Thursday, June 18, 2020

Feeding winter birds in Florida

Feeding birds in winter is enjoyed by many people. Perhaps you feel that feeding wild birds is only an activity for snow-covered northern areas. But this is not true. Even in sunny Florida feeding birds is a common activity. Would you like to set up a backyard bird feeder this winter in Florida? This article is for you!

This article tells all about why and how to set up a winter bird feeding station in Florida. I will discuss just a few of the very many birds you could attract to your feeders, and how to do it.

The weather in Florida in winter is quite mild. It is similar to coastal southern California. Depending on whether you live north or south, the average night time temperatures range from 41-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime highs in winter average between 64-77 degrees F. A few flakes of snow may fall twice a decade in northern Florida. But snow sticking on the ground is a very newsworthy event, and doesn't last long.

Nevertheless, feeding birds in winter is still worth while. I'll tell you why.


In this article
Why feed winter birds in Florida?
What birds come to feeders in winter in Florida?
Setting up a winter bird feeding station in Florida
Related articles


Why feed winter birds in Florida?


Florida has many resident birds that spend the entire year in your backyard and neighborhood. Many can be enticed to come to your feeders. Florida also enjoys many winter bird visitors. These migrate south to Florida to escape the cold, snowy winters to the north. These all appreciate a steady source of winter food--even if they could probably survive just fine on their own without bird feeders.

But birds need more than just food. They need protective shelter. Many people who care about birds set up bird feeders. But they also landscape their yards to make them a safe haven for the birds that visit. Natural wildlife habitat is constantly being lost to urban sprawl, deforestation, and changes in the way people use land. So even if a few birds benefit from your backyard landscaping, it makes a difference.

Young birds in their first winter are less experienced than the adults. They may have trouble some times locating enough food. So your backyard feeder might help more of these birds survive the winter.

But you may benefit more than the birds you feed! Watching birds gives you peace of mind as they flit here and there. Observing nature, even in your backyard, is good for your mental health. It also makes you more aware of the natural world. This awareness will lead you to make decisions in life that take into account the consequences of your actions on other living things and systems. It might not seem like one person can change all the ills in the world. And that is true. But you are not one person. You are one more person that cares. And one less person that doesn't.

If you can share feeding birds in winter with children, you can have a positive impact on their lives. Children spend less time outside playing and viewing nature than ever in our history. Many people warn that this has a negative effect on children, and on society. Connect with nature. If that means feeding birds, please do so. It's fun!

What birds come to feeders in Florida in winter?


Lots of northern birds winter in Florida. The mild weather allows many insect-eating birds to spend the winter. But Florida has many birds that also eat seeds or fruit you can offer at your feeder.

Some backyard birds don't come to feeders. Some birds visit your backyard during different times of year. To learn about some of those, please read my article on common backyard birds of Florida. I'll link to it again at the end of this article.

Here, then, are some of the common and popular winter birds at feeders in Florida.


Photo of Northern Cardinal at feeder
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay
Northern Cardinal: These large colorful songbirds are found throughout woodlands in the eastern United States and adjacent extreme southern Canada. They are found throughout Florida. These birds are residents, pairs staying year-round in the same location for the most part. They sing nearly year-round with loud whistled phrases usually repeating 3 times, cheer cheer cheer or purty purty purty. They also have a loud chip note. Males are bright red with large tail, sweeping crest, thick orange bill and black face. Females are shaped similarly, but buffier brown overall.

Northern Cardinals eat larger seeds, including sunflower seeds and safflower seeds from hopper and platform feeders.

Photo of Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
Mourning Dove: These birds are widespread across North America, including all of Florida. They are found in rural areas, especially near agricultural areas, and in residential areas, too. The call is a loud mournful cooing. These bird are identified by the plump body, small round head, and long pointed tail. The coloration is tan-brown, a bit pinkish on the breast. There are several large black dots on the wing coverts.

Mourning Doves eat black oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn and other grains. They feed on the ground and prefer platform feeders.

Photo of Blue Jay in bird bath
Blue Jay
Image bly skeeze from Pixabay
Blue Jay: Found in deciduous woodlands across eastern and central North America they are found in all of Florida. Gives a jay jay jay call. Very colorful. Blue above, white or pale gray below. White face, blue crest, and black necklace wrapping around to the back of the head. White patches and black bars in the wing and tail.

Blue Jays are omnivorous. They like to eat sunflower seeds and peanuts from platform and hopper feeders. They eat suet from suet feeders, as well.

