Tuesday, 18 September 2012


            There are approximately 20 species of Woodpeckers in North America. The three most common species here in Northern Ontario are the Downy, Hairy, and, Pileated Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker
The downy woodpecker is the smallest of the three at approximately 6 inches. They are white with black wings that feature white spots. Males will have a bright red cap on the back of their head. They are highly tolerant to human activity and become quite tame. They tend to feed higher in trees but will also come down to a suet log or feeder with peanut halves or sunflower seeds.
Hairy Woodpecker
The hairy woodpecker shares most physical traits with the downy; they are however a little larger at about 9 inches. They are easily distinguishable by their larger more developed beak. Unfortunately they are not quite as tame as their little cousins, though they will tolerate some human activity. Like the downy they prefer the suet but will feed on sunflower seeds and peanut halves.

Pileated Woodpecker
The largest and most impressive of the three is the Pileated Woodpecker, growing up to 20 inches tall. They are black with white underside and a bright red crest. You’ll also know one is around by the loud noise they make when pecking at a tree. They prefer to stay in wooded areas but have been known to frequent a suet log in the winter months. They are quite wary of human activity and generally don’t stick around when people line up to gawk. To increase the chances of bringing the pileated into your yard to feed try putting the suet higher in the tree or directly on the bark this will allow them to feed at a comfortable distance.

            Woodpeckers favour suet but are also quite partial to peanut halves. The ideal treat would be suet with peanuts or pieces of peanuts in it. There are several types of feeders one can use such a as a cage for a suet cake, a pin for a suet ball, or a suet log with holes to stuff the suet into.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


As spring arrives so do the hummingbirds! Though they haven’t quite made their way to Sudbury yet, it is only a matter of weeks!

There is said to be over 350 types of hummingbirds across the America's. Included in the hummingbird family is the smallest living bird, the Bee Hummingbird which has a wingspan of just 2 inches (for comparison the Ruby-Throated has a wingspan of about 4 inches). The most common species of hummingbird in our area is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The males are easily identified by their vibrant ruby throats. The females are a little more non-descript in their simple green plumage, bare throat, and white chest feathers. The average weight for an adult hummingbird is around 3.1 grams.

Females lay two pea sized eggs per clutch within 2-3 days of each other. Incubation lasts only a 2-3 weeks and each female will raise 2-3 broods each year, often reusing or rebuilding a previously used nest. The fledglings are cared for by their mother for only 14-20 days. Once they can feed themselves there are on their own. Though it is believed they can live up to 12 years they generally live somewhere between 3 to 5 years.

Feeding Hummingbirds is a great deal of fun because they are very tolerant of human activity. Though they may fly to the nearest tree when someone approaches they quickly return to the feeder when they do not feel threatened. This means that the feeders can be placed very close to your house making it a breeze to watch these zippy little birds. It is also very entertaining to watch the hummingbirds chase each other around the yard trying to guard the feeder.
Speaking of feeders there is a wide variety of hummingbird feeders available. Some are more decorative while others place function first. There are really just two things to consider when choosing a hummingbird feeder. It is recommended to select one that will prevent insects such as wasps and ants from getting into the nectar and one that has as little yellow on it as possible.
Bees and wasps alike are attracted to the colour yellow. Most feeders have yellow port holes. These should either be painted red or swapped for red ones.
The best solution, however, is to choose a feeder that makes the nectar inaccessible to them. Hummingbirds have long tongues and can get at nectar in a feeder that is constructed so that the solution is in a reservoir too deep for insects to reach. There are also attachments that can be added to the port holes making it impossible for the insects to reach the nectar.

Once the bees and wasps find your feeder they will communicate its location to the hive. Moving your feeder can thwart their efforts, though only temporarily.

For the nectar mix 1 part sugar (plain white granulated sugar) with 3 parts water. We do however recommend to use a pre-mixed solution or specially formulated hummingbird food powder which has extra calcium and vitamins which is essential for females when breeding! We carry both pre-mixed liquid hummingbird food as well as powdered hummingbird food (just add water) at the Backyard Birder Nature Gift Shop!

