Now is the perfect time to begin feeding birds as they set up their winter feeding territories.
Brown creepers and red-breasted nuthatches have arrived. So have dark-eyed juncos, aka snowbirds, which are considered harbingers of winter. The juncos are the most numerous of the birds at our feeding station, and they relish cracked corn that we scatter on the ground below the feeders for them and the northern cardinals.
Birds that feast on sunflower and other seeds up in the feeders include black-capped chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. Many birds, including four woodpecker species, come to suet and peanut feeders.
Some more general details about birds:
• They see in color.
• They are warm-blooded with high body temperatures, have skin covered with feathers, and their forelimbs are modified as wings. (Of course, not all fly — penguins and ostriches).
• About 9,700 species of birds live on Earth, 650 species of which are found in North America. Usually 312 species of birds are regularly seen in Minnesota each year. About 36 of those come to feeding stations.
Some rafts of American coots can still be seen on local lakes, and late flocks of American robins and eastern bluebirds continue migrating through. Huge flocks of blackbirds, mostly red-winged blackbirds and common grackles, fly in narrow bands. These assemblies of blackbirds create the largest and most commonly observed groups of land birds in North America. Slowly, as the autumn season progresses, the huge flights drift south. Flocks of the gregarious and sleek-crested birds called cedar waxwings are out devouring crabapples and mountain ash fruit.
This also is a good time to watch and listen for V formations of migrating tundra swans, with their muffled whistle.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.