Winter bird feeding and watching flutters in – WiscNews


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Snowy owls are beginning to appear in parts of Wisconsin. They are likely to remain for several months.
A cedar waxwing takes a bite out of a soft crabapple fruit, which was too large to eat whole.
Not all winter birding is done through a kitchen window with 10 species munching the single seed out of dry black oil sunflower fruits.
Some birds are new to the region, others are gone, but many are here to take handouts along with cardinals, titmice, blue jays and black-capped chickadees.
Two bird irruptions are already occurring. One of those could cause anyone filling backyard feeders to stock up on seeds and nuts.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources bird specialist Ryan Brady said evening grosbeaks are really “piggy” and stick around as long as the food hangs on.
It’s been years, even decades in some cases, since these finch family giants have been around in large flocks.
Irruptions are usually caused by food shortages, often following ample food and increased recruitment in the population, which increases demand beyond capacity to feed all the new individuals.
Snowy owls, as they often do, are showing throughout parts of Wisconsin, too, particularly in wide-open areas similar to the appearance of habitats where they come from in Canada and beyond. This irruption may continue throughout the winter.
More owls and grosbeaks will likely follow those early arrivals and some may be coming your way very soon. Some evening grosbeaks and snowy owls are here.
Bird feeders are not a source of food for the snowy owls, however.
“More folks are feeding birds it seems with some increases dating back to the pandemic when employees were able to work from home and noticed they have birds hanging around or visiting their feeders,” said Bob Ross, at Wild Birds Unlimited in Middleton. “A new pole feeding system we have has become popular and is very adaptable with add-ons possible at later dates.”
Even though there has been only minor snowfalls, some birds cache seeds for reserve supplies. In addition, these birds are continuing to consume some food to maintain their strength right now.
“We saw juncos return early in some areas, so it appears this will be a good year for those wanting to watch birds at feeders,” Ross said.
Ross’s store on Old Sauk Road has two live video cams hooked up to show birds at feeders from farther north.
Natural foods are also great areas to zero in on. As long as crabapples remain, the fruit may hold robins into the winter. Flocks of cedar waxwings will find them, too. Even large crabapples soften enough that the waxwings pull the fruit apart when it’s too large for one bite.
Watching birds can become a log book entry for some with entries on unusual birds, large numbers of common birds and birds tolerant of others of the same or different species. Some species, and individuals within a species, can be noticeably timid or aggressive.
Christmas bird counts, conducted by local Audubon clubs, are also a way to help count individual birds. Most clubs accommodate novice birders by pairing with experienced birders.
Anyone interested in creating a Christmas card or including a bird photo along with a card can have a rewarding experience capturing images. While photographing through closed windows is not the best option, it can usually produce a reasonable photograph.
With perching limbs near feeders, capturing a bird away from a sometimes distracting feeder may not be difficult.
Large sums can be spent feeding birds, but using natural foods such as nuts, berries and seeds can reduce the cost close to zero. There are ground-feeding birds, too, who don’t seem to mind eating in areas where snow is shoveled away and seeds sprinkled on grass, bare soil, or even concrete or boards.
Social gatherings have erupted, too, with a few individuals watching a feeder from indoors for hours.
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Snowy owls are beginning to appear in parts of Wisconsin. They are likely to remain for several months.
A cedar waxwing takes a bite out of a soft crabapple fruit, which was too large to eat whole.
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