It's Official, I'm a Bird Watcher

AUTHOR:  Jennifer Dynas
DATE:  06/08/2020

Living in a more rural area, I never really paid attention to the birds, but since working from home, I’ve seen birds I never knew existed.

bird sitting on a fence.

As stated by John W. Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “I often talk about the power of birds, but this year they take on an even more powerful meaning. They enliven our days, brighten the trees, serenade in our backyards and city parks, and bestow us with so much joy and hope, all bundled together in feathers and lively personalities."

Hummingbirds!

For me, it all started with hummingbirds. I love hummingbirds, I’ve even been to the Hummingbird Garden in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. You can see over 14 different species of hummingbirds there. While we were visiting the Hummingbird Garden, we were even able to have hummingbirds land on our fingers. Hummingbirds have very fast metabolisms and expend an extraordinary amount of energy while flying, especially as they hover when feeding. In addition, they are so tiny that they lose heat rapidly, more so during cool weather. Just by sleeping, a hummingbird can lose 10% of its body weight in a night!

Birds Eat What?

This spring I purchased two new hummingbird feeders – I have one hanging in front of my window seat where my cats like to sit and watch them. I also sit and watch them while I’m working from home.

Well, I started getting hummingbirds on May 4th. Then one day I saw a bigger bird trying to drink from the feeder.  I realized it was a Baltimore oriole. I did a bit of research and read that they love oranges and grape jelly!

So I purchased an oriole feeder that fits 2 orange halves and has a cup for grape jelly.

For Mother's Day...

My husband took my new bird interest and ran with it. I received a bird house and a clear bird window feeder. We put the bird house up on a pine tree at the back of our property. Within a day, there was a wren moving in, building its nest.

A House Wren weighs about as much as two quarters, but it’s a fierce competitor for nest holes. Wrens will harass and peck at much larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs and young out of a nest site they want – even occasionally killing adult birds!

As far as the clear window feeder, I didn’t have high hopes because some of my friends said they had one and never saw any birds feeding at it. We moved it to a few different windows finally settling on a window that faces a small area of woods.

We also replanted some dogwood trees and shrubs around it. Well that worked, we’ve seen at least three different birds feeding at it including a cardinal, black capped chickadee and most recently a tufted titmouse.

Titmice take advantage of a bird feeder’s bounty by storing many of the seeds they get. Usually, the storage sites are within 130 feet of the feeder. The birds take only one seed per trip and usually shell the seeds before hiding them.

Unfortunately my cats like to jump at them through the window so they are easily frightened, but they keep coming back.

Next Step

I then decided I wanted a bird bath, so I purchased one and put it near the window bird feeder. A day or two later, I had two different birds bathing in it, a robin and a grey catbird. A pair of catbirds has a nest in a shrub of vines on the side of our property.

A cool fact about grey catbirds is that their song can last up to 10 minutes long.

Grasspeckers?

One other bird I spotted early one morning was a female Northern Flicker, which is a woodpecker. She was pecking at bugs on our front lawn. Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.

Bird House Takeover

Sadly, the house the wren built was not to be. One day we noticed a different bird trying to go in and out of the bird house while the wren squawked at it. A house sparrow is now the occupant of the nest, complete with eggs. The House Sparrow takes frequent dust baths. It throws soil and dust over its body feathers, just as if it were bathing with water. In doing so, a sparrow may make a small depression in the ground, and sometimes defends this spot against other sparrows.

girls filling bird feeder.
bird feeding at bird feeder.
bird feeding at bird feeder.
birds sitting by the window.
bird feeding at bird feeder on a tree.
bird sitting in clear bird feeder.
bird sitting in clear bird feeder.
bird in a bird bath.
bird pecking the grass.

Resources

The best resource I have found to use to identify all these birds is a link from TheCornellLab at Cornell University. The link is called All About Birds. Once you click on “Get Instant ID Help”, it allows you to choose where you saw the bird, the date, what size the bird was and up to 3 different colors. It also asks what the bird was doing when you saw it (e.g. eating at a feeder, on the ground, flying, etc…). It then creates a list of possible birds with pictures so that you can correctly identify it. Once you figure out what bird you saw, you can click on “This is My Bird” and view more information about the bird, as well as hear the bird’s call and cool facts about the bird.

Happy bird watching!

Connect with Me

headshot of jennifer dynas.

Jennifer Dynas

Assistant Director for Business and Technology

Recreation

175 Alumni Arena

Phone: 716-645-5097

Email: jdynas@buffalo.edu