Northern Cardinal (Female)
I initially had a different selection of images and a different theme in mind for this “Birds of Winter” post. But, when I sat down to write earlier this morning, sipping my coffee and looking out the window at the bird feeders, it dawned on me that it might be fun to show you what I see everyday. While I prefer to photograph birds in their natural surroundings when possible (in trees, on plants, etc.), sometimes I get great photographs on the feeders themselves. And I also have the opportunity to photograph interactions between birds that I wouldn’t normally see. So, I thought I’d share those with you today. Here’s a collection of shots “from the feeder.”
Several species seem to change their habits with the seasons. American Goldfinches are one. Blue Jays are another. Blue Jays, for example, visited my bird feeders frequently in the spring and summer of last year, usually multiple times a day. But once fall came, they all but disappeared. I still heard them, of course, and occasionally saw them passing through the yard, high up in the trees, but they stopped using the bird feeders entirely. Within the past few weeks, however, I am happy to report that “Big Blue,” as I call him, and the rest of his clan (there are 5 in total) have returned, mostly for the peanut offerings.
The neighborhood crows have also become regulars. They don’t eat at the feeders but prefer instead to feed on the ground, along with the Mourning Doves, squirrels, and some other small birds. The crows’ incessant “caw-caw” calls are one of the first sounds I hear in the morning. Indeed, the crows usually arrive for breakfast just as the sun’s coming up and continue to visit periodically throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Unlike the American Crow, though, Mourning Doves do not strictly forage on the ground. They always visit in a flock of about 12-18, and while most of them stay on the ground, some always make their way up to the feeder. Because of their size (9-13 in /23-34 cm in length), they very much “take over” when they arrive in large numbers.
And, of course, there are the little birds who visit either singly, in pairs, or in small flocks throughout the day.
I’ve also been able to photograph a few Yellow-rumped Warblers at the feeder. They are winter residents here in North Carolina, and although they rarely, if ever, eat at my bird feeders (they forage on the ground), they do like to pose on them, which I appreciate very much. They’re such gorgeous little birds.
The quality of this next photo isn’t great, but the scene is really sweet. I took this photo during a recent winter storm (from inside the house, as it was sleeting outside). When the weather is bad, my feeders get extremely busy. Here, as you can see, a queue has formed. What you can’t see is that, on the ground just below, there are about 30 Chipping Sparrows, several Dark-eyed Juncos, and Mourning Doves. It was a busy day, indeed.
I love observing the interactions between birds, too: the little dominance fights, aerial battles, and also the serene and surprisingly peaceful moments of coexistence. In this next photo, a much smaller and very brave male Downy Woodpecker lands on a suet feeder next to a much larger female Red-bellied Woodpecker. When Red-bellied Woodpeckers come around, the smaller Downy almost always forfeits his/her position, but on this particular day, Ms. Red-belly decides to share, and the little Downy is allowed to feed from the other side of the suet cake.
Here, a female Downy Woodpecker stares down a female Northern Cardinal, who is, perhaps, occupying a coveted perch. She doesn’t quibble but instead drops to a lower feeder.
And a moment of peaceful coexistence.