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. Brenda says:

    We feed year round with a variety of feeders and different foods to attract different birds. We feed whole peanuts that attract blue jays, cardinals and woodpeckers. Those are probably my favorites. I enjoy them all. We get a lot of dove. Cedar Waxwings absolutely make me laugh. What a raucous group.

    I am in Dallas. The city conducted a massive aerial spray to “control” West Nile Virus this summer. The only real effect that we noticed was a decline in birds at our feeders. We did not see dead birds, just greatly diminished numbers of birds. I think that we don’t really understand how interconnected our biosphere is. Even though these birds are not typically insect eaters, the spraying seemed to cause them to move on.

  2. Deidre Betancourt says:

    I feed bird’s year round with lots of differnet offerings. I make my own suet blend…plus grow and combine all kinds of goody treats..I have a small Charlie Browne tree I decorate for the birds around Christmas time. When I was a wee girl I thought God sent cardinals just to brighten my day. I am a public speaker and have turned on a lot of folks to watching/feeding birds. You should check out the free resources that the Division of Wildlife has about birds in your state.You site and you give me great joy. I love you! You go girl!

  3. Scot says:

    I have fed birds in winter my entire life. My favorites are nuthatches, but when I get a heavy snow and the spruce fills up with cardinals and looks like a christmas tree, I find it magical.

  4. Nance says:

    I feed all year; black oilers and suet (except on the hottest days). I especially love to see the chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches that come regularly, year ’round.

  5. Sally says:

    We feed year round and enjoy chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, bluejays, cardinals, goldfinches and turkeys. I would love to attract more varieties so we are always tweaking our offerings. We also provide water through the winter with a heated birdbath

  6. Sharon says:

    I feed year-round with black oil sunflowers seed. Also have a no-spray garden with lots of goodies, plus make sure there’s lots of water options. I’ve identified 42 different birds in my yard, so guess I’m doing something right. My favorite birds are the Carolina Wrens, which don’t come to the feeder. I never know where I’m going to find their nests in our garage — tool box, shelving, and one year, inside the housing for the automatic garage door opener! Every time we had to open the door, the nest would be lit up and the chicks would start chirping. They seemed to do OK, though.

  7. Gene Ulmer says:

    We have 5 feeders going year round w/2 watering bowels. I join in on the Febuary back yard bird count that Cornell U. has every year. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/
    We get Lesser Goldfinchs ,House Finches,Black-capped Chickadee ,Dark-eyed Juncos,Northern Flicker,and House Sparrows.

  8. Doris Nostrand says:

    I actually just came in from filling one of the hanging feeders….it attracts nuthatches, chickadees, bluejays, sparrows….the doves and cardinals check out the stuff on the ground. There has been a red headed woodpecker enjoying the dying maple tree. And last week, there was a flock of 10-12 robins in the backyard! I much prefer when the grackles don’t come and eat! They are ‘flying pigs’! The platform feeder gets all of the same birds and the doves do enjoy that…some even challenge the blue jays. I mix in scrunched up dry egg shells which the blue jays enjoy. I’d love the book so I can understand how the blue jays can eat the bigger seeds and shells – whole….!
    I miss the goldfinches that used to come–I had a thistle feeder just for them and they would take advantage of it and one particular flower in the garden. But these birds are rare for me now. I wish I knew why.
    I’m on Long Island, NY and escaped the devestation of Sandy. I like it when people mention their location…Dallas, Ohio.

  9. Carol says:

    We feed the birds all year long. I say birds but I should say squirrels. My husband has an ongoing love/hate relationship with the squirrels. I don’t have a favorite bird to feed but I love to see their various colors and feeding habits as I watch them from my house windows or as I am working and weeding in the yard. A reason to pause in the hectic moments of life!

