Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mouths to Feed

Summer is a slow time at the bird feeders in My Florida Backyard. Many birds change their diets in the summer to focus on the insects that are available in abundance; insects offer high amounts of protein and that's what nesting birds and juveniles need in the summer. When cooler weather arrives, insects are a little more sparse (not that it necessarily feels that way on a mosquito-filled evening) and some birds will drop by feeders for seeds instead. We have two common feeder visitors in My Florida Backyard - northern cardinals and tufted titmice, like the ones shown below.

The titmice are especially fun to watch, as they crack each seed delicately, holding it between their feet and using their beaks to get at the goodness inside. Experiments have shown that titmice will make an especial effort to select the largest seed available, and are also known to take cracked seeds off to store in a separate location for later.

Tufted titmice always seem especially colorful in the fall, most likely because they have one yearly molt sometime in August and are still flaunting their rust-colored and clean white breast feathers. Many birds have a spring molt to prepare for mating and nesting season, but tufted titmice do not.

We'd like to attract some additional feeder birds to My Florida Backyard, but haven't had much luck except for the aforementioned cardinals, mourning doves (in droves), and the occasional woodpecker (though never at the suet feeder - that seems to go untouched). Do you live in Central Florida and have any feeder tips for us? We'd love to know if anyone has any luck drawing finches with a thistle feeder when they're down here for the winter, or any other advice you can offer!


  1. Jill, I love your Titmice photos. I'll be on the lookout for them in Ocala. Are they very small birds? If so, I think I've seen them here. We have the Cardinals year-round and doves, and we hear the mockingbirds a lot. I'm quite ignorant of birds, so I appreciate the education you provide. I don't put out feeders partly out of ignorance and partly because the blasted squirrels feed on them AND on my roses. So I want to discourage them as much as possible. I'll be heading to the animal shelter for a cat real soon.

  2. Your visitors are lovely!

    Unfortuately, we can't afford to feed the birds with store-bought seed anymore, so we are working on providing for them through our native plant choices.