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. Gail says:

    This time of year my favorite is the Tufted Titmouse and the Red-brested Nuthatch, winter is the Junco and the Cardinal and summer is the Hummingbird. We feed year round using seasonal foods. What great entertainment!

  2. Sandi Skewis says:

    I feed birds year round. My very favorite are the goldfinches, I’m so happy when they show up in the Spring. Also enjoy all the other finches, as well as the blue jays. And of course the hummingbirds.

  3. Carol Wolf says:

    Keep the feeders going year round. Usually get chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, bluejays, cardinals, snowbirds. Squirrels are frequent visitors too – they have a peanut feeder that’s SUPPOSED to be just for them. And the occasional hawk will make a presence as well, too.

  4. Margaret Bergeron says:

    I feed year round using several different types of feeders and food. I love them all, but especially the blue birds, woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

  5. Gloria says:

    We feed only from late November/early December until the neighborhood “watch” announces the bear sightings in the spring. Too many lost feeders and paw prints on windows to chance more bear encounters. We feed seed and suet.
    We try to make up for lack of summer feeding by growing all sorts of bird feeding plants, berry bushes and insect attracting flowers Many bird houses, bird baths and shrub protection to encourage their happy home building propensity, And our six cats stay indoors and watch interactive tv through large windows. Everyone seems content.

  6. Donna Pike says:

    We feed birds year round, my favorites….well, that’s a tough one but right now we have a couple of Anna’s hummingbirds who are just loving the extra thick nectar. They stay the winter in our area and it gets pretty darned cold. We have winter flowering plants that also attract the little sweethearts. Believe it or not I love the crows but that’s a whole other story.

  7. Anna says:

    I fill my feeder throughout the year, but the birds empty it most quickly in the winter! I love watching the nuthatches (they’re so quick!) and cardinals (so beautiful). Thanks for the chance to win the sibley book!

  8. Chrissy says:

    I feed only in the winter due to our high populations of black bears…..they like seeds just as much as our feathered friends. But when the bears go to bed, that is when we bring out the seed and watch the birds. That was not too long ago and I have to say the evening and pine grosbeaks are my favourites right now. But the little nuthatches are not far behind!

  9. Elizabeth Diane says:

    I feed year round and all different foods. I love the chickadees, titmouse and wood peckers the most. Any morning with a cup of coffee in the garden watching the birds is a blessing!

  10. Nancy says:

    I feed a little in the summer-a lot in the winter. My favorite is the red-bellied wood pecker. They love the suet in the winter. In the spring and summer I put out halved oranges and they eat them up! In appreciation (I like to think) in the spring, mom red-belly always brings her babies up to the feeder.

  11. TRACY says:

    I feed year round and have added a very small pond(birdbath sized) that i plan on heating to keep unfrozen water for the first time this year. Hoping that it adds to my winter sightings as they have enjoyed it much, particularly this hot dry summer. We are visited by many different species that I am slowly learning to identify.

  12. Carole Clarin says:

    I used to feed the birds until I was told by an officer from the Environmental Police that the bird feeders attract bears and they always remember where they found the seed. We are not at this home all the time so just putting out food in the winter when the bears are not seen has not been possible. In the warmer months I provide water and bird houses and plants that attract some birds while still feeding the hummingbirds. I’m not happy with this arrangement and miss seeing the birds close by but too many bears have been spotted too close to home.

  13. Joyce says:

    I feed birds year round, to single out a few, I love hummingbirds and Northern Orioles in the Summer, and cardinals and chickadees in the Winter.

  14. Becky says:

    I feed the birds for the pleasure of my 95 year-old mother who can see the feeder from her room. Her favorite bird is the cardinal; mine is the goldfinch.

  15. maria ball says:

    I feed birds, and by default squirrels and chipmunks, all year round. I have a large bird feeder because I actually like feeding morning doves and I need to accommodate their size and a smaller one for smaller birds. Of course cardinals are wonderful to see on wintry days but so are all the sparrows. I find peace in sitting in the yard or watching from my kitchen window at all the birds who come to eat.

  16. Julie says:

    Count me in! We just started putting out our customary black oil seed because a dozen or so Goldfinches sat on the deck railing the other day, looking intently at where the feeders hung last year. Now we have 30-40 of them fussing around at any given time…Nuthatches too, but not many other species just yet.

  17. Anne Walent says:

    My mother feeds, therefore I fill. Mom is house-bound and only feeds in winter, per her young sister’s advice and admonitions.

  18. Kathy Roeters says:

    I feed the birds all year long and it is my favorite, relaxing thing to do…watch them at the feeder, that is! i can’t say I have a favorite but I do love the beautiful red of the cardinals and house finch.

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