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 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