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker on tree trunk
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
Red-bellied Woodpecker: This fairly large woodpecker is found in deciduous woods across the eastern United States. It is found throughout Florida. The common call is a rolling churrr. Pale gray below, the back is barred completely with black and white. Both sexes have a red nape, on the male it extends all the way over the crown to the bill.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers visit backyard feeders for sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. They eat from platform or large hopper feeders and suet cages.

Photo of Northern Mockingbird in tree top
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
Northern Mockingbird: These birds are common in backyards and brushlands throughout the southern and eastern United States. They are residents in many areas, migrate in and out of the northern parts of their range. In Florida they are year-round residents. They are slim and gray with a fairly long pointed bill. They have white wing patches, exposed in flight. They have white outer tail feathers. They sing nearly throughout the year, often at night. Their song is three notes or phrases repeated, then move on to another set of three. They have a huge repertoire and include mimicking other bird's calls and mechanical noises.

Northern Mockingbirds may be attracted to your feeder if you offer slices of fruit, including oranges, apples, grapes. They may also eat suet.

Photo of Palm Warbler on a rock
Palm Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson
Palm Warbler: These small birds nest in spruce bogs across Canada and extreme northern United States in the East and Midwest. They winter in the Southeast. In Florida they are found throughout in winter. There they often are found in open brushy areas, lawns, fence lines, and woodland edges, frequently on the ground. The call is a sharp tsik. The trilled song is only heard in summer.

These birds will visit your suet feeder and may also eat fruit or small seeds.

Photo of Gray Catbird in juniper
Gray Catbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
Gray Catbird: These larger songbirds are secretive inhabitants of thickets. In summer they are found across southernmost Canada. In the United States they breed from the Rockies eastward. They are found year round in the southeast coastal states. In Florida they may be year-round residents in the north, but in most of the state they are only found in the winter. They are dark gray with a black cap. Their under tail coverts are chestnut. Their voice includes a catlike mewing, but they also mimic other birds.

Catbirds will eat fruit and jelly at your feeder. Try oranges, apples, raisins, and blueberries. They will also eat mealworms and suet.

Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on tree branch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson
Yellow-rumped Warbler: These abundant warblers nest in conifer and mixed forests across Alaska and Canada and in the mountains of the northeastern United States and the West. They winter along both Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Unites States and across the southern states into Mexico. They winter throughout Florida. In summer they are very bright. The upper parts are bluish and they have a black chest. They have a yellow crown patch. Western birds have a yellow throat and large white wing patch. Eastern birds have white throat and two white wing bars. In winter they are very dull. But, summer or winter, they flash white tail corners in flight and have a bright yellow rump. They have a complicated slow warble ending in a trill. Their call note is a flat tchep.

While you may see Yellow-rumped Warblers crawling through leafy foliage gleaning insects, or flying out to snatch bugs out of the air, they will come to your feeder if you offer suet.

Setting up a winter bird feeding station in Florida


In Florida, your bird feeder should offer fruits to attract more birds. Birds will eat any kind of single berry, like a blueberry. They will eat apple and orange slices, especially any that may have gone soft on your kitchen counter. Grapes and raisins, too. Grape jelly is a favorite. Feed these in a bowl, perhaps set on a platform feeder or just set out by themselves on a deck railing.

Suet will also attract many birds, including many that don't eat seeds. Buy no-melt suet in Florida, or make your own following online recipes mixing lard and chunky peanut butter with oats and more. Suet should be fed in suet cages so that other animals don't take it away.

Mealworms may also be fed in a bowl.

Cardinals like larger seeds. Try safflower or a nut and sunflower seed mixture using a hopper feeder with wide shelf.

Also be sure to have a source of water. Moving water really attracts birds, so a solar fountain might be perfect to add to your feeding station. These need direct sunlight to work, so placement is important.

We didn't talk about it, but don't forget a hummingbird feeder. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are year-round residents in northern Florida, winter visitors in the south. Other rare hummingbirds may show up in winter, too.



Here is a list of related articles I've written to help you with some specific questions on feeding winter birds in Florida.

The most common backyard birds in Florida

My recommended bird feeder setup

Bird seeds that attract the most birds

Different kinds of bird feeders and the birds they attract

Bird baths that birds actually use

Binoculars for beginning bird watchers

Bird watching books for beginners



2 comments:

  1. I'm sure others have already noted it, but the caption on the Red-bellied Woodpecker reads "Red-billed Woodpecker"...an even worse name than the authentic one! Great article.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, France! You were the first one to notice, or at least, the first one to tell me! I appreciate it. I hate typos and misspellings.

      Delete

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