The Wings of Winter
Ideas to Help Winter Birds Survive and Thrive
The winter season is hard on wildlife, but most of all the birds. Some bird species migrate to warmer climates, but many do not. There is quite an assortment of beautiful birds that are permanent residents of, or that migrate to Louisiana to spend the winter. This lens is about our favorite winter birds and the things that we do to help insure their survival in cold weather.
How we take care of our winter birds helps many birders up north because many of these birds migrate north in spring to nest and to be enjoyed by birders in the northern states.
You will also find some Christmas and holiday gift ideas for the birder on your list. We have listed cameras, binoculars, books, apparel and other things that we birders would love to receive. There is also bird feeders, seed, suet and other items for our feathered friends.
Most of the photographs and designs can be purchased at naturegirl7's Zazzle.com shop. Zazzle has thousands of print-on-demand products available.
Crumbs on the Snow
When it's winter and the snow
Like a tablecloth is spread,
I remember hungry birds
And see that they are fed.
On their snowy tablecloth
They find my gift of bread.Lucretia Penny
Birding in Winter
One of our favorite forms of entertainment during the winter is bird-watching and because we also feed the birds and plant winter food plants all around our property, we hardly have to leave our own home to see a variety of interesting and beautiful birds. Because most of the trees and shrubs have lost their leaves during the winter, the birds are so much easier to see and enjoy. All you need is a good pair of binoculars and you can enjoy the fantastic show outside from the comfort of your own home.
Of course, since we are outdoor people, we (and our 2 dogs) walk to the river each day to fill up the many bird feeders that we have all over our 9 acres. We always bring binoculars or a camera because there is usually something interesting to see.
Each December, we participate in the Christmas Bird Count. This is a day in which birders from all over the country locate as many bird species as possible and count the number of individuals for the Audubon Society. Here is a link to our 2008 Christmas Bird count. We observed and counted 36 species, but did not see several birds that we knew lived here.
Male Cardinal Poster
Cardinals are permanent residents and are one of our most beautiful winter birds. The male's bright red color and the female's soft brown with touches of red always brighten up a winter day. Cardinals are seed eaters and visit our black oil sunflower seed feeders often. Visit The Cardinal's Nest to learn more about this striking bird.
Female Cardinal Poster
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Carolina Chickadee Poster
Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice
During winter small flocks of Chickadees, Titmice and Downy Woodpeckers travel through the forests and visit feeders, searching for food. It is during the winter that the immature birds in the flock develop pair bonds in preparation for mating in spring. These small flocks love black oil sunflower seed and suet. They also eat many wild seed and berries. To learn more about these perky little birds, visit Carolina Chickadees.
Tufted Titmouse Poster
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In our habitat, here in Louisiana, there are many species of woodpeckers, including: (from largest to smallest) Pileated, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a winter visitor that pecks sap wells in trees which in turn attract and trap insects. The Red-headed Woodpecker is seen mainly in spring and summer. All the others are year round residents that eat sunflower seeds, suet and the insects from rotting wood.
Visit our Red-bellied Woodpecker Family page to learn more about this interesting bird.
Winter Red-bellied Woodpecker Poster
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Red Headed Woodpecker
Our resident Southeastern U.S. nuthatch is the little Brown-headed Nuthatch. It is similar to the Pygmy Nuthatch of the west. These acrobatic little birds need pine forests to survive because pine nuts are their primary food. They will also eat black oil sunflower seeds and suet, so providing a bird feeder will aid in their survival.
Visit our page about Brown-headed Nuthatches to learn more about this bird of the Southeastern pine forests.
Brown-headed Nuthatch Poster
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Occasionally in winter, Red-breasted Nuthatches will make their way down this far south. During the winter of 2007-08 several spent the entire winter here. These amusing little birds with their honking call are a delight to watch.
Red-breasted Nuthatch Postage
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Each year flocks of American Goldfinches in their winter plumage come from the north to visit our sunflower and Thistle seed feeders. It's best not to fill up the Thistle feeders until the birds arrive, because the seed must be fresh or they won't eat it. By spring, some of the males are beginning to show the beautiful bright yellow breeding plumage like the one below. Before Hurricane Katrina, we used to host flocks of 200 or more Goldfinches in our habitat, but now we are lucky to have 25 to 30 at one time.
Cage Thistle Bird Feeder
Thistle Domed Cage Bird Feeder -
These goldfinches in spring plummage use a Thistle Domed Cage. Extended top- makes refilling easy. Spring Clamp- keeps dome in place and removes for cleaning. Sheltering dome- protects against weather. Stainless steel wire- long lasting and chew-proof. Droll Yankees tubular feeder.
