Sunday, February 19, 2012

Taking Stock of the Flock

I garden for wildlife.  I enjoy blooms and attractive foliage as much as anyone, but my plants do double duty.  My plants support wildlife: birds, bugs, beetles and many others.  So when I spot a native bee head first in a flower or bird winging it’s way through the yard – I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  During the last few weeks of winter, before buds open and I get distracted by spring, I took some time this week to record what birds are hanging around the place.

We have been thrilled lately to have a flock of about 20 turkeys wandering through the neighborhood.  They show up in our yard around 8 am, searching the leaf litter for leftover acorns from the tall southern red oaks (Quercus falcata) in the yard.  This week several of the males were fanning out their tail feathers and puffing up their feathers.

This is an appropriate week to take stock of what birds visit my yard because Feb 17-20 is the Great Backyard Bird Count. On that site they have a printable checklist that you retrieve by entering your zip code to get a list of birds that you are likely to see in your area in February.

Hermit thrush

Of course this time of year I will only see the year-round birds and winter residents.  This year I was thrilled to identify (with help!) two new birds for me - a hermit thrush and a yellow-rumped warbler.  Both are only winter residents in Georgia.

Hermit thrushes only eat insects, but this one stopped by the deck to see what all the fuss was about at the bird feeder.  I have since seen him (or her) around the yard on the ground.

Yellow-rumped warbler

The warbler, even though it has similar coloring to the goldfinch, has a differently shaped bill.

The birds that I see are found in predictable places. There are the birds that visit bird feeders (which by the way are a small portion of all the birds): 

Tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, and goldfinch.  If you put up a seed feeder, you will see these birds, they visit in droves!

Goldfinch and tufted titmouse

There are the birds that occasionally visit the bird feeder: 

Cardinal, bluejay, red-bellied woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, dark-eyed junco, and Carolina wren.


White-breasted nuthatch

Then there are the birds that visit the birdbath but not the feeder because they feed only on  insects: 

Brown thrasher and white-throated sparrow were the two noted this year.  Of course other birds come to the birdbath for a drink or a bath.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Elsewhere in the yard, especially on trees: 

Yellow-bellied sapsucker, downy woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker and even pileated woodpeckers and occasionally an eastern phoebe.


Birds found in open areas: 

American robin, mockingbird, bluebird.  I was thrilled to finally capture this picture of a bluebird this week.

Red-shouldered hawk

Finally, birds seen at a distance or heard: 

American crow, cedar waxwing, black vulture, red-shouldered hawk, barred owl.

I feel lucky to have so much wildlife (in addition to the deer, squirrels and chipmunks!) around my yard and neighborhood.  I know that wooded areas help support them.  I feel sure that having a lot of native plants and not using a lot of chemicals helps as well.  If you'd like to have more birds in your yard, research how you might support them beyond putting out feeders.  You might find some tips in a previous blog that I wrote: Natural Bird Food.

I happened to be at Amicalola Falls State Park yesterday while the volunteers were birds of prey that cannot be released back into the wild.  Two of the birds were ones that hang around my area so I am including pictures that I took of them there.

Barred owl

Black vulture


  1. Congratulations on the Turkeys! Assuming you live in a suburban area, that's a great sighting and certainly a sign you must have a healthy habitat.

  2. Beautiful bird shots! I also have turkeys..they can get to be a nuisance..Still, they're fun!

  3. How cool to have turkeys and great photos. I think this is the first year I haven't done the birdcount, just too busy :(

    I just read the book Illumination in the Flatwoods this winter. Have you read it? Such a great study on Wild Turkeys in your neck of the woods.

  4. Congrats on the Red Shoulder! While not a rare bird, we don't see very many in Roanoke. Recently,however, we have had a RSH living in the woods nearby and it always seems a special treat to see or hear.

  5. Turkeys are such impressive creatures. I've seen a few in the wild and they always amaze me. Also love the pick of the vulture. Great action shot!

    Dani @ ONNO Organic Clothing