Backyard birding in winter

By Jeanne Church

One of life’s simplest joys is bird watching. It can even be done from the comfort of your own home!

As I sit here in my easy chair in front of a warm fire, I can look out our sliding glass doors and watch as a variety of birds fly in from the nearby trees to take advantage of the many feeders hanging on our second story deck— one for suet, one for sunflower seeds, one for peanuts and one platform feeder that holds both peanuts and sunflower seeds. The platform feeder is a recent addition and currently my favorite. I purchased it in early December hoping to attract the evening grosbeaks that so many people from across Michigan had reportedly seen. Unfortunately, the grosbeaks have not yet found my new feeder – but lots of other birds have!

Just beyond the feeders is a thick bank of trees which provides an attractive cover for the birds to perch as they wait their turn at a feeder or go back to crack open a seed they have already fetched. Fortunately, the trees behind our house are close enough for me to get relatively good pictures of all the birds who land there. Several months ago though, I added a large dead limb to the corner of our deck so that I could take even closer shots of the birds as they landed! Surprisingly, I am only about ten feet away taking pictures, but the birds quickly get used to me.

Of all the birds that come to our feeders regularly, my favorite is the black-capped chickadee; a seemingly fearless little bird that readily takes food from my outstretched hand if I am willing to wait. Chickadees love to eat black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, thistle, suet, whole peanuts, peanut hearts and mealworms.

Another bird that I love to see, especially during these long winter months, is the northern cardinal. The brightly colored male, and to a lesser degree his orange and brown female counterpart, really brighten up the drab, leafless landscape behind our house. They are an especially breathtaking sight on a snowy day! You can easily entice cardinals to your feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet and milo.

We also get a nice variety of woodpeckers at our feeders, but the most consistent visitor is the downy. Its favorite place to perch in our yard is on the suet feeder. “Downies” will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts and chunky peanut butter.

Another regular visitor to our feeders, one who also adds a small splash of color, is the male house finch. The red feathers of a male house finch come from pigments contained in its food – the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. You can attract house finches to your yard with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and thistle.

Keep your feeders full and you’ll enjoy hours of entertainment!

Editor’s Note: Jeanne Church is a retired special education teacher whose photography hobby began in earnest five years ago with the gift of a decent camera. Several camera upgrades later, Jeanne regularly shoots the nature preserves, sanctuaries and trails in the area with a Nikon D500 camera and a Sigma 150-600 zoom lens. Follow Jeanne on her blog: picturewalks.org.

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