Things I love About Wild Birds
Being a bird watcher
Being a bird watcher all of my life I have been amazed by the beauty of wild birds. Like a showcase of lovely gems, I have been drawn to observe them. I love to witness some of their somewhat odd behavior. I hope by providing them with food and nest boxes I can help keep many of their species from becoming a view from the past.
As a resident of Northern Pennsylvania, I have seen birds by the hundreds each year come to my feeder. Most visitors are common like the Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, White-breasted Nuthatches, and the Tufted Titmouse, these are seen year around.
It’s those occasional uncommon visitors that make bird watching so fascinating. Birds like the Eastern Bluebird are uncommon to Pennsylvania but in recent years I have had them make their nest in one of the many birdhouses I have scattered throughout my hillside property. With their beautiful blue attire and a red breast it’s no wonder early colonial settlers called them the Blue Robin. Eastern Bluebirds need the entrance hole to their nesting box small enough to keep out Starlings and House Sparrows who have taken over their best nesting sites.
Black-capped Chickadees love suet so I keep a piece tied to the side of the feeder with them in mind. Suet is a great substitute for insects not found in the cold months. They also enjoy snacking on seed. Black-capped Chickadees are so named for the black on top their head which resembles a cap. There is black below their beak that resembles a bib. They have a white leaf shaped spot on each side of the head with the pointed end toward the beak below their eyes. They have light grey wings against a dark back and have a white breast. They are one of our tamest wild birds and not easily frightened by human activity. They call (chick-a-dee-dee) across the northern lands and their mating call sounds like phoebe (feee-beee).
Bright red Northern Cardinals with their black face mask and crested head come by the pairs to eat, each taking turns as their faded dressed mate stays near to share in the meal of sunflower seeds which are their favorite. They have a most unique voice like whistle (whit-tuuu, whit-tuuu, cherr, cherr, cherr) echoes through the hills to a certain beat as they call their mate near. You will seldom see a Cardinal stray very far away from his mate. I have seen a male Cardinal act very weird in springtime and constantly fly up and peck at my window. Strange that he keeps repeating the event over and over. Surely he should know after the first attempt that he can’t fly through. But he continues and I wonder if he sees his own reflection thinking it is another male Cardinal. Could this other male be a threat to him? Was he protecting his mate or his feeding station? Cardinals are somewhat aggressive. I have read because of this aggression only one pair will feed at a time in a feeding station. But I can argue that theory as I have seen as many as three pair visit mine, each taking turns to enter the feeder from a tree limb close by. It was a gorgeous sight to see, much like the feeling you were looking at a beautiful picture only this picture was in true living color.
Another crested headed fellow and also aggressive species that visits is the Blue Jay. The Blue Jay is brightly colored in shades of blue striped with black feathers and white breast. Loud noisy calls (Jay-Jay) are heard making his present known. He loves sunflower seeds the best but will eat almost anything. They will often chase other birds away not wanting to share. I throw bread, pancakes, or biscuits leftover from my meal under their feeder. I once saw a Blue Jay in his greed try to fly off with a whole pancake. Needless to say he did not get very far from the ground with it. But he did manage to drag it several feet away from the feeder. Blue Jays are well known for hoarding their food.
Robins and Red Winged Blackbirds
Spring is a very busy season for the birds especially for those that migrate like the Robins and Red Winged Blackbirds. They come back to their nesting grounds long before that last blast of frigid cold and snow. How is the Robin to get his favorite feast of earthworms when the ground is froze? He won’t. It’s way too early for his other choice of sweet juicy fruit. Perhaps that seed cluster left on the Sumac tree may have a worm of some sort buried deep inside because I do see them pecking vigorously at them. The Robin will eat from a feeder if he has too, I saw a lot of Robins at my feeder one spring. Before that I had never witnessed one eating seed from a feeder. That first glimpse of a Robin in spring with their bright red breast and shiny black dress is one of happiest moments for us northern dwellers. It makes me feel like singing that Rock the Robin song.
Another early spring guest is the Red Winged Blackbird, a large black colored bird with a red and yellow stripe on his side. He would rather eat insects and visit fields of corn for the insects rather than the corn itself. They are likely to feast on the corn left in the field after harvest. They have been considered vermin by farmers but the insects they consume far outweigh the grain they steal. The Red Winged Blackbird is seen in every state but winters in the southern ones. His song (ok-a-lee) is unique as he makes his way north in numbers. A feeder is totally a welcome sight.
I place a Hummingbird feeder out in early May as the Hummingbirds are sure to be back by that time. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is the only one common to the Eastern United States. A few western ones may be seen rarely, but they are not common here and I have never seen one. Hummingbirds migrate as far south as Central America. Imagine the journey of these tiny little birds. Hummingbirds are not frightened easily by humans and may come right up to you if you’re wearing bright colors. They like the nectar from bright colored flowers but also eat insects. Placing red nectar in a hummingbird feeder will attract them and they will keep coming back for more. Green from the top of their head and back to a white under belly with a red throat is the male. Females are brownish green with white and have no red on them. It’s a small fast moving bird always on the go searching out food. Wings flap so fast they look transparent.The sound is much like that of a huge Bee.
Did you know wild sparrows will eat to much if they are allowed to?
I thought wild birds only ate what they need, but observing many sparrows feeding off a feed spill at the poultry farm I work for. I have seen them over indulge to the point they are obese. Image fat sparrows the size of softballs. I once saw twenty or more at a time this size. It was very obvious as to how long the birds had been there just by looking at them. The sparrows that had recently arrived were not fat at all.