Fun Facts

·         Wing beats: 40-80 per second, average of 52

·         Heart rate: 250 beats per minute (resting), 1200 beats per minute (feeding)

·         Flight speed: 48 kph in normal flight, 80 kph when escaping, and up to 100 kph when in a dive

·         Nonstop migration from southern Canada to Gulf of Mexico

·         Males migrate earlier, while breeding females and juveniles will wait until the first frost

·         Nests are about 2” in diameter

·         Eggs are no bigger than a pea 

·        Largest species has a wingspan over 8 inches
·        Smallest has a wingspan of just 2 inches
Hummingbirds are a joy to have in your yard during the late spring and summer months. You can track their migration here and also report any sightings throughout the summer! Make sure to stop by the store for all your hummingbird needs!

Monday, 5 March 2012


There are many species of birds and many types of seeds to suit all their needs. The first step in deciding what is best for you is to identify the birds that are coming to your yard. Once this is done you are ready to target which birds you want to keep around, or other species you may want to attract.

Fortunately many birds share seed preferences. To appeal to the widest variety of birds a pre-mixed blend of many types of seeds is often ideal. As with everything, bulk is the target. Though a 50lbs bag of seed may not be the easiest thing to carry around it is always cheaper to buy big. It is important, to note, when buying in bulk to have a cool dry place to store your seeds. We also recommend transferring your seeds to a metal can to insure that no unwanted diners get into your seed.

The most commonly recommended bird feed is the Black Oil Sunflower seed. This appeals to a wide variety of birds because of it high oil content. This is especially beneficial in the winter because of the high energy levels in the oil. For a cleaner alternative we suggest Hulled Sunflower which is simply the Black Oil Sunflower seeds without the shell. This reduces the mess because the shells are not tossed to the ground by the birds. It also favoured by the birds because it requires little to no effort because there is no shell to crack. This will surely keep them at your feeders!

If you are getting Blue Jays in your yard we strongly recommend Peanuts in a Shell paired with our Peanut Wreath. Blue Jays cannot resist this fun feeder which makes them work a little harder than usual to pull the peanuts out of the coil. If you like watching Blue Jays feed than this feeder should most definitely be on your shopping list!

Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and Junco's all prefer to feed on the ground. For these birds we suggest a pre-mixed blend with lots of Millet, Cut Corn, and Hulled Sunflower. These birds have a harder time with the larger hard shelled seeds.

If you're seeing a lot of Redpolls, Pine Siskin, and Goldfinches in your yard then the best thing you can put out for them in Nyjer. These small black seeds are their favourite!

One thing to always make sure to have out for the birds is Suet. For birds of all types this is the bees knees! You can read up on it in our previous blog post: "Winter Feeding Tip #1 - Suet".  Don't be fooled by the title though, suet is just as good for birds in the Spring and Summer as it is in the Winter!

From left: Black Oil, Striped Sunflower, Hulled Sunflower, Peanut Halves, and Peanuts in a Shell

At the Backyard Birder we carry, year round1, 50lb bags of Black Oil Sunflower, Striped Sunflower, Hulled Sunflower, Peanut Halves, and Peanuts in a shell, and, Nyjer. We also carry 40lb bags of Whole and Cracked Corn. We do, of course, also carry smaller bags ranging from 1lb to 20lbs2. 

In addition to single grains we also have a variety of custom blends which are mixed and bagged in store. We offer a Blue Jay Mix, Chickadee Mix, and a Sparrow Mix which target these specific species. We also have our Special Blend and Backyard Blend which provide a wider variety of seeds. Though there is something for everything in these particular blends, the Backyard Blend favours finches and sparrows. Our mixes are available in 10lb bags or, depending on the mix, 25lb, 30lb, and 40lb bags.

Here is a quick reference guide (that you can print out) of which birds like these common types of seeds and peanuts.

If you have any questions about feeding and the different types of seeds to not hesitate to ask either right here in the comments or on Facebook!

Keep an eye out for our next post on which feeders to match with the different types of feed and which style of feeder the different species favour!

