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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Backyard Birds

We usually wait until the bears have gone into their winter dens before we start putting any food out in our bird feeders simply because I’ve lost too many bird feeders to black bears. A few weeks ago my wife decided to fill all the backyard bird feeders and a couple of days later there

We usually wait until the bears have gone into their winter dens before we start putting any food out in our bird feeders simply because I’ve lost too many bird feeders to black bears. A few weeks ago my wife decided to fill all the backyard bird feeders and a couple of days later there were birds of all kinds in good numbers where there had been few in the days before. Now I’ll have to admit that I am by no means a dedicated bird watcher, but I do enjoy seeing and trying to identify the different birds and on occasion trying to snap some good photos. Of course, the usual regulars show up-black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, doves, goldfinches, house finch, juncos, and sparrows.

Of all the birds out back, the ones that usually catch my attention quicker are the woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are fairly easy to identify and separate from one another since species markings are so different; the exception to the rule might be the hairy woodpecker and the downy woodpecker. We have seven different species of woodpeckers that are found in Pennsylvania. The largest woodpecker is the pileated, about the size of a crow with a long neck, black for the most part with a prominent red crest and white wing linings. This woodpecker likes the big woods and doesn’t hang out around birdfeeders, but I did spot one in the large maple tree where our feeders hang.

Probably the two most common woodpeckers around feeders are the hairy and downy; as mentioned earlier they can be a little tough to distinguish. The downy is a bit smaller than the hairy, and the bill length is also shorter than the hairy woodpeckers. The downy is more commonly seen and is a frequent visitor to the suet feeders. Both feed on seeds and fruits as well as insects; hence they are often seen at our feeders.

A woodpecker that is seldom seen here in the winter is the yellow-bellied sapsucker. As the name implies they drill holes and wait for the sap to run then drink it up, but they will also feed on insects, bark, fruits, and seeds. They have a patch of red on the head, followed by black and white bars, a white belly with a tinge of yellow. They tend to move south in the winter, so a winter sighting is rarer.

Another fairly rare visitor here in the winter time is the red-bellied woodpecker, but last week I was surprised to see one at one of our feeders. The back of the head is red with a white face and belly with a slight red tinge. These woodpeckers also feed on insects, but they also eat a variety of fruits, nuts, and seeds. They are more common in the southern half of the state but on occasion make an appearance in our area.

Flickers are easily distinguished from our other woodpeckers; mostly brown backs and a red patch on the nape of the neck. They tend to feed on the ground a lot eating ants and other insects. They will eat some types of seeds, fruits, and berries but don’t expect to see them around your feeders in the winter since they usually winter in the southern half of the U.S. Don’t expect to see a red-headed woodpecker this winter either; they tend to winter over in their southern range, but a summer sighting is likely. They are easy to tell apart from the other woodpeckers; the whole head is red with a black back and white wing tips and black tail. And finally, one that I don’t think I’ve ever spotted is the black-backed three-toed woodpecker (I didn’t know there was such a thing). A small woodpecker with a black back and the male has a yellow patch on the crown. They do show up in December, but rarely — I’m still looking.

Have fun watching your birdfeeders the rest of the winter; you may even catch sight of an evening grossbeak.

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