  10. Peggy Goold says:

    We feed black oil sunflower seeds all year and add suet when it gets cold. We have a bird bath and love watching the birds drink and bathe. I must confess, though, that I don’t keep it full as faithfully as I wish I did.
    My favorites are the nuthatch and the female cardinal but the woodpeckers are wonderful, too, and the titmice, and the juncos…..
    We used to have flocks of evening grosbeaks whose arrival we looked forward to but haven’t seen them in years. Climate change here in the Albany, NY area??

  11. Emma says:

    Hello – Usually feed the birds only in winter. I enjoy watching all the beautiful birds but my personal favourite is the nuthatch!

  12. Kathy says:

    I feed the the birds year round because it is such a delight to watch them. I especially love the chickadees and enjoy all the birds that come to the feeder, cardinals, bluejays, morning doves, sparrows, nuthatches, woodpeckers and the occasional hawk. I also have small watering dish for the birds though the deer, chipmunks and squirrels like to get a drink too. After 13 days of no power due to Hurricane Sandy, watching the birds (and other wildlife in NW New Jersey) became more important for me to do. Many trees were uprooted, beautiful trees, lots of broken branches everywhere, still watching those birds come to the feeder made you laugh, giving you such joy and hope that the next day would be better.

  13. Carol Rosalind says:

    I feed all year. 8 feeders more or less. And importantly 8 water sources. My favorite bird depends on the season. Right now I have Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches. I really NEED a new book!!!!

  14. Christine Pignatelli says:

    I am new to bird feeding. I have started out with 2 feeders with seeds and two suet feeders. So far, I have had chickadees, woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays. I am enjoying watching them at the feeders each day and was happy to learn that my elderly neighbor is enjoying them as well. My original thought is to feed them only over the winter so that they will eat the bugs, etc. in the summer. I always have a clean water source available in the summer and was trying to figure out how to keep it available this winter since there is no outlet available to heat it. Instead of filling the bird bath, I am going to set a large dog dish of water inside the bath and swap it out with a fresh one every morning. This morning we are having our first snow, and I can’t wait to see the male cardinal against the white background – what a blessing!

  15. Jean says:

    We feed the birds all year: sunflower seed November until the red-wing blackbirds arrive in late March, then feed the goldfinches and hummingbirds all summer. Best of all: cardinals and tufted titmouse who sing to us on those cold winter days.

  16. Martha White says:

    I have a special connection with robins from learning
    to read at home near 1945 with my first easy reader book about robin redbreast.

  17. Merita Cruz says:

    I feed birds year round. I prefer to feed them mainly black oil sunflower seeds. I also provide them with water and enjoy setting up a nesting box. My favorite bird species to watch is the Tufted Titmouse. These birds work together as a family to raise a brood and are just adorable to watch the way they come and go from the feeders.

  18. Sara says:

    I feed year round and I love to watch the different birds that visit during different seasons…never ceases to amaze me. My favorite feeder sight was the winter of 2010 when we got dumped on with snow and my feeders were very busy with goldfinches. It brought so much joy to our house to see them out there in the middle of winter and was a wonderful respite between shoveling sessions while we were snowed in. I also love the classic view of the cardinals in the snow. Beautiful winter scene. This fall, I have been noticing a lot more woodpeckers at the suet feeders. Beautiful, beautiful!

  19. Suzette says:

    This is the first year I have ever feed humming birds! Enjoyed it amazingly! My yard has been planted with all their favorite seeds, so I feel it is best to let them naturally forage.

  20. Laura says:

    We feed mostly in the winter! Love to watch the red-tailed hawks. Seems like we see more birds just by staying home than when we go sightseeing!

  21. Sarah Swanner says:

    I used to feed year-round, until the rats (we live in Chicago) started to take a liking to the spent/dropped seeds. We have lots of sparrows (which this post made me want to go and properly identify) and pigeons…ahem…rock doves. Our favorite regulars are goldfinches and cardinals, with the occasional woodpecker, hummingbird, and hawk (!). Even our Bernese Mountain dog is a bird watcher at our house!

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