Take out your bird feeders as the early storm woke the birds in search of easy food sources


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When we received our “October Snowstorm” token two weeks ago, I went out to get some pieces of firewood to keep the cold out of the house. I noticed a few American goldfinches as well as black-eyed juncos foraging. After lighting the fire, I quickly pulled out a seed sock loaded with finch ‘thistle’ seeds and scattered sunflower shavings on the ground around a few trees to feed the ground juncos.

During a break in the snow, I decided to turn off the rest of my feeders. As I entered the shed, a black-capped chickadee followed me and stole a black oil sunflower seed and came back outside. I quickly took a peek outside and sure enough it was hiding it in a crack in the tall hybrid poplar.

“A returnee,” I thought, smiling and waiting for him to come back for another seed. This seed was shattered and the meat came down through the hatch while I hung up the feeder. Chickadees have great memories and know where food is stored and will even land on your hand to eat seeds if you have enough patience.

A hermit thrush is joined by black-eyed juncos and a sparrow during the October snowstorm to feed on sunflower shavings scattered under a bird feeder. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

The early storm woke songbirds in search of easy food sources, and those of us who start a feeding program before the next storm will be rewarded with birds to watch. During the autumn storms, many birds are blown away by the wind. Rare sightings or even large numbers of unusual birds may appear in search of an easy meal and will often remain as long as the food source remains available.

RELATED | Blue jays are normally found east of the Mississippi River, but they were active in a local neighborhood

Blue jays appeared last fall and many of them stayed until spring in Southeast Idaho. During the October snow I had a blue jay and also had my first Hermit Thrush in my garden as it joined the juncos that were feeding under my feeders. In recent years, rose-breasted grosbeaks have also appeared during the first winter storms.

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A blue jay showed up to take advantage of the sunflower seeds released at the end of October. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

But the real winners of a feeding program are local wintering birds like mountain chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, brown lianas, evening grosbeaks, goldfinches, house finches and many more. . But without permanently available food, birds can move around without anyone noticing they are there.

Some of the favorite foods to give to birds are black oil sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, safflower seeds, and a variety of tallow cakes. Some of the red-pole twinkles I had in my backyard last winter have already found my peanut tallow and are chasing the smaller Downey woodpeckers. Be aware that inexpensive “songbird mixes” are not very good food for most birds. They have a lot of red millet as a filler that very few birds will eat and most of these seeds will be thrown from feeders and wasted.

Once you have started a feeding schedule, you need to maintain it throughout the winter, as the birds will depend on it for a living. If you have mature evergreens in or near your garden, they will provide plenty of shelter for many birds, including owls. By the way, there seem to be a lot of little little owls in the area this year. One of them even visited Albertson’s store in Rexburg, but quickly left.

If you want to have fun this winter from home, set up feeders, store quality food in them, and watch daily shows.

If you see a strange bird, take a picture of it and send it to me via news@eastidahonews.com. I will contact you to find out more and we can share the fun with others.

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A red-breasted nuthatch tries to find a hiding place for a sunflower seed so that when food is scarce, it will have something to eat. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

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