Mar 20, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2019

The Best Backyard Bird Watching of the Year

Prairie warbler photo by Bill Thompson, III.
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Who doesn't love spring?

Flower buds are pushing up through the soil, birdsong is filling the air, trees are just starting to leaf out, and there's a promise of fair weather ahead—what's not to enjoy?

The "usual suspects" are still at our feeders, since their natural food sources are not yet as conveniently available as the free fare we provide. However, be sure to look beyond your bird banquet for even more joyful signs of spring. Warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, kinglets—birds that don't typically visit feeders—may be making an appearance in your yard, especially during migration.

Many birds that spend the winter in tropical locations migrate long distances at night, then use the daylight hours to refuel. If there are trees, berry-producing vines, or dense shrubbery in your yard, there are probably transient birds foraging there that you might never have seen at your feeders.

The trick to spotting these unexpected visitors is to listen for them. Turn off your cellphone/TV/radio, walk into your yard, and begin listening. Listen for unfamiliar sounds, those that are different from your feeder birds' usual noises—even just chirps and chips. Then try to track down the source of that sound, watching carefully for movement. Take your binoculars with you, but don't hold them up to your eyes until the sound and movement tell you exactly where to look.

Early spring is a great time for this practice, not only because birds are passing through as they head north, but also because the vegetation hasn't fully leafed out, so you'll be able to see deeper into the trees and brambles.

Don't give up! There's skill involved in hearing, spotting, and getting a good look at some of the shyer birds, but the payoff is so rewarding. There could be a hermit thrush or a yellow warbler in your oak tree right now!

Good luck, and best wishes for amazing yard birds this spring.

—The WBB Team



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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018