Sunday, 3 February 2013

Backyard Bird Feeder

We get really excited about birds in our backyard. We started feeding them in the fall and winter to supplement their diet. It took a few months for them to find the bird feeder but when they did we were rewarded with more visitors than we could have imagined.  We love watching them and hearing their songs and calls.

The daily visits of the birds are usually initiated by the sparrows. They often sit and watch in the nearby apple tree or forsythia to check out if the coast is clear before heading for the feeders.

Solitary Sparrow

Then they happily flock to the feeder....

Soaring Sparrow

... and often have to jockey for position on the perch.

Do you have a reservation?

After the sparrows the male Northern Cardinal usually arrives. His beautiful, bright red feathers seem so exotic; like something that should be in a tropical rain forest.

Male Northern Cardinal

The female is never far behind and although not as colourful, she is exotic in her own way.  A pair has been making a nest in this apple tree the last two summers.

Cardinals usually bond for several years or for life. We have seen as many as 5 pairs in the backyard at the same time.

The Dark-eyed Junco is an infrequent visitor but one of my favourites.  Here's the male...

Male Dark-eyed Junco
... and the female.  They seem to bond in pairs as well.

While our neighbour keeps hobby pigeons in his backyard, we are regularly visited by their relatives, the Morning Doves.  They don't come often but when they do they make sure we hear them. Their cooing is soothing and relaxing and we can hear them from inside the house.

Morning Dove

Mia's favourite is the tiny Red-Breasted Nuthatch. She loves how delicate it is. She had a hard time getting a picture of them as they move incredibly fast, never resting in one spot long.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

The friendly chickadees visit daily in a small flock but don't stay at the feeder long. They pick up a seed and take it to a nearby tree to crack and eat it; then they return for another one.  We love their chick-a-dee-dee-dee, song!


Surprisingly, we have only seen this one European Starling at the feeders. We did see a flock at the local big box mall hanging around the restaurants.  Perhaps they offer a more sophisticated menu than we do.

European Starling

We weren't sure if the woodpecker feeder would attract any customers but this female Downy Woodpecker found it the first day it was up.

Female Downy Woodpecker

The Blue Jay only visited twice when we were around and this is the closest he came to the feeder when we had the camera.  It's incredible how big Blue Jays are; 2 - 3 times the size of the cardinals.

And last, but not least we spotted this beautiful Cooper's Hawk; twice. The first time I ran to get my camera and in the meantime it had swooped down, picked up a mouse and flew off. I missed the action but Mia saw the whole thing from the bathroom window.  I had to endure the whole "you don't have to photograph everything and sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment live" lecture.  When it showed up the second time we got the shot and Mia had to endure my surfer philosophy sermon, "there is always another wave". 

Cooper's Hawk

We hope that some of these birds will hang around to eat garden pests in the spring and summer. To encourage year round bird visitors creating habitat for them in addition to supplementing their food source is important.

We were lucky to start with a row of white cedars, some deciduous trees, a big forsythia bush and a couple of apple trees.  We added a twig wall, more cedars, wildflower gardens and a native plant garden in the front. The only thing we don't have yet is an open water source but I'm still working on Mia to let me build a small pond at the back. We'll see how that goes.  I may have to settle for a bird bath.



  1. Great post Misha and Mia! Your ID is bang on as far as I can see. The first bird (the sparrow) is a House Sparrow. ...sparrows are a great challenge to ID, as there are so many of them. Sometimes, when ID just can't be sure, us ecologists call them LBJ's - "Little Brown Jobbers". Happy Birding!!

  2. by the way, I hope to follow suit and implement more bird habitat in the landscape directly around the lodge at the Wolf Den this spring/summer - so I have taken note of some of your tricks. Good luck keeping them around! :)

    1. Thanks Deanna. We also planted some berry producing shrubs: dogwood, snowberry and serviceberry.