Tag Archives: feeding wild birds

Watching Cardinals Feeding

Anywhere around St. Louis watching cardinals means the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds have a large fan base.

Baseball Cardinals aside, my backyard is hosting flocks of cardinals for the winter. The birds live here all year, but are most noticeable over the winter because their bright red contrasts so well with the dull winter colors around them.

cardinal pair waiting to eat at the feeder
Birds do have insulating feathers. Puffing these up increases the air layer among them and keeps them warmer as these cardinals sit waiting for room to open up at the bird feeder.

Like many other people we put up a bird feeder. Our feeder is a simple platform under a tin roof. The sunflower seeds are in an old rectangular metal cake tray. The scratch feed is in a small plastic dog dish. A suet cake is in a homemade wire basket. A lump of peanut butter is on a half brick. Water is in an old enamel pan without a handle. The array goes out in the morning and comes in at dark.

winter cardinals show up against the snow
There were seeds around here. The cardinals ate these scattered seeds knocked off the bird feeder. Now the seeds are under the snow.

Shortly after dawn the birds begin to arrive. They are little more than dark shapes in the trees. As the sun rises, watching cardinals decorate the trees with their bright colors and search the ground for leftover seeds distracts me from making breakfast.

cardinals waiting in a tree
Birds have a feeder waiting list. The first birds on the feeder are the mourning doves. There really isn’t much room left for any other birds as they eat. Next come the cardinals. These red birds sit in an old dead tree waiting and watching the doves. Once the cardinals move onto the feeder, the tree will host nuthatches, finches, chickadees and titmice.

As soon as the seeds are put out, the feeder is filled with the cardinal crowd. More wait their turns sitting in the old apple tree. Others stand on the roof peering over to see if they can sneak in.

watching cardinals feeding at the bird feeder
Birds descend on the bird feeder to cover the floor, trays and suet cake as they gorge on the seeds. Titmice, nuthatches and juncos tend to grab a seed and fly off to enjoy eating in peace. Cardinals, mourning doves and blue jays stand in the tray and eat. Chickadees and woodpeckers hang on the suet basket and eat.

Food is serious business for birds over the winter. They must eat a lot to keep themselves warm as well as active. In cold and snowy weather the sunflower tray empties by noon and is refilled.

Watching cardinals working on the seeds is fun. Watching other birds sneak in, hang off the suet, climb the feeder poles, swoop by to grab a seed and fly makes washing dishes take more time as the kitchen window affords a great view. No wonder so many people enjoy feeding the wild birds.

Feeding wild birds is written about in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Baltimore Orioles Arrive

Over the last twenty-five years the bird populations have changed a lot. Another new resident arrived this year: Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles like hummingbird feeders

Baltimore Orioles are bright orange with orange outer tail feathers. They are summer residents in the Ozarks. This one likes the large hummingbird feeder.

There weren’t many birds here when we moved in. A handful of hummingbirds came by the feeder we set out. Cardinals came for sunflower seeds in the winter.

Mourning doves moved in. Blue jays mobbed the feeder. Now watching the action outside is exciting. The bird guidebook has moved onto the kitchen table.

This year indigo buntings, brown thrashers, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, rose breasted grosbeaks, red winged blackbirds, various sparrows and warblers take turns gobbling the sunflower seeds. We’ve added scratch feed and peanut butter to the menu.

The feeder too has changed. Originally it was a platform with two five gallon buckets holding up another platform as a roof. Now the platform is smaller with a wood structure and tin roof protecting it from rain and snow.

Baltimore Orioles take over the feeders

Four pairs of Baltimore Orioles like the hummingbird feeder. They do not like to share. The second oriole had to move to the second feeder.

The hummingbird feeder has changed too. The first held a pint and lasted several days. Now, by late summer, five quart feeders empty daily.

Last year a pair of orchard orioles discovered the sugary treat. It enticed them to stay and nest in the sugar maple in the front yard.

This year the Baltimore Orioles arrived. The first hummingbirds had arrived a few days earlier. They were not impressed with the giants now sitting on their feeder.

A second feeder went up so the oriole could eat at one and the hummingbirds at the other. Then another oriole arrived.

Every morning four pairs of Baltimore Orioles take turns enjoying both the hummingbird feeder and the sunflower seeds. The hummingbirds hover unhappily until the orioles leave.

Baltimore Orioles and hummingbirds

Hummingbirds get chased off by the Baltimore Orioles. Since the orioles sleep late, the hummingbirds mob the feeders early. The orioles often arrive singly taking over one feeder and leaving the others to the hummingbirds. Unlike the orioles, the hummingbirds often sit six or eight at a time on a feeder.

Each hummingbird feeder has eight stations. All eight on both fill up with birds drinking as fast as they can.

When these two feeders empty in a day, another feeder will go up. Otherwise we watch and put it up when the hovering cloud is as big as the feeder customers.

The Baltimore Orioles have been here over a week now. They seem to be taking a look around. We hope they build nests like the orchard oriole which has returned again this year.

Enjoy more about an Ozark spring in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Feeding Starving Cardinals

Winter has decided to remind us this season is supposed to be cold. I think highs in the forties are cold enough. Winter disagrees.

I bundle up to face the cold. Non hibernating wild creatures try, but their main defense is eating extra food. The starving cardinals have arrived at the bird feeder.

starving cardinals wait

Starving cardinals line up waiting for seeds to arrive, then wait their turn in the feeder after the blue jays have come and gone.

There are lots of birds eating at the bird feeder this winter. Mourning doves, titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees and red breasted woodpeckers are the most numerous. Cardinals have been around the last few years, but not in great numbers.

This year is different. This year a flock of cardinals has moved into the area.

Our feeder isn’t fancy. It’s only a platform with a roof over it. The roof is new this year.

starving cardinal

Male cardinals are in their spring finery already making them a vivid red in a gray world. They begin marking out nesting territories in February.

The roof sets down around the platform and is not attached to it. Wind finds the roof is an airfoil. Strong winds lift the roof assembly off the feeder and drop it to the ground a few feet away.

I do tie the roof down, but baling twine wears out. So, every few years I need to repair or build a roof.

Our bird feed isn’t fancy either. Sunflower seeds, scratch feed and peanut butter go out every morning and get picked up every night.

Birds have cleaned off the grass seed, the giant ragweed seeds, the thistles, the chicory. Much of the fall seed crop never appeared due to drought. Lean times are adding to cold this winter.

downy woodpecker

This smallest woodpecker in the area is the Downy Woodpecker. They are common visitors to the bird feeder loving peanut butter and sunflower seeds.

Around dawn each morning I look out the kitchen window toward the bird feeder. As light seeps across the yard, I can see the starving cardinals lining up in the old apple tree.

The other birds are there too. Brilliant red feathers make cardinals easy to spot. They give the now dead tree a Christmas look adorning gray branches with red ornaments.

Later the seeds are out on the feeder. It is rush hour. Birds swoop in, eat, glide away. Some swoop in, grab a seed and fly off to eat in the peach tree.

Simple as it is, the bird feeder does well. It lets me watch the birds, both the regulars and the surprise visitors like rose breasted grosbeaks and towhees. It makes sure the starving cardinals and other birds don’t starve in spite of lean and cold times.