Nov 21, 2014 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2014

Watching Backyard Birds Across the Country

Lesser and American goldfinches feed in flocks in the Southwest.
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Although I currently live on the coast of Maine, I have been watching birds in several yards as my husband and I have relocated around the country. Feeding and watching birds give me a sense of stability and pleasure as we move from state to state. Most recently I have watched and photographed birds in Tucson, Arizona; Andover, Massachusetts; and now on the coast of Maine!

In Tucson, our winter green is the bark of a palo verde tree contrasted with the bright red cap of a Gila woodpecker.

I have never lived this close to the ocean before, so having a yard that has house finches and downy woodpeckers as well as ospreys and ibises has been quite a delight! My current yard sits on a point of land called Mere Point, in Brunswick. Our house sits on a one-acre lot ringed by deciduous and evergreen trees, with open lawn and various weeds, bushes and vines on the perimeter. The many small birds that come to my yard like to seek shelter in the thickets and vines and there are plenty of fruiting shrubs to provide food year round. Though we live near the ocean, I still keep a bird bath filled, since the birds still need fresh water to drink. On both sides of my yard the land slopes down to the ocean. In winter I can see Maquoit Bay from my living room window, and sometimes I can even spot a few sea ducks if they are close enough to the shore.

A red-tailed hawk hung out above my bird feeders throughout the winter in Andover, Massachusetts!

Of course, my yards in Tucson were quite different from the East Coast. I say, "yards" because we have lived there twice! In one yard, I had cacti and cactus wrens! A few hummingbirds stayed through the winter, and one of my favorite backyard birds was the pyrrhuloxia, colloquially called the Mexican cardinal. Another backyard favorite there is the Gila woodpecker. It looks similar to the red-bellied woodpecker of the East, and is quite a character. They love to cling onto hummingbird feeders and drink the nectar, or search for insects in palo verde trees.

A downy woodpecker intently feeding on some stalks of mullein in my yard.

Each time we move to a new house, the first things I do are to unpack my bird feeders and set them out. Seeing birds at my feeders makes me feel like I am home again!

It was always fun to look out my window and see a pyrrhuloxia on the fence when living in Tucson.

About Kathie Adams Brown

Enjoy more of Kathie's photos and words at kathiesbirds.blogspot.ca.

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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