With spring already here (allegedly — this remains to be seen in snowy PA), migratory birds will start flocking back to the Northeast for the breeding season. While the appearance of the robin is the first surefire sign that spring is coming, you can be certain that the season has officially arrived when you spot a larger variety of birds out and about. If you live in the northeastern United States, keep an eye out for some of these birds at your backyard feeder in the coming weeks.
Odds are you’ve spotted one of these before — the black-capped chickadee is among the easiest birds to attract to your feeder. These birds are small but bold. They don’t let their size stop them — fearless and feisty around other birds, black-capped chickadees assert their place at the feeder. They also tend to be extremely tolerant of humans and have even been known to take food from human hands. This requires a little patience on your part, but with the right mix of suet, sunflower, and peanuts, you might find one of these little guys at your fingertips.
With its bright yellow look, it’s no wonder the American Goldfinch loves sunflower seeds. Fill your feeder with these, and you’re likely to have a goldfinch there in no time. Better yet, consider planting sunflowers in your backyard. The Goldfinch will harvest straight from the plants in late summer. When it does, you might even get to see some acrobatics — this bird can eat upside-down from a sunflower one moment and right-side-up the next. Fun fact: goldfinches are strict vegetarians — you won’t see one of these guys noshing on insects. I’ll stick to my plant-based diet, thanks.
Ah, the blue jay — so beautiful, but so mean. Think of this species as the Regina George of your backyard. Equally as aggressive as they are intelligent, blue jays will intimidate other birds to keep them from feeders and have even been known to attack other nests. They’re not all bad, though — the blue jay is often the first bird to sound the alarm when a predator is near. If you’re concerned about this bird’s bullying tendencies, consider putting up a smaller tube feeder, which will make it more difficult for the blue jay to perch and give smaller birds room to feed. Ultimately, you either love the blue jay, or you hate it, but either way, you secretly kind of want to be just like it.
The most likely woodpecker species to visit your feeder, downy woodpeckers are small, acrobatic birds that ooze coolness. They prefer drumming to singing, adding a refreshing element to the backyard bird choir. Ahead of their times, these birds are fans of mixed-species flocks, spending their time with chickadees and nuthatches rather than only each other. Always adept at finding the hottest new spot in town, downy woodpeckers have been discovered nesting inside the walls of buildings. If you want these hip trendsetters to visit your backyard, set up a suet feeder or two. Before you know it, these cool kids will be visiting your house. Just try not to fangirl too hard.
These little birds might look like they have a bad case of bedhead, but they’re too exhausted from toughing it out through the winter to care. We can all relate to that, which is why it is such a relief to see the tufted titmouse out and about with other birds again. If you left your feeder up throughout the colder months, this guy is grateful — tufted titmice nab seeds from feeders and store them for the season, resupplying when necessary. Much like the goldfinch, they are lovers of sunflower seeds, so be sure to fill your feeder with these to reward these stalwart birds for making it through winter. It wasn’t easy.
With any luck, this motley crew should be showing up soon to announce spring. Get ready to greet them with the right mix of bird food and feeders, and be sure to have your camera on hand. Much like us, these birds are looking forward to the warmer months. Now if only the weather would get the memo…