Birdorable backyard birds on a bird feeder in winter

Can you identify all these birds?

February marks a special occasion for bird lovers across the United States: National Bird-Feeding Month. This observance sprang to life in 1994 through the initiative of John Porter, an Illinois Congressman who recognized the pressing need to support our avian friends during the toughest stretch of the year. With the chill of winter in full swing and natural food sources dwindling, the importance of bird feeders becomes ever more pronounced, serving as essential lifelines for beloved backyard bird species.

Serving appropriate foods is crucial. Black oil sunflower seeds are known to attract a broad spectrum of birds, nyjer seeds are particularly favored by finches, and suet cakes cater to the dietary needs of woodpeckers, nuthatches, and others. By offering a diverse selection, you can enjoy the presence of a wide variety of birds right in your backyard.

But sustenance isn't the only necessity; water plays a vital role too. Birds need water not just for hydration but also for maintaining their plumage through bathing. A heated birdbath can be a lifesaver during those freezing February days, providing a constant source of water when natural supplies are locked under ice.

Creating a safe haven for these birds is equally important. Ensure that feeders are placed well out of reach of predators and provide ample cover for birds to seek refuge at a moment's notice. The safety measures extend to your household pets as well; keeping cats indoors during the winter and all year long can significantly reduce the risks to visiting birds. Additionally, consider applying decals to windows to prevent birds from colliding with the glass.

Engagement with the natural world and bird doesn't have to end with just feeding and watching. Participating in citizen science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count, which takes place February 16 to 19 in 2024, not only enriches your bird-feeding experience but also contributes valuable data to bird conservation efforts. Citizen Science projects like this offer a unique way to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for birds and their conservation.

Birdorable Downy Woodpecker on a peanut feeder

Downy Woodpecker on a peanut feeder

Popular U.S. Backyard Birds and How to Attract Them

  • Northern Cardinals
    These vibrant red birds are a joy to behold. Attract Northern Cardinals with black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn placed in hopper or platform feeders. 
  • Blue Jays
    Known for their intelligence and striking blue plumage, Blue Jays are drawn to peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. A sturdy tray feeder or a hopper feeder is best for them. 
  • American Goldfinches
    These small, bright yellow birds prefer nyjer (thistle) seeds or hulled sunflower seeds. Use a tube feeder with small perches to accommodate goldfinches
  • Black-capped Chickadees
    Friendly and curious, chickadees love sunflower seeds, peanut bits, and suet. Tube feeders or small hopper feeders work well for these tiny birds. 
  • Hummingbirds
    To attract hummingbirds, who migrate as early as February in some southern U.S. areas, use nectar feeders. A homemade sugar water solution (four parts water to one part white sugar, boiled and cooled) will bring these buzzing beauties to your garden. Never use mixes with artificial dye in your hummingbird feeders.
  • Bluebirds
    Bluebirds are attracted to mealworms, suet, and fruit slices. Place these on platform or hanging feeders for best results. Depending on where you live, you might attract Eastern, Mountain, or Western Bluebirds.

By taking part in National Bird-Feeding Month, you can do more than just feed birds; you can help contribute to their survival during the winter months, ensuring the continuity of their populations.

Cute Backyard Bird Gifts

This week's featured t-shirt is the Women's American Apparel T-Shirt shown below featuring nine Birdorable birds that can be found at back yard feeders in the Northeast of the United States. Represented are: Tufted Titmouse; American Goldfinch; White-throated Sparrow; Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Hairy Woodpecker; Eastern Towhee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Baltimore Oriole; and Dark-eyed Junco. Pick from dozens of different t-shirt styles for men, women and children and make it your own by moving the design around, changing the background color or adding your own text or images. This makes a fun gift idea for anyone that loves birds and especially for people who love to feed their feathered visitors!

Graphic Tee with 9 Northeast USA Backyard Birds by Birdorable

More t-shirt styles with this design

Contributing to citizen Science projects helps our collective knowledge, but it also helps us as individuals learn. We'd like to highlight some citizen science projects in which families can participate. If you know of a project that we could highlight on our blog, please YardMap is a citizen science mapping project that can help you learn more about the birds that visit your yard, and how to attract more. Participating in the project also helps scientists as they study how birds adapt to disturbed habitats.

Birdorable YardBird

YardMap is a project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants identify their yard and then map it out, indicating types of habitat found. Using colors and shapes, items like lawn, grass, trees, and more can be marked. Bird baths, brush piles, and other objects can also be placed, to give a very clear picture of the type of habitat found in the yard. Finally, participant bird sightings are linked in via eBird. The YardMap site is full of information on how different suburban habitats impact bird populations, and how participants can help birds by making changes or additions to their yards. YardMap is social, too, with a community forum for sharing pictures and stories.

YardMap

This is a fun and educational year-round family-friendly project that has the added benefit of helping scientists better understand bird habits in your neighborhood! Visit the YardMap site to learn more and get started!

I Love My Garden / Backyard Birds

Blog Bird Feeder

Contributing to citizen Science projects helps our collective knowledge, but it also helps us as individuals learn. We'd like to highlight some citizen science projects in which families can participate. If you know of a project that we could highlight on our blog, please let us know!

The 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will take place from Friday, Feburary 15th through Monday, February 18th. Participation is free and anyone in the world can contribute! Here is a what is involved, taken from the official GBBC website:

"The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual 4-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.

Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period. They enter these numbers on the GBBC website."

The annual count helps scientists understand what is happening with bird populations during a specific period of time each winter. This "snapshot" of current bird activity is monitored over time to look for population trends. Results from previous counts can be seen by participants and scientists alike. This is a great citizen science project for birdwatchers of all ages! Data entry is easily accomplished via the GBBC site; younger birdwatchers may need help with keeping and entering count information.

