Winter can be rough for birds. Days are cold, nights are long and colder, and food may be hard to find. Songbirds, which usually feed on insects during spring and summer, switch to seeds when the autumn comes and the resources become scarce. That makes it way easier for us, well fed humans, to give them a hand during this bad period.
At home, we have fed birds for years, enjoying this incredible festival of claws and feathers while having breakfast or lunch, well hidden in our warm house. From my experience, pure sunflower seeds is the most appreciated food, along with peanuts and all kinds of vegetal fat preparation. If I remember well, robins like oat, and blackbirds like apples. The only time we gave them some kind of seed mix, the birds ate the sunflower and left the rest aside.
I was always told to feed birds only during winter (mid-November to mid-March in France), and that’s also what the LPO (the French bird protection association) advocates. On the other hand, the British RSPB and the American Cornell Lab of Ornithology say you can feed them all year long. Check the links for many tips and tricks about feeding birds.
I haven’t lived at home for three and a half year, but my parents have never stopped feeding birds. I was very glad to see these hords of tits, goldfinches and nuthatches roam around, either sitting at the feeder or picking a seed and them flying away to eat it, hidden in the bushes.
Twice I sat two or three meters from the main feeder, next to the hedge, to shoot the birds. I regret I couldn’t spend more time at home, because I feel like they would have grown accustomed to my presence, had I been able to stay there longer. I also regret that these two shooting sessions happened on two cloudy days, but well…
The Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) were the boldest birds, always the first one and most numerous to come.
Almost as bold, Coal tits (Periparus ater) came second. This had never been a common bird at our feeders, but during these few days at home, I consistently spotted (at least) two individuals. They often chased each other in the bushes; one flew 10 centimeters from my right ear while I was seated there!
These are dull, dark birds, but if you can see the white spot at the back of their head, you’ll make no mistake.
While looking at my last pictures, taken in a very dark day, I figured out that I liked Coal tits in black & white. What do you think?
Just as dull, but lighter and way more discreet, Marsh tits (Poecile palustris) were the fastest to pick a seed, and the ones going the farthest to devour it.
Finally, I didn’t expect Great tits (Parus major) to be shy, given that they are the biggest bird of this lot, but they were! They picked some food there and then, but I could feel they were disturbed by my presence (not that the others weren’t, simply… more disturbed).
On the other hand, the nuthatches and the goldfinches didn’t dare come. I saw them fly around, suspicious, and sometimes land on top of the hedge, but they never stayed very long. Next year maybe!