Category Archives: Backyard Birds

Sunflower Seeds Sprouting in my Ball Bird Feeder!

Ball Bird Feeder in my Backyard

The birds enjoy this ball feeder!

I bought this ball bird feeder awhile ago, and have no regrets at all about it. It supplies the Black-capped Chickadees with seeds for many days at a time. The American Goldfinches also enjoy the feeder.

It does, however, suffer from the same engineering problem that many bird feeders suffer from. There are some seeds that become impossible for the birds to reach. So as this ball feeder empties, it gets to a certain point, maybe when it’s 1/4 full or less, where it becomes increasingly difficult for the birds to get the seeds out of it. I think it might be because all of the smaller seeds, which more easily fit through the holes, have been eaten, and what remains are the larger seeds, which the birds have to crack open, because they can not fit the whole seed through the holes in the wire mesh.

Anyway, if I don’t tend to it, the birdfeeder ball will sit for many days with a small amount of seeds remaining in it.  Usually a week later, when I finally go to refill it, I have to dump out those remaining seeds that the birds weren’t able to get.

Invariably, some of the sunflower seeds have sprouted!!!

So, this ball bird feeder might be the perfect tool for making sprouted seeds!  If you’ve read up much on seed germination, you know that it’s part magic… (Well, living in rainy Washington probably does help — seeds do need a moist environment to sprout.)

This is not really a bad thing.  Ever buy sprouted rice or alfalfa sprouts or other sprouted foods at the grocery store?  Sprouted foods have more nutritional value and are kind of a health fad.  So, I pour those sprouted seeds into my platform feeder, and it seems that they do get eaten.

Sprouted Seeds From my Ball Bird Feeder

I pour these gigantic sprouted seeds that were in the bottom of the ball feeder into a hanging platform bird feeder. The birds have a nutritious feast!

So, because I love science and birds and sprouting stuff, I just thought you’d maybe find this interesting.  Maybe you could buy a ball feeder and a platform feeder and give it a try too?  BTW, if you’re in the market for a bird feeder, I highly recommend any that are made out of metal.  They can be cleaned easily and seem to last the longest.

Scrub Jay Loves Peanuts

California Scrub-Jay visits us in Tacoma, WA area – LOVES peanuts!!

Starting about 2 weeks ago (beginning of September 2016), we’ve had California Scrub-Jays visiting our backyard.  We’ve been feeding Stellar Jays peanuts for years, but this is the first time we’ve had any regular Scrub-Jays.  Last autumn, we had a timid one, for a few weeks, but he never took to getting peanuts.

This year, we have a pair, one is smaller, so it may be a parent and a child.  I’m not sure if there’s any size difference between the sexes.  Anyone know?California Scrub Jay Foraging Peanuts

They are gregarious and friendly, and were unafraid of me photographing them out in the open.  I was surprised that they were so outgoing, since they are so new to my backyard, while the stellar jays that we’ve had around for years, are hesitant when I change my behavior at all.

They are also very vocal, constantly chatting when foraging or pretty much all morning long!  A bit annoying, not at all pleasant — makes it hard to ignore them!  They will hang out right outside my window and even fly onto my porch!

California Scrub Jay with Peanuts in Tacoma WA Backyard

We’re actually in Lakewood, WA, and I don’t believe that these birds are really that uncommon in Washington State — I think I saw one near Point Defiance a few years ago — but it’s so lovely to have some new regular backyard birds to our feeders.

In addition to feasting on peanuts, they also enjoy sunflower seeds.  We have this hanging platform feeder, and they do eat off of it.

Scientific Side Note: What also makes this bird interesting, is the recent news that the Western Scrub-Jay is being split into two different species, the California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) and the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii).  See this article: Taxonomy Update for 2016

Have you seen these near you?  Any experiences to share?

What do Chickadees feed their young?

Black-Capped Chickadee with Caterpillar


Both Chickadee parents feed their young.  They take turns feeding and guarding the nest.

Above is a photo of one of the chickadees bringing a green caterpillar to the nest. Somewhere there must be a lot of these caterpillars, as hour after hour, these cute little birds find them.  It’s hard to believe, but a pair of chickadees have to bring thousands of caterpillars to feed their babies.  In fact, according to NestWatch, the parents need 6000-9000 caterpillars to feed just one brood!

