Apr 17, 2014 | Featured Web Article

Four Backyard Birds to Watch for This Spring

Here are four of the many interesting species to watch for in birdy backyards across the continent this spring!
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No matter where in North America you reside, chances are that you're enjoying (or are about to enjoy) the warmer temperatures of spring. This also means you're noticing (or are about to notice) changes in the birds in your backyard. Here are a few of the many interesting species to watch for in birdy backyards across the continent this spring.

Chipping Sparrow

From spring through fall, these little birds are found throughout the Canada and much of the United States. They winter in parts of the southernmost United States and throughout Mexico. Suburban neighborhoods offer just the right mix of short grass, shrubbery, and conifers that chipping sparrows need, so we can enjoy their company on our doorsteps and sidewalks. They forage primarily on or near the ground, feasting on weed and grass seeds and some smaller fruits. At feeders, they prefer black-oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn, but will also take mixed seeds, suet, rolled oats, and mealworms. They'll come to hopper-style feeders or feed directly on the ground.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed grosbeaks are familiar summer birds of western deciduous woodlands and a welcome visitor to any backyard, where they may stay and nest if there is adequate food and shelter available. The black-headed grosbeak is closely related to the rose-breasted grosbeak of the East, and the two species sometimes interbreed where their ranges overlap in the central United States. Black-headed grosbeaks keep a varied diet of insects, berries, and seeds, which gives backyard birders several options for attracting them. First, try offering black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, or even fruit pieces in a hopper-style feeder. (These birds sometimes drink sugar water from hummingbird or oriole feeders, as well.) Second, you can try attracting grosbeaks by planting fruit-bearing vines, shrubs, and trees. Some good options include honeysuckle, mistletoe, and juniper.

Brown Thrasher

The brown thrasher has a lush resounding voice, and sings a seemingly endless strain of melodies from one end of a spring day to the other, and it may stay hidden in a deep shrub all the while. The brown thrasher is common throughout its range (much of the eastern United States to the Great Plains), but not as well known as it ought to be. This mimic is a cheerful and friendly addition to any backyard. Roughly the size of a mockingbird or blue jay, the brown thrasher will visit feeding stations for seeds and grains that are scattered on the ground. Nuts are popular, as are suet mixtures, cornbread, and raisins. Brown thrashers are not particularly shy of humans, but do require some shrubs or hedges nearby where they can retreat if they feel threatened.

Bullock's and Baltimore Orioles

Most North American backyards are visited by at least one oriole species: typically the Bullock's in the West (pictured), and the Baltimore in the East. These brilliant black-and-orange birds brighten up any backyard with their gorgeous plumage and rich, whistling songs. Chances are you'll hear an oriole before you see it. They tend to prefer tall, mature trees, and are attracted to feeders offering orange and grapefruit halves, grape jelly, or sugar water. Orioles are also easily attracted to a birdbath featuring moving water. Click here for tips on attracting birds to your yard with water »

About Kyle Carlsen

Kyle Carlsen was an assistant editor for Bird Watcher's Digest. When not writing about birds, he divides his time between backpacking, traveling, and composing piano music. He's also a self-described coffee addict.


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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