Now is the time to be on the lookout for berry-eaters
A customer recently asked me how he could attract different kinds of birds to his yard. Time of year plays a big role in determining what kinds of birds you can attract to your yard. The honest answer is that during the dead of winter, it is hard to attract "new" birds to your yard if you are already doing the basic things such as providing seed, suet and open water.
The variety of wild bird species present this time of year is very stable. Fall migration ended a long time ago, and spring migration will not get underway for quite a while. The birds that are here right now have been here for several months, and will remain here for several more months before you start to really see a lot of change in your yard.
Seed and suet eaters don't wander too far from reliable, dependable food sources. If you feed the birds, this will make a lot of sense to you. Chances are you fill your feeders every time they get low, so the birds never have to go without. With a constant food source readily available, there isn't much motivation to leave your yard.
While it is always a thrill to see something new this time of year, the odds are not in your favor, but there will always be some exceptions. Maybe a species that has eluded your attention will suddenly show up one day. Chances are the species has been in your neighborhood, and it just happened to show up while you were gazing out the window.
Probably the greatest chance for seeing something different in your yard will be in the form of berry-eating bird species. Berry-eaters are always on the move, as their food source is not going to reappear each day like birdseed reappearing each day at a feeder.
The more common berry-eaters in the Prescott area during winter are American robins, cedar waxwings and Western bluebirds. Because there are fewer insects and invertebrates, berries weigh heavy in their diet in the winter months. Robins, waxwings and bluebirds travel in small flocks, flying together in search of food sources. When they discover a tree or shrub loaded with berries, they usually stay in the immediate vicinity of that food source until they have depleted it. Once the berries are gone, so are the birds, because when they come back tomorrow, the tree won't suddenly have a new crop of berries like a seed feeder has a new supply of seed each day.
So, what can you do this time of year to ensure a steady stream of birds visiting your yard? Certainly making sure that your seed and suet feeders are filled on a timely basis is very important. Wild birds are not very loyal. With the cold weather we've been experiencing lately, they are always eager to eat. If you let your feeders go empty, the birds will look elsewhere for food. Now that's gratitude for you.
If you know you are going to be out of town this time of year, it might be a good idea to have a friend or neighbor check on your feeders and fill them every few days so you don't lose all of your birds. Of course, once you come home and resume feeding, they are usually pretty quick to come back. Like I tell our customers, food is a great motivator! Happy Birding!
If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.JaysBirdBarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn and has been an avid birder for over 40 years.