RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD – Archilochus colubris
Keeping notes for the last several years, I’ve found that hummers will arrive in the spring any time from May 1 to May 6, and they are the last of the migrating birds to leave. Sometimes they are here till the first week in October. By then I’m so tired of washing and refilling feeders that I’m as happy to see them leave as I am to see them arrive in the spring! The hummer population seems to fluctuate quite a bit around here. The last two years it was quite low, with maybe only 25 hummers coming in to feed, while in the preceeding years I had hundreds and was refilling 13 feeders every single day.
The video below is from a few years back when there were hundreds. There are three feeders hanging in this area. There were ten more spread out in other parts of the yard. What was strange about the day this video was taken is that there was a steady rain falling down (you can hear it in the background), and yet the hummers came right through it and kept fighting each other off for a chance at the feeders.
The following pictures were taken the same summer as the video above. There were so many that year that I could sit on the deck and hold the feeder in my lap and they would come eat out of it and settle on my arms and head, waiting a turn. The following pics are of one of those “tame” hummers that jumped onto my hand.
In 2013 my cousin brought her mom, my Aunt Mary, to visit. They were amazed by all the hummers. I told my aunt that if she sat down outside with a feeder, the birds would come right up to her. I put the feeder on a stick so she could hold it up and rest her arm. She was thrilled having them come so close to her face.
INDIGO BUNTING – Passerina cyanea
A migratory bird, the indigo bunting will spend the summer breeding season from northern Florida to southern Canada, and then head to it’s winter grounds ranging from southern Florida to South America, usually flying by night and navigating by the stars! A fairly common bird, they prefer open brushy areas bordered by woods, or logged off forests in which brush and trees are starting to grow back.
It’s not very often one of them comes to visit the feeders. Although they like seeds, they are just as happy eating insects and berries.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH – Sitta carolinensis
These birds are extremely common here throughout the year. In the fall they store acorns and hickory nuts in the nests they used in the summer, which are in holes in trees. One of the interesting things about nuthatches is that the breeding pair sometimes smear insects around the entrance to their nest as a deterrent to squirrels!
One summer day I was in the yard and I heard my husband calling me from the back yard. As I came around the corner of the house he said, “I’ve got a nuthatch on me!” He said it had flown into a window and then flew into him and hung on, as it was a bit dazed. I quickly went for the camera. It’s obvious that he hit the right side of his head, as that eye isn’t opening as much as the other one. After spending almost five minutes on my husband, it recovered sufficiently to fly away!
BALTIMORE ORIOLE – Icterus galbula
ORCHARD ORIOLE – Icterus spurius
The orioles show up here on May 4, 5, or 6 every year! I anticipate their return and always have the jelly feeders filled and a few oranges set out. Oddly, though, I’ve never seen orioles here pay any attention to the oranges. I see them in photos online digging away at oranges, but they seem to ignore them here. Maybe they prefer my home-made blackberry jelly! After the mating season the orioles become rather solitary, and become fairly scarce at the jelly feeders. By the beginning of the second week of June, they stop coming, so we only get to enjoy them for a month.
EASTERN PHOEBE – Sayornis phoebe
Phoebes are very early arrivals in the spring and often start building their nests before April is over. They are notorious for finding man-made structures to support their nests, which are made of mud, moss, and grass, and the nests are reused year after year. We have a nest under our upper deck which has been used more years than I can remember. One year it finally degraded from rain seeping down onto it from between the overhead deck boards, and it fell to the ground.
We put up a piece of 2″ x 6″ between two deck joists, where the nest had been located, to provide a solid bottom support and the nest was rebuilt in no time at all. I also began laying a piece of plastic on the deck overhead, above the nest, to keep rain off it. The following picks are from the babies in 2015, after the nest was rebuilt.
The following two videos are of the mother phoebe to the above babies. She’d caught a cabbage butterfly and took her time eating it. The first video shows her sort of “folding” it up between her upper and lower beak, and the second video, which is very short, shows her finally eating it.
