Monday, January 14, 2008

Backyard Siskin Invasion

We have had bird feeders in our backyard for about a year now. These have attracted a variety of birds including the usual House Finches and House Sparrows, but also Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mourning Doves, and at least one Steller's Jay.  As the number of birds visiting our yard has increased, I have added feeder capacity to ensure food supply when we are not around.

Last week a group of about 40 Pine Siskins discovered our yard. They have visited our yard multiple times a day ever since. The largest number of Siskins before that was 6-8. They flock around the 4 feeders, bumping each other out of the way to get access to the food. Since our feeders only have places for about 20 birds, the other 20 usually feed on the spilled food lying on the ground.  When the Siskins show up they are usually accompanied by 1 or 2 Goldfinches, 10-12 House Sparrows, 6-8 House Finches, and a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos. The result is a blurred cloud of birds flying in all directions. All of this action does not go unnoticed. After about 15 minutes of feeding a predator shows up. Swooping through the yard is a raptor of some sort.  On one occasion, Karyn saw a Merlin.  Today I believe it was a American Kestrel that swooped through trying to catch a bird. Sharp-shinned Hawks are also common at feeders in our area, so that is also a possibility.  When the predator arrives the Siskins and other birds dive for cover in our trees and then fly off in a tight flock a few moments later.

Its fun to watch the various feeding behaviors of the birds.  The Dark-eyed Juncos rarely eat at the feeders. They usually eat the spilled food on the ground and eat the seeds of our native sunflowers. The American Goldfinches eat at the feeders in the spring, but stick to the sunflowers the rest of the year.  The Pine Siskins like the sunflowers as well, but are seen at all of the feeders, eating all types of food. The House Sparrows stick to the platform feeder.  The House Finches eat at all of the feeders, but stay away from the sunflowers.  I am not sure their beak allows them to eat our small sunflower seeds. The newest addition to the feeders was a thistle feeder where the birds have to hang upside down to eat (pictured above on the right). I wasn't sure how fast they would figure it out. Within 15 minutes of hanging the feeder is was filled to capacity with 6 Siskins.

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1 comment:

Cyanbodie said...
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