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Sat, March 23

Wild birds find food in unlikely locations

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a sharp increase in lesser goldfinch activity at my nyjer feeder. The feeder has been out all winter long, but I wasn’t really getting any action even though there were finches in my yard. I recently filled the feeder with a new batch of nyjer seed and suddenly started getting a lot of goldfinches. I don’t know if it was a timing coincidence, or if perhaps the old seed had gone bad.

Interestingly, I have not had a single pine siskin at the finch feeder this winter. This is very unusual, as I typically get a good number of siskins at my nyjer feeder in winter. Nor have I had any American goldfinches, but Ryan, the store manager of the Prescott Jay’s Bird Barn store, has had as many as 17 American goldfinches on his nyjer feeders at one time.

It never ceases to amaze me how birds find food sources. I jokingly tease customers that birds have scouts that are watching their feeders, and as soon as they fill the feeder, the scouts tell all of their feathered friends. We could call it the Bird Feeder Tweet, kind of like Pongo and Perdy in “101 Dalmatians” when they spread the news of their missing puppies using the Twilight Bark.

Each week I drive out to the Yavapai Exceptional Industries facility on the backside of the Prescott airport to pick up the birdseed blends they mix for us. One of the things I have noticed over the years is that there are two pyracantha bushes on Melville Road, right by the airport, that are just loaded with berries.

The interesting thing is that these two bushes are in an area where there is very little vegetation. Yet, these two bushes attract flocks of both American robins and western bluebirds. This is just one of many examples of wild birds discovering and exploiting a natural food source in winter.

It fascinates me how birds can find such an isolated food source in a vast area of high desert grassland. Based on the surrounding habitat, you wouldn’t think robins or bluebirds would be in this area at all.

The importance of these two bushes in sustaining wild birds with an abundant food in the winter months demonstrates the significance of making your yard wildlife and bird friendly by providing a variety of food sources that will appeal to a variety of birds.

I explain to individuals who are new to birding that if they only feed one kind of seed, then they will only attract the types of birds that prefer that one ingredient. However, as you offer additional types of seeds and/or nuts and fruit, you will ultimately attract a wider variety of birds, because the food you are offering will appeal to a wider variety of birds.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is just a two weeks away. As a reminder, Jay’s Bird Barn will host bird walks to private residences over the President’s Day weekend. Once again, we are looking for three or four homes where we can bring a group of birders on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 18. If you would be willing to open up your yard/home to a small group of birders for about an hour, please call the store at 928-443-5900 and speak to Ryan.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

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