Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

November 27, 2017

Winter Finch Facts

In addition to our year-round finches, the House Finch and the American Goldfinch, winter often brings more species of finches into our area. Irruptive migrations of Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, and Purple finches typically occur every two to three years or so.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

     Common Redpolls are small brown-streaked birds with a reddish spot on top of their heads. They have tiny yellow bills and appear to be rather fluffy. The male usually has extensive deep pink color on his chest, while the female has none. Birch thickets and weedy fields are common places to find them.

A Common Redpoll will quickly gather numerous whole seeds and store them in an expandable section of its throat called the diverticulum. Once the bird has flown to the safety of dense cover, it will regurgitate the whole seed, husk it, and re-swallow the nut meat. It will also fill the diverticulum with seed just before darkness in order to provide an extra source of energy to help it survive the night. A study in Alaska documented that Common Redpolls could survive temperatures of sixty-five degrees below zero.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

     Purple finches may be found in small flocks in shrubs or open woods. Unlike the House Finch, the male Purple Finch has extensive red color on its head and back. During the winter, Purple Finches will often forage and roost with mixed flocks of Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch. In these flocks the Purple Finch are socially dominant over the Goldfinch, but subordinate to the Pine Siskin. They will visit birdfeeders, but competition with House Finches and House Sparrows may drive them back into the woods.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

     Pine Siskins look like Goldfinches disguised as sparrows, with their predominantly brown and white color with darker brown striping. Males sport yellow wing bars. They are found mainly in open coniferous forests or fields of thistle or sunflower. Primarily seed eaters, they will sometimes hang upside down to reach choice seeds. In winter, they often flock with Goldfinches and visit birdfeeders. Their winter migration patterns are very erratic, coming south in great numbers some years and very scarce in other years.

RBNuthatch on Pnt FdrJRC c

Red-breasted Nuthatch

     Red-breasted nuthatches, although not finches, are also here many winters. These small birds, about the size of chickadees, have bluish to brownish gray backs and a white belly with a band of rufous between. The head is distinctive, with a black stripe through the eye, making the birds appear to be little bandits when they snatch a seed from your feeder and fly off with it.

So look closely at your feeders this winter and you might just find some visiting winter finches and red-breasted nuthatches.

 

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November 26, 2013

Help Birds Survive the Cold

Filed under: Birds — wbuomaha @ 5:30 pm
Tags: ,

Wtr Dinner Bell 3 JRC c (RGB, 72 DPI, 230x300)
Birds use a lot of extra energy to keep warm in cold weather. Therefore, they must consume more calories than they do in warmer months. You can help by feeding high-fat foods such as suet, peanuts and seed blends high in black oil sunflower content. This will provide the energy boost they need. It is a good idea to fill your feeders in the evening to make sure food is available first thing in the morning for those early birds like cardinals and mourning doves. Most songbirds fill a special pouch in their esophagus with food to digest during the night. That is why you frequently see birds at your feeders as the sun sets.

Water is important to birds in winter not only for drinking, but also for bathing. Most birds fluff out their feathers, creating air pockets between the feathers for insulation. Clean feathers are warmer feathers, and they are also more efficient for flying, so less energy is expended in flight. A heated birdbath that provides a source of open water will attract birds on even the coldest days.
Goldfinch on heated birdbath
Some birds perch on one leg and draw the other up to their breast for warmth, alternating legs. Others seek the most sheltered areas they can find. Roosting boxes and nesting boxes give birds a dry place, out of the wind, to rest. Leaving these shelters out provides a haven from harsh winter conditions. Stands of tall grasses, brush piles, and evergreen trees offer birds a place to escape the wind and snow.

If you would like to bake a special treat for the birds, even decorate a holiday tree for them, try this recipe:

Wild Bird Cookies

2 cups flour
2/3 cup Wild Birds Unlimited Simply suet
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Wild Birds Unlimited Deluxe Seed Blend
You’ll need some extra Deluxe Seed Blend for topping.
You will also need cookie cutters, elbow macaroni, and string.

Stir together flour, sugar and baking powder. Cut in suet with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add water until well-blended. Add 2/3 cup of Deluxe Seed Blend. Knead until smooth. Wrap in waxed paper and place in plastic bag. Chill for one hour
or overnight.

Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/4” thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press macaroni piece through top of cookie for easy hanging. Press more Deluxe Seed Blend over the top of each cookie.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until cookies harden. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool. Pull string through macaroni and hang outside for the birds.

October 30, 2012

Help Birds Keep Warm This Winter

Filed under: Birds — wbuomaha @ 11:48 am
Tags: , ,


     In the cold of winter, there are many things you can do to help birds survive the season. Here are a few tips that are easy to implement.

Birds use a lot of extra energy to keep warm in cold weather. Therefore, they must consume more calories than they do in warmer months. You can help by feeding high-fat foods such as suet, peanuts and seed blends high in black oil sunflower content. This will provide the energy boost they need to survive.

Unless raccoons frequent your yard, it is a good idea to fill your feeders in the evening to make sure food is available first thing in the morning for those early birds like cardinals and mourning doves. Most songbirds fill a special pouch in their esophagus with food to digest during the night. That is why you frequently see birds at your feeders as the sun sets. They replenish this food supply in the morning.

It is not a good idea to feed bread to the birds in winter. Bread does not provide the proper nutrition or fat content necessary for birds to survive below-freezing temperatures.

During harsh weather, birds favor feeders protected from the wind. Place your feeders near cover such as evergreen trees or bushes, densely branched shrubs, brush piles, stands of tall grasses or hollow logs so birds can quickly duck into shelter from wind and snow or escape from predators.

     Water is important to birds in winter not only for drinking, but also for bathing. Most birds fluff out their feathers, creating air pockets between the feathers for insulation. Clean feathers are warmer feathers because they can trap air more efficiently. They are also more efficient for flying, so less energy is expended in flight. A heated birdbath that provides a source of open water will attract birds on even the coldest of days. Although birds can eat snow for hydration, the snow lowers their body temperature, thus requiring them to eat more food to keep warm.

Some birds perch on one leg and draw the other up to their breast for warmth, alternating legs. Others seek the most sheltered areas they can find. Roosting boxes and nesting boxes give birds a dry place protected from the wind, to rest. Leaving these shelters out provides a haven from severe winter conditions.

Making your yard bird-friendly in cold weather helps birds survive harsh winters. And you will be rewarded with colorful visitors all season long.

 

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