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Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Are These Little Birds?

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What in the world are these small colorful birds, and why have they descended on my backyard in the middle of winter?  I was intrigued by the size of the flocks, and enchanted by their ‘sweet’ song.  They were so tame, I literally walked among them!  They turned out to be Common Redpolls, but I found them to be anything but common.

It was just after Christmas in the middle of a snowstorm that dumped over a foot of snow here.  I heard the excited chirps high in the tree tops while I was shoveling my way to the woodshed.  They were small birds, and there were myriads of them!  Perched in the dark grey branches on a cold, grey day I found it hard to pick out any colors at all.  Besides that, my glasses would become covered with snow every time I looked upward!
We usually have large flocks of goldfinches that hang around all winter.  That was my first guess, and my second guess was purple finches.  I had read in Audubon magazine that this might be a good year to see purple finches during the winter time.  Although I had seen several purple finches the week before, these did not sound like the lovely and bubbly purple finches that usually appear in spring.  Nor did they say “zeee-zee” as do the goldfinches.  Having finally reached the woodpile, I gathered up enough wood for the day and headed back to the warmth of the house.  By then my fingers and toes were frozen, and my one thought was to start a fire and warm up.
The next day the sun was shining intermittently.  As I glanced out toward the bird feeders I noticed that all 6 of them were loaded with small birds.  It was time to fill the feeders anyway, so I again grabbed my shovel and worked my way out to the hungry birds.  By now they were covering the ground beneath the feeders searching for morsels on the snow.
These friendly little guys didn’t mind my presence at all.  In fact I had a couple of them fly so close as to feel the air from their wing beats.  The nearer I came the more I realized that these were definitely not goldfinches.  Nor were they the purple finches I had seen a week earlier.  In fact, I had never seen these birds in person before in my life.   Read more

Grandma Pearl

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