Thursday, January 15, 2009

Birds Flock to Feeders

My resident bird expert called me at work today at about noon (he was at home with a car that wouldn't start because of the cold) to let me know that droves of birds were appearing at our feeders, which as of last weekend finally include a suet feeder to supplement our two seed feeders. We haven't seen a lot of action at the feeders recently, despite the cold, and the seed levels have hardly budged. Today, after our frigidly cold night reported by as -24 F., birds were clearly looking for the calories needed to sustain life.

Dave excitedly reported seeing a downy woodpecker, the first bird either of us had noted at the suet feeder since putting it up on Sunday, as well as chickadees and a combined flock of American goldfinches and pine siskins (closely related birds, but easily distinguishable by the streaky breasts of the siskins) .

I arrived home for lunch shortly thereafter, and we were almost immediately treated to the arrival of a red-bellied woodpecker at the suet feeder (below).

These are gorgeous birds, much bigger than anything else that has visited the feeders, and I have never seen one nearly so close before. It was truly a breath-taking sight. (Red-bellied woodpeckers would doubtless be known as red-headed woodpeckers were it not for the complete red hood of the bird that already bears that name.)

Below, a chickadee digs for a seed in the cage feeder, designed to protect smaller birds while feeding.

Below, a male goldfinch in winter plumage is seen with a seed in its bill.

I had never seen goldfinches in winter before; I just learned last spring that goldfinches can be seen year-round in this region, but the bird I saw last spring was already in its bright lemon-yellow breeding plumage. Here, you can see the handsome black and white flight feathers that remain year-round against a soft- gray-fading-to-tawny back and breast, with a yellow patch faintly visible under the chin.

Below, a bright red male house finch has joined what I believe are a male and female goldfinch, with the male on the left showing the distinct yellow chin-patch and slightly more marked color contrasts than his more subtly colored mate.

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Lindsay said...

Great blog. Beautiful photos! Do you have any suggestions on how to attrach goldfinches? I'm in Rochester (so nearby) and we're getting lots of finches, chickadees and little woodpeckers, but I've never seen a goldfinch in the wintertime!

Penelope said...

Hi Lindsay - thanks for stopping by! Thistle seed is supposed to be really attractive to goldfinches, but I haven't yet tried it. That one really cold day is the only time we've noticed the goldfinches at our regular seed feeders.

Lindsay said...

Is there any way to sign up to have your posts emailed to me?

I'll have to try thistle seed. I was at Gerten's last weekend looking at their thistle socks...


Penelope said...

I didn't know the answer to your question about email subscriptions, but I looked into it and have now added a Subscribe via Email tool in the sidebar. Let me know if it works for you! Thanks for asking.

Lindsay said...

I just signed up. So far so good! Thanks. Have a great day.