Friday, February 14, 2014

Who's at Your Feeder?

Every winter we hang a bird feeder from the clothesline. We fill it with sunflower seeds and millet and thistle... a whole mix of nutritious seeds for the local flocks. We also hang suet for the woodpeckers - then we watch from the living room window.

Here's who visits our feeder:
blue jays
downy woodpeckers
hairy woodpeckers
red-bellied woodpeckers
mourning doves (they pick up seeds that fall)
goldfinches, cardinals, sparrows, turkeys and squirrels. Lots of squirrels.

Gray Squirrels who climb up the tree, clamber out onto a limb, leap onto the clothesline and tightrope walk to the feeder. They chew the suet. They scoop out seeds by the pawful, tossing them to bird and mammal below.

We wondered if giving the squirrels their own food would keep them from raiding the birdfeeder. So one day I lugged home ten pounds of unsalted peanuts in the shell. We put some outside on the chopping block. We tossed a handful beneath the feeder. We watched and waited. What we discovered: blue jays love peanuts! If the squirrels are too slow, the jays swoop in and try to make off with peanuts in their beaks. They fly around the house to the thicket of forsythia and lilac where they sit around their card table, playing poker and cracking the nuts.

What backyard wildlife visits your feeder? Check out other science resources and book reviews at the STEM Friday blog.


  1. I have a tour bus of blackbirds that come to visit. Many of the birds that you mention above are also at my feeder. I especially enjoy the cardinals. Thankfully, I don't deal with squirrels since there are not any trees near my feeder.

  2. We have house finches, lesser goldfinches (thistle feeder), mourning doves, curved-bill thrashers and lots and lots of hummingbirds. We don't have a hummingbird feeder, but both our neighbors do have them. Funny, the hummers spend as much or more time in our yard catching bugs off the compost heap. No squirrels here.

    Your activity ties in perfectly with this year's nonfiction Cybils award winner Look Up! and also the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend.

  3. Here in southern PA I have cardinals, juncos, chipping sparrows, mourning doves, and a downy woodpecker. Only one squirrel visits our yard; he is very well fed and quite acrobatic. But my sons' favorite bird is the red-tailed hawk. He comes and looks at the birdfeeder, which makes the mourning doves scatter--the juncos don't seem to mind. :)