See One thing Bizarre on the Chicken Feeder? It’s Not Simply You

Final winter, I glanced out my residence workplace window and noticed a small chook go darting by. My first thought: Hummingbird! My second thought: It couldn’t be. A hummingbird on a chilly, dreary day in Boise, Idaho? No manner.

However then I noticed it once more, and once more. And it seems, it wasn’t simply me. Others round Boise had been reporting sightings of Anna’s hummingbirds. Increasingly more hummingbirds, it seems, are spending winters in Idaho – seemingly attributable to a mix of hotter winters and extra individuals feeding them.

I maintain an in depth eye on the yard birds. I bear in mind once I first noticed a Eurasian collared dove within the neighborhood. My notion is that Cooper’s hawks have elevated. Perhaps you’ve seen an odd chook on the feeder this 12 months, or imagine you see some tendencies.

It’s in all probability not simply you. In actual fact, because of citizen science birding efforts, there’s a outstanding dataset of yard chook tendencies. Yard birders have helped researchers observe vary expansions and different modifications around the globe.

A few of our hottest tales on Cool Inexperienced Science have been about these modifications. Right here, we current a round-up of birds and phenomena you could be noticing at your feeder.

hummingbird with red throat on branch
A male Anna’s hummingbird in Portland, Oregon. © Ryan Irwin/TNC Photograph Contest 2021

Hummingbirds in Winter

There’s lengthy been a fantasy that maintaining your feeder will delay hummingbird migration, doubtlessly harming these little birds. As a substitute, many specialists advocate sustaining hummingbird feeders for no less than 2 weeks after you’ve seen the final one in your yard.

And many individuals are maintaining their feeders 12 months spherical. There are stragglers, and a few species could stick round all winter. Learn extra concerning the hummingbirds you might even see in winter.

Robins in Winter

It’s an indication of spring! At the least, that’s what I so usually heard. And but, many people see robins all winter lengthy. For some, that causes concern. We obtain dozens of questions on this from involved readers yearly.

On this case, many robins don’t migrate in any respect. They’ve completely different habits, and infrequently use completely different habitats, however they’re nonetheless round. Learn extra.

Why You’re Listening to Nice-Horned Owls

We consider spring because the time when birds arrange nests. That’s largely true. However not for great-horned owls.

Now could be the time to benefit from the nice horned owl breeding season – a time when these charismatic birds are a lot simpler to see and listen to. It’s the hooting season.

Don a winter cap and head out to your native park or strolling path to take pleasure in one of many season’s coolest spectacles. Right here’s what you want on your subsequent owl outing.

An grownup nice horned owl. Photograph © OnceAndFutureLaura/Flickr by a Artistic Commons license.

Extra Hawks at Your Birdfeeder

Within the Nineteen Nineties, Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks occupied 26 p.c of appropriate habitat round Chicago. Twenty years later, they occupied near 67 p.c of web sites.

It’s a development reported (usually by way of citizen science) across the nation. It’s not simply you: you actually are seeing extra hawks at your feeder. And a giant a part of it’s the chook feeder in your yard. The chook seed is feeding the songbirds, and people songbirds are feeding the hawks. Learn extra about this research.

Snow Birds

Winter is typically think about the low season for U.S. birders. However it’s additionally a good time to choose up some new lifers. There are birds which can be nearly completely seen in winter.

From snow buntings to Bohemian waxwings, try our record of the ten greatest birds to search for this winter.

A bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) puffs its feathers on this chilly and snowy day in April. © David Restivo, NPS / Flickr

Eurasian Collared Doves

I famous the primary Eurasian collared dove in my yard in 2008. Right now, they’re ubiquitous. A number of pairs nest right here yearly. The Nice Yard Chicken Rely, a citizen science effort held each February, has tracked this development nationwide.

In 1998, this non-native species was documented in Florida and some different states. After which it unfold quickly throughout america. Have you ever seen this chook?

Cardinals Transfer North

The northern cardinal is without doubt one of the most acknowledged and beloved birds in North America – and extra individuals can see them now than ever, as their vary has expanded steadily north over the previous 100 years.

The northern cardinal’s unfold north has been documented for many years. A 1960 report famous that cardinals first nested in southern Connecticut round 1943, and in jap Massachusetts in 1958. It additionally famous that the chook grew to become firmly established in components of New York, and that its populations elevated in northeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The northern cardinal has continued its unfold. Over the previous 30 years, it has turn into a resident chook in Northern Minnesota, Maine and southern Canada. This unfold has been well-documented because of Challenge FeederWatch, a citizen science program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Learn extra.

