Every fall thousands of birds migrate to warmer climates. However, New England still retains birds that stick around all winter. Here in the Thorndike area, winter birds are resilient and hardy, but they could use our help. When the snow has covered their food, they have to dig in order to fed. Make it easier for them by hanging a bird feeder filled with seeds and suit blocks. These are critical food sources during long periods of ice and snow. Fresh water is also important. Make sure your bird bath does not freeze over. A heated bird bath or adding warm water will prevent the water in the bath from freezing on the coldest days.
Keep your eye on these food and water caches throughout the winter, and you are sure to see some of the loveliest birds of winter.
1. Black-capped Chickadee
Massachusetts’ state bird, this social chickadee feeds in flocks. Weighing no more than a half-dollar, chickadees stay warm in winter by puffing out their down feathers to create space between their bodies and the cold air. Look for them in the protective cavities of standing dead trees, called snags.
2. Dark-eyed Junco
Not afraid to frolic in the snow, juncos tend to forage for food on the ground but will eat directly from a feeder if their favorite food, sunflower seeds, is available. Easy to identify, males have black backs, tails, and wings with a white belly, and females have a mixture of brown in their black capes. Juncos prefer to nest in mixed woods with an understory of varied brush and open areas or mature coniferous stands.
3. Tufted Titmouse
In winter, titmice flock with chickadees and other small songbirds. It’s difficult to determine the sex of titmice, as males and females look strikingly similar. Both have gray bodies, rust-orange flanks, gray tufts, and black patches above their short beaks. Their habitat of choice is deciduous and coniferous woodlands, where they nest in dead and downed trees. Titmice usually take one seed at a time from a feeder and, after shelling it, store it nearby for later.
4. Northern Cardinal
These conspicuous birds have an appetite for seeds and will frequent home feeders if food is replenished often. Males sport a brilliant red coat year-round, while females are an elegant earthy brown with notes of red in the tail, wings, and cap. Both sexes have bright orange beaks, perfect for cracking open seed casings. Cardinals are more vocal in spring and summer than in winter but can be heard piping to each other when living in pairs.
5. White-breasted Nuthatch
Often banding together with titmice and chickadees for protection and to locate food, nuthatches rely on home feeders in winter when their preferred menu of insects isn’t available. Like titmice, nuthatches store food in trees during late fall to prepare for winter. Males have a black crown and nape, a blue-gray upper body with black and white streaks, a white face and breast, and often a chestnut-colored lower body and tail. Females look similar in shape but are duller in color, with a lighter crown.
The Bird Store and More in Sturbridge Massachusetts has some suggestions on how to be more feather friendly.
Keep wild animals and pets away from the food source. Hang feeders in a safe location high off the ground. This way cats and other predators can’t pounce on feeding birds. Also, use squirrel deterant and bear proof products to keep other animals out of the seed and suets. Use a film or stickers on your windows to keep birds from flying into the glass. And if you can, clear the snow from areas that you know birds like to hang out on. This will give them something to peck at and enjoy.
Thorndike Area Customers
The Bird Store and More is here to answer all of your questions. We routinely get questions about birds, squirrels, feeders, food and everything you can imagine! We welcome these questions and are here to give you the answers you need to get the most out of your bird watching. 4 Cedar St, Sturbridge, Massachusetts 01566. (508) 347-BIRD (2473).
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