Birds that come to Homemade Feeders

In the projects, Jug Feeder and Liter Bottle Feeder, you learned how to make bird feeders using recyclable materials. In this post, I describe some of the birds that have come to these feeders.

Although each species of bird has certain distinctive characteristics, there are often variations due to age, season, and gender. Each picture that you will see is a simplified sketch showing the main coloring of a mature, male bird. Female birds are often a duller color than the male. This feature helps to hide a female as she sits on her eggs in a nest. Also, the bright coloring of a male is used to distract predators and draw them away from the nest.

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is a fairly large bird about 10 inches in length. It is commonly seen east of the Rocky Mountains. Males and females look the same. They are aggressive birds; generally, when they are on a feeder, other birds stay away until the Blue Jay leaves. Although cats like to catch birds, when a Blue Jay sees a cat, it will often swoop at it and frighten it away. It likes sunflower seeds but it doesn’t have the “tooth” that the Cardinal has. To open a sunflower seed, the Blue Jay will perch (either on a feeder perch or a tree limb); it will place the seed between its feet and peck at it with its beak until the hull splits open. If your feeder has wooden perches, you will eventually have to replace them because this pecking slowing erodes the perch.

Blue Jay
Bluebird

Eastern Blue Bird

The Eastern Blue Bird is about 4.5 inches long. Some people mistakenly call the Blue Jay a Blue Bird. However, the Blue Bird looks more like a Robin. It has a partially red breast but the back and wings are blue. The female is similar in coloring to the male, but she has a gray head and back. Juveniles are brown speckled similar to Robin juveniles. This bird is not seen as often as the other species of birds. However, they have been seen at our feeders.

Cardinal

The male Cardinal is beautiful in his bright red color. The female has only a small amount of red and is mostly a reddish brown. They both have a distinctive crest. They are about 7.75 inches in length. Their favorite food is the Sun Flower seed. Although birds do no have teeth, the Cardinal has a hard, sharp ridge in the roof of its beak that is used to split open the hull of a Sun Flower seed. Often times, Cardinals search on the ground under a feeder for dropped seeds. Although the males readily come to a feeder, the females are more likely to stay on the ground. They do sometimes come to the feeder also. Males are usually aggressive to other Cardinals, especially other males. A male may have the attitude that he owns your feeder. However, his aggressiveness is usually only directed against other Cardinal pairs. Juveniles are a dusty brown.

Cardinal
Chickadee

Chickadee

There are several varieties of Chickadees. The most common is the Black Capped Chickadee. It has a black bib and white and gray coloring also. It is found in the northern United States clear up through Canada to Alaska. It is a small bird about 4.5 inches in length. Males, females, and juveniles are similar. It likes sunflower seeds but it doesn’t have the “tooth” that the Cardinal has. To open a sunflower seed, the Chickadee will perch (either on a feeder perch or a tree limb); it will place the seed between its feet and peck at it with its beak until the hull splits open. This looks like very hard work for such a small bird.

Goldfinch

In the Summer, the male Goldfinch is a bright yellow and black bird. In the Winter, the yellow is replaced by an olive green color. The female and juveniles are similar in coloring to the male’s Winter coloring. They are 4.5 to 6 inches long and can be found throughout most of the United States. They are particularly fond of thistle seeds. Several years ago, I purchased a “small bird” feeder and filled it with thistle seeds. Although I hadn’t seen any Goldfinches near our home, they found the feeder about 20 minutes after I put it up.

Goldfinch
Grackle

Grackle

The Grackle is a large bird that is 10 to 12 inches in length. It is remarkable for its iridescent head which may be green, violet, or blue. The female is similar, but slightly smaller. They are commonly found throughout the Eastern United States. Grackles usually forage on the ground. They do fly up to a feeder if they do not find seeds that have been dropped to the ground. Because they are heavier than the smaller birds, when they leave a hanging feeder, it sets the feeder to swinging.

Purple Finch

The are are many types of finches. The Purple Finch has a rosy colored head. However, there are several other finches with similar coloring. It is about 5.5 inches long. The female is brown and white without any of the rosy coloring. The female is easily mistaken for a sparrow. Like the Gold Finch it prefers thistle seeds. However, it will come to a feeder containing other types of seeds.

Purple Finch
Sparrow

House Sparrow

The are are many types of Sparrows. The House Sparrow is not a Sparrow at all. It is related to the weaver finches. It is sometimes difficult to identify the House Sparrow because it looks so much like the real sparrows. Most sparrows have a streaked breast. The House Sparrow is about 5.25 inches long. The female is lighter in color and does not have the black bib. Real sparrows also come to our feeder, but I have not illustrated any of them here.

Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse has a distinctive crest similar to the Cardinal’s; but smaller and gray in color. It is about 5.5 inches in length. The juvenile’s coloring is similar to that of the adult, but it is somewhat subdued. The Titmouse likes sunflower seeds but it doesn’t have the “tooth” that the Cardinal has. To open a sunflower seed, the Tufted Titmouse will perch (either on a feeder perch or a tree limb); it will place the seed between its feet and peck at it with its beak until the hull splits open.

Tufted Titmouse
Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The are many types of Woodpeckers. Illustrated here is the Downy Woodpecker. It is typically 5.75 inches long, and has a little red cap. It ranges over the entire United States, Western Canada, and up into Alaska. Females have similar coloring, but without the red. Woodpeckers usually peck holes in trees to get at insects; however, they also like to come to a feeder for seeds. When a Woodpecker is on a tree pecking for insects, it grips the bark with its claws and its feet are vertical. Also, it uses its tail as a prop. When a Woodpecker comes to a feeder, it looks rather awkward because it takes some time to get itself positioned. Sometimes it clings to the side of the tray instead of using a perch. If your feeder is hanging on a tree and it is close enough to the trunk of the tree, a Woodpecker may grip the tree bark (often upside down) and reach over to the feeder to get a seed.

Interloper – Fox Squirrel

You may not have intended to invite this interloper to your bird feeder, but he may find it anyway. You may try to find ways to discourage him from coming; but, often, your efforts will be in vain. I had one of the pop bottle feeders hanging along the side of a tree. A squirrel came, clung to the tree with its back feet and put its front feet on the tray. You may enjoy feeding squirrels as well as birds; but if you do, expect your bird feed to disappear rapidly. They not only eat a lot, but their antics cause a lot to be spilled on to the ground. I moved that feeder from the tree and hung it from a house eave in front of a window. The squirrel was able to jump to the window ledge and lean out and put its front feet on the tray. I raised the feeder up higher so that the tray was more than a squirrel’s length above the ledge. I haven’t seen the squirrel since I did that.

Squirrel
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