Northern cardinal. © Courtney Celley / USFWS

Japanese Blue Jays Transfer West

Latest information protection has reported on the large declines in North American chook populations over the previous few many years. However blue jays are a uncommon constructive story: Their numbers elevated 28 p.c between 1966 and 2015.

Blue jays have been year-round residents from the jap United States and Canada to the Nice Plains. They’re more and more exhibiting up within the winter within the northwestern United States, the place they had been uncommon to non-existent previous to 1972. Learn extra.

Fewer Home Sparrows?

Home sparrows are usually not favorites of U.S. birders. They’re non-native. They compete with different songbirds. They’re usually messy.

Given all that, it appears odd to be penning this: Home sparrow populations have been declining worldwide, together with of their native vary.

Home sparrows are sometimes thought-about one of the crucial adaptable birds, able to thriving amongst our farms, suburbs and cities. The true story of their unfold and decline is a little more advanced, and should have implications for city conservation. Are you seeing fewer home sparrows?

brown and crimson bird
A male home finch. © Rick from Alabama / Flickr

Home Finch in Your Hanging Plant

Not like home sparrows, home finches are typically loved by chook feeding fanatics. Nevertheless, the home finches are additionally non-native over a lot of North America. They had been imported to the jap United States as cage birds (rebranded as “Hollywood finches”). As is so usually the case, some had been launched and shortly established themselves.

They might be acquainted, however the home finch is stuffed with surprises. One of many keys to success is their adaptability. They might even nest in your home vegetation. Be taught extra.

About That Bizarre Duck…

Say you’re out for a little bit of winter birding on the native nature reserve. You’ve been seeing some fascinating waterfowl species within the wetlands, and also you hope so as to add some new ones to the record. You’re prepared: binoculars in hand, the duck pages in your subject information bookmarked for straightforward entry. You understand how to inform a gadwall from a hen mallard, a larger scaup from a ring-necked duck. You’re feeling good about your duck-spotting credentials.

After which, as you eye up the closest flock, you see one thing…wacky. A duck that appears vaguely acquainted, however with black and white markings, and a giant tuft on its head. It’s not within the subject information. It’s not in your birding app. What is that this factor? We’re right here to assist.

A Mandarin duck. © 3268zauber / Wikimedia Commons

Or Is It A Rooster?

Geese aren’t the one birds that escape captivity and make a life within the wild. In actual fact, many species of home fowl now have established feral populations.

You by no means know what may present up at a metropolis park. Guinea fowl, peafowl, unique pheasants and even feral chickens are all potentialities. So for those who see one thing actually bizarre, don’t rule out barnyard origins. Learn extra about home fowl gone wild.

Or A Parrot?

Seeing a peacock may get your consideration. Seeing a parrot in america? No, you’re not hallucinating.

As some birders and sharp-eyed observers already know, the US is residence to dozens of feral parrot species. Utilizing knowledge from eBird and the Christmas Chicken Rely, scientists lately tallied 56 completely different parrot species sighted in 43 states, 25 of which are actually breeding within the wild throughout 23 completely different states.

How do you establish them? Our subject information to feral parrots can get you began.

two green and black birds
Two Nanday Parakeets perch on a snag. © Gareth Rasberry / Wikimedia Commons

Turkeys About City

The reintroduction of untamed turkeys is a dramatic wildlife conservation success story. Within the early 1900s, wild turkeys had disappeared throughout a lot of their vary. Right now, they’re thriving. And a few have moved from the woods to your neighborhood.

This a brand new wild turkey for many people: one at residence amongst individuals. This turkey tears up farm fields and backyards. It’s daring and aggressive, strutting down suburban streets with out concern.

And generally, these days, it even assaults us.

turkey on ground
Beware the turkey. Photograph © John Bathroom / Flickr


One of many nice joys of birding – and chook feeding – is you by no means know what you may see. Surprises abound. Every winter, as an example, some northern rarities instantly start showing at suburban feeders.

Each winter, birders surprise: will this be a kind of years? A kind of years when snowy owls dot the windswept panorama and our woods are crammed with saw-whet owls.

Or a kind of years when our feeders are inundated with northern seed-eating songbirds like purple finch, red-breasted nuthatch, night grosbeak and redpoll.

These birds solely sometimes descend in giant numbers from their boreal and arctic nesting grounds to extra southern latitudes the place most of us stay. Right here’s a information to northern birds that may present up in any given 12 months.

Now, get our your binoculars or take a stroll outdoors. Tell us the surprises you see. It’d even give us an thought for a future story.

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