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Get out your bird feeders because the early storm has awakened birds looking for easy food sources

Living the Wild Life

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When we got our token “October snowstorm” two weeks ago, I walked out to get a few pieces of firewood to take the chill out of the house. I noticed a few American goldfinches along with some Dark-eyed juncos looking for food. After building the fire, I quickly put out a seed-sock loaded with “thistle” seed for the finches and I scattered some sunflower chips on the ground around some trees for the ground feeding juncos.

During a break in the snow, I decided to put out the rest of my feeders. As I walked into the shed, a Black-capped chickadee followed me and stole a Black-oil sunflower seed and flew back outside. I quickly glanced outside and sure enough, it was hiding it in a crack in the large hybrid poplar.

“A returnee,” I thought as I smiled and waited for it to come back in for another seed. This seed was broken open and the meat went down the hatch as I hung the feeder. Chickadees have terrific memories and know where the feed is kept and will even land on your hand to eat seeds if you have enough patience.

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A Hermit thrush is joined by some Dark-eyed juncos and a sparrow during the October snowstorm to feed on scattered sunflower chips under a bird feeder. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

The early storm has awakened the songbirds looking for easy food sources and those of us that will start a feeding program before the next storm will be rewarded with birds to watch. During fall storms, many birds are blown off course. Rare sightings or even large numbers of uncommon birds may show up looking for an easy meal and will often stay as long as the food source remains available.

RELATED | Blue Jays are normally found east of the Mississippi River, but they were active in one local neighborhood

Blue jays showed up last fall with many of them staying until almost spring in Southeastern Idaho. During the October snow, I had a Blue jay show up and I also had my first Hermit thrush in my backyard as it joined the juncos feeding under my feeders. In the last several years, we have also had Rose-breasted grosbeaks show up during the early winter storms.

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A Blue jay showed up to enjoy sunflower seeds put out in late October. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

But the real winners of a feeding program are the local wintering birds like the Mountain chickadees, Red-breasted nuthatches, Brown creepers, Evening grosbeaks, goldfinches, House finches and many others. But without constantly available food, the birds may move on without anyone noticing they were here.

Some of the favorite foods to offer the birds are the Black-oil sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, safflower seeds and a variety of suet cakes. Some of the Red-shafted flickers that I had in my backyard last winter have already found my Peanut Treat Suet and are chasing the smaller Downey woodpeckers away. Be aware that cheap “songbird mixes” are not very good food for most birds. They have a lot of red millet as fillers that very few birds will eat and most of those seeds will be kicked out of the feeders and wasted.

Once you start a feeding program, you must keep it going all winter long as the birds will depend on that for a living. If you have mature evergreens in or near your yard, they will provide a lot of shelter for many birds, including owls. By the way, there seems to be a lot of tiny Northern saw-whet owls in the area this year. One even visited the Albertson’s Store in Rexburg, but soon left.

If you want to be entertained this winter from your own home, put out some feeders, keep quality foods in them and watch the daily shows.

If you see a strange bird, get a picture of it and send it to me through news@eastidahonews.com. I will contact you to get the low down on it and we can share the fun with others.

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A Red-breasted nuthatch tries to find a hiding place for a sunflower seed so when food is scarce, it will have something to eat. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com
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