The trees in my yard looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”. Just a little bit scary as I watched fifty or sixty huge black Fish Crows, Red-wing Blackbirds, Grackles, European Starlings and Cowbirds all grouped together in our trees watching me watching them. Of course they too were freezing cold and hungry. And I hated to run them off since I felt as though God must have led them to my home for me to feed them. He says in the Bible that “No single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it…” (Matthew 10:29), so I feel certain He knows it’s okay to send them to our yard.
As the snow began on Monday morning our usual small birds quickly emptied the twenty-five feeders that we had just filled up the evening before. Most of our feeders were frozen and we couldn’t get the lids off without breaking them, so Dennis and I began to sprinkle bird seed on top of the snow. Hundreds of tiny Goldfinch, Purple Finches, House Finches, Pine Siskins, Carolina Chickadees, Wrens, male & female Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-Throated Sparrows, Blue Jays and Eastern Bluebirds – just to name a few, swarmed the scattered seed on the ground. It was such a panicked barrage of hungry birds that it made our hearts sad to watch them.
Earlier that morning we had found two tiny Goldfinches under our carport that had frozen and died during the night, so we knew that we must do all we could to feed them. Even though my legs are still rehabbing, I plowed through the snow praying that I wouldn’t find any slippery spots underneath and go tumbling!
I used a screwdriver and hammered off ice and snow from the perch spots and covered over seed. I lifted the plastic windows so that the seeds would flow smoothly until icy temps refroze them.
Around 2:00 pm, the Big Birds arrived and began to frighten away all the small birdies. It wasn’t that they were bullying the little birds it was just their size and the flap of their huge wings that made the tiny birdies move from the bird feeders. But, what Dennis and I began to notice was that even though we might be only inches away, all the birds stayed in place. They didn’t have the strength to fly away. Many just sat in the snow and stuffed as many seeds into their mouths to try to build their strength back.
Crows have a pouch under or in front of the tongue where these birds hideaway food items. And that’s what we saw them doing at our feeders yesterday. They were collecting multiple seeds under their tongues before they left for the evening. This would provide a much needed energy snack as the temps began to drop during the night.
Little birds such as Chickadees and Titmouse are also a caching species – meaning that you will see them fly to your feeders, grab a seed and hide them away for later energy boosts. These little birds have to have a really good memory to remember all the many places that they stash their seeds. In fact, according to allaboutbirds.org says that “Black-capped Chickadees increase the size of the brain (in the area associated with memory) as caching ramps up in the fall.”
One thing that I enjoyed learning yesterday was what bird has been eating my monkey grass seed. I had searched the internet a few months ago and no one revealed the mystery bird that eats monkey grass seed, but I found out it’s the Eastern Bluebird! He was stripping them one by one out of my flower bed and I happily watched him eat them!
As the weather remains record breaking cold during this week, I hope that we are all doing our part to help keep our local birds watered and fed as we continue to “Look at the birds of the air…” (Matthew 8:28)!
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