They also feed them spiders and other insects.  In the below picture, that little dot in his beak is actually a spider!

Black-Capped Chickadee with Spider


Here’s another photo that shows a Chickadee hauling in a bunch of bugs (looks like a spider AND a caterpillar!).

Chickadee with Insects

It is my lucky year because the birds have chosen one of our bird houses to nest in!  We put up two of them over a year ago.  This is the first year that a pair decided to move in!  Baby birds that are too young to leave their nest are called “Nestlings” and this pair definitely has some hungry ones to feed!  I don’t know how many have hatched, but I heard that the average brood size is 6.  I am too afraid to look in (I don’t want to disturb them) but if I stand right next to the birdhouse, I can often hear very quiet high pitch calls coming from the nestlings!

Chickadee Sticking his Head out of the Birdhouse


This is an ongoing photo story about a family of chickadees I’ve been watching. Here are more photos of Black-Capped Chickadees.

Chickadees Bringing Food to the Nest for their Newly Hatched Babies

Black-Capped Chickadee with food for their young

Black-Capped Chickadee with food for their young

This is a follow-up post to the continuing saga of Chickadees choosing to make a nest in a birdhouse right near my window.

The babies have hatched! I know this not because I’ve looked into the birdhouse, but from observing the parent chickadee behavior. The bird house was really quiet for a couple of weeks, but now the parent or parents are busy going in and out of it!  I can see that they have food in their beaks. It looks like they are finding little garden worms or grubs. I imagine that like human babies, hatchlings need soft food, as their beaks aren’t fully developed yet.

Black-Capped Chickadee with Food for Babies

Black-Capped Chickadee with Food for Babies

I also stood in front of the bird house and by listening very carefully, I could hear the baby chickadees make little sounds! And then the Mom showed up with her food for them!

I know people do inspect bird nests with flashlights and small mirrors to count the eggs or babies, but I don’t want to do anything to disturb them. I am just going to be patient and wait until they’re ready to leave the nest. There is concrete under the bird house, so I’m going to put something soft down incase the babies fall out. I don’t want them to get hurt!


Black-Capped Chickadee Talking to their Young: “I’ll be right back with more food!”


The Black-Capped Chickadees are very cautious. They try to make sure that no other bird sees them going to and from the nest.  But they seem to think that us humans are OK!

Day 5 of Nest Building for Mother Black-Capped Chickadee

The adventure continues!  The mom brought small twigs and white fluffy material to her nest today.  Also she found some red stuff that we couldn’t recognize.  She likes to stop near her bird house and always looks around before going in.  When she sees me, a “human,” watching she waits until I look away before quickly flying into the birdhouse.

Black Capped Chickadee with Soft White Nesting Material

Black Capped Chickadee with Soft White Nesting Material


Black-capped Chickadee with White Fluffy Nesting Material


UPDATE:  It took about a week for them to complete their nest.  Then it was quiet for a couple of weeks while the parent incubated her eggs and the other parent stood guard.  Then the feedings began.

Spring Happenings in Backyard Birding

It’s been Spring for over 3 weeks now.  The birds are singing.  The Maple trees are getting their leaves and the tulips are blooming.  Yes, already.  Spring comes early to Western Washington State (Tacoma area).    In fact, some Rhododendrans are already blossoming!  The temperatures have been swinging from sub-40 nights to 60+ days.

Red Breasted Nuthatch

We’ve had lots of Red-Breasted Nuthatches today!  They enjoy suet and seeds.  They are small, quick, & swift birds with short tails and a strong sold eye stripe.


Stellar Jay


It’s peanut time at least twice a day!  These Stellar Jays are so smart and with repeated daily feedings, they have become quite friendly too.  We throw whole shelled peanuts on to the patio for them.  Sometimes they try to get our attention by walking on our shed roof, which we can see from the living room window.




We have these beautiful house finches at our feeders every day!  They are polite visitors as they never throw bird seed (I’m looking at you, Pine Siskin).


American Goldfinch


We had our first sighting of an American Goldfinch this season.  Last year, they stayed through the end of Autumn.  This isn’t the best photo ever, but it’s my record of having seen him!