Learn more about this project and how you can participate by visiting the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Have you participated in the GBBC before? Will you participate this year?

This week's featured t-shirt is this design with the text One Bird, Two Birds, Red Bird, Blue Bird. Birdorable versions of the Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Cardinal and Blue Jay perch on this cute elementary design. Great for back to school and students of all ages!

Birdorable One Bird, Two Birds, Red Bird, Blue Bird

Since we moved to our new home (in northern Illinois) we've been trying to attract birds to our backyard. The first few weeks we didn't see a single bird at our feeders. The first bird to visit was an American Goldfinch at the end of February. In the last 3 months we've seen 19 different species in our backyard. We now have eight feeders and a bird bath and it's busy every day. It's so much fun to sit outside and watch the birds. My favorite backyard birds are the Baltimore Orioles. We have some oranges out for them on our fence.

Baltimore Oriole (male)
Male Baltimore Oriole

Here are some pictures of our backyard birds. Most of these pictures were made with our Wingscapes Birdcam:

House Finch
House Finches
Common Grackle
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole (female)
Black-capped Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
Northern Flickr
Northern Flicker

What is your favorite backyard bird?

Gardening supplies with Birdorable yard birds from North America

Happy Earth Day to everyone on the planet! Sadly, birds are in trouble. You see pigeons, geese and sparrows everywhere, but those birds have adapted to urban habitats. A great many birds, such as meadowlarks and orioles, require natural habitats. They are in danger from habitat destruction and the ever expanding range of humans. Studies by the National Audubon Society show that over 25 percent of American bird species are in serious decline. Earth Day is a great day to contemplate how you can help save our birds. Here are 10 easy things that you can do around the house to conserve our avian friends:

  1. Do you have a lawn? Shrink your lawn and go organic. Lawn chemicals kill about 7 million birds each year. Manage your lawn organically and reduce it by 25 percent in favor of plants to provide seeds and a nesting place for birds.
  2. Keep your cats inside. Estimates for the numbers of birds killed per year by household cats and stray cats in the U.S. range into the hundreds of millions. Cats kill many more birds than wind turbines.
  3. Wake up to bird-friendly coffee. Coffee grown in the shade of tree canopies, rather than on land cleared of other vegation, provides a habitat for many migratory birds such as warblers, hummingbirds and tanagers.
  4. Fill your yard with native plants to aid birds that are adapted to eating the seeds and berries of native plants.
  5. Recycle plastic six-pack rings, plastic bags and aluminum cans. Many birds die on landfills after they get stuck in plastic rings, cut themselves on metal cans or get trapped in plastic bags. By recycling plastic you prevent them from ending up on the landfill and killing innocent birds.
  6. Eat less meat. The production of beef, pork and poultry meat have a huge impact on the environment due to habitat destruction to provide more farmland for grazing cattle. It requires far more acres to produce the same number of calories of meat than of vegetables and grains. In addition, farms that are overcrowded with animals become hotbeds for diseases like bird flu.
  7. Leave a good part of your yard natural with bushes and ground cover. The more diverse your yard, the greater variety of birds and small mammals you will attract. Also, keep dead trees in your yard. Hundreds of species of birds and animals live in dead trees and feed on the insects there. Top off, rather than chop down, dead trees.
  8. Many birds die each year from crashing into windows. More birds are killed each year from striking windows than from any other direct cause of death, and the problem is growing as window sizes increase and houses get larger. Use window decals / stickers or cover your windows with blinds, awnings or shutters to minimize the reflection of the sky.
  9. Have a bird bath year-round. Birds require bathing to keep their feathers clean and flexible and to maintain healthy plumage. Bird baths also provide a safe place for wild birds to bathe and it is a reliable source of clean drinking water.
  10. Support your local bird conservation program and forest preserves. Also, educate yourself and your friends and family about birds and the importance of conservation. Go outside and take your family birding.

For more ways on helping birds check out the book 101 Ways to Help Birds (available on Amazon) by Laura Erickson. Happy Earth Day.

Birdorable Earth Day Gifts

We recently moved into a new home in a village north of Chicago (before this we lived in the Netherlands). One of the first things we did after moving in was set up some bird feeders in our backyard. The area we live in is quite urban and in the first two weeks we didn't see many birds at all, except for some crows and starlings flying by. That changed a week ago when a beautiful male Northern Cardinal was hanging out in the trees behind our fence. He was looking at the feeders, but they were actually not suitable (too small) for a cardinal. We had bought some bigger feeders a couple of days earlier but the ground was too hard to put them in. Shortly after that I saw some Dark-eyed Juncos (slate-colored) flying around, but again they weren't landing on the feeders. Then a little bit later we suddenly saw an American Goldfinch chowing down on seeds. Yah, that was our very first backyard bird here in our new home. :)

American Goldfinch

In the past week a lot of juncos have been coming and going. They are so cute, hopping around the ground looking for seeds. Unlike many other birds, the juncos prefer to eat on the ground. They don't care about all the fancy feeder equipment we bought and prefer to hop around below them. At the beginning they were very hesitant to go anywhere near our feeders and a few always kept watch from the trees as one was eating, but now the juncos are getting more comfortable and they are staying around for a while.

Black-capped Chickadee

Today we had a new visitor to our yard, a Black-capped Chickadee. Two, actually! I know it's no big deal to get these juncos, goldfinches and chickadees in your backyard, but we're quite excited to finally have some after not seeing any for a couple of weeks. We're hoping that these guys will tell all their friends and we'll soon have lots of birds at our feeders. Which birds do you get in your backyard?