Seasonal Bird News

Cold Weather Topics

Many of our blog topics come directly from daily conversations with customers. We often get the question about Robins being here in great numbers during the winter months. Why do we have so many Robins right now? Robins that are north of us during the spring and summer months fly south in the fall where many will settle here. Most of our spring-summer Robins are probably year round residents. So, between our year round residents and the migratory population our numbers expand significantly. Each winter you can expect to see greater numbers of the American Robin in this area. There have been flocks estimated to be nearly a million at night time roosting sites in the Nashville area.

Tip: Don’t park your car there.

How do birds survive extremely cold nights? Where do they go? There is a lot to the answers to these simple questions. It’s not easily explained in just a couple of paragraphs. We’ve provided a link to an article written by my favorite nature author, Bernd Heinrich. It is definitely worth reading if you’ve ever wondered how birds survive extreme cold. One interesting strategy for keeping warm at night is employed by the Ruffed Grouse, which actually burrows under the snow where it is insulated from the extremely cold air above the snow’s surface, which may get down to -25 degrees at night. In its snow chamber its body heat will work to its advantage. Click here to read the full article

Owls are likely breeding, or on nest by now. Great horned, Barred, and Screech owls are all earlier nesters than songbirds. The Barred owl is our most common owl and most and widespread in North America. It takes about 30 days of incubation for an owl’s egg to hatch and up to 40 days for a baby owl to fledge. Screech owls are the most likely to accept a man-made nest box, although recently a customer has seen evidence of a Barred owl using a home-made constructed box.

Don’t forget the Great Backyard Bird Count started today and is going through the 18th. For more information visit their website gbbc.birdcount.org and stop by the warner park nature center tomorrow from 10am till noon and participate in the count with them.

Our big February sale is going on through February 23rd. Stop in and save on all things bird feeding and all seed is on sale too! Buy extra while it’s on sale and store it at the Wood Thrush.

Click here to see more on the sale!

Winter bird activity

We hope everyone had a great holiday season and many thanks to all of you who shopped with us and brought us baked goods. We greatly appreciate all of you. During the holidays we get so busy running the store our weekly blog takes a vacation. Many of you give us favorable feedback on our blogs, which is nice to hear, but if there is a subject you think we should touch on please let us know.

So far this has been a fairly uninteresting winter for bird feeding enthusiasts. Although people have seen Red-breasted Nuthatches at feeders sightings have slowed. If you live where there is a presence of pine or cedar trees keep a close eye on your feeders this cold weekend. Red-breasted Nuthatches show a preference for areas with pine and/or cedar. Since I have no pine trees I recently ventured out to Montgomery Bell State Park and only had to step out of my truck in the visitor parking area to see a group of 5 or 6 in the cedar tree I had parked near. By the way if you really want to see Red-headed Woodpeckers you will see them at Montgomery Bell. They, too, seem to prefer open areas adjacent to forest along with lots of pine trees. I enjoy golfing and birding at MB and marvel at the great numbers of “Red-heads “present.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

With the fluctuations in temperature come fluctuations in feeder consistency. On warm days, anything in the 50’s or more, insects become active and your feeder birds may gravitate to the sudden availability of protein. Birds do not live on seed and suet alone and never will. Customers sometimes make the comment “the birds must be confused”. Not likely. They simply adapt to changing weather patterns and take advantage of whatever food sources become available. Although, on Tuesday when it reached nearly 70 degrees I heard some birds singing which is usually reserved for spring and summer. So maybe they are a little confused, or perhaps eager.

Some notable sightings around Nashville include numerous reports of Sandhill Crane flocks flying over, a Bald Eagle regularly seen around Hillwood Golf Course, and a Snow Goose at Radnor Lake. One sighting of an Evening Grosbeak in east TN got me a bit excited because it’s been 30 years since notable numbers of them have been seen in this area. And they like to visit bird feeders. But more sightings were not reported and the chance to see them here fizzled.

Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane.

Evening Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak.

Fall Wood Thrush Shop Notes

Right on schedule we are beginning to see birds returning to feeders. Yesterday, I had a nice group of Goldfinches appear at a feeder with Wood Thrush Shop Finch Blend. Of course they were in their drab winter plumage. Be on the lookout for Pine Siskins mixing in with Goldfinch flocks. Downy and Red-bellied woodpeckers were visiting the suet, and Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches were busily making repeated trips to the black-oil sunflower feeders. Cardinals are showing up, too, but usually very early and very late, before first light of day and just before night. If it wasn’t for their “chipping” calls indicating their presence they could easily be missed.

Goldfinch in winter plumage.

Goldfinch in winter plumage.

Pine Siskin can mix with goldfinch through the winter months.

Pine Siskin can mix with goldfinch through the winter months.

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago to be on the lookout for some of our winter visitors. Sure enough we are seeing and getting reports of White-throated sparrows, Juncos, Purple Finch, Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Brown Creeper. Wood Thrush employee Eli got this great shot of a Brown Creeper in his yard. Brown Creepers are most likely to visit suet feeders. Suet is a great addition to your seed feeders and can attract some very interesting birds, particularly in winter.

You can follow Eli on instagram at  lightorflight_photography

You can follow Eli on instagram at lightorflight_photography

If you haven’t given your feeders a good cleaning in a while now would be a good time. And if your feeders need a little maintenance keep in mind we stock parts for quite a few of our feeders and can usually make repairs on the spot, or in a day or two. If you’ve had seed stored in a container for a few months a word of caution. Open it outside because it may be full of Indian Mealmoths and you don’t want them getting loose in the house. They don’t go after your clothes but prefer things like dry dogfood, flour, crackers, cereal, etc.

