A few weeks ago my Ruby-throated Hummingbird visitors left for the season. Them along with many of the other visiting songbirds that breed here in my neck of the woods (Kentucky) and the eastern half of the United States. I hate to see them leave but I know that there are many types of winter bird visitors that will be coming in to replace them to make me happy.
In fact, just today my husband and I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco, a Pine Siskin, and have had two Red-breasted Nuthatches at our feeders these last two weeks. Hopefully we will be able to keep them here all winter (fingers crossed). Other birds that we should be able to count on seeing at or around our feeders are the White-throated Sparrow (actually just hearing their song in the winter is a delight), Fox Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Then there are the potential visitors which usually depends on food supplies. They are the Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Purple Finches. Some years we get them coming to our feeders and some years we don’t.
Here is a break down of each bird and what you can do to attract them to your feeders:
Dark-eyed Junco – Many people (like my Mom) call this bird the “snow bird” because it likes to scratch with its feet in the snow to find food on the ground. You will usually see it hopping on the ground under your bird feeder or looking all comfy sitting in the snow. This gray and white bird can be found in suburban areas and along the edges of the woods. Their diet in winter consists mainly of seeds and they will also eat fruit. If you want to attract this cute little bird make sure to have millet, sunflower hearts and cracked corn.
Pine Siskin – This is a small songbird of the finch family. In fact, it looks like a goldfinch (winter coloring) with stripes on its back. They have a slimmer bill than the Goldfinch too. That is how I can tell the difference. Pine Siskins will feed on thistle/nyger seed and you will generally see more than one at a time as they come in flocks. In the photo left the Pine Siskins are all on the sides with the Goldfinch in the bottom center.
Red-breasted Nuthatch – This nuthatch is smaller than the White-breasted Nuthatch and has red on its breast. They are a very energetic bird. This year is actually a good year to get them at your backyard feeders as there have been reports of high numbers of them coming down from up north probably due to lack of food. That is a good thing for you and me. So far we have had two coming in to our feeders daily for the last two weeks. We did not get any last year at all but the previous year we had them all winter. It all depends on their food supplies. Make sure to have birdseed that contains seed and nuts or you can have suet with these in it too. They will love it!
White-throated Sparrow – I know this bird more for its long, soft whistle that it makes more than anything. I just love hearing that when I am outside on a cold winter’s day walking on a hike. It is a refreshing sound over the quiet of winter. Attract this neat bird by putting out mixed seed, cracked corn, and sunflower or peanuts. They like to feed on the ground but we get them on our platform feeder too. So far my husband and I have just heard them in our yard, they have not been at our feeders yet this season.
White-crowned Sparrow – You can find this bird in most parts of the United States and Canada. Up north and more west of the United States you can see this bird during the summer months. In the eastern half you will mostly see them during the winter months. To attract this bird make sure to have sunflower seeds in your feeders. They will usually feed on the ground but like the White-throated Sparrow they will come to our platform feeder too.
American Tree Sparrow – This common little sparrow is plump and has a long tail and has a rusty cap. I usually see them along or under my bushes in my garden on the ground searching for food. They like to eat mainly seeds in winter. They also come to our platform feeder that has a supreme seed mix with sunflower seeds, nuts, and millet.
Yellow-rumped Warbler – This is the main winter warbler throughout North America and is pretty common. If you want to attract them to your feeder you should put out sunflower seed, raisins, and/or suet with peanut butter.
Purple Finch – You will find Purple Finches up north and on the eastern half of the United States. They can be confused with the male House Finch as they look pretty similar. The difference is that the Purple Finch has more coloring than the House Finch and has a reddish crown with a white brow versus a brown crown for the House Finch and no white brow. The problem is that add the females and juveniles into the mix it can get a little more complicated. The trick is to look at them closely to see all of the details. To attract this bird offer thistle/nyger seed or safflower seed. They will also eat black oil sunflower seeds too.
Fox Sparrow – Found mostly on the eastern half of the United States in winter this big chunky sparrow is hard to miss. It has a reddish brown coloring with a streaked breast. You will see it mainly under feeders scratching the ground looking for seeds. To attract this bird offer seeds. It will also feed on berries. We usually see this bird when the weather gets very cold and also when there is snow on the ground when food sources are more scarce.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – This woodpecker winters mostly on the southeastern half of the United States. It likes to feed on tree sap but also likes fruits and berries. So you may get them in your yard if you have trees with sap, berries, or fruit. Or you can also try putting a supreme seed mix that contains berries or fruits. We get them periodically usually when food sources are scarce in the colder winter months.
Golden-crowned Kinglet – You will see this tiny bird mostly in evergreens or hear their high thin call note. That is how we usually are able to spot them. They winter throughout most of the continent. If you have evergreens you may be lucky to get them in your yard or see them passing through. We mostly see this bird while hiking in the woods.
Winter time can be just as exciting for bird watching as spring and summer. If you pay close attention you may be able to spot any of the birds that I have mentioned above at or around your feeders. By providing the right seed mix and vegetation around your yard it is almost a guarantee that one or more of these birds will be visiting your place this winter.
That is what makes bird watching so fun. There are always new birds to watch for at each season of the year and it is fun to try to attract them to your backyard. It is always a thrill to see new bird visitors coming in. Just make sure to always include a water source even during the winter months as they need it all year long. Think heated birdbaths :-).
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