PINE SISKINS – Spinus pinus
These little birds are year-round inhabitants here. They are one of the reasons that I always spend more money to buy hulled sunflower seeds. They are small birds and can’t open the hulls of the seeds on their own. They are also very fond of salt and can sometimes be seen eating salt off the roadsides in the winter. Because of this, I always keep a small container of loose salt in one of the platform feeders.
PURPLE FINCH – Haemorhous purpureus
This bird is not purple at all, but is a raspberry color. Roger Tory Peterson, the famous ornithologist, described them as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” In the northeast part of the country they are becoming more uncommon at feeders because the house sparrow and the house finch are aggressively pushing them deeper into the woods. Here in Wisconsin, we rarely see either of those birds at our feeders, but the purple finch is fairly common in summer and winter. Their preferred food is hulled sunflower seeds.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD – Agelaius phoeniceus
The red-winged black bird is sexually dimorphic. This means that the male’s coloring is completely different from the females. This is fairly common among many birds. Seeing them at the feeders is very rare, as they prefer marshy areas, wetlands, and open, grassy areas, where they are very abundant on our property.
SCARLET TANAGER – Piranga olivacea
Tanagers are common here in the summer, but not at the bird feeders. They are insect eaters, consuming bees, wasps, hornets, ants, and sawflies; moths and butterflies; beetles; flies; cicadas, leafhoppers, spittlebugs, treehoppers, plant lice, and scale insects; termites; grasshoppers and locusts; dragonflies; and dobsonflies! They will also eat many types of berries when the insect population is low. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, serviceberries, mulberries and juneberries are among their favorites.
DOWNY WOODPECKER – Dryobates pubescens
HAIRY WOODPECKER – Picoides villosus
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER – Melanerpes carolinus
The downy woodpeckers, very common all year round, are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers. They will eat insects whenever available, but are just as happy eating suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. There is another woodpecker that looks very similar to the downy woodpecker, and that is the hairy woodpecker. The hairy woodpecker is larger, and they can also be told apart by their beaks. The downy woodpecker’s bill is shorter than its head but the hairy woodpecker’s bill is the same length as its head. While the birds’ markings are almost identical, I have read that biologists and taxonomists might move the hairy woodpecker to a different genera, as the birds really are not that similar in all other respects. We have hairy woodpeckers here frequently, but I don’t have a photo of one, at this time, to post.
MOURNING DOVE – Zenaida macroura
While mourning doves are plentiful in Wisconsin, some of them migrate south in the winter while others of the same species decide to remain and tough it out. These birds like plains, grasslands, and open woods, and hate wet, swampy areas. They will come to the feeders to grab a few peanuts, but are more likely to be found in the fountain taking a drink or a bath.
TRUMPETER SWAN – Cygnus buccinator
CANADA GOOSE – Branta canadensis
These are correctly called “Canada” and not “Canadian” geese. They have become terrible problems in many urban areas, and especially airports, where they can cause great damage by flying into engines or windshields. They make a mess in a lot of urban parks. Just 50 Canada geese can produce two-and-a-half tons of excrement in a year! They are not much of a problem (yet) where we live. We don’t see the tremendous flocks of them, but instead they are usually in twos or threes. I saw the one below at our pond. There was another one with him.
I had to throw these pics in here! Every spring we get about 25 to 40 little chicks and raise them for 6 or 7 weeks. They go into a 10′ x 12′ stall in our barn. When they are ready for butchering we load them into crates (alive) and drive them to our Amish friends about 15 miles away. We drop them off at 7 AM and go about 7 miles farther down the road to have breakfast, and by the time we get back they are usually butchered and plucked and ready to be put into our ice-filled coolers. As soon as we get home we wash them really well and then cut them in half. Since the birds are around 6 pounds or more, they are too big to fit into bags without being halved. We use a vacuum-sealer, which keeps them extremely well. The chicken manure in the stall gets spread on the veggie garden and blueberry bed.
The Amish are quite inventive. They can’t use electricity but they use gas-powered motors to run their machines and contraptions. The video below is the chicken plucker in action. The rapidity with which the chicken is plucked is amazing! There are rubber “knobs” on the cylinder, and they spin at an amazing speed, removing all the feathers!
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