Monthly Archives: December 2014

Black oil sunflower seeds

Nom nom nom.

Shot through the window glass last Saturday, while it snowed. Music is a Pandora holiday mix playing on the kitchen counter next to me.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Choosing Bird Seed

The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds, and so the best choice to offer, is sunflower.

Cardinals love it, for sure. This one is picking mostly sunflower seeds out of the bird food blend. (Dodge’s Supreme Wild Bird Food: black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, white millet, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts and granite grit, from Dodge’s Agway in Hampton Falls.)


Bird Watcher’s Digest: Top 10 Foods for Winter Bird Feeding

Black-oil sunflower seed. Bird feeding in North America took a major leap forward when black-oil sunflower became widely available in the early 1980s. Why do birds prefer it? The outer shell of a black-oil sunflower seed is thinner and easier to crack. The kernel inside the shell is larger than the kernel inside a white-or gray-striped sunflower seed, so birds get more food per seed from black-oil. This last fact also makes black-oil a better value for you, the seed buyer.


Good mixed seed. Is there such a thing as BAD mixed seed? You bet! Bad mixed seed has lots of filler in it—junk seeds that most birds won’t eat. Bad mixed seed can include dyed seed meant for pet birds, wheat, and some forms of red milo that only birds in the Desert Southwest seem to eat. Good mixed seed has a large amount of sunflower seed, cracked corn, white proso millet, and perhaps some peanut hearts. The really cheap bags of mixed seed sold at grocery stores can contain the least useful seeds. Smart feeder operators buy mixed seed from a specialty bird store or a hardware/feed store operation. You can even buy the ingredients separately and create your own specialty mix.

This might be fun next spring…

Sunflower seeds are the easiest type of birdseed to grow. You can plant seeds directly from your birdseed supply or purchase different varieties of sunflower seeds from nurseries and gardening centers.

We usually plant a few special varieties in our garden (see chickadees on sunflower heads), but why not just dedicate a part of our back field to some bird food sunflower seeds from Agway?

(Male) cardinal red

classic winter

The opposite of camouflage. A classic winter scene with a pop of cardinal color.


CARDINAL RED #BD2031 Hex Color for the Web has the RGB values of 189, 32, 49 and the CMYK colour values of 0, 0.831, 0.741, 0.259.

Cardinal is a vivid red, which may get its name from the cassocks worn by Catholic cardinals (although the color worn by cardinals is actually scarlet), or from the bird of the same name.

The first recorded use of cardinal as a color name in English was in the year 1698.

female cardinal

Female cardinal is more subtle in her colors.

It snowed most of the day on Saturday and the birds visited the feeders in great, active numbers. Melted Sunday and we had fewer visitors. Or were they just harder to see?

Not so gold in winter

3 goldfinches

Three American Goldfinches at the tube feeder.

cardinal and goldfinches

Two goldfinches and a cardinal at the hopper feeder.

American Goldfinch

One goldfinch on the ground under the hopper feeder.

This handsome little finch, the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington, is welcome and common at feeders, where it takes primarily sunflower and nyjer. Goldfinches often flock with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. Spring males are brilliant yellow and shiny black with a bit of white. Females and all winter birds are more dull but identifiable by their conical bill; pointed, notched tail; wingbars; and lack of streaking.

Belly up to the suet bar

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker savors snowy suet cake.

This one is a female.

Adult males have a red cap going from the bill to the nape; females have a red patch on the nape and another above the bill. The reddish tinge on the belly that gives the bird its name is difficult to see in field identification.

Looks like we are lucky to have them, if this map is right, because we are at the limits of their range.



The Red Bellied Woodpecker Feeding PreferencesThe Red bellied woodpecker forages on limbs and tree trunks of deciduous trees. They prefer eating beetles, grasshoppers, ants, acorns, beechnuts and fruits. During winter, their diet is mostly seeds and can often be found at birdfeeders. They are also able to store food in crevices of tree bark for later consumption.

So maybe it’s eating the seeds as much as the suet in the suet cake? And a suet cage is an easier “perch” for a woodpecker?

When you wish upon a bird


A chickadee flew into the sliding glass door yesterday (even though I have reflective snowflake decals on it). It lay on its back in the snow, feet in the air, motionless, beak agape. I was standing in front of the door when it happened, camera in hand.

I went outside and picked it up.


I had my camera because I was taking pictures of bluebirds. See Flickr album: 8 Bluebirds One Saturday. What are the odds?

The chickadee was all in one piece, feathers intact and smooth. It revived pretty quickly.


But it stayed in my hand. For a long time!

Holding a warm soft perfect little wild bird feels good. The feeling runs from your hand up your arm into some center place of your being.


But I can’t stand out here forever, holding a bird.

I walked over to the porch rail and rested my hand there until the chickadee hopped off. It just sat there for a while looking at me, cocking its head from one side to the other while I talked to it (“see, you’re okay, all better, be careful of the glass” etc) like the crazy bird lady I am apparently becoming.

“But you’re our crazy bird lady,” said a friend on Facebook when I posted the photos and spread the bird wonder a little further out into the world.


I’m your crazy bird lady

“How is this happening??” commented another friend who probably saw a photo of a downy woodpecker in my hand recently too.


Dec. 4, a bowl of soup and a woodpecker

Well, it all started… back in May near the beginning of this blog… with a wish. I wished to be closer to birds. I wished they would hold still enough for me to take good pictures of them to share.

Bang! Grackle grants wish instantly.


(Hey, I was wearing the same shirt as on the chickadee day, L.L.Bean Scotch plaid flannel shirt in “Black Stewart.”)

The feeders are located where they need to be for viewing and attaching. And I have decals on all the windows now. Sorry for the headaches, birds, but I’m glad you’ve only been stunned not killed.

It was just on December 7 that I wrote, of chickadees: I won’t be surprised if one lands on my shoulder or head someday while I’m near the feeders. Even better: chickadee in my hand.

Hm, let’s try this: I wish for a million dollars! I won’t be surprised if I buy a lottery ticket and win a million dollars! And I’ll give half of it to a bird charity!

I started Project Feederwatch today.

Red-bellied Woodpecker a member of the clean plate club


Red-bellied Woodpecker at the pole feeder.


Looking for food.


A few millet seeds left.


But maybe there’s something better in there.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker can stick out its tongue nearly 2 inches past the end of its beak. The tip is barbed and the bird’s spit is sticky, making it easier to snatch prey from deep crevices.


This woodpecker spent a long time here yesterday morning.


Until I observed this one, I had no idea about their tongues!

White-breasted Nuthatch

nuthatch suet

The White-breasted Nuthatch loves homemade suet dough so much, they will walk on their tippy toes to get some.

White-breasted Nuthatches are agile birds that creep along trunks and large branches, probing into bark furrows with their straight, pointed bills. Like other nuthatches, they often turn sideways and upside down on vertical surfaces as they forage.

Their feet are not really designed for standing on a horizontal surface like the deck railing, but they manage.

suet nutchatch

Suet dough or nuggets and peanuts out of the shell are their favorite foods from the menu at Amy’s Backyard Bird Restaurant.

A common feeder bird with clean black, gray, and white markings, White-breasted Nuthatches are active, agile little birds with an appetite for insects and large, meaty seeds. They get their common name from their habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacking them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed from the inside.