Wild birds dine at feeders more often in winter than at any other time of the year.  However, some birds such as tufted titmice are regular visitors throughout the year.  Birds like the gray catbird dine on suet during the spring and summer. Other birds such as dark-eyed juncos visit Georgia feeders only during the winter.  Then there are birds like the American robin.  Regardless of the season, these birds rarely partake in our feeder offerings.

       Those folks that seem to attract robins most often do so feeding them either dried or fresh fruit.  The birds will also sometimes even dine on seeds.  One of my friends told me that a male American robin spent an entire winter in his backyard feeding on black-oil sunflower seeds. Others report robins will consume sorghum, peanuts, peanut hearts, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.  Robins will also consume bird puddings, jelly, popped corn, and peanut butter.

       My wife and I have never seen an American robin at our feeders.  However, we sometimes spot robins drinking and bathing at a nearby birdbath.

       If you have been lucky enough to attract robins to your feeders, I would like to know how you were able to accomplish this almost impossible task.


       The brown thrasher is a permanent resident throughout Georgia.  As such, if you have dense shrubs in or near your yard, it is possible that you can host one or more in your yard.  Shrubby habitats provide these handsome birds insects they uncover by scratching away leaf litter beneath shrubs and trees.  The birds also eat the fruits, berries, or drupes of a wide range of native plants.   

       Here is a list of half a dozen native plants that provide food for brown thrashers: flowering dogwood, sassafras, black gum, American holly, Virginia creeper, pokeweed and American beautyberry.

       I am fortunate that brown thrashers inhabit my yard throughout the entire year.  I believe this due to several reasons. To begin with, five of the six plants listed above are growing on my small patch of Monroe County. I also have a variety of cultivated and native shrubs that offer the birds places to feed, escape severe weather and cold, as well as places to nest.  I also supplement the wild foods grown in my yard with suet, and seed scattered beneath my feeders.  In addition, I provide brown thrashers with three separate birdbaths where they to drink and bathe.

       This formula is working for me.  If brown thrashers are not currently visiting your yard, or, you would like to see the birds more often, perhaps one or more of these elements will work for you too.  If your lacks native food plants, there is no better time to incorporate them in your landscape than this fall and winter.



        More than 50 species of warblers inhabit North America.  The most common warbler is the yellow-rumped warbler. The annual breeding population of this migrant is an astounding 170 million birds.

WARBLER, YELLOW-RUMPED; photo credit: Terry W Johnson


       For quite some time, the birds I have seen or heard in my backyard are those are permanent residents.  However, today one of the migratory birds that regularly spends the winter in my yard made its first appearance this fall. The bird I am referring to is the ruby-crowned kinglet.

       I spotted the tiny, greenish-gray bird flitting among the dark green leaves of a sasanqua growing near my garage. I was not surprised to see it there.  Most of the times that I see one, I spot it foraging for tiny insects, spiders, and the like in one of the many shrubs that are scattered around my backyard.  Although ruby-crowned kinglets are known to also dine on tree sap, and berries such as those produced by poison, dogwood, I have never seen them do so.

       I have never tried to attract kinglets to my feeders.  However, each winter I see them dining on peanut-flavored bird butter.  One year, I witnessed a ruby-crowned kinglet digging through white millet seeds; however, I cannot say I actually saw it eat one. However, others have reported them eating peanut hearts, chips of sunflower seeds and nuts.  They also dine on peanut butter.  Their winter diet also includes human delicacies such as cornbread and doughnuts.

       Since the birds are, in most cases, infrequent visitors to our feeders, even if you have never seen one feeding there, if you have thick shrubs around your home, chances are this tiny bird is a winter resident in your yard too.  



       Since I posted the results of the survey concerning the departure dates for ruby-throated hummingbirds, a blogger from Lawrenceville wrote to say that they spotted a rubythroat flitting about their Mexican sunflowers October 31.  This sighting pushes back the latest departure date for a ruby-throated hummingbird this year from October 25 to the 31st.

       Another blogger took the time say that the Georgia Native Plant Society web page is helpful in locating local nurseries that deal in native plants.  The blogger went on the say that the GNPS holds native plant sales during the year. 


