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January 18, 2014

Finding food challenges winter birds

The January thaws that we have experienced in between those frigid weeks have sometimes slowed the activity at the bird feeders. Once the snow melted, many birds were busy finding the natural food that was available. The large flock of goldfinches that we had at our store feeders disappeared completely for two days. The Cooper’s hawk in the neighborhood might have had something to do with it, but they were more likely taking advantage of the thaw and sought the birch, ash and weed seeds that became available again.

As the weather is turning colder these past few days, the goldfinches have returned in full force. After all, it is still mid-January, not March yet, and there is sure to be more frigid cold and snow ahead. So do keep your feeders full, as the birds appreciate the supplemental food that we make available to them. Suet and seed with high fat content such as sunflower or peanuts help sustain the birds through the colder months.

That Bullock’s oriole that I mentioned a few weeks back is still coming to feeders in a Chelmsford neighborhood. We saw this beautiful bird feeding on suet, but the homeowner who originally reported the bird is now feeding it mealworms. Looks like this bird has a good chance to make it through to spring.

I have several customers who are feeding mealworms to bluebirds and to Carolina wrens. The live mealworms are a welcome, high protein food that many birds love, especially when insects are all but absent in the colder weather. The “Bluebird Nuggets,” little balls of peanut suet, are popular with many species as well.

Unlike many of passerines that eat seed and insects, the raptors in the area seem to be finding sufficient food, even in the colder weather. This is evidenced by the Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks that are frequenting backyards and feasting on those very birds that are feasting at our feeders! Many customers have told me about their neighborhood hawk that keeps dining on their birds.

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