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What Time is it in Nature: At the Feeders

December 14, 2013

We have several bird feeders outside the Prairie Ridge Outdoor Classroom that we keep well stocked throughout the year.  Many of the birds we see at the feeders are year-round residents, but others are only here for the winter, having flown from colder nesting grounds further north.  Let’s take a look at some of the birds that have visited the feeders recently!

Regardless of how many Northern Cardinals you may have seen, these stunning red birds are always a welcome sight at our feeders:

northern cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are seed eating birds and though you will find them on the feeders, they also spend a lot their time foraging for seeds on the ground.  Like many other birds, Cardinals are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females don’t have the same appearance.  The males are bright red while the females are a more drab brown.  They are similar in shape and size, however, and can be found at our feeders year-round.

Another year-round feeder bird is the White-breasted Nuthatch:

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted Nuthatch

These small black and white birds are common on the grounds throughout much of the year, though we tend to see them more often at the feeders in the winter.  Nuthatches get their name from their tendency to jam seeds into crevices in trees to more easily crack them open with their bills.  They’re agile and active birds, hopping up and down trees and swooping back and forth between the feeders and the treeline.  You can usually tell them apart from the other feeder birds based on their “stubby” appearance.

We’ve also got a few winter visitors here now.  One is the White-Throated Sparrow, a Canadian-nesting bird that migrates south to North Carolina in the winter:

White throated Sparrow

White throated Sparrow

These small birds tend to stay near the ground, scratching through leaf litter and soil to find the seeds they feed on.  You might see them sitting low in the shrubs behind the feeders or lurking in the brush piles near the tree line as well.  The yellow patch on their heads is a great way to tell this species apart from the similar, but less common, White-crowned Sparrow.

You might also find these birds with the White-throated Sparrows:

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Like the Sparrows, the Dark-eyed Juncos are winter-only visitors at Prairie Ridge, nesting further north or in the western US.  You’ll most often see Juncos near the ground, hopping about as they forage for seeds, but they’ll make occasional trips into the trees when disturbed.  Their dark appearance and small size make them easy to tell apart from the other birds near the feeders.

Next time you visit Prairie Ridge, be sure to check the feeders for birds.  A quick look from the observation deck of the Outdoor Classroom is a great way to see several species of birds easily before you head further down the trail or to the Nature Play Space for some outdoor fun!

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photos by Chris Goforth)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2013 12:12 pm

    Reblogged this on The Nature Coach and commented:
    Great Blog I had to reblog it

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