Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Late Winter Arrivals at Feeders

By late winter most of the naturally occurring food available for birds has been depleted. It is usually during this time, late February and March that some species seem to become more visible at feeders. I get a lot of photos from readers showing me what they have visiting their feeders or asking for an identification of an unfamiliar newcomer. Here are a few species that seem to show up to take advantage of feeders in late winter:

Ruby-crowned kinglet by John Ennis
Ruby-crowned kinglet: These tiny balls of energy may visit offerings of suet or suet dough. Look for a small greenish bird with a bold eyering and bold wingbars. The males have a red patch of feathers on the top of the head. When they get agitated the feathers are raised, revealing the ruby crown.

Hermit Thrush by Ron Clark

Hermit thrush: These woodland birds start to show up under feeders, gleaning the dropped food from above. They are almost exclusively ground feeders by now; the winter berries that they love being long gone from trees and shrubs.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Jo O'Keefe
Yellow-rumped warbler: I get a lot of photos of this species this time of year. They will visit suet offerings and glean seeds from the ground. The brightest individuals will have yellow patches on the sides and a prominent yellow spot above the tail. This can be easily seen when the bird flies away from you.

Immature Male Red-winged Blackbird by Mary Ann Ansell

Female Red-winged Blackbird by Lee Weber

Red-winged blackbird: This species will drop in as they pass through to their breeding grounds. Adult males are easy to pick out, but immature males and females can be confusing. The young males have the characteristic light stripe on the wing but the red patch may be underdeveloped as yet. The plumage is a mixture of black feathering with brown or straw colored tips or edges. The females do not look anything like a blackbird, being heavily streaked with light brown or straw colored markings.

Pine Warbler by Jeff Lewis

Pine warbler: The bright yellow males are eye-catching when they fly in to partake of suet offerings or to glean sunflower seed bits off the ground or platform feeders. The females can be almost devoid of yellow but usually have at least a yellowish blush on the breast.