Category Archives: Bird Baths

Remember Wildlife in Cold Weather

Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal in the snow

All of a sudden it’s about to be cold here in Atlanta.  Later this week the nighttime temperatures will be in the twenties.  So while you’re all warm and toasty in front of the fire, remember there are little guys outside trying to survive the cold.

You  might think it’s no big deal; wildlife has been living outside in the cold for millions of years.  But consider the fact that urban wildlife faces a little tougher challenge with a reduced supply of food, water and shelter and the added disturbances of humans.

January 23, 2016

Pine Warbler on Suet Feeder

Food – Keep bird feeders stocked and if snow or sleet covers the ground, toss a little extra on the ground. And remember to keep your bird feeders clean and free of mold.  Suet feeders are especially popular in cold weather.

Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - January, 2016

Song Sparrow eating native grass seed

Also, a great source of free food is seed heads from summer and fall perennials–leave some standing and enjoy watching the appreciative birds.  (see our blog out Brown is Beautiful for more)

River Oats

River Oats left for seed

Other wildlife will benefit from dried nuts, or fruit such as cranberries.  Roasted peanuts are good, but do not toss out uncooked peanuts. Peanuts are legumes not nuts, and raw peanuts consumed in quantity can be fatal to squirrels or chipmunks. [2]

Water – Make sure a couple of birds baths are always available and not frozen  (see our blog Surviving Cold Weather).  Both birds and other critters will thank you.

Screech-Owl Box

Screech-Owl Box can be shelter

Shelter –  “‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’.” – Bob Dylan.  OK, sorry – drifted off for a minute.

There are many forms of shelter that help wildlife.  Birdhouses can provide protection from the wind and biting cold. One year we had a Downy Woodpecker roost each night in a bluebird house in the front yard.

Leaf piles, logs, rocks and ground cover help all manner of small critters and insects.  Native bees will nest in the stems of perennial plants, which is another reason to leave them in place until the spring.  Even the shrubbery next to your house can provide critical shelter on very cold nights.

Don’t disturb – especially after dark.  This paragraph from What The Robin Knows by Jon Young tells why:

What The Robin Knows“…conservation of energy is a major priority for all animals, but especially for birds, almost all of whom run on a very lean energy budget. (A chickadee startled from its roost on a very cold night in the dead of winter loses the vital heat trapped in its feathers.  This bird may well die before dawn.)”

Try to avoid walking next to shrubbery where you think someone might be sheltered after dark.

Now, go enjoy your hot mulled cider.

References and Additional Information

[1]  Humane Society of the United States: Fall into Winter: Help Backyard Wildlife Prepare for Cold Weather
[2]  Northwest Seed and Pet: Danger of Feeding Raw Peanuts to Squirrels
[3]  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Bird Feeding
[4]  What the Robin Knows – Jon Young

Monthly Journal – November, 2016

It’s been a warm, dry fall so far.  With the drought, birds and critters have appreciated the water in birdbaths and the pond.   But the drought was broken as reported in our previous post, and we have started hearing toads again at night.

A flock of several hundred grackles passed through a few days ago and we have started seeing Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Surely colder weather is not far off.

Children at Play

We just knew you’d be interested in a further report on the recently fledged Cooper’s Hawks  (see Monthly Journal, – June 2016 and Cooper’s Hawk Triplets). Yesterday Bruce sent more great photos of two of them enjoying themselves in his bird bath.  Thanks Bruce!

Monthly Journal – June, 2016

June was hot and dry.  Everybody’s looking for shade and water.  As a follow up to our last post, Bruce Hallett sent us three great photos of one of the juvenile Cooper’s Hawks enjoying his birdbath, which are below.  There is still nesting going on and the birdhouse on the Nature Trail closest to the garden area has a brood of Carolina Wren chicks.  They are keeping their parents busy and making so much noise you can hear them 25 feet away.  Remember there are those who are just beginning to nest, such as American Goldfinches ( see our blog from July last year Late Starters).

Nuthatches Need Your Help

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch populations are declining in many areas.  In fact, the brown-headed nuthatch is considered by some experts to be the least common nuthatch in North America.  Brown-headed nuthatches prefer mature pine forests, and loss of this habitat has played a major role in their decline. [1]

They are small industrious birds and are fun to watch.  It’s easy to tell when they are around because their call sounds like a small squeaky toy.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatches nesting in a snag

The good news is that, so far, they seem to be doing well in Peachtree Park.  We’ve noticed them nesting here in birdhouses and snags for the last several years.

But that’s not to say that they don’t still need your help.  It’s nesting season, and you can do a lot for this little bird by putting up a birdhouse.  Atlanta Audubon’s Nest Boxes for Nuthatches page has information on how you can buy or build your own nest box along with other information about the Brown-headed nuthatch.

Below is a short video of a pair nesting in a birdhouse mounted on a snag just down the street from us (thanks for leaving the snag!)  The video was recorded yesterday and today.  We think they are still building the nest because you can see nesting material in one Nuthatch’s mouth at the beginning of the clip.

These photos were taken in Peachtree Park and there are two additional Brown-headed Nuthatch videos on our Bird Videos page.

[1]  Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Feeder Activity High

It’s been warmer today, but the bird feeders were about as busy as they get.  Lots of House Finches, Goldfinches, and Northern Cardinals.  Also present were Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Thrashers.

Lots of Finches

The Finches were present in abundance.

Cardinal & Finch

A house Finch and Northern Cardinal

Titmouse & Finch

Yet another House Finch with a Tufted Titmouse

Surviving Cold Weather

We’ve had unusually cold weather this week with temperatures in the teens at night and below freezing for several days.  Food, water and shelter become very important.

Ice on Pond

The pond is almost iced over. The waterfall keeps an opening clear for oxygen.

Heated Bird Bath

This heater keeps the water in the birdbath from freezing.

Brown Headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatches taking a drink.

Bird Feeders

Northern Cardinals at the back yard feeders.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the front yard suet feeder.