Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SISKINS VS. REDPOLLS; WINNER TAKES ON THE TREE SPARROWS


This morning was the coldest straight temp (without any wind chill factor) we’ve had this winter: minus 12 degrees Centigrade or about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a balmy winter day in my former home in the foothills, but it's no doubt shockingly cold to the local population of birds along the north shore of Lake Erie.

In a recent post I mentioned that for the first winter since I arrived here in 2005, I’ve had pine siskins and common redpolls at the niger feeder, both jockeying for a place along with the tree sparrows, house sparrows, goldfinches, and even a huge fluffed up starling, who did manage to squeeze a toehold on the perch peg, but found it too difficult to get his in the right position to get anything from the seed port. He finally flew down to the ground to peck with the mourning doves and other larger birds. Meanwhile, the siskins were exhibiting some behavior I’d forgotten all about. They were trying to keep all newcomers away from their pegs by dipping their heads low and rapidly spreading their wings and tails, flashing their intimidating patches of bright yellow. One redpoll sat off to the side, looking completely bemused by the siskins’ bold displays. I’d also forgotten how touchy the tree sparrows are. They seem to be even less tolerant of each other than of other species. They’ll be feeding calmly on the ground when suddenly a pair will rise up, nipping and fluttering until one of them takes off chasing the other at breakneck speed. I shake my head at some of the blatant cheap shots they take, and the seemingly wasted time and effort spent not taking on more seed against the cold. But I’m not here to referee. My job is just to keep the feeders filled, and not play favorites.



15 comments:

Shellmo said...

I enjoyed hearing about your birdy fights! I'm having the Blue Jays vs. the woodpeckers. The woodpeckers are winning.

Lin said...

what a fun little bird community you have going there complete with squabbles and shenanigans...

Greyscale Territory said...

Enjoyed this story of your birds in winter. In our summer climes right now, the skuffles involve cockatoos and magpies and crows. Undeniably, the cockatoos win first place in the feeding ground. The others wait in the wings for leftovers. And even then they risk a challenge.

Sylvia K said...

Love hearing about all the birds around your home and their problems -- not too different from us, are they? Your photos are lovely! Not near as cold here as there, but still bone chilling -- or maybe it's just the age??? Whatever, standing out on the playground with the Jump Start kids at recess was not fun -- I can't run around from merry-go-round to slides to stay warm like they do! You stay warm, okay?

bobbie said...

Must be fun watching the competition.

How do you manage the cold up there? I can't even go out for the mail these days, and we aren't near your temperatures.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Gosh Deb, We are over-run with Siskins. There were probably 40 (or more) of them all over the place including the ground around our feeders. They 'nip' at each other--jockeying for a place at the feeders. The other birds come too--but the Siskins (because of their numbers) seem to be ruling the feeders now...

Great pictures.
Hugs,
Betsy

me ann my camera said...

It sounds like you have a lot of birds around. We had one Redpoll yesterday, whole bunches today, so many that they seemed to replace the Siskins in numbers. The Siskins and Redpolls seem to follow the same pattern of appearances here as yours do. And, yes, the Tree Sparrows do seem to have a scrappy side to them for I've noticed the same behaviour that you mention. And I think that Tree Sparrows don't have as much capacity to store food as do the other birds,so they really shouldn't waste that important energy in the winter.

The Siskins are so sweet! This morning while out at the feeders a bunch stayed clinging to the niger seed bag, so I got closer and closer and finally put my glove under a Siskin's bottom, hoping it would land on my finger...it didn't, instead it flew away a second later.

SandyCarlson said...

I love all the birds and the way they interact. Thanks for bringing me there.

Kallen305 said...

I don't know much about the siskins yet, so I really enjoyed this post to learn more about them. I have only had one tree sparrow in my yard that I know about so I have not seen them fighting amongst themselves yet.

Great post. I was wondering how the birds further north than me were doing with this cold. I am happy to hear the ones in your yard are getting their seed.

hitch writer said...

brrrr....

the birds are keeping u occupied !!! lucky u !!

Indrani said...

Bird watching is fun! And I enjoy reading your observations.

magiceye said...

super! so much of excitement!

Kathiesbirds said...

I haven't seen any siskins yet this winter, which surprises me, and I miss redpolls! Glad you keep them well supplied!

Rose said...

I have to take time to look up the red poll--I think you have mentioned them before and I meant to then and didn't. I have no idea what they look like.

Squirrel said...

our sparrows outnumber every other bird variety, but when a big flock of starlings stop by, they rule!