Winter feeders – time to put them out - East Idaho News
Living the Wild Life

Winter feeders – time to put them out

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It is time to set up your winter feeders for the winter songbirds as late fall storms roll in. These storms coincide with late fall migrations which may include some strange and non-typical birds for this area. Two years ago I had a Red fox sparrow show up at my feeders and last year I had a Steller’s jay come and stay for half of the winter to entertain me.

This week I put out my Black oil sunflower seeds, the nyger seed sacks, several peanut flavored suet cakes, raw peanuts and sunflower chips for the early arrivals. Within two hours I had 14 Black-capped chickadees, a Mountain chickadee and four Red-breasted nuthatches on my feeders. In the next two days, Red-shafted flickers, Dark-eyed juncos, House finch, a Steller’s jay and even a Kestrel have showed up.

I like to scatter my feeders around my backyard to keep fighting at a minimum and it protect songbirds from the attacks from raptors. Kestrels, Sharp-shinned hawks and Merlin’s, all visit my backyard during the winter. Mostly they will harvest House finches or starlings which is okay with me.

A Black-capped chickadee was the first to show up after I put out my Black oil sunflower seeds. | Bill Schiess,

If you haven’t already got at least some sunflower seeds out and want some winter birds to visit your yard, I would get them out soon. I know some of you do not like the woodpeckers and flickers to come around, you can limit them somewhat by not putting out suet blocks.

Last Wednesday, I went out to Camas National Wildlife Refuge and the Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area and still found snow geese, Tundra swans and a field with about 200 Sandhill cranes. Just about every night from 9 to 10, I hear large flocks of snow geese flying over my home in the Rexburg area. The Tundra swans seem to prefer migrating early to mid-mornings while the Sandhills prefer mid-day.

A young Red-breasted nuthatch showed up with three friends within an hour of putting out my feeders. | Bill Schiess,

I found the flock of sandhill cranes doing some interesting things. Small flocks were joining large flock that was feeding. One small flock dropped into an area where many of the birds appeared to be made up of non-breeding birds. After they landed, both groups began dancing, similar to the mating dances of breeding couples.

Most sandhill cranes do not start breeding until they are between four and seven years old and the mating couples usually form a lifetime relationship. The non-breeding adults often will gather in huge flocks to migrate south during the fall.

sandhill cranes
A flock of Sandhill cranes appear to be practicing their mating dance or sparring with each other as they prepare to migrate. | Bill Schiess,

The dancing included jump/flying into the air, spreading their wings while rushing toward another crane, knocking another down and stomping on it, and picking up pieces of cow manure and tossing it at another individual. One would toss the manure into the air, catch with their bill and toss it up again. There were a group of about 15 birds engaged in these activities which lasted about 45 minutes before they went back to eating. The family groups of three or four birds stayed away from these ruffians.

A Sandhill crane prepares to stomp on another one during their dance recital. | Bill Schiess,

If we get a hard cold snap or a major snow or rainstorm, most of the migratory bird will be gone overnight. Watch for large numbers of Trumpeter swans and northern ducks to show up in the next week or two, the summer Swensen’s hawks have moved on and the Rough-legged ones will soon start showing up.

If you see an odd bird, let me know as we often see strays that don’t belong here. It is about time for an influx of Barn owls to migrate through our area. This can be an exciting time, but please be aware that the elk, moose and deer are also migrating and will be crossing the roads. When a large animal harvests a vehicle, it is not good for the human occupants.

A Sandhill crane prepares to throw a piece of cow manure at another crane. | Bill Schiess,

Living the Wild Life is brought to you by The Healing Sanctuary.


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