focusing on birds (and win a sibley guide)

THINK BIRDS! I’m reminded of that by the imminent start of the annual Project FeederWatch on Saturday (November 10), and also by a certain pair of sparrows nibbling at the fallen seeds in the cracks between my patio stones lately. I’m not so good with sparrows—like many of the gray and yellowish warblers, they often look alike to me, unless I really concentrate—but when I saw them again today I told myself: This will be the year I get the local sparrows straight. “The Sibley Guide to Birds” helped me ID my visitors, and got me thinking: maybe you’d like a copy of the book, too (or another Sibley guide if you have this one)? The latest giveaway.

My visitors are white throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis, distinctive for their (surprise!) white throats and clean, crisp markings around the face. All I had to do was really look instead of saying to myself just “sparrow” and failing to take the time—in this case through a pair of binoculars–and then do a little reading in the Sibley book and online as well, because part of what had confused me was how some among them were differently marked than others, sort of same-but-different.

Apparently it’s just the normal variation in the species, which has two distinct “morphs.” Or so says the website of David Sibley, whose “The Sibley Guide to Birds” you can win by following the details in the box at the bottom of this story.

Among other sparrow-ID tips, this page on keeping the chipping sparrow and American tree sparrow straight might also help, or search All About Birds (from Cornell) for all the sparrow portraits.

learning about birds: some resources

BUT BEFORE YOU ENTER the giveaway, some other ways to connect and learn about all birds, and especially those most familiar ones, those who stay behind year-round (or arrive in time from somewhere less favorable) to settle in and spend the winter with us:

how to win the sibley guide

TO ENTER TO WIN a copy of “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley (or your choice of a Sibley guide if you already have this one), all you have to do is this:

Comment below by telling us whether you feed birds in winter, year round, or not at all, and what species is your favorite to watch (or any other highlight you wish to share about birds in your garden).

I feed year-round—more feeders in winter, and just one small one in spring through early fall (yes, risking a visit by bear, I know).  I feed sunflower seed and in the cold months big blocks of beef suet from the butcher shop. I provide unfrozen water year-round (those are waxwings at my frog pond in snow in the above photo)—and most of all, the garden, which is loaded with bird-friendly plants year-round, and in which I use no chemicals of any kind. As far as favorites? I am crazy about woodpeckers.

What about you? (Feeling shy, and don’t want to say? You can simply say, “Count me in,” and I will—but if you have something to share, all the better.)

I’ll choose one winner at random after entries close at midnight Wednesday, November 14. Good luck to all!

Categoriesbird sh-t Nature
  1. Stacey says:

    I willingly feed the birds year round with the feeders near my house. And I unwilling feed the predator birds when they pick off a chicken heading from the coop to my garden. My favourites to watch are the predator birds. Heading to town one morning, every fence post in the mile had a hawk on it. It was a magnificent migration!

  2. diane lackey says:

    I put out a large feeder with song bird food, a finch feeder, and a platform feeder with mixed seed, nuts and fruit, and a suet feeder. Of course in the summer we have a hummingbird feeder. They are our favorites. We see the usual suspects – cardinals, titmice, chicadees, red breasted nuthatches and nuthatches, wrens, downy woodpeckers and sometimes a red bellied woodpecker, blue jays, blue birds, mourning doves, goldfinches,

  3. Jane says:

    We have lots of native desert plants we let go to seed, and keep water out all year long. We don’t put out feed because it attracts bushy-tailed rodents, ants, and other undesirables. We have enough doves (mourning and ring neck), to attract large and small hawks too. Oh and of course Quail and Roadrunners.

  4. Nancy says:

    We feed red birds, blue jays, morning doves and whatever else wants to come to our bird feeder. In winter, the bird population swells in south Florida. Humming birds, finches and all sorts of others I can’t begin to identify, show up during our winter months. I guess they are on their way further south. My neighbor feeds the local gaggle of peacocks and peahens that call our neighborhhood their home but I don’t particularly like them. The plumage of the peacocks is exotic but they poop all over the place and they honk way too early in the mornings for my taste. The red birds are my favorite and I am always excited to see the humming birds return.

