Hang a feeder in our yard and here’s who shows up to nosh on the goodies: blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, hairy woodpeckers, juncos, mourning doves, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, sparrows, turkeys … and squirrels. Not everyone perches on the feeder; turkeys and doves strut and peck below, gleaning seeds that get dropped.
Regardless of where they feed, watching the birds is a lot of fun. Not only do you learn who is hanging out in your backyard, but birds can be entertaining. And by keeping track of birds that come to your feeder, you can help scientists.
How? Get involved in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project FeederWatch. Beginning in November (once the bears are hibernating), you load up the feeders and a couple times a week count the birds that visit. Feeder Watchers submit data from November through April. That data helps scientists track movements of winter bird populations as well as long-term trends in the bird populations. The data has shown how some populations have expanded their northern range as the climate has warmed.
Beyond Feeder Watch:
- What do the birds visiting your feeder do? Do they eat seeds or carry them away?
- Watch where individual birds land, and write down where they hide their seeds. If they push seeds into bark crevices on the trunk of the tree, how high? Maybe some birds hide seeds near the top and others closer to the ground. If they cache seeds on branches, do they tuck them under bark chips on the upper side of the branches or the undersides? Do they hide seeds near the tips or closer to where the branches join the trunk?
- Do different birds collect seeds at different times of day?
- Does weather affect feeding behavior?