This One’s for the Birds

B picTandy is the bird student in our family, the one who reads the handbook. Our kitchen has a large bow window with bird feeders a few feet in front of it. We were down to sunflower seeds this morning, and some of the birds looking for food in the snow don’t have beaks ideal for sunflower seeds. Tandy suggested sprinkling cornmeal onto the snow at the feeder base as an alternative. The cornmeal label was discouraging since the meal has been stripped of the germ in order to get fluffy cornbread.redbirdsdecember2013sized

The thought came, “Maybe quinoa would work.” The Internet said it would since it is akin to millet. So quinoa got sprinkled. Quickly, a dove appeared, and its neck shot up and down so fast that you would think it had a bit of woodpecker in its genes. It plucked the small grains right up off the snow.

Doves feeding

Doves feeding

Meanwhile, the goldfinches went for the sunflower seeds in the feeder. Their winter color isn’t gold but a greenish gray coat, still appealing however. Numerous red wing blackbirds have been feeding as well, their wing stripes not the summer red but a light yellow.

The most interesting bird of the day was the brown thrasher. It landed at the base of the feeder amidst the quinoa and darted its beak repeatedly after the grain. If other birds crowded it, it jerked its head fiercely, and they scattered momentarily before coming back. Several other times, a noise or movement by us in the kitchen startled all the birds off—except the brown thrasher. It is fearless. What a dominant bird this must be. I’ll have to learn more about its temperament.thrasher

The thrasher’s coloring from top to down to the base of the wings is rust—like the iron shovel in the garage not oiled, or an old nail pulled out of a board and not reused. Rust is quite becoming to the thrasher in winter, however. The thrasher’s body has dark brown stripes, not quite straight. They look layered four or five deep against a cream colored breast.

nwf_bird_book The cardinals are always present and a joy as regulars at the feeder. One snowy day, six of them appeared in a small tree—three males and three females. I guess it was a triple date. The males of course are famous for their red coat, whereas the females are regal with red beak and elegant dark gray coat, making a beautiful contrast. With school out because of snow, it’s been time to hit the books—the bird books.

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