Winter is for the birds! Resident birds live in our community year-round while migratory birds commute south to warmer climates. This time of year our resident backyard birds are busy looking for food and sheltering from the worst of the weather. One of our missions at Trackers is to care for the more-than-human world. Here are some activities to interact and learn from the birds, as well as helping care for them.
- Bird Scavenger Hunt: Write down every bird you see in your backyard, on your walk through the neighborhood, and when you drive, bus, or bike to school. Eleven local birds you’re likely to see are the American Robin, Western Scrub Jay, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, Anna’s Hummingbird, American Crow, Common Raven, Northern Flicker, Red-tailed Hawk, and Downy Woodpecker. Can you spot any less common birds?
- Bird Language Can Predict the Future! Did you know that birds can predict the future? Watch the birds in your backyard. Notice how they act when they are relaxed and all is normal. Ahead of a storm, birds often go on a feeding frenzy, storing up energy for the bad weather ahead. If a ground predator (like a cat) is in the neighborhood, bird who typically feed near the ground will alarm with calls and go higher in the trees. If an aerial predator like a Red-tailed Hawk or Raven is in a tree, certain smaller birds use their agility to dive bomb the larger bird trying to harass it to leave. Notice what the birds are doing and figure out what’s unseen or coming in your future.
- Feed the Birds: In these chilly months, birds need to consume more food to help keep them warm in the winter. There are some useful foods you can prepare and leave outside to help our feathered friends. Once you start putting food out you will want to continue feeding them until it gets warmer, as local birds will remember your grub hub and come back for more. You can leave out certain foods to attract your family’s favorites. Wild Bird Feed (OSU) explains which seed to use to attract different birds.
- Upcycled Bird Feeders: Reusing common household “trash” to create a beautiful birdy bistro is a fun indoor craft activity kids can do with or without your help. And when it’s finished, hang it outside a window and you can watch the birds together inside your cozy home. Insteading.com has some fun ideas on how to DIY Upcycled bird feeders. If you prefer a more natural look, use glue to add some sticks, bark and colored leaves to the sides and top!
- Habitat Help: Providing seasonal resources for both migrating and local bird populations is easier than you might think. Planting brushy, native plants will give birds much-needed shelter and food. Choose plant varieties that provide high protein seeds in fall and winter such as Elderberry, Staghorn Sumac and Coneflowers. Get your backyard Habitat Certified.
As we embrace the colder months and observe the changes in our feathered neighbors, let’s remember the vital role we play in caring for our local ecosystems. By engaging in activities like the Bird Scavenger Hunt, learning to interpret bird language, and providing food and shelter, we’re not only enhancing our understanding of the natural world but also actively contributing to its wellbeing. Whether it’s upcycling materials for bird feeders, choosing the right plants for a bird-friendly habitat, or aiming for backyard habitat certification, every action counts. Remember a core Trackers Purpose is to care for the more-than-human world. Ensuring that both migratory and resident birds thrive in our communities is part of that. Together, we can create a harmonious environment where the beauty and vitality of nature are celebrated and preserved for future generations.
Oakland, CA: Backyard Habitat