Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, January 6, 2017

How the Birds Prepare for Snowmageddon

The snow is coming, the snow is coming! Meteorologists are predicting that we will be getting somewhere between 3 to 5 inches of snow over the weekend. This of course means that everyone in town compulsively races out and stocks up on the essentials, making the grocery stores a complete madhouse. The hardware stores are equally busy as panic sets in and people rush out to buy generators, portable heaters and batteries. It is pure hysteria. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for being prepared, but honestly, in Georgia we are a hot mess when a winter storm warning is issued.

And while we are busy preparing for our weekend lock down, so are the birds. Where we have apps on our phones that give us weather updates, birds depend on their ears. The pressure sensitive organs in the birds' ears sense changes in barometric pressure. This tells birds that it is time to eat up, hence we see a flurry of activity at feeders when a snow storm is looming. Just like at our grocery stores.

After my morning walk with the dogs, I sat on one of our garden benches and watched the birds. My first observation was that most of the song birds were visiting our native plants, devouring seeds and fruit, and not at the feeders that I stocked last night. It fills my heart with joy, seeing the native plants, I have mindfully chosen for our garden, benefiting the wildlife we are working hard to attract.

I saw bluebirds gobbling up the orange berries that adorn the winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold'). I can't remember ever seeing so many bluebirds at one time on our property before. Not captured on camera so you'll have to take my word, I saw 10 bluebirds on one shrub. Rather sensational!

After some time had passed, I was itching to go inside and grab my camera. Of course as soon as I stood up the birds flew off. Bluebirds are shy and seem to sense when the camera is around. I had to take these photos through the window of the potting shed, hence the quality and crispness is not there, nonetheless I am excited to share these with you. Oh, and I did see some fighting going on. One female in particular kept chasing off the males. (Don't mess with a woman on a mission!)

Some bluebirds also visited the suet feeders, pulling out the dried berries. Goldfinches and house finches were plucking at the ironweed seeds, while cardinals were working on the tulip poplar seeds high up in the tree canopy.

If you want to support songbirds in your garden during the winter, consider including these natives that bear prodigious fruit:
* Sumac~the perfect emergency food source for birds.
    Seed heads are persistent throughout the winter.
* Holly~winterberry, inkberry (Ilex glabra), American (Ilex opaca),
    or yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
* Viburnum~possumhaw (V. nudum)
* American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
* Bayberry~Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
* Hackberry (Celtis laevigata)

The Titmice, chickadees and nuthatches mostly flocked to the feeders, grabbing black sunflower seeds and peanuts. I adore watching these little birds shimmy their way up and down tree trunks. The entertainment factor is high on these guys.

Downy and red bellied woodpeckers mostly hung onto the suet feeders consuming high energy nourishment.

As I close out this post, we are hovering above freezing and it is beginning to rain. This shall turn to snow as the afternoon progresses into the night, when we are purportedly to drop into the teens. We are all giddy to awake to a blanket of white snow. The kids to sled, the dogs to frolic and I'll be out there with my camera.

For more bird photos of 2017 snowmageddon, visit the Southern Meadows Facebook page.


  1. Wonderful post. Thank you. We have a lot of cardinals, titmouse, blue jays and several woodpeckers. They always bring so much joy.

    1. Thanks Ilse! Bird watching certainly makes the winter more enjoyable, especially spotting the birds that are only overwintering in our neck of the woods. Birds are extremely entertaining and I learn so much just observing their habits.

  2. Great post. I would like to have more plants that keep berries for the winter. I have Possumhaw but it doesn't set fruit. Wonderful that you have all those bluebirds. In a suburban northern garden, unfrozen water is at least as important as birdfeeders for helping wild birds get through the winter

    1. I suspect that you may have a male possumhaw Jason. You'll need to find a female if you want fruit. Yes, water is essential. A heated birdbath to keep it from freezing or continuous running water definitely brings in the birds. Hope you enjoy some exceptional bird watching in your garden this winter.

  3. Good posting, Karin. Getting birds to the garden is always so rewarding, especially planting the plants they need and enjoy. You got minimal snow as did we at a half inch and now melted. I went to the area near us that got feet of snow today. What a difference.

    1. Sometimes it's fun to have so much snow one has to stay home for a few days. Winter just started here so maybe we will get more. Surprised that you don't have much snow at this time of year.

  4. Did you get your snow? We ended up with a dusting, something of a disappointment! But our temps dropped to the low 20s, and we need cold temps to kill off mosquitos. I have noticed a lot of bird activity, too. I am especially fond of bluebirds. We had a flock come by last week. They were checking out our bluebird houses.

    1. We only got a dusting of snow too. They tend to be overly cautious since the 2014 disaster where kids were stranded at school and commuters spent the night on the interstate that shut down. It is going to be in the 20's here tonight, something I'm not looking forward to. But the feeders are filled and hopefully the birds stay warm. Exciting news about your flock of bluebirds. We had several nest in our garden last year.

  5. Bird behavior is so fun to watch! Sometimes I don't understand it, but then later it makes sense. Like when the birds disappear for a day, and then I see a hawk in a tall branch. I'm glad your snowmageddon wasn't as difficult as expected. A little dusting of snow is so magical, isn't it? :)

    1. I do enjoy watching the birds, especially in winter when they are so focused on food they don't realize I am so close. Sometimes when a hawk is perched in our garden song birds just freeze and it so quiet and yet other times they just go about their business. We were really all wishing for more snow.


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

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