Birds in Winter
Ruby-crowned (and sometimes Golden Crowned) Kinglets spend the winter with us. They are tiny, active little greenish gray birds with a white eye ring and yellow-orange feet. The males have a red "crown" that stays hidden under a tuft of feathers except when they are agitated or excited. They love suet and they will pick at the seed on our log feeders, but are probably looking for insects. They will also visit the hummingbird feeders that we leave up year round. Most of the time Kinglets are in perpetual motion as they work each branch, looking under every leaf for tiny insect food.
To read more about this tiny bird, visit our page about Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Pine Warblers are permanent residents in our habitat. They spend most of their time high in the mature pine trees throughout our property. But in winter, they come down out of the tree tops to visit the suet and seed feeders. Pine Warblers are the only seed eating Warbler and they make their home in the Pine trees on our property. The males are quite attractive with their bright golden yellow breast and the females, though less showy are also quite lovely.
If you want to find out more about this unusual warbler, check out our Pine Warblers of the Forest page.
Pine Warbler on Seed Feeder
Carolina Wrens, with their many vocalizations, are evident during every season. They mate for life and usually are seen in pairs, even in winter. They absolutely love suet and will monopolize any suet feeder. They also eat tons of insects, so they are beloved by gardeners. Don't leave your Christmas Wreath up too long, because as soon as the weather warms up, these birds are looking for placed to build their nests.
Visit Carolina Wren Nest to learn more about these cute brown birds.
Carolina Wren Poster
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The lovely Eastern Bluebirds spend the winter in groups going through the woods and forest, eating winter berries. Bluebirds also like suet, but we have never seen them eating any from our feeders. Water is an important feature for Bluebirds, so an unfrozen feeder or pond will be appreciated by them. Many times we have seen pairs checking out nest boxes in December and January. They also use nest boxes as shelters in which to roost during the really cold nights of winter.
For more information about this lovely blue bird, check out our Nest Boxes for Bluebirds and Others page.
Eastern Bluebird Male Poster
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Thayer's Gold Edition Birds of NA
Thayer's Gold Edition Guide to Birds of North America
This top-rated birding software covers 957 species found in North America. See over 2,800 color photos. Songs for 708 birds. Includes range maps, 500 videos and 700 quizzes. Import your own photos. Download songs to your iPod. For Windows.
Red Cardinal Mug
Birds of Winter on Zazzle
Birds of Winter print-on-demand designs by naturegirl7 on Zazzle.com.
Brown-headed Nuthatch Magnet
Brown-headed Nuthatch Tie
Binoculars and Cameras at Amazon
Good binoculars make all the difference in bird identification. If you want to take good photos of birds, you need a camera with a minimum 12X optical zoom. The Canon S5IS is what we used to take many of the photos that you see in this lens.
Canon Powershot SX50 Camera
Most of the photos here were taken with earlier Powershot cameras. This one replaced those. I really love this camera.
Cardinal Cross-stitch Mug
Bushnell Legend Binoculars
Southern Magnolia Cone
Plants that provide winter native nuts, berries and fruit are important to all wildlife. Certain groups of plants like Hollies, Oaks, Hackberry, Beech, Pine, Magnolia, etc. are vital to many birds' survival. For more information about winter food plants, consult our Planting for Birds and Wildlife Lens.
Backyard Birds in Winter
Suplemental Food and Water
Many types of supplemental food can be provided. We use Black-oil Sunflower Seeds, cracked corn, Thistle seed and homemade Suet. We also leave our hummingbird (sugar water) feeders up all year long. Here in South Louisiana, we often have western species of Hummingbirds such as Rufous, Calliope and Buff-bellied spend the winter in our habitat.
Sharing Seeds Postcard
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Most years, for Christmas, we string popcorn and cranberries and put peanut butter suet on pinecones and in orange rinds and decorate a small tree for the birds. We call it our Singing Christmas Tree.
Christmas Decorations for the Birds
Drinking Water is a Necessity
Water is vital for winter survival. If you live in areas where it freezes for long periods of time, you may want to invest in a heater for the bird bath. We only have a few freezes each year, so we just pour boiling water in our bird bath near the house. Of course, we also have a large pond and a river which have never frozen, so water is always available.
Carolina Chickadee Drinks Poster
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Birds in Winter in Kerrville, TN
Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible
Feeding Winter Birds
Attracting and Feeding Birds YouTube vid
Voices of North American Owls CD
Voices of Owls
Winter is the best time to go owling because the leaves have fallen from the trees which makes it easier to spot the birds. Recognizing the various calls will also help you identify the different owls which inhabit the woodlands in your area.
© 2008 Yvonne L B