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 is the assistant editor of 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 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