This will be the first in a series of articles about the birds that visit my backyard feeders and that are seen around my yard this winter. Please share any photographs or observations from your feeders with us on the Friends website (www.friendsebec.com) by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, I finally got around to cleaning my feeders and buying suet and seed and getting them put back up in the backyard last weekend. I am always amazed at how quickly the birds find the feeders and how much I enjoy all of the activity and the diversity of the birds that they attract. I have two feeders filled right now. They are both right outside our kitchen window so we can easily watch the birds as they flit back and forth from the feeders to the surrounding trees and shrubs. One feeder is filled with black oil sunflower seeds and the other with a suet cake. The black oil sunflower seeds aren't cheap (I think I paid about $20 for an 18 pound bag at Lowes), but they last much longer than the cheaper millet based seed mixtures and seem to attract a much wider diversity and a greater numbers of birds. The suet cake is a mix of peanuts and rendered fat and costs only about $1.25 at Lowes. All of my feeders have a cage around them to keep the squirrels at bay. While I like watching their antics, without the cages, they can polish off an entire feeder in no time.
The first bird I'm going to spotlight and one of my favorite feeder birds is the White-breasted nuthatch. It is a beautiful sleak mix of black and white and bluish gray, with some rusty red underneath. I think it looks very dapper and for some reason makes me think it is wearing a tuxedo and is just missing a bowtie.
White-breasted nuthatches are year round residents in East Brunswick and are easily attracted to bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds or suet in areas where there are some mature trees. They are extremely active and constantly run up and down trees looking for insects or seeds to eat. Watching them is really cool because when they head down a tree trunk it is always head-first. They also frequently hang upside down on branches looking for tasty insects to eat and seem like they could fall off at any time. They apparently get their common name from their habit of jamming a seed or nut into a bark crevice and pecking at it to "hatch" out the meat. I've never seen this behavior so I guess I'm just not watching carefully or long enough. But I have watched them for long periods of time at my feeders where they often hang upside down to get at the seeds or suet in pure acrobat fashion and are really fun to watch. White-breasted nuthatches nest in holes and cavities in trees. Their summer diet is a mix of lots of insects and seeds. In winter with less insects around they switch to a diet that is mostly seeds making our feeders a ready and welcome target. If you are outside and there are White-breasted nuthatches around, they are often heard before they are seen. Their call is easily recognized once you know what it sounds like. It is a distinctive nasal "neet" often called over and over again. White-breasted nuthatches are also one of our more common cavity nesting birds in our local wooded parks and can be easily found at any season by quietly walking along the paths listening for their distinctive call. Many of these parks are profiled in the Friends Online Guide to East Brunswick's Parks at http://www.friendsebec.com/parks ;