Oct 19, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2016

City Yard, Country Yard

Even in a rural setting, it might take birds a few weeks to discover a new food source when feeders are offered for the first time.

For the past 15 years, I lived in a small neighborhood close to downtown Bloomington, Indiana, with lots of traffic—not exactly a prime location for songbirds. My kitchen window faced a busy street, so I kept feeders in the backyard. My only window to that area was in the back door, where I would stand in the mornings, coffee cup in hand, and watch the birds. I begrudgingly fed many a starling and house sparrow. But I was also host to cardinals, goldfinches, and blue jays. One summer rose-breasted grosbeaks made an appearance.

By far the most exciting visitors were the flocks of cedar waxwings that visited the neighborhood one spring. They ate crabapples from the ground under the trees down the street, and blossoms from the neighbor's apple tree. What a beautiful sight they were, filling the apple tree with their beautiful yellow tail tips, and sporting their little black "sunglasses."

Cedar waxwings are as beautiful as apple blossoms. Photo by Andi Haynes Avery

This spring, my husband and I began looking for a house in the country. While we were house hunting, my No. 1 "must have" in a potential new home was a spot for my kitchen table at a window, where I could drink my morning coffee and watch the birds. We found the perfect home—surrounded by farmland and just a stone’s throw from the Bean Blossom Bottoms Nature Preserve—with not one but two windows in the dining area for my table and coffee! The potential for backyard bird watching would be out of this world!

During the process of buying the house, I plotted in my mind where I would place my bird feeders, and the best spot for the bird bath. I fantasized about the new feeders I would simply have to have. I couldn't wait for my first cup of morning coffee at the window in my new kitchen.

Finally, we moved in and the feeders went up first thing. I was ready for feathered visitors... and none came. First day, second day, I waited. None came! I was so disappointed, thinking maybe these country birds would not be interested in my meager offerings. Maybe there was too much natural food in the topnotch habitats nearby.

I emailed Bird Watcher's Digest and asked for help. The advice I received: "Be patient; the birds aren't used to feeders in that location. They have to find you. Be patient." Bingo! The very next day a chipping sparrow visited the ground under the feeder. And then a cardinal, and a flock of American goldfinches. Suddenly the yard was full of birds! Eastern towhees, Carolina wrens, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers all began making regular appearances.

A blue jay has discovered a new food source, right outside Andi Haynes Avery's kitchen window. Photo by Andi Haynes Avery

We've been privileged to host several juveniles as well, including a newly fledged Carolina wren that managed to land on the deck railing before flitting into the nearby viburnum, and a young downy woodpecker attempting to navigate the mealworm cake. Today I have two new additions to my yard list: indigo bunting and pileated woodpecker! The indigo bunting is under the feeder picking up seed as I write this, and the pileated made a brief pass through the yard this morning. He seemed to be eyeing the suet feeder! He didn't stop for long, but he'll be back. I'll be sure to keep the feeders stocked!

Downy woodpeckers have become regular visitors to the mealworm cake. Photo by Andi Haynes Avery

About Andi Haynes Avery

Andi Haynes Avery is a pet sitter with a special fondness for Boston terriers. She lives near Bloomington, Indiana.

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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