In the snow belt, harsh winter weather and snow cover trigger aggressive feeding by resident wildlife. Bird counts and squirrel activity at artificial feeding stations reach an annual peak, a phenomenon that is most apparent in the midst of a snow storm. At various times throughout the day, chaos reigns as dozens of birds and mammals converge at feeders, providing wonderful opportunities for “wildlife watching” …and photography.
Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker feeding on a block of suet and grain.
Red-breasted Nuthatch at rest near feeders on a frigid winter morning
Blue Jay evaluating its feeding options
A pleasantly plump Gray Squirrel eating …. because it can!
White-breasted Nuthatch, an upside-down favorite
Red Squirrel digging for grain under a layer of fresh snow
Squirrels are notorious for their creative gymnastics around elevated “bird” feeders
Perhaps our most popular winter resident, cardinal sightings are down this year, and we don’t know why
Woodpeckers (Hairy and Red-bellied) squabbling over access to a suet block.
The Tufted Titmouse is expanding its range northward, influenced by artificial feeding and global warming
Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.
You certainly see an interesting variety of birds at your feeder during such bitterly cold weather.
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I should think that without such feeders to help sustain them, many wild creatures may not otherwise survive the harsh winters. Beautiful creatures beautifully photographed.
Thanks! Winter feeding is a billion dollar industry that underpins recreational wildlife watching in winter, but it is not without controversy. It sustains higher than normal populations and has been linked to changes in the winter range maps of some songbirds and over-browsing of adjacent habitats by deer. Most research has not shown significant ill effects for birds. On the other hand, feeding deer in winter is now illegal due to the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease spreading among deer in crowded conditions. As a footnote, most of these animals prefer to forage on natural foods, when available, and quickly disperse when the ground is free of snow.
Thanks Nick for the interesting and informative response. Here too in South Africa there are different views on the positives and negatives of regularly feeding birds. I would like to do a post on bird feeding but keep deferring as there is no simple or single stance on the complexity of issues. Building dependencies, altering migration, inappropriate/unhealthy food, potentially spreading infectious diseases, and providing food that favours some species over others, are a few of the issues, which are similar to the ones you mention. Added to that, some people put out food for the species they find desirable and get infuriated when the “wrong” species arrive to feed, paradoxically conferring on the “undesirables” (and sometimes persecuted species) greater intelligence and insight than they themselves seem to display in the process! Planting a variety of mostly native plants that provide shelter and enable birds and other creatures to forage more naturally seems a good starting point, but obviously special circumstances may require special responses.
Thank you for allowing us a glimpse of your lovely avian visitors. I hope the Cardinals will return.
Such great variety of wildlife you have there. So far our winter has been relatively dry and mild. Doesn’t bode well for the coming summer (fire season). Except for the hummingbirds, we don’t get many customers at the feeders, but they do seem to love the creek, using it as a flyway quite often.
Happy Holidays to you and yours (that includes your wonderful freeloaders at the feeder!)
Nice pictures of birds, I really like the Cardinal, and the Woodpeckers. There is not much snow here yet and the ground is still mostly exposed.