Winter/Spring Wildlife

As winter turns into spring (or begins to, anyway – we still have a good month to go) the wildlife begins to change. The cardinals are becoming more common. Their bright colors & distinct song (wheet, wheet, wheet – click on the link to hear it: http://www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=3) make them easy to spot. I’ve also seen quite a few white-tailed deer. But as the weather gets warmer, some of the variety of birds & other animals begins to get smaller. Many animals go back to forests or parks where they can find easier food without having to risk coming near people.  

Warmer Days

It’s gotten a bit warmer lately (it’s been above 0° :-)!), & the animals are all enjoying it! The cardinals especially are being very active, often hanging around in the lilac bushes or at the feeder. They can be a little aggresive sometimes, but generally get along well with other birds.

Snow Birds

It snowed again, so the birds are all out trying to get as much food as they can before it gets any colder or snowier. It’s been cloudy & threatening to snow for several days, & the storm doesn’t appear to be over, although it’s not snowing now. The chickadees & cardinals gather around the feeder, along with the more common house sparrows.

Female Cardinals

Often when I look at my bird feeder there will be a female cardinal sitting at it. What’s interesting is that it’s almost always the females; I haven’t seen a male cardinal for a long time. They like to sit in the lilac bush too, singing. I don’t think they have a food source in the bush, but it’s thick branches provide shelter for not just the cardinals, but nearly every other bird species that visits my yard.

The birdbath

'the bird bath in my yard'

Cardinals have become much more common at my bird feeder. They love the warm weather & the sunflower seeds. They also enjoy the bird bath in my yard. (Actually, I find that the bird bath is becoming more popular than the feeder.) The sparrows, house finches, robins, & cardinals visit it frequently, & angrily peck at it when I forget to fill it. The only birds that almost never come to it are the common grackles. I’ve only seen a Blue jay once this season, which is odd; previous years they’ve been quite common. I know they’re around though, I’ve heard their noisy calling in the trees in my neighborhood. Blue jays aren’t the kindest birds, they’ve been known for killing the eggs, adults, & young of other bird species, particularly western bluebirds, & taking over their nests.

Cardinal Pair

"A male cardinal."

Today I saw a pair of northern cardinals hopping around the ground & in the trees & bushes. They follow each other around all the time; wherever one goes, the other’s right behind it. The female came very close to me, maybe 4 ft. away. Cardinals are bold birds & are quite territorial. Northern cardinals often exhibit what is referred to as mate-feeding. The male picks up a seed, hops over to the female, and the two momentarily touch beaks as the female takes the food. Mate-feeding continues throughout the egg-laying and incubation season. Northern cardinal pairs will typically remain together for the entire year, although in winter, they may separate. Pairs are usually monogamous & often stay mated until one dies; then the surviving bird will begin searching for another mate. Cardinals live for about 3 years in the wild, which is on the long side: most yardbirds live just over a year in the wild. Northern cardinals are easy to identify, the male is brilliant red with a crest & a black mask, & the female is pinkish-buff with red highlights & a bright red bill. She also has a crest. Their calls are easy to recognize. One of the most common is a loud, piercing, ascending whistle.

For those of you who love birds & are always looking for ways to attract more birds to your yard & neighborhood, try a ‘bird table’. It’s a simple wooden platform on a post in your yard, preferably with a roof (for snow & rain). You can find decent instructions on Google on how to make them. (Of course, you can always buy one.) Not only will they attract birds that wouldn’t come to a regular feeder, but you can put a variety of food on them for other birds that don’t eat your birdseed, & if you build it right, it won’t end up being a squirrel feeder. (Like everything else I’ve tried.) I will try to put one up in my yard, & if I succeed, (which, sadly, is rather unlikely) I will take a picture & post it on this site. Another thing to remember is WATER. Birds need lots of it.