Sunday was a good day to enjoy the weather and do some observation in my backyard. From my vantage point on the deck, also known as “The Perch”, I could see the comings and goings of all the birds in the yard. I happen to take notice of a broken off tree stump in the yard that was of great interest to a pair of black-capped chickadees. Upon further inspection with my binoculars I watched them go in and out of a hole probably made by woodpecker. It look like they were taking bits of wood from inside the hole, flying to other parts of the yard and depositing those bits of wood away from the actual hole. This act is done so as not to draw attention to predators that nest building is going on. They continued doing this throughout the afternoon, stopping occasionally at the bird feeders for a quick snack on sunflower seeds. Further observations this morning are that the chickadees are continuing to excavate the nest. In time, when the hole is satisfactorily enlarged (up to 8” deep), they will line it with a nest of lichen, moss, and possibly some dog hair which our Golden Retriever, Jackson, will gladly donate. A female chickadee can lay up to 13 eggs with an average of about 6-8. The eggs are white with small reddish brown dots or flecks. They are about the size of a dime. The male does not sit on the nest but he does feed the female as she sits on the nest and he will help raise the nestlings. A lot to look forward to with future observations from “The Perch”.
Bothered by pesky starlings? Here are a few solutions. The average starlings are too big to get into feeders with cages around them. The Droll Yankees Model #SDC and the Stckes Squirrel Proof Double Suet Feeder should keep them out but the smaller birds can get in i.e. chickadees, finches, titmice. Woodpeckers have extremely long tongues. The larger woodpeckers can actually stick their heads in the cage & use their tongues to get the suet. If you don't want to buy a new feeder, switching your seed to safflower only will deter the starlings & other blackbirds. Most other birds will eat safflower & it is a favorite seed of the Northern Cardinal.
When do you stop feeding the birds? April is a strange month. It can be cold, it can be warm. To determine when to stop feeding you need to think about what kind of winter we have had. A very snowy winter will have covered natural foods so birds may come to the feeders more often during the winter. When the snow melts, there is natural food available & the birds don’t need the feeders. A mild winter with little snow allows the birds to eat everything in sight. As the natural food becomes scarce, birds may come to the feeders more often until warm weather prevails. 80% – 90% of a bird’s diet is natural food. Your feeder is an easy way to get food in a pinch, similar to a fast food restaurant. Combine the scarcity of food with the migratory birds coming back to the area & it’s easy to see that the birds may be more stressed this year & come to the feeders more often. Also the birds need to eat more when the temperatures dip into the 30’s than when the temperatures are 40-50’s. My suggestion is if you are going to stop feeding, feed through the month of April. That way you have all the bases covered. OR you can just feed the birds all year like I do. A quick word about water…. If you have taken the heaters OUT of your baths because of the mild weather, beware of the temperature drop during the next week. We replace a lot of bird bath tops this time of year due to breakage when the water freezes.
I have been watching birds since a small child when I shared the joy of birdfeeding with my grandparents. In 1988 my passion evolved into Backyard Birds Nature Shop.