The Winter Bird Show

For the past two months, we’ve been enjoying the bird show on the deck outside the living room windows. The three feeders draw different customers.  The hopper feeder, filled with black oil sunflower seed, brings chickadees, titmice (titmouses?), goldfinches, nuthatches, and the occasional cardinal.

The chickadees are the boldest.  They zip in and out, grabbing one seed at a time.  Then they take it to a nearby branch to peck it open.  When I come out onto the deck, they scold me, “Chicka-dee-dee-dee!”  They are also the first to notice any changes in the feeding arrangements.

The downy woodpeckers and red-headed woodpeckers like the suet cakes.  The smaller woodpeckers climb in through the wire grid to eat.  The chickadees take the occasional nibble, too.

Recently, we put out a tray sprinkled with the fancy “fruit and nut” birdseed blend.  This mixture contains shelled peanuts, sunflower, and safflower seeds, plus bits of dried fruit.  Everybody likes this offering, but the competition is extreme. Highest in the bird hierarchy are the mourning doves.  We have two pairs who come to eat.  The king or queen mourning dove sits itself in the middle of the tray, and no one else dares come close, not even the jays.  The jays are next highest bosses.  They eat all the peanuts, wolfing them down until we wonder how they’ll be able to fly.  Juncos and wrens visit the food tray, too.

Interestingly, the little nuthatch is one of the more aggressive birds.  It spreads its wings or tail feathers to warn off other hungry birds.  Its acrobatics are charming, as it clings upside down under the hanging feeder.

Until the temperature fell into the single digits, we had a gang of squirrels dominating the food tray.  One was black, the others gray.  They haven’t been around for a week or so.  I thought they might be hibernating, but after a bit of research, I found the answer.  Squirrels don’t hibernate by the scientific definition, that is, their metabolism doesn’t slow down in order to conserve energy.  Squirrels prepare for winter by stashing food in their nests, as well as burying food in many other places.  So perhaps we haven’t seen them because their eating in while it’s so cold.

Two pairs of cardinal parents come to the deck tray.  They are midway in the bird order. They come mostly for the sunflower seeds, which they cleverly shell with their beaks.  That flashy red costume is such a welcome burst of color against the browns and whites of winter days.

We’re looking forward to the change of seasons, wondering who our springtime visitors will be.

The Karakesh Chronicles

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