Up here in the northeast United States there are many birds who winter over here as opposed to migrating south for the winter. There are many berries and nuts that provide food for these species the most popular one being the staghorn sumac. The staghorn sumac grows along wood margins and hedgerows all over much of New York State and beyond. This shrub like tree produces cluster of seeds that look like small red pyramidical sponges at the tips of their many branches that peak at 6 to 20 feet above the ground creating the perfect perch for small birds to feed and be on alert for predators. Many claim that towards the spring that the sugar content in these fuzzy looking seeds increases. This apparently is great timing for the many birds that depend on this food source well into the spring. Sumac is a weed tree that crops out in the areas where woodlands and crop ground meet and are notorious for widening many hedge rows by its quick growth. We should think twice before removing hedgerows to expand croplands.
This being the end of January those watching the birds will observe that the starlings in their large swarms have picked clean many small groves of sumac but fortunately many groves still remain. Notice the male sumac does not have clusters of seed. Sumac in the fall with its orange seeds and bright leaves is truely beautiful. Sumac can grow in very poor soils and in dry conditions. Despite the height of the branches being above you they can be pulled down to observe the seed pods. Large birds like turkey can pull the seed pods down to ground height.
With so much of the natural habitat depleted by urban spraul and modern agricultural practices, many birds have become dependent on feeding stations set up by concerned citizens, especially during late winter. Pileated woodpeckers, bluebirds, mocking birds, chickadees, flickers, sapsuckers, white-crowned and white throated sparrows, Carolina wren, redpoll, pine siskin and evening grosbeck are frequent at feeders provided by many who wish to help the bird population during the winter. Later, towards spring, robins and red winged black birds will frequent feeding stations in their return from migrating south. Different species of birds favor unique foods. The most popular are seeds such as corn, sunflower, peanuts, nyjer, white millet, and beef suet.
Aiding the birds during the winter months helps to maintain many species of birds in your neighborhood and your charitable help is rewarded by your opportunity to enjoy the beauty of birds. I hope this article encourages you to get out of the house this winter to feed the birds.
Reference: Hans Kunze, Batavia Daily News