Where are the Birds?

by Em
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I’ve never seen so few birds visiting the backyard feeders in winter before, and I’ve been backyard birdwatching for more than 30 years now. In fact for three days last week I only saw one bird—a Downy Woodpecker. And for most of January I was lucky to see 10 or 15 birds over the course of a whole day. Usually the flocks of finches alone number in the 40s in our backyard.

Hawks have been terrorizing the neighborhood birds for weeks. I’ve spotted a Cooper’s Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting on our block. I even saw a Red-tailed Hawk soaring over our backyard one day, although unless they were desperately hungry, they probably wouldn’t snatch a songbird. They are much more interested in mammals.

Just when I thought this low bird count might be the norm for the rest of the winter, I noticed a Mourning Dove fly into a shrub in our front yard. I hurried to the windows at the back of our house to see if any birds were at those feeders. Sure enough, I was greeted a Northern Cardinal and three Black-capped Chickadees.

a photo of a flock of mourning doves eating on a platform feeder

Soon that number of Mourning Doves had risen to 21, and then I had American Goldfinches and House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins and even a White-breasted Nuthatch.

I hope the hawks have moved elsewhere to hunt. I didn’t appreciate how much joy backyard birdwatching brings me each winter until my little friends disappeared.

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