Feeders; what a great way to bring the birds to YOU, to see them up close from your nest instead of searching for theirs. Place that cornucopia of bird food strategically and you can watch the birds eat breakfast while you eat breakfast. When you get home from work, you can tune into the feeder instead of zoning out to the TV. Heck, it’s your home; if you feel like it, dress in tweed and pretend to be Sherlock Holmes, invite a friend to be Watson and solve bird ID quandaries; “No, you haven’t seen an Ivory-billed at the feeder; that is a Pileated my dear Watson” (you could also do this on field trips but unless it’s Halloween or you despise networking I wouldn’t advise it).
Watch your trusty feeder to get inspiration from Cardinals, Goldfinches, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, and Mourning Doves (yes this species CAN generate inspiration…although mostly when they get wacked by Cooper’s Hawks). I admit some feeders have a hard time at being inspirational; I know this from personal experience. I watched our family feeder as a kid in downtown Niagara Falls and to risk being called close-minded, it pretty much sucked. The few highlights at our feeder were rare visits by Downy Woodpecker and Song Sparrow. I wondered where all the Goldfinches, Grosbeaks, Redpolls and other cool birds were and eventually learned two main things from my first bird-feeder:
1.) That my backyard had an unholy affinity for Pigeons, Starlings and House Sparrows and 2.) I had to search for the “cool” birds elsewhere. I eventually found those “cool” birds and ended up in a country with a huge variety of very cool birds; Costa Rica. Here, I never have to be concerned about a trio of invasives being the only stars in the backyard bird show. Exotic bird families show up and species differ by location, elevation and feeder food offered. For the most part, fruit is used instead of seeds; papayas, ripe plantains and bananas. In fact, with feeders in Costa Rica, you almost want to go out there and feed with the birds. Birds like….
that most versatile of flycatchers, the Great Kiskadee.
These guys will eat just about anything and are far from shy; kind of like the “Blue Jay” of Costa Rican feeder birds. This one is choking down a lizard.
Blue Gray Tanagers are standard. Locals called them “Viudas” which means “Widows”. This is a true Tico entymological mystery because Tica widows don’t wear blue. One would have expected Groove-billed Anis to have this monniker but they are called “Tijos” after their call.
Instead of House Sparrows (which seem to be restricted to gas stations and MacDonalds, go figure), we’ve got Rufous-collared Sparrows. This one was at one of the only seed feeders I have seen in Costa Rica; at the Noche Buena restaurant high up on Irazu Volcano.
The common backyard finch in much of Costa Rica is the Grayish Saltator. Their finchy song can be heard all over town but they can be kind of skulky.
Clay-colored Robins, the national bird of Costa Rica are faithful feeder visitors.
Summer Tanager shows up at fruit feeders all over Costa Rica. This species has to be one of the most common wintering birds.
Another very common wintering species that loves the fruit is Baltimore Oriole.
One of the only warblers that will visit a fruit feeder is the Tennessee Warbler.
In the Caribbean lowlands, the resident oriole species is the Black-cowled. It also takes advantage of fruit feeders.
As do striking Passerini’s Tanagers
Feeders near cloud forest attract some seriously mind blowing birds. Some of the best feeders were located in Cinchona; a town tragically destroyed by the January 8, 2009 earthquake. The following images of some downright clownlike birds were taken there.
Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet,
Red-headed Barbet – check out the blue cheeks on this female
And Crimson-collared Tanager
The hummingbird feeders in Costa Rica are also fantastic; so fantastic though, that I think they merit their own, separate post.