Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Birds

It was a historic day when north Georgia got a rare dose of Christmas day snow. The first time since 1882! The birds were very busy at my feeders storing up the fat they need to keep warm. A good indication that it would be a cold day.

Tufted Titmouse

Cardinal (male) and Finch

Cardinal (female)

It is at this time that I really enjoy the winter landscape. The birds are like blotches of paint on a white canvas. Although hard to see in this picture they really pop against the white snow.


I have a large population of Mourning Dove that are usually busy below the feeders picking up all the remnants but when the ground is covered in snow they fly up to my open feeder on the back deck. When it is cold birds fluff their feathers to trap heat and slow down their metabolism to conserve energy. This dove was doing just that perched on the back deck trying to keep warm.

Mourning Dove roosting on railing 

The Goldfinches no longer carry their bright yellow plumage. They now adorn their winter colors of brownish green with only a hint of yellow.

American Goldfinch

I do love the bluebirds. They are most active in my garden in the winter probably because their natural food supply is limited. Their meal of choice is insects, fruits and berries found in the wild. But since insects become inactive under 40 degrees and berries are covered with snow and ice or have been stripped by other birds they will come to the feeders. I see them at my suet blocks and I put out a feeder filled with peanut hearts just for them.

Eastern Bluebird (female)

To keep them in the garden they need to be enticed to stay with the right housing and food. Their houses have specific dimensions (8" tall x 5" wide x 5" deep with a 1.5" hole 8" from the base). I have one that sort of fits the bill. Not quite the right dimensions but the bluebirds have attempted to nest here; however, they got chased out by another winter guest.


For the past three winters a flying squirrel has nested in this bird house. The first year we unintentionally chased it out thinking we were cleaning out a bird nest. Given that they are nocturnal this was a rare opportunity  for me to photograph it as we surprised her out of her home.

Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

The Downy Woodpecker will also come to the feeder when food sources are hard to find.


It even perched on the shepherd's hook for a time.

Downy woodpecker (male)

The birds of prey were out and about as well. I see red-tailed hawks flying around my garden regularly but they are difficult to photograph because they are usually too far away or in flight to get a good shot. This red-tailed hawk was staked out on a tree near the woodland garden in pursuit of a meal.


Typically birds find most of their food in the wild but during the extreme cold of the winter months with short days and long freezing nights they appreciate the help of backyard feeders. I do my best to accommodate them so that they will hang around and I can enjoy their beautiful colors all through the winter.

14 comments:

  1. I loved your garden visitors. The cardinal is with a finch, it looks like a sparrow, but I can not ever tell one bird from the next, so I may have to relook at all my bird photos and make sure I did not call a finch a sparrow. I never saw a flying squirrel except at the zoo. Very cool.

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  2. @GWGT-certain species of finch and sparrow look an awful lot a like. I'm not an expert and it is difficult to tell from this angle. I thought this one looked like the Purple Finch which winters in the Southeast. It is a little darker than the sparrow and has almost the same streaking, markings and beak size. If anyone knows how to tell the difference please let us know!

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  3. Wow !!! so many beautiful bird. I love the red, his gorgeous.

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  4. I loved seeing all the bird activity in your gardens! You've gotten such great shots of them as well...birds are hard to capture in photos for me. You've inspired me to add some more interesting foods to their diet. The activity has really picked up in our yard the last couple of days as Santa brought winter with him!

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  5. Your pictures are wonderful. It has been years since I have seen a flying squirrel around here. Great shot.

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  6. Beautiful! I so love the goldfinches but have only seen a few of them at my feeders.

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  7. I have all the same birds in my garden in VA but I'm rotten at capturing any pictues of them. But oh, to have a flying squirrel!!! We just have the usual suspects, who love to taunt my dogs, and empty my feeders. Beautiful pictures, as usual!!!

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  8. So many birds! Great photos :-) I finally got my feeders filled so hopefully I'll see some activity soon :-) It's so fun to watch them during the winter when our gardens are dormant. Amazing flying squirrel! I've never seen one. Very cool!!

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  9. What a great gallery of winter birds! They posed for your camera! Wonderful pictures! Flying squirrel is a bonus! We don't have them here in the PNW.

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  10. fantastic photos of your garden visitors

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  11. love the photo of the eastern bluebird..and the cardinal which never fails to impress me...hope you have a wonderful new year!

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  12. Wow - what a great collection of beautiful birds - and captured so well ! I heard about the white Christmas in Atlanta on the news (imagine THAT making the news in Canada !). But the bright side of it is that it provides a great backdrop that allows the colours to show so much better.

    All the best for 2011 !

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  13. Our views are very much the same Karin and we had a white Christmas too! Glad to meet you! Thanks for finding my blog!

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  14. You have a wonderful array of birds. I have missed seeing cardinals and eastern bluebirds since moving west. I don't think I've ever seen a flying squirrel either. What a great picture. I would let him live in the house too!

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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