Looking out at my feeders and seeing how empty they are day after day can be disheartening in these coldest, grayest days of winter. Last winter I was inundated with tremendous number of pine siskins in the midst of their biennial irruption, but this year not a single siskin has graced my feeders. While they’re not particularly colorful birds, nor do they have pleasing personalities, their sharp territoriality and flashes of yellow were welcome and now are missed.
Too often we take for granted the birds at our feeders, assuming they will always be there to brighten our days. Just because they’ve vanished does not mean we’re doing anything wrong or that our yards are unattractive, but it can be a lonely lesson to remember that even the most common of backyard birds are still wild. If you just look, however, you may discover more birds around you than you think.
While the siskins may be absent, I’m still enjoying the rambunctious company of house sparrows and house finches whose ranks are regularly scattered by Spook and Dart, our ever watchful sharp shinned and Cooper’s hawks. The Eurasian collared doves drop by almost daily to visit my hopper feeders, and the dark eyed juncos are occasionally mingling with my backyard flock. American goldfinches and lesser goldfinches are rare but lovely splashes of yellow at the nyger feeders, and I’ve spotted American robins feeding in our neighborhood’s trees and poking around my bushes now and then. And just yesterday, I had to hastily find my peanut dish where it had been stored away and replenish it for a pair of hungry western scrub jays that quickly emptied it.
Just look around you, and you’ll be surprised at what birds are visiting your yard, even if some species are more conspicuous by their absence.