Cold, blustery artic chill has now settled into Minnesota. Novice birders might think there are few birds around during the coldest months but the high metabolism of warm-blooded birds help them adapt to cold climates. By fortifying your backyard bird sanctuary, you may actually hear birds “sing in the dark of December.”
Which birds stick around and what do they sound like? The noise of a Downy Woodpecker, the smallest of the species in North America, can be identified by the rat-ta-tat-tat of its drumming on a tree. They will readily feed from suet and tube feeders.
A Midwestern favorite, the Northern Cardinal is not only visibly vibrant against a backdrop of white snow, their familiar cheer-cheer-cheer or purty-purty-purty trill is a welcome and sonorous mid-winter sound. Often seen in pairs, male cardinals are bright red and females are brown. This video shows a male Northern Cardinal munching black oil sunflower seeds or PRD Seed Cardinal Crunch™ mix.
On a bright day, you might see a flock of House Wrens sunning themselves and chirping in unison from a fence post or tree branch. This is another way birds stay warm during winter. These little brown birds will build nests in small boxes that may be around the house and they enjoy peanut butter seed mixes.
Another vibrant bird, boisterous Blue Jays, have a distinctive set of sounds. Listen for the “gurgle-bob” or distinctive “jay call” to know if these corvids are near. As omnivores, Blue Jays like to eat acorns, berries, seeds, fruit or suet and during summer months will also feast on small bugs. Big and bold, Blue Jays are accredited with helping to expand oak trees by dropping acorns during feeding and migration. They can cache hundreds of acorns and are savvy enough to remember where to retrieve them.
Unlike most owls that are nocturnal, hence the term ‘night owl,’ you may be lucky enough to spot a Snowy Owl on a bright, cold winter day. Listen for its who-who call while it searches for the next carnivorous meal of a lemming, rodent or hare. With gold-colored eyes and thickly feathered talons, this awesome raptor is among the largest of the owl species in North America.
~ Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine March-April 2013
~ The Cornell Lab or Ornithology