(Chelsea Update would like to thank Tom Hodgson and the Waterloo Natural History Association for the information and photos in this column.)
Common Redpoll: This tiny, chickadee sized bird nests in the arctic tundra and boreal forests. It can stand winter temperatures of -65 degrees Fahrenheit when it can find adequate food. During years when food is scarce in their northern home, redpolls head south.
This apparently is one of those years, as they have already been seen at local Chelsea backyard bird feeders. They are especially fond of thistle seed. Named after the red patch on the top of the head, both male and female also have a black around the face and chin, and a yellow bill.
The male’s chest is often washed with pink or red as well. Enjoy them while you can, as we may not see them again for several years.
Not everyone is enamored with blue jays. They are very gregarious and often noisy. But, they can also intimidate other birds. Blue Jays are in the same family as the common crow and exhibit some of the same social behaviors.
Blue jays are another local year-round resident.
The chickadee gets its name from its call note. All winter it says “chickadee-dee-dee-dee.” Its song, which we hear during the breeding season, consists of just two clear, plaintive, descending, notes.
Sometimes called the “upside down bird,” the nuthatch often forages for insects by walking head first down a tree trunk.
A permanent resident throughout its range, it is most easily seen in winter when these birds are attracted to backyard feeders.
Sunflowers and suet are the white-breasted nuthatch’s favorite fare.
This bird was once an uncommon sight in Michigan, only present in mild winters. But, because of the warm winters in recent years, this bird has become much more common – both as a local summer nester and winter visitor to Chelsea backyard feeders.
If these wrens are in your neighborhood, suet will bring them to your feeder.