Backyard Birds and Winter Food Sources
The month of December was cold and rainy, but we were excited to see so many different kinds of backyard birds feasting on the Golden Showers crab apple trees on either side of our front walk. We planted them, in part, to be a food source for the many birds we have here. The foragers included hungry robins, showy cardinals, flashy finches, energetic chickadees, titmice, 6 pairs of bluebirds, and this mockingbird and his bickering territorial family.
Many normal backyard birds that are predominantly insect eaters will switch their diet in the winter to berries in order to survive lean months.
One species that comes for short visits (sometimes in big flocks) to dine on fruit trees and shrubs are the elegant cedar waxwing…
Most robins migrate, but one or two may hang around all winter if there is enough to eat. When the food source runs out, these backyard birds are in quite a pickle.
The common house finch loves fruit, too. This male just awoke from a nap (see source below).
(Visit Kelly at Red and the Peanut to see some world-class winter bird shots)
The birds that overstay for the winter slowly consume the softening fruit they find. Some will pull the fruit apart and take only the seeds leaving the pulp for others.
What gets to me is how a flock of starlings or huge blackbirds can comes through and clean the bushes or strip a tree of life-giving fruit in a day or less. These voracious and greedy starlings have no concept of sharing! Though an attractive bird, they are the pigs of our local bird kingdom. Just look how fat this starling is…
Sometimes there can be 50 in a tree at one time quickly gorging themselves. It causes me to think of them in less than kindly terms! I can feel like Granny in the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show with her shotgun, wanting to “drive off them dad-burn varmints”! Now git!
Finding enough energy-producing food to survive the cold must be a high priority in the life of a bird, no matter where they live.
I read that chickadees can lower their body temperature from 108 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night. It takes a lot less energy to keep a chickadee’s body at 50 degrees than at 108 degrees. This chickadee is loving the nutritious sumac fruit.
Do you love having the beauty of God’s creation right at your door? Here are a few ways to bring it near!
You can provide a sheltering haven by creating a brush pile in a back corner, planting native conifers like pines (Pinus spp), cedars (Juniperus spp), and plenty of shrubs to make a thicket or hedgerow.
Out of your kindheartedness, this spring, consider planting one or more of these fruit-producers for the years to come:
- viburnums (look for varieties known for their berries)
- holly (need a male and a female variety)
- roses (for nutritious hips)
- aronias (we pick for ourselves and leave some hanging)
- crabs (select variety with berries that hang on thru the winter)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” ~Matthew 6: 26
“God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest.”
~Josiah Gilbert Holland
Thanks for reading!