And speaking of seed we have been getting questions about a seed sale. Typically we wait until the harvest is in full swing and new crop begins to appear. This will give us a chance to see if seed prices are going to increase, or decrease. Seed is a commodity and prices are subject to change based on supply and demand. At some point we will announce a “Seed Sale “and you will be able to buy multiple bags at a discount and to be stored here.

The holidays are right around the corner which means The Wood Thrush Shop is gearing up with new merchandise as well as some of the old popular standbys. As always we will be stocking the very popular

Mr. Bird Birdseed Ornaments and a variety of bird and wildlife ornaments. A new feeder or a Heartwood birdhouse always makes a great gift.

And look for weekly special through the coming months. Between Friday Nov. 2 and Thursday Nov. 8 all Droll Yankee and Aspects products will be 20% Off. That includes seed feeders, hummingbird feeders, baffles, weather guards, trays, and accessories.

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Winter Birds Arriving

Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

Although things have been a little quiet at the feeders some of our winter visitors will soon begin to appear at feeding stations.  This is the time when I begin ground feeding more.  Birds like Juncos, White-throated sparrows, White-crowned sparrows, and Fox sparrows start to quietly sneak into the picture below feeders and near areas of good cover like the brush piles I’ve created.  This handsome group of little birds likes white millet on the ground.  Sometimes you have to look closely to see them as they can blend into the leaves.  

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Other birds we look forward to seeing are Pine siskins and Purple finch, which may be seen in good numbers at finch and sunflower feeders.  Pine siskins and Purple finch are here practically every winter but their numbers may vary greatly.  Pine siskins may go unnoticed at finch feeders, blending in with the Goldfinches in their dull winter plumage.  Siskins are the size of a Goldfinch and their plumage is described as heavily streaked with a touch of yellow in the wings and base of the tail.  Listen for the buzzy “shreeee” sound Siskins make.  A flock of siskins may sound like bacon frying.  Goldfinches have slowly been returning to my feeders this week, although at first they were almost imperceptible because of their lack of color. 

Purple Finch on the left. House Finch on the right.

Purple finches are often confused with House finches.  While we see House finches year round at our feeders Purple finch are typically here only in the late fall and winter months.  The male Purple finch has a more raspberry red color that is most prominent on the chest, head and rump.  The head of the Purple finch is slightly crowned too. 

Suet feeders often produce some of the best surprises of the winter.  Golden and Ruby crowned kinglets will visit suet, as will the Yellow-bellied sapsucker and Red breasted nuthatch, Yellow-rumped and Orange crowned warblers, and Bluebirds and Brown Creepers

You may have noticed a lack of Goldfinches at your feeders. This is normal for this time of year. Read our post on “where did all the Goldfinches go”.  And every winter there are a few folks that will enjoy an overwintering hummingbird, like the Rufous, Anna’s, or even Black-chinned hummingbird.  If you see a hummingbird in the month of November or December please give us a call.

As always, a consistent supply of water is a great way to attract birds, especially in the winter.  Birdbath de-icers are now in stock.

Attracting Warblers

Fall is a Great Time to Garden for the Birds

Fall is the best time to plant and perhaps you are thinking about adding something to your landscape that appeals to birds and wildlife. Fantastic! Adding plants is a great way to attract birds of all kinds but especially those that do not regularly visit seed feeders. I’m referring to the small tropical birds known as Warblers. This diverse and beautiful group of birds goes unnoticed by many backyard birders because their yards don’t have the habitat appeal necessary to pull them in. Each spring Warblers migrate into and through TN on the way to their breeding destination. As they travel they are searching for food, water, and suitable, safe resting areas.

Native trees and shrubs are critical to attracting birds of all kinds and especially warblers. Native plants attract native insects, an important food source to migrating birds. In spring when leaves are first opening the first caterpillars begin hatching which is an abundant and important food source for all migrating birds. In early fall native trees and shrubs are producing fruit that will help fuel their migration back to the tropics. The fruit also attracts native insects which then become an important source of protein. You can’t go wrong planting natives because they are, typically, less susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Male American Redstart

Male American Redstart

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite native plants and shrubs:

Devils Walking Stick, Berries

Devils Walking Stick, Berries

American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry

Serviceberry               Bottlebrush Buckeye            Devils Walking Stick

American Beautyberry  Redbud                                Dogwood

Hawthorn                       Persimmon                           American Holly

Winterberry                    Eastern Red Cedar               Mountain Laurel

Sumac                            Oak and Maple varieties       Viburnums

and there are so many more great plants to choose from.

But Warblers need water, too, and from my experience water is the x factor.  It is probably that my water source is very easy to see from in my home that I have seen more Warbler species there than anywhere else in my yard.  Bubbling, moving water is much more appealing than the standard pedestal type birdbath.  Keep the water moving in some way and birds will be drawn.  There are drippers and misters that run on water pressure provided by a standard outside faucet, and waterfall rocks powered by an electric pump that are quite effective at keeping water moving.  I recently hung a plastic jug with a pin hole above a standard pedestal birdbath.  When filled with water the jug will provide a steady drip for a few hours at a time.  The dripping and subsequent rippling effect is absolutely more appealing than a still source of water.

So, if making your yard more appealing to birds is on your mind think about native plants and water.  It is a combination that most definitely works.

For more information about native plants please take a look at the TN Native Plants Society website, www.tnps.org, or check out a local grower like Growild located in Fairview, TN. Their website is www.growildinc.com