  5. Joan Hannes says:

    Yes, we feed the birds. I can’t wait til Thanksgiving weekend when we traditionally set up the feeders. My favorites are the cardinals (especially at sunset) and woodpeckers. We use black oil sunflower seeds since that is what most birds in our area enjoy. We have three feeders on our deck with one dedicated to thistle for finches. I enjoy the sunflowers and assorted flowers that come up randomly in the gardens. The seeds spill out all over which the squirrels love and the shells fall down and kill the pachysandra but somehow, it all works out. And I am happy.

  6. Tilly says:

    I feed the birds all year with the exception of September, because it seems the
    summer birds leave and the winter ones come in around October…I love all the birds and am thrilled to see each one; but everytime I see a hawk flying in the sky it is like seeing it for the first time…awesome…the hawk is my favorite. Thanks for all you do, Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Linda says:

    I feed birds year round. There is a year round water bath, heated in the winter. Love watching all of the birds, but my husband and I had a particular affinity to a very ugly but friendly bird who showed up this year. Do not know what he is!

  8. Karen Schulz says:

    We feed the birds year round. We live in a wooded area in WI and have a great variety of birds. I plant shrubs and perennials that attract birds and butterflies, but especially hummingbirds. It is so great to see the hummingbirds come, usually late April. This year the last one I spotted was Oct. 10th. We also have a pond that helps to attract the birds. My favorites besides the hummers are cardinals, Downy and Red-bellied woodpeckers and the acrobatic nuthatches.

  9. Elizabeth F says:

    I feed year round. I have a large patio out side my kitchen bay window with multiple feeding stations, birdhouse along the back of the property (1/2 acre), lots of “berry trees” for winter feeding, birdbath with heater for winter, and I keep binoculars on my window ledge. My favorite to watch are the hummingbirds that feed with in a foot of me while I watch…it is funny how territorial they are. They spend so much time chasing each other away even though the feeder serves 4. We have lots of flowers that they like also ringing the patio. Orioles are fun too as they are so colorful. I have oranges for them but sometimes they go after the hbird feeder and they look so goofy hanging upside down trying to get the nectar.

  10. Ellen says:

    I used to feed the birds at my last house. It was the perfect setup according to my avid birder friend. Great window over the kitchen sink overlooking the edge of the woods with lots of mountain laurel bushes. Th lots of different birds. I really miss it. (Too many bears in town.) I am tempted to feed the birds this winter, while the bears hibernate. My new favorite are the bluebird couple that showed up after hurricane Sandy. It was the first time I have ever spotted them inland in CT.,

  11. margaret says:

    ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED, but we love to talk birds, so your ongoing comments are always welcome.

    And the winner is: Emma (whose loves nuthatches). She will be notified by email.

    Thank you all for your wonderful bird stories.

  12. Jesse M says:

    I fed the birds all year at our old house, we just recently moved into a rental in a new place and I haven’t gotten into the bird feeding here yet!

  13. Melissa says:

    My garden is a balcony garden that backs onto a woodland and pond, so there are a variety of birds not too far away.From mid-April to whenever I notice I’ve lost them, I keep a hummingbird feeder filled. Once the cool nights take hold I put out a suet feeder filled with seeds and suet…this morning there was a mixed flock…downy woodpeckers, chickadees, a red-breasted nuthatch and 3 other species I couldn’t identify. I’d love to know what they are and appreciate the opportunity for the book.

  14. Lindley rawlins says:

    I feed year around including some squirrels (not happily). My favorites are hummingbirds. I want to hang multiple feeders this summer to see if I get more although I realize the two might not be correlated.

  15. Marianne says:

    I feed the birds year round. One treat was a flock of cedar wax wings feeding in my neighbor’s crab apple tree in the early fall. A one time occurrence and I haven’t seen them since.

  16. Anne says:

    I used to feed the birds year round. As my mobility has decreased……..filling the feeders became nigh impossible. Recently a dear friend has begun refilling the feeders. What a joy! My first treat was a band of rose breasted grosbeaks. My happiness turned to annoyance when the chipmunks took over. I’m now loving it all. The peaceable kingdom reigns.

  17. Cecelia says:

    Hi Margaret, I enjoy your program so much. This is the first time I have found the box to answer questions or make comments. Yes, I do feed birds all year. I am interested in the orange throated hummingbird. I only saw scarlet throated hummers fall of 2020. Have not observed hummingbirds yet in 2021. I will watch for any variation in color. I also look forward to woodpeckers. Also the goldfinch with their ever changing color. Or perhaps another group of relatives have arrived from up north to brighten their color.

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