Tag Archives: bird feeders

Dinner on the deck

Hairy Woodpecker

A Hairy Woodpecker gloms on to a suet cake. The red mark on its head identifies it as a male.

Hairy Woodpeckers and and their smaller cousins Downy Woodpeckers are abundant around here, bold around people, and sometimes comical in their maneuvers.

Here’s a short video from last night: a Hairy Woodpecker visits the platform feeder and a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sips sugar water nearby. Both are females.

I bought the platform feeder recently to try to accommodate as many different kinds of backyard birds as possible.

It is made of recycled plastic, has coated steel cables and a metal hook for hanging and a metal screen bottom.

platform feeder

On the menu: raw peanuts, suet nuggets, and Audubon Workshop Premium Mix for Fruit and Nut Lovers.

On the menu for us humans: sausage on the grill, wild rice, collard greens from our garden cooked with bacon, onions, apple cider vinegar.


The view on Friday evening.

I love summer.

Recommended: Woodlink Audubon Going Green Platform Feeder

Recommended: Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder

For size comparison, a photo of a Downy Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker, taken last winter…

Downy Hairy

The larger of two look alikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. It wields a much longer bill than the Downy Woodpecker’s almost thornlike bill. Hairy Woodpeckers have a somewhat soldierly look, with their erect, straight-backed posture on tree trunks and their cleanly striped heads.

Bluebirds every day

Eastern Bluebird father and child

Photo of an Eastern Bluebird dad feeding his fledgling kid.

I spotted this scene as I was walking past the sliding glass door this morning. Fortunately my camera was near at hand.

One reason I started this blog is because I know most people don’t get to see things like this every day. I share photos on Facebook and get many likes, comments and questions.

Eastern Bluebird fledgeling wants food

Another reason I started this blog is because my friends say: “You get so many birds in your yard, you’re so lucky!”

Let us go back in time, once upon a time, long ago in cold dark winter, before we had these bluebirds living in our backyard where we can see them every day. Maybe I can help change your luck…

In January I was snowshoeing in the marsh behind our house and I saw a flock of bluebirds feeding on the red berries of winterberry holly. I thought: so, they are around in winter! Why don’t they visit our feeders?

Feeder for bluebirds

A short Google search later, I had learned that Eastern Bluebirds do not eat the sunflower seeds we were putting out in tube feeders all winter and they cannot cling well to a suet feeder. Yes, Backyard Bird Feeding 101.

So I ordered a feeder that bluebirds can use. This is it. It works! It attracted not only bluebirds but other new birds as well.

(Click the pic and you can buy it on Amazon. If you do, I get 4% commission to keep me in bird feed. I will NEVER recommend or link to a product I have not already tried and liked.)

I served up some whole peanuts and dried mealworms from Agway and some peanut butter suet dough I ordered from Audubon Workshop. (Recipe to make your own dough is here on Sialis.org.) Four or five bluebirds – and other birds too! – began visiting right away.

Important note: We check and fill our feeders EVERY day, sometimes two or three times a day. They are in a convenient location and easy to see and be reminded. The birds can rely on the food source and they become accustomed to the people who feed them.

Gilbertson bluebird house

“Hello, honey, over here!” Mr. Bluebird picks out a home.

By early March, a pair of bluebirds had staked out their territory, helped along by our purchase and installation of a Gilbertson PVC Bluebird House from Amazon.

I had researched nest boxes starting at Sialis.org and settled on the Gilbertson type, which was recommended on a number of bird-friendly sites.

My husband bought the pole, a 5-foot, 1/2-inch piece of galvanized steel electrical conduit, at Home Depot. He pounded a 2-foot piece of rebar through two feet of snow and into the frozen ground then slipped the conduit over it, with a clamp on it so it wouldn’t spin around. The nest box slips right down on the pole.

(We also bought a heated birdbath. More on that later. But adding water to your backyard is a huge factor in attracting birds, and our bluebirds seem especially thirsty.)

Bluebird eggs

On Easter, April 20, we checked the nest box and found a clutch of five little eggs. Nice color!

It is easy to remove the bottom PVC portion from the wooden lid, with just a careful pinching together of the lightweight plastic sides to unhook them from the screws, to look inside. The bluebirds don’t seem to mind this, but we didn’t overdo it.


