Monday, February 12, 2007

Birds in the Backyard

We have bird feeders all over the backyard and love watching all of our little sparrows, Black-chinned and White Capped, and our House Finches, American Goldfinches, and Lesser Goldfinches, too! Scrub Jays and Mockingbirds mix things up a bit -- neither of them like to share much. Hummingbirds, especially the little Anna's Hummingbird, are a welcome site feeding on our flowers. (I've never had any success with a hummingibrd feeder but would really love to try again!) There are Mourning Doves that also stop by regularly to add to our enjoyment.

But every now and then a new visitor stops by and stirs things up a bit. The bird above is a Northern Flicker. We don't see him much - he eats bugs and not seed - but he'll show up on the lawn or under the trees about four or five times a year.

I don't have any pictures but last week we had a Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker. He had a large black patch coming back off his beak, and the children said that when he opened his wings to fly, his underwings were yellow.

These are some of our finches - who have really increased in number since we bought these spiffy feeders!

We still have some of our old 'sock-type' feeders, but they prefer these and only the overflow of birds who don't want to wait their turn will go to the older socks now.

On an average day of feeding, there will be nearly 200 finches in the yard: the new feeders hold 42 and there are always some sitting on top waiting for a perch to open, there are sometimes up to 40 on the ground under the feeders cleaning up what may have been dropped or missed, a dozen or more on the older feeders, and an hundred or so sitting in the nearest tree. It is so relaxing and interesting to sit and watch them -- there is a constant stream from feeders to tree, tree to ground, tree to feeders.

Now the funny thing is that all of these lovely little birds that we feed and enjoy so much are in turn part of a food chain. And that it is an encouragement to see hawks or predatory birds at your feeding site because that means you have a good, regular supply of food!

We've been excited several times now by hawks visiting our yard. We'll be sitting at the table watching the birds (being distracted from schoolwork :-) and WHOOSH!! all of the birds are GONE! It is amazing!

The first time he hung around for a bit, going from the fence on one side of the yard to the other. Another time, there were no birds at all and we looked in the trees to see if they were up there - only to find this fellow sitting about midway up the tree just as calm as can be.

DS2 identified him as a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. As far as we can tell, he wasn't successful, unless he had already eaten his catch and was simply digesting when we noticed him. LOL!

The quiet observers to all of this are our three girls; from the top Dottie, Sammie, and Maya. No longer spring chickens, nor pullets, they are settling into their second year and provide us not only with semi-regular eggs, but a lesson in responsibility and companions for DD.

If you don't "Feed the Birds" a simple search on Google for bird feeding, or birds backyard should give you some information on birds for your area and what kinds of things they like to eat.

I would encourage you to give bird-feeding a try. It has been something that has enriched our family and enhanced our learning for years now -- and when we don't seem to make it out to see the birds, we always know that at least a few of them will come and see us!

"Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" Matthew 6:26

(Originally published @

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