Thursday, November 12, 2009

Winter Birds Part 1

As many people who live in northern climates do, I have a particularly soft spot for those birds who tough out our winters with us. While the weather here in Southeast Michigan is not particularly brutal, we do occasionally get very cold, very snowy winters (like the last two). Every morning after a night of sub-zero temperatures and biting winds I am amazed to see any birds at all, much less the crowds that amass on our feeders. While the weather is mild still, they are busy at the feeders all day, putting on fat stores that will help them through the winter.

The tufted titmouse,

black-capped chickadee,

and white breasted nuthatch are three of the most common birds of our winter world. None of these birds has bills strong enough to crack open a sunflower seed, so each will fly up, take a seed, and fly off to a nearby tree. The chickadee and titmouse will hold the seed between their feet and hammer at it until the shell is cracked. The nuthatch, with its long torso, is designed for clinging to a tree rather than perching on a branch, and seems unable to grasp a seed with its feet. This bird will fly to a nearby tree, cram the seed in a crevice, and then hammer at it with its bill to get at the meats.
The northern cardinal,

and the goldfinch have strong bills for cracking seeds, and will sit contentedly at a feeder devouring seed after seed.

The downy woodpecker (this one's a female) usually sticks to the suet, but will occasionally take sunflower seeds, and has to go about cracking them open like the nuthatch.

I think mourning doves are beautiful birds, but I'm happy not to have as many as we did in Ann Arbor. Their light eye ring really makes their eyes stand out, and their lids are light colored too, so you can see when they blink. Makes them seem less reptilian or something. I miss their cooing when breeding season is over.

The dark-eyed junco is not a year-round resident here. They breed farther north, and come down just to spend the winter. I guess this is like their Florida. We saw the first one this year on October 23--last year the first sighting was on October 22. Either we weren't paying attention or they were running late this year!

Now, I know this isn't a bird, but she's too cute not to include, and is certainly a regular at the feeders year-round. As long as they don't chew their way into my studio (from where all these photos were taken) then they are welcome at the feeders.

Missing from this group are the blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker and a sparrow or two. I'll be curious to see if the hairy woodpeckers stick around for the winter--I saw one the other day, but have never seen one in the dead of winter. We also get eastern bluebirds and cedar waxwings, who will come in mid-January to our crab apple tree out front--they tend to hang out at our neighbor's house, who is back in the woods.

Also absent are the winter birds who have yet to arrive, those who breed and nest to the north. Those include the red-breasted nuthatch, common redpoll and pine siskin. This will be our fourth winter here, and it's taken awhile for some of these part-time birds to find us. The redpolls first came two years ago, the siskins last year. I'm excited to see who may show up this winter.


  1. really nice pics! especially since you're shooting them through glass.

    and we saw the red-breasted nuthatch just this morning, so they're back. i can't imagine it'll be long before we see the redpolls and pine siskins!


  2. I always love coming out to your place, as I get to see many birds that don't come around my place. You have the perfect setting to attract many different birds and it is thrilling to me to see them.

    I love the pics too.