Feb 17, 2021 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2021

Listen for Early Birds

The northern cardinal leads the pack of early singers. If you live within its range, listen for the cardinal’s cheer cheer cheer and birdy birdy birdy birdy songs, which are associated with pair formation and bonding, and territory establishment.
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Across much of the United States, some birds always seem to rush nesting season; they can be heard singing even as February snow flies.

The northern cardinal leads the pack of early singers, closely followed by the tufted titmouse and chickadees.

If you live within its range, listen for the cardinal’s cheer cheer cheer and birdy birdy birdy birdy songs, which are associated with pair formation and bonding, and territory establishment. Note, too, that both male and female cardinals sing.

Carolina chickadee by B. Wunderlich.

Chickadees, too, start their courtship songs in time for Valentine's Day. You might hear their chickadee-dee-dee vocalizations throughout the year, but their fee-bee or fee-bee fee-bay songs are associated with pair bonding.

Another species that sings early is the mourning dove. Actually, mourning doves have been observed nesting and laying eggs in every month of the year. Julie Zickefoose once reported seeing a female mourning dove gathering straw to line her nest during a January snowstorm in Connecticut!

Mourning dove, photo by pixabay.com.

Mockingbirds, too, start singing in February, and some don’t stop their spring song until well into August!

House finches sing throughout the year, but in February they begin singing more vigorously.

Northern nesters that winter in the Lower 48, and those birds that breed at high elevations but spend the coldest months at lower elevations, such as white-throated, white-crowned, and fox sparrows, can be heard singing in winter, and more so as daylight hours lengthen, and as the visitors head back to their breeding range.

If you need a winter pick-me-up, take a walk in nature, and be sure to listen for cold-weather songsters.





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  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021