Pine Siskin – Is this a fledgling?

Pine Siskin

It’s mid-April, which would seem way too early for a fledgling.  However, there was a small bird feeder on my patio, under my bird feeder, that did not fly away when I approached it.  I took a couple of photos of it.  It looks like it has some extra fur on it like I imagine a baby bird would, but my husband suggests that maybe it is just an old bird that’s puffed up to stay warm.

What do you think?  Is this bird young, or old?  I hope he or she is OK.  I checked later and it was no longer there.

Pine Siskin


Nest Making Time for Black-Capped Chickadee in Tacoma, Washington

Chickadee on Nest Box

Black-Capped Chickadee Looking in His Home

Success!  We have Chickaddees making a nest!

Here’s what’s happened so far:

April 9, 2015  

A Black-Capped Chickadee “inspected” the bird house, flying in and out of it at least a dozen times, and looking all around it, above it, next to it, etc.  The bird house is attached to our shed. There is a gap at the top of the shed door, and the chickadee even stuck its little head in and looked into the shed.  Then later that day, he brought by another chickadee to show it his home.  I can’t tell female from male, so maybe it was her showing him… I don’t know which.

April 10 – April 11, 2015

Black-Capped Chickadee(s) are getting territorial over their new man-made home!  The chickadee attacked a downy woodpecker that was eating at a nearby suet feeder.    We usually only see one chickadee at a time so it’s hard to know if one is staying in the house all of the time or not.  We also saw other Chickadees checking out another nearby nesting box.

April 12, 2015 

The chickadees started bringing nesting material.  It looks like they are using some moss and some red flower petals!  Maybe some dog fur from next door too.  I can’t tell if they are sharing in building the nest, but it appears that while one is out getting nest material, the other stands near the nest, guarding it.

April 15, 2015

The Chickadees continue to bring nesting material to their bird house.  They carry lots of green material in their bill, which may have been moss or grass.  I also saw them picking at our porch carpet.  One time it looked like they found dog fur.  I tried to get photos of them building their nest, but I was not patient enough and just got the above photo of the chickadee on the outside of the nesting box.   When the Chickadee wasn’t busy getting nesting material,  she would stand nearby, acting as a sentry, guarding the box and occasionally scaring off other birds. We moved the suet feeder farther away so that it wouldn’t be so close to the nest.

We are very excited because this is the first time we’ve had any birds use our bird house!!

Red-breasted Nuthatch at my Backyard Bird Feeder


Black-Capped Chickadee (on pole) and Red-breasted Nuthatch (on suet feeder).  

These cute little guys are supposed to live here year round (Tacoma area, Washington state) but I’ve only seen them in the winter time.   The Red-breasted Nuthatch has a smaller body and a longer beak compared to the Chickadee.  They are very friendly birds.  They will visit my feeder even when I’m standing right next to it!  They are also very resourceful, as I’ve seen them get seeds from both the feeder and from the ground!  They enjoy Sunflower seed and suet.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Here he is on the top of the bird feeder pole!

Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskins

Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskins on my Gardman Hanging Feeder Tray

Not at all afraid, he will quickly get a seed.  He doesn’t seem to mind these Pine Siskins!

Cooper’s Hawk on my Fence this Morning!!


This guy (or one like it) has visited my bird feeders before, but this is the first time that he stayed still long enough to get some good photos.  He wants to snatch a bird from my feeder, but the chickadees warn all of the birds by saying “DEE DEE DEE” really loud when they see him, and they hide in the bushes.

I had previously thought this was a Sharp-shinned Hawk but after carefully reading about the differences between Sharp-Shinned Hawk and the Cooper’s Hawk, I think it’s a Cooper’s Hawk, but I’m still open to opinions!  I’m far from an expert in identifying birds.  His eye is yellow so I think he’s a juvenile.  The stripes don’t look rufous nor dense so that’s what tipped it in favor of being a Cooper’s Hawk.  Also, he was bigger than a Stellar Jay.

He did a little “fence hopping” before taking off:

hawk fence jumping

Aside from him, the birds that visited my feeders today were the typical winter visitors: Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins, Black Capped Chickadees, Northern Flicker, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Spotted Towhee, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.