       This is great information since anyone that tries to find sources of native plants knows nurseries deal with native plants is often hard to find.


       A few weeks ago, I asked if you would be kind enough to report when you saw the last ruby-throated hummingbird in your yard this year.  Responses to my request came from throughout the entire state.  Here is a brief summary of what they responses revealed.

       Departure days spread over 21 days extending from October 5 through October 25.

       A Monroe homeowner last saw a hummingbird October 25.

       Unfortunately, I do not have the name of the location where the earliest departure date took place.

       Interestingly, most of the departures (47%) took place during a four-day period extending from October 11-14.

       Most hummingbird watchers indicated that only one bird was the last to leave their yards.  However, one blogger saw two (an immature male and a female) the last time they sighted hummers this year. One blogger even spotted three hummingbirds on the last day of their hummingbird season. My wife saw the last ruby-throated hummingbird in our Monroe County backyard October 12. This bird was nectaring at Turk’s cap blossoms.

       While practically all of the rubythroats have now left Georgia, don’t forget we are in our second hummingbird season.  If you maintain at least one feeder throughout the winter, you just might attract a rare western migrant this winter. 

       One of the bloggers responding to the survey wrote that during recent winters, two wintering hummingbirds have shown up in their backyard.  One of them was an Anna’s hummingbird.

       I want to thank everyone that took the time to participate in this survey. I hope you found the results of this survey fascinating. I know I sure did.


       One of the fastest growing backyard gardening trends in Georgia is gardening with native plants. One reason why this movement is so popular among backyard wildlife watchers is that, as a general rule, the greater the number and diversity of native plants growing in a yard, the more and varied are the wildlife species living there.

       When you consider the fact that 80 percent of the plants growing in our yards are non-native, there a lot of things we can do to make our yards more wildlife friendly.  One of the easiest ways to begin is when it comes time to remove a non-native replace it with a native plant.

       You can find a growing list of blogs dealing with plants that benefit wildlife in by checking out the search engine in this blog.

Nectar plant/HEAL-ALL


EASTERN TOWHEE; photo credit; Terry W Johnson

        I am always trying to learn more about the wildlife and plants that live in my yard.  From time to time, in my quest for knowledge, I stumble across a link between one of my backyard neighbor’s link with historical figures, places or events.  Whenever I uncover such a link, it is like finding a precious gem.  One such recent discovery relates to the eastern towhee.

       In 1586, William White became the first European to see and illustrate the eastern towhee.  History tells us the reason why White was in North America was he came to serve as governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ill-fated colony located on Roanoke Island. By the time a ship carrying supplies to the colony in 1590, the 112-121 residents of the settlement had mysteriously vanished.

       Much later, in 1731, the artist and naturalist Mark Catesby named the bird towhee after hearing towhees give their familiar towhee call.

       Knowing this, whenever I now hear or see an eastern towhee, I will think about the bird’s odd brush with history.


       This morning when I opened the door to our deck, I was reminded that northern cardinals don’t subsist on black oil sunflower seeds, white millet and other seeds offered in feeder. alone.

       The reason I say this is when I stepped onto the deck I flushed a male cardinal plucking the bright lavender fruit displayed on the branches of an American beautyberry protruding through the spaces in the rail of the deck. 

       Off to my right I spotted a female cardinal clinging to the spire of a scarlet sage plant growing in a large container sitting on the deck.  Although a few red blossoms remained at the top of the stem, the cardinal was plucking seeds found in the brown seed pods attached below the red blooms.

       Such sightings are not rare occurrences.  My wife and I frequently watch cardinals eating the seeds of globe amaranth, scarlet sage, zinnia and other plants growing on our deck. 

       Studies have found that seed-eating birds that visit our feeder obtain only about 20 percent of their food from our feeders. In this case, three nearby feeders were stocked with sunflower seeds.  Those seeds are very accessible and much larger than the seeds and berries the birds chose to eat.

       Over the years, I have modified my opinion of what constitutes bird feeding. Instead of looking at it a simply providing food in feeders, I now consider bird feeding to include planting flowering plants that produce seeds, fruits and berries and attract insects and other invertebrates. In an effort to make these seeds available into the winter, I do not cut the plants down after their flowers wither and die.