Food delivery for the hatchlings! Photo taken on May 7.

Lots of back and forth for a few weeks. They caught many fresh insects and worms, but definitely seemed to appreciate the ease of stopping at the feeder now and then.

baby bluebirds

May 7: Five bluebird babies in a cozy nest of pine needles (with a couple of chicken feathers underneath, we discovered later).

So unbelievably tiny.

bluebird butt

The parents were good about feeding the babies… up until the couple of days they fledged and left the nest, May 18 and 19.

Four of the five nestlings were ready to be fledglings. But there was a runt left in the nest, not developed enough to have grown all its flight feathers. After a day the parents stopped feeding it, while continuing to fly around feeding the others up in the trees.

I wasn’t sure whether I should intervene and when I finally did it was too late. So one baby bluebird was “buried” under a little moss blanket out in the woods.

fledgeling bluebird

Today was the first day I got a good look at the next generation, when this one followed its father to the feeders.

No wonder I have had trouble spotting them in the trees – they are not very blue yet. They are wearing their woodland camouflage.

female Eastern Bluebird

The female Eastern Bluebird perched on a feeder pole, near sunset.

Our backyard pair have tidied up their nest and are visiting the box again. I think they are getting ready to raise a second brood this season.

Have you had success with bluebirds? What worked for you?

The woodpecker says wake. wake.

Downy Woodpecker

5:45 a.m. Three days in a row. The Downy Woodpecker sits on the porch rail outside our bedroom window and calls a sharp, loud, one note call:




Listen to Downy Woodpecker sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It sounds like a distress call. It is impossible to sleep through. I peek through the wooden blinds and the bird is looking at the house, at the window, at me.

I roll out of bed and go carry the suet feeders, tube feeders and bell feeder, which are stored inside overnight because of raccoon banditry, back out to the porch.

The piercing one-note call stops. Now the chorus of ordinary morning birdsong carries no special message for Bird Food Lady.

Downy Woodpecker female

Our most popular and successful back porch suet cake here at Amy’s Early Bird Diner: Feathered Friend High Energy Suet from our local Agway.

(Top photo is a male downy, bottom is a female. Males have a red patch on their noggins, females do not.)

Feeding hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hello, bird! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits our backyard.

I finally took the hint and bought them a feeder.

Two weeks ago I was buzzed a couple of times while sitting on the back deck with a book and glass of wine. Hummers really do sound like big bumblebees. Two days later my daughter Anna was doing dishes when a hummingbird came and hovered at the kitchen window, staring at her. “He looked into my soul,” she said.

The first skinny, tiny, hungry migrants arrived in coastal New Hampshire three weeks ago. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico and Central America. In spring, they fly from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida and Louisiana, across the Gulf of Mexico – 500 miles over open water!

Hummingbird feeder

I did some research and decided to order a Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder from Amazon.

It has a perch around the rim so they don’t have to hover and expend energy while they feed. (Also, then they hold still for photos!) It has an “ant moat” in the middle to keep ants from getting to the nectar.

The cover is bright red to attract hummingbirds and it snaps off easily for cleaning and filling.

Pensive hummingbird

I like to imagine this little bird is appreciating this newly discovered food source.

Recipe for hummingbird nectar:

• Boil 1 cup of water

• Add 1/4 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve (4:1 ratio water to sugar)

• Let cool to room temperature and serve

No need to add red dye. If it’s cold and rainy, or near migration time, you can make the nectar a bit more concentrated… as much as a 3:1 ratio.

The first hummingbird dinner guest arrived the day after I put up the feeder. I celebrated by creating a new cocktail I call The Ruby-throated Hummingbird…


Mix melon schnapps (or Midori melon liqueur) with vodka and some simple syrup… or homemade hummingbird nectar! Carefully and slowly pour a “floater” (it sinks) of Grenadine. Top with crushed ice.

Sip slowly on the back deck in view of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t worry about scaring them off. They are tiny but they are bold, not shy.

Do you feed hummingbirds? Any tips on what works (or doesn’t) in your yard?

Good info: Birdwatchers.com: Debbie’s Tips for Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds