Although the threat from bears is minimal this time of year, there are still other animals, besides birds, that take advantage of such an accessible source of food.
Upon close inspection, the snow at the base of the Pinkham Notch bird feeder(s) is pocked with the tracks of red squirrels. Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), as many private winter bird feeders may know, tend to await anxiously the arrival of bird seed. Some observers have noted the systematic behavior of squirrels in regards to developing methods to obtain bird seed (the bird feeder manufacturers of the world have made millions on proclaimed “squirrel proof” feeders). Two red squirrels were recently observed “wrestling” near a bird feeder at Pinkham Notch, presumably over a morsel of seed.
Other animals are attracted to bird feeders, but not for the seeds placed there by obliging humans. Numerous predators, including ermine (Mustela erminea) and martens (Martes Americana) are presented with a virtual buffet due to the varieties of birds feasted at feeders. Both members of the weasel family, ermine and martens are adept hunters, and both species have been known to frequent the area around the
Much has been said about the various non-bird species that can be found at and around the feeders, but what about the birds? Already this season blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) and white-breasted nuthatches (Sita carolinensis) have been observed enjoying the bounty.
The pronounced crest of the blue jay, as well as its size (they are members of the Family Corvidae, which also includes crows and ravens) set them apart from the smaller songbirds. Omnivorous, blue jays are known to cache food throughout their range, feeding predominately on insects and masts (seeds). While watching the blue jays at feeders, you can observe breeding pairs make quick work of grabbing some seed and then flying off to store their take for later.
Black-capped chickadees are much smaller than blue jays, with strong, short bills (indicative of the Family Paridae) which help them to split open seeds and nuts. They can often be seen taking seeds and then flying back to cover, where they crack them open and eat them. Sunflower seeds are a particular favorite of this species.
White-breasted nuthatches, frequent visitors of feeders, have a long, narrow beak. This particular bird is also well known for foraging while climbing head first down tree trunks, a method unique to this species.
More birds are often spotted throughout the winter season at Pinkham Notch, including:
Curious about the birds feasting at your feeder? Check out the Trading Post store at the
***All photos taken by Kassie Fenn, AMC Naturalist Guide
Labels: AMC Naturalists, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center