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Bird Feeding Strategies, part 1 – On and Near the Ground.

February 22, 2014

Song Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

Dark-Eyed Junco

I was out looking around recently in a bit of a break from the frigid weather and saw various species foraging for food.  Perhaps they’re more noticeable doing this in the snow…but it did get me to thinking about the different ways birds feed, particularly in the cold winter weather.  So I figured I could get a couple of posts out of this observation!

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Here’s a Song Sparrow foraging in a bit of exposed grass.  Like most winter ground feeders, this bird is looking for seeds from various weeds in the grass.  These seeds are often small, but a lot of them add up to survival, and birds generally have all day to look for them.

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Here’s our sparrow in a bigger grass patch- this bird wasn’t too worried about me walking nearby, undoubtedly being used to people in the park area where it’s hanging out.  It’s concentrating intently on finding the seeds that mean life to it (in sufficient quantities).  I’m guessing this bird is a hundred times better at finding what it’s looking for than I could ever be.

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Here’s another Song Sparrow in a different location- along the shoreline of bodies of water can be a great place to find food, seeing that it is the meeting place of 2 different ecosystems.  I’m guessing a lot of things wash up along the shore worth checking out…and there’s always a drink there too (if it’s not terribly cold).

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Here’s a Tree Sparrow eating Aster seeds right off the dried-out stems.  Not all seeds disperse quickly upon the wind or attached to a furry critter’s back.  This is an easy feast of bunches of tiny Aster seeds that grew last autumn.  Other birds such as Robins can still find berries to pluck off of bushes in a similar fashion.

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Here’s a Dark-Eyed Junco foraging through the typical leaf litter underneath some trees, looking closely for seeds, tree buds and the occasional berry (the red stuff seen around him looks rather yummy).  All sorts of things are to be found on the forest floor to eat, it just takes time and patience.

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Here’s another Tree Sparrow feasting on some leftover Aster seeds in a field.  One day on a snowy walk I started paying closer attention to the weeds along the path and I was surprised to see so many of these winter sparrows moving through the waste material of last summer and autumn’s growing season.

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Another Tree Sparrow eats some seeds found in a snowy field.  These birds blend in well with their habitat.

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This White-Throated Sparrow has been probing the snow with its beak looking for tasty morsels.  This species is famous for scratching and hopping with its feet in snow and leaves, uncovering possible food.  Lots of birds will do this by claw or by beak, turning up the ground cover to see what is beneath.  Sometimes you can hear them in the woods if you stand still and listen.

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This bird is searching intently for food, unaware I was standing mere feet away and holding very still.  This is a great way to see behaviors that you may not easily see otherwise.

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This White-Throat is eating what looks to be a tree bud that’s fallen to the snow.

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And this bird has uncovered a seed- all of that searching, poking and prodding has paid off!

It seems fairly easy to find things to eat on the ground or in the weeds in the winter (as long as the snow isn’t very deep over a wide area).  Next week we’ll look at another prominent way to find food in the cold season.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2014 8:06 am

    After observing them for more years than I like to admit, I still continue to be amazed by how these small creatures “make a living” under what to us seem like the harshest conditions.

  2. February 24, 2014 6:24 am

    I hope they’re finding plenty. They’ve had a rough time of it this year in this area.

    • February 24, 2014 8:01 am

      It’s amazing how adaptable nature is, Gardener- I know I wouldn’t have made it outside this winter!

  3. February 24, 2014 6:43 pm

    Hi Seasons, So glad you mentioned about just being still and observing. That is really helpful and it works! Your photographs are wonderful. I just so enjoy seeing all those Sparrows (Junco, too). Have an outstanding Tuesday tomorrow!

    • February 24, 2014 6:58 pm

      Many thanks, Wildlifewatcher! One of these days I’m going to write a post about the benefits of being still outdoors!

  4. February 25, 2014 9:57 am

    Lovely photos! I agree with your first commenter – these tiny birds are amazing in their ability to feed and survive in prolonged snowy winters. I hope you are seeing some signs of spring soon!

  5. March 30, 2014 8:44 pm

    Enjoyed seeing your birds as they search for winter nourishment.

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