Happy Groundhog Day! What a difference a week makes. A week ago, we were buried in snow and morning temperatures were in the teens. This week, it is as if spring has sprung. Any groundhog in its right mind would have a difficult time predicting whether we are going to have six more weeks of winter or not.
Not only would a groundhog be confused, but this is when honeybees get confused each year. A sudden onset of warm temperatures results in bees leaving the hive to go find food. But, it is too early for blooming flowers, so they resort to bird feeders!
That may sound odd to you. However, if you haven’t yet had this experience, it is not uncommon for bees to visit bird feeders that have either cracked corn or sunflower chips. In the absence of flowers, bees will descend on feeders in an effort to extract natural sugars from corn and sunflower seeds.
The combination of slightly longer days and warmer temperatures seems to have a dramatic impact on bird behavior. Earlier this week, I watched a male Anna’s hummingbird bathing in our waterfall in our backyard!
I think the change in weather not only lightens our mood and puts a skip in our walk, but the birds are feeling the change too. Certainly there is more singing in the morning and less stress on birds when it comes to finding food sources.
One of the advantages of being consistent in your bird feeding practices is that birds learn the location of permanent food sources. When the weather is mild, birds naturally disperse into the surrounding habitat adjacent to your yard and in your neighborhood. However, as we all experienced last week, when natural food sources are inaccessible, a hoard of birds show up and avail themselves of the birdy buffet you provide.
One of the most unusual birds that shows up in this scenario is the crissal thrasher. Not familiar with this species? This is one of the birds we specifically put into the Birds of the Arizona Central Highlands guide that we produced last year. This is an example of a species that is considered common in Prescott. It is non-migratory. It breeds here and lives here year-round.
Yet, few people ever see this bird in their yard — until it snows. When we get as much snow as we did last week, crissal thrashers will readily come to your feeder, because you have been consistent in providing a constant supply of food. Thrashers may not need the food you are providing most of the year, but when they do need it, they know where to go to get it.
The annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is just a few weeks away. Once again, we will be hosting guided bird walks to the homes of individuals who feed birds. If you would like to volunteer your home for this event, please call the Bird Barn at 928-443-5900. The bird walks will be on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 18.
Until next week, Happy Birding!