If you hike, chances are good that you’ve encountered a Gray Jay–a smart, impulsive, relatively tame bird that will approach looking for food crumbs from your snack or lunch. Gray Jays hide small caches of food throughout their territories in late summer and autumn so they’ll have a ready larder for winter. As such, they can survive cold winter conditions in which other birds can’t exist. But now, studies show unseasonably warm weather is threatening Gray Jays’ reproductive success.
David George Haskell wrote a superb article in the autumn issue of Northern Woodlands entitled “Song of the Balsam Fir,” and while he evolved eventually into that subject, he also ruminated about the chickadees he encounters every year. It is good environmental reporting, so I thought I would reproduce his writing about chickadees instead of discussing how intelligent balsam firs are.
Over the last few years, you may have noticed fewer tree swallows competing for your nest boxes’ occupancy, while you earnestly hope to attract a bluebird pair on your open land. Populations of birds that eat flying insects have been dropping at an alarming rate, especially in northeastern North America.
Years ago the titmouse was deemed a southern bird, often only experienced below the Mason Dixon line. But the tufted titmouse pair visiting my feeder occasionally reminds me this small relative of the chickadee is still expanding its range in New Hampshire.
Acrobatic as well as aggressive, the versatile pine siskin will feed from tube feeders, trays, or globe feeders, thistle sacks, and occasionally on the ground for spilled seed there. They balance easily on the many diverse swaying devices we put out for winter birds we enjoy attracting. Where they appear is always a surprise. It’s all about the availability of the local food supply.