My Peeps aka Bird Watching

A gold finch and a purple finch at my feeder

A gold finch and a purple finch at my feeder

Finches feeding 3

Goldfinch keeping an eye out

Finches feeding 2

Both finches checking either direction

Finches Feeding 4

The finches eating side by side with a slate colored junco on the ground

I love feeding the birds. I have three bird feeders around my house so I can watch them from my kitchen window, living room window and deck. It’s fascinating watching the birds with their aerial displays and feeding tactics. I’ve learned what birds flock together, what their songs sound like and how their appearance changes depending on the season.

When I first put out a new bird feeder it usually sits untouched for a day or so. Eventually a scout chickadee will appear and I know that shortly after that the feeder will be covered with goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, juncos, tufted titmouse, nuthatches, grosbeaks and the occasional bluebird. If you click on any of the bird names I just mentioned, it will take you to Audubon’s website with interesting facts about them, what they look like, what their songs sound like and where they live.

The finches and sparrows will eat together with only the occasional squabble and the juncos tend to remain on the ground and eat the fallen seeds. The cardinal couples usually come separately but now and then both male and female share the perch. Nuthatches and tufted titmouse flit quickly in and out without lingering and when the blue jays come they always make a lot of noise about it. Red winged blackbirds visit sometimes but starlings, cowbirds and grackles travel with them too and I don’t like having a huge flock hogging all the food.

I learned a rather surprising life lesson one day while watching the birds. I was sitting out in a chair in my yard watching several gold finches eating happily when suddenly a red-tailed hawk swooped out of the hedgerow and snatched one of the little yellow birds. My mouth literally dropped open. I felt bad for the little birds and they were traumatized for quite a while after that but eventually they returned to eat. That was certainly a vivid display of the circle of life and I am no longer surprised when I see hawks circling in the sky above my yard. The hawks need to survive too and my bird feeders fulfill that need in a roundabout way.

Springtime is an amusing time to watch my feeders because the male goldfinches are ridiculously combative during mating season. They perform aerial duels circling up into the sky before flying off in a huff. Meanwhile the female finches with their less vivid plumage sit contentedly eating at the feeder as the males compete in vain for their attention. I don’t think even female birds are impressed by macho, show-off males. The cardinal couples are always sweet to each other with the male feeding the female and sometimes coming alone to fetch food for her while she tends the nest.

Chickadees are the bravest and often fly right up to the feeder shortly before I fill it. I’d love to have them eat out of my hands someday but we all don’t know each other well enough for that yet. When I sit out on my deck and watch all the birds they often land on the railing or the electrical wires and chirp at me curiously. They’re not shy when it comes to getting their food and I am always humbled and comforted by their trust in me.