Birds and birdfeeders

Birds and birdfeeders

Recently I was asked which species of birds come to feeders all year and which ones are only here in the winter. We started making a list of the ones that show up all year: most woodpeckers, doves, blue jay, cardinal, titmouse, chickadee, Carolina wren, nuthatch, goldfinch, house finch, song sparrow, house sparrow and starling.

Most of the blackbirds migrate south, but there are always a few that hang around during the winter. A few red-headed woodpeckers may stay around, but many of them leave for the winter.

Cooper’s hawks are opportunists that may show up at any time of year, looking for an easy meal. Their smaller relative, the sharp-shinned hawk, also may appear, although sharp-shins are relatively unusual in our area. Red-tailed hawks also are around all year, but they are less likely to be found at feeders. Crows and wild turkeys also may show up any time of year.

Then there are the birds that come to our birdfeeders in the winter and perhaps during migration. This includes white-crowned and white-throated sparrows, brown creeper, fox sparrow, and dark-eyed juncos. Some years we see red-breasted nuthatches, purple finches and pine siskins. Crossbills and evening grosbeaks are very rare visitors.

Birders who scatter grain at the edge of fields during cold, snowy weather may be lucky enough to attract snow buntings, Lapland longspurs and horned larks. Also present may be doves, blackbirds, rock pigeons, meadowlarks, crows, sparrows and starlings.

Some robins stay around during the winter, but they seem to change from tame, worm-eating yard birds to more flighty, fruit-loving winter birds. Eastern bluebirds are around all year but may be more common at winter feeders depending on food supplies and your feed offerings.

Eastern towhees are common summer residents, and a few may stay around and visit feeders during the winter. Other birds that only rarely show up at winter feeders include hermit thrush, gray catbird and common redpoll.

But what about during the summer? Many folks don’t feed birds during the summer when there is more food available for both young and adult birds. An exception is often made for the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Lots of people have hummingbird feeders, even if they don’t feed other birds. Keeping a hummingbird feeder filled during the fall may attract a stray western hummer, such as the male rufous hummingbird that visited our feeder until early January one winter.

During the spring we are often entertained by orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks at our feeders. Many of these birds fly further north for the summer, but some of these beauties stay around for the summer.

Depending on where you live, your feeders may sometimes attract birds from near-by fields, birds such as indigo bunting, Savannah sparrow or even a rare blue grosbeak.

Birders are always on the look for something really rare, which does happen more often than you might think. It’s always a good idea to be alert for any unusual bird you see at your feeders. The list of such birds is long and exciting, but that’s a topic for another column.

Good birding!

Email Bruce Glick at or call 330-317-7798.

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