee will fly in, pluck a single sunflower seed from a feeder, and fly off to a nearby branch.  Once there it firmly holds the seed, between its feet and quickly chisels the seed’s hull open, and swallows the exposed fat-rich seed.  The bird then returns to a feeder and repeats the process.  This behavior is replayed countless times throughout the day.

       However, if you are patient, and watch Carolina chickadees feeding in your backyard, you just might be lucky enough to see a chickadee store a seed. 


Both brown thrashers and northern mockingbirds inhabit backyards across the state.  However, while both are excellent songsters, the songs uttered by the brown thrasher are often attributed to the northern mockingbird. One reason for this is the voices of both birds sound quite similar.  However, whereas mockingbirds seem to sing more often from an open perch, brown thrashers seem to have a tendency to sing more frequently from the sanctuary provided by thick shrubs and other dense vegetation.

As a result, whenever you hear a beautiful mockingbird-like song sung by a bird that you cannot see it is human nature to assume it is being performed by a mockingbird.  In truth, that may not be the case.   Once you learn how to separate the songs sung by both birds, you will never confuse them again.  The brown thrasher repeats the phrases in its songs twice.  In comparison, the northern mockingbird repeats the verses in its songs three or more times.  Once you can identify the songs of both birds, chances are you will discover that both of this accomplished vocalists have long been serenading you.  If that is the case, I think it is only fitting that both birds are given equal credit for helping make your backyard such a special place.


Both ruby-throated hummingbirds and orchard orioles reside in my backyard during the spring and summer.  Over the years, these birds have been key players in some of my most memorable wildlife sightings.  Recently, they transformed what was otherwise a typical spring day into one I will never forget—a day of three firsts.

This trio of events began while I was standing beneath a cherry tree listening to the songs of gray catbirds and orchard orioles. 

All of a sudden, a male ruby-throated hummingbird flew up to a nearby patch of Wendy’s Wish salvia and began thrusting its bill into the plants’ long, slender, maroon blossoms. 

Although the plants had been blooming for several weeks, this marked the first time I had seen these new additions to my backyard visited by rubythroats. 

Then, early in the afternoon, as my wife and I were standing in our sunroom I happened to spot a bird land on a stalk topped with a torch-like cluster of red hot poker blooms.  I quickly grabbed my binoculars and focused on the bird.  Much to my surprise, the bird proved to be a female orchard oriole. 

       As my wife and I watched, the bird pushed her bill upward into a number of drooping, slender, orange-red blooms.  The oriole fed at two more stalks of the odd flowers before flying to a nearby birdbath where she drank before flying off. 

       This sighting was my second first of the day.  While my wife and I planted the red hot pokers to provide nectar for hummingbirds, until then, we had never seen red hot poker blossoms visited by an orchard oriole

       To top it all off, late in the afternoon, my wife was watering plants on our deck as I stood on the ground between the deck and a nearby flowering dogwood tree.  While talking to my wife a flash of red originating from something on the ground not twenty-five feet away caught my eye.  When turned my head toward the source of the red color, I realized that the afternoon sun had set the gorget of a male rubythroat aglow.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that a pair of hummingbirds were mating.  I called to my wife in hopes she too would see the bird.  When I walked a couple of steps toward the deck, the male lifted a couple of feet off the ground, hovered, and then returned to its mate.  A few minutes later, they both flow away.

       My wife and I were spellbound.  Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine we would witness anything like this.

       I was indeed extremely fortunate to experience three firsts in one day. 

       Each day when I walk into my backyard, I wonder what I will see next.          





No, unlike us, birds do not have sweat glands.

When we work outside on a sweltering hot, humid summer day, within minutes our skin and clothing are wet with sweat. Sweating helps keep us from overheating.

Since birds do not have sweat glands, they must rely on other means to keep their body temperature from reaching dangerous levels.  One of the main ways they are able to accomplish this is by panting.

If you closely watch the birds moving about your backyard when temperatures soar, you are apt to see one or more pant.  When a bird is panting it holds its bill open longer than it normally would and increases its breathing rate.  This greatly increases the flow of air across the moist, warm surfaces of its respiratory tract. This helps dissipates the bird’s body heat.

As you might expect, you are most likely to see this behavior during the hottest parts of the day.