1 Subject to change without notice.
2 Sizes vary by type of seed, not sold on a per pound basis.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Pine Grosbeaks

Pine Grosbeaks are amongst the largest of finches. They are easily identified by their long tail, stubby body, and, slightly hooked bill. The males are rather striking with red plumage which is a stark contrast to the females who sport a dowdy olive gray colour.

Pine Grosbeaks like their yellow cousins, the Evening Grosbeak, are a rare sight indeed. Unlike Evening Grosbeaks, which will migrate all the way down to Mexico, Pine Grosbeaks tend to stay North even during the winter. There does seem to be a more southerly migration during particularly harsh winters when food is scarce.

Fortunately for birders across Northern Ontario the Pine Grosbeaks have made their way to our area. The flocks have been exceedingly strong in the Sudbury area. Pine Grosbeaks like most birds favour Black Oil Sunflower Seeds and simply cannot resist Hulled Sunflower Seeds (both of which are available in store!). These beautiful birds are ground feeders. Simply tossing the feed on the snow would suffice, though you may also go the route of a tray feeder that reduces the spread of the seeds limiting the mess that the birds can sometimes leave behind. We carry many styles of tray feeders in store, as well as “fly-through” feeders which they will also frequent. 

Pine Grosbeaks are a wonderful addition to any yard. These birds are exceptionally tame and highly tolerant of human activity, making them a favourite amongst birders. The Backyard Birder does not, however, encourage direct interaction with the birds!

Make sure to stop by the store and pick up all you need to attract and keep the Pine Grosbeaks coming to your yard!

Also hit us up on Facebook and post your pictures of Pine Grosbeaks and let us know if they are visiting your yard!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


The Redpolls are back!
These birds which breed in the far North of Coastal Greenland, Baffin Island, and, areas of the Hudson Bay follow no particular migratory pattern. They do, however, commonly head south in search of food during the winter. How far they go varies with the years this often makes them absent in the Sudbury, and surrounding, area.
Redpolls are small sparrow sized finches with gray-brown streaks on their back and sides. Their distinguishing feature is the red cap on their head as well as their black throat patch. Male Redpolls also have light pink plumage on their chests.
Fortunately for Northern Ontario birders the redpolls have come to us in search of food. They are a favorite amongst birders because of the large flocks the move in, up to one hundred strong.
Redpoll’s seed of choice is Nyjer, though they will also eat sunflower seeds. Redpolls will move on if they find a lack of food so it is essential to keep your feeders filled!
At the Backyard Birder Nature Gift Shop we have many different styles of Nyjer feeders as well as sunflower seed feeders which can be seen on our website http://www.backyardbirder.ca/#!birds. We also carry both nyjer seeds and sunflower seeds in store!

Also check us out on Facebook and share your Redpoll stories and pictures!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Winter Feeding Tip #1 - Suet!

Suet, Suet, and, even more Suet!
One of the best things you can serve up for your feathered friends is Suet. Suet is the dense white fat that collects around beef kidneys and loins. This provides a high level of energy that the birds so desperately need in our rather frigid winter conditions. It is often mixed with seeds and nuts to further attract the birds.
Suet is best offered in a hardware cage that is hung from a tree branch or off a hook. At the Backyard Birder Nature Gift Shop we have a wide selection of suet feeders. From simple cages that the preformed suet cakes slide into to more decorative suet holders designed for the highly sought after suet balls.

We offer a wide variety of suet to better suit individual species. The Backyard Birder suggests the eco-friendly Suet Plus, which uses 80% less packaging than the comparably sized Scotts suet.

Our suet ranges from $1.99* (CAD) for a single suet cake to $8.99*(CAD) for two cakes of premium suet. Our very popular suet balls that are rolled in peanuts for extra appeal are $3.49*(CAD). Though it is most beneficial for the birds during the cold winter months suet is just as appealing to them in the warmer summer months, and is carried in store year round.

Putting out suet is a sure fire way to attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, and, Blue Jays.

*Prices do not include Ontario Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)