Couch-Potato Birding…

…also known as bird watching.  What’s the difference between bird watching and birding? Quite a bit actually.  Bird watching is a more passive activity in which feeders are set out and you wait to see who comes by for meal. Usually people bird watch from the comfort of their homes. On the other hand, birding is a much more active pasttime that involves going out into different types of habitat to locate and identify as many birds as possible, or it is simply an effort to go hunting a specific species.  It can be quite physical as you need to do a lot of hiking and moving about.  While successful bird watching requires patience and luck, birding success comes about by doing one’s homework on bird habitats, migratory patterns, and bird behaviors. Then you need to know the subtle differences in bird species to make an identification on the fly (pun intended). By actually going out to look for birds in different areas, you stand to find many more types of birds than just staying home where there is a limit on the species you’re going to see.  In a future post I will describe how this more active approach played a role in turning me on to birds.

Northern Cardinal Male

So is our Team a group of birdwatchers or birders? Both.  We all enjoy the hunt of going into the field, and we also love to watch what comes to the feeder.  Right now in the middle of winter, my wife and I lead busy lives as teachers who are raising two kids under the age of 5.  There isn’t a lot of time to go birding right now, unfortunately.  It’s also really cold in Minnesota.  So we do a lot of couch-potato birding – making sure the feeder is kept full of seeds and the suet cage is stocked with delicious animal fat, and then we sit inside the house and watch.  We’ve never fed the birds consistently in the winter before this year.  What success we have had since we started a couple months ago!  I had no idea that we would get so many cool species dropping by.  We had a lot of activity yesterday: a pair of Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Eurasian Collared Doves, Black-Capped Chickadees, and a whole assortment of sparrows.  One note on the Red-Bellied Woodpecker: its name is a misnomer.  The only red on it is on the back of its head.  Go figure.  You can see this in the photograph beneath this one of the Downy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker

Not all the pictures in this post are from yesterday; some are from earlier this fall.  We’ve also had the Pileated Woodpecker drop by (Holy cow, are they big and prehistoric-looking!), and we’ve had both the White-Breasted and Red-Breasted Nuthatches.  We even had the Hairy Woodpecker.  The Hairy and the Downy look nearly identical, except one is a couple inches longer than the other.  I missed a golden opportunity to highlight this difference with a photograph when both species were on the suet feeder at the same time.

I realize we don’t have high quality bird photos to show you, but we are amateurs who are just getting started in this hobby.  (I just found out about phone scopes  – super cool!) It is my goal to be able to photograph birds well so that we can have attractive photos for you and make our stories that much more exciting.  If you are a birder who has some advice for bird photography, help us out by giving us some advice.  For now, though, I hope you can appreciate some of the diversity we’ve had in our bird feeder activity.


Red-Bellied Woodpecker and Blue Jay

Pileated Woodpecker

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