LBJs Slipping South to the Delight of Birders
Little brown jobs (LBJs) is a term some birders and biologists use to describe small, semi-brown songbirds that they see briefly but can’t identify, because their markings aren’t noticeable enough. It usually refers to sparrows and finches. Right now there’s a new LBJ in state, and it has nothing to do with our 36th president, or his wife,
The latest LBJ to surface in
“Pine siskins are not the only boreal drifters that have been living off
The birds are attracted to birdfeeders with black-oil sunflower or thistle seeds. But they also can be commonly seen along roads and driveways, where they consume considerable amounts of grit or salt, or when they pick through cone-bearing conifers and birches for seeds.
Siskins are more at home in the northern forests of
“Although siskins do come enthusiastically to feeders, they also forage on birch catkins, cone seeds of spruces and other small-coned trees, and small seeds of perennial plants,” Gross said. “They’re opportunists like most other winter birds. Hopefully, they’ll visit your feeder. But just because you’re offering the right stuff – black-oil sunflower and thistle seeds – doesn’t mean they’ll positively come. But the opportunity to see a siskin now is greater than it has been in a long time.”
But don’t despair if you’re not attracting those Canadian LBJs. Maybe your feeders will pull in the more colorful, and unique-looking white-winged crossbills, which also currently are hanging out in
White-winged crossbills come in two conspicuous colors. Males are red; females, yellow. They should attract your attention almost immediately if they visit your feeders. They also contrast well when foraging in conifers and sometimes they can be located by listening for cone scales hitting the leaf litter beneath the trees in which they’re feeding.
“White-winged crossbills can be quite vocal when feeding,” Gross explained. “They have a nervous, twittery trill and uprising call notes, but they’re not as loud or robust as red crossbills. Males will sing in winter, but that doesn’t mean they’re nesting. In fact, there’s never been a documented nesting of white-winged crossbills in
“This could be the year that
Also please consider entering any crossbill and pine siskin sightings into Pennsylvania eBird, which can be accessed in the upper right-hand corner of the Game Commission’s homepage (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Just follow the link to “Submit Observations,” and you’ll be on your way to contributing to
Since crossbills and pine siskins converge on similar habitat, you can try to look them up afield in wild and planted conifer stands. Siskins and crossbills like to hang upside-down from branches. Favored stands include native pines and spruces, larch (tamarack), douglas and concolor fir, and red and white spruce. Stands of white and black birch also should provide a decent opportunity to see these visitors from the north.
If your backyard didn’t attract these birds of the north this winter, it could be related to what you offer in your feeders, where those feeders are located or a dearth of trees and shrubs in your yard. You may need to spruce it up with some plantings, relocate your feeder and fill it with the right stuff.
Feeders should be loaded with black-oil sunflower seeds. An additional thistle feeder is a plus. Adding a block of suet also helps to attract a wider variety of birds. Since birds cannot see glass, feeders should be located at least 15 feet away from windows. Placing feeders closer than 15 feet to windows will lead to bird collisions. It’s also a good idea to clean feeders regularly and place feeders near trees or shrubs to provide cover to birds cracking seeds or waiting to grab seeds from the feeder.
The Game Commission recently has received a number of reports about pine siskin mortality – and other species – at bird feeders. The cause appears to be Type B Salmonella, which is a human pathogen as well, and the young, elderly and immune-compromised are at particular risk.
If you encounter sick or dead birds at or near your feeder, discontinue feeding. Clean your feeder with soap and water then a 9:1 bleach solution, remove spent seed from around the feeder, and wait a week or more before feeding again. If you find more than five dead birds at or near your feeders, please contact the nearest Game Commission region office. Contact information is available on the agency’s website at www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Instead of artificial feeding, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to explore the many inexpensive plantings for their yards, some of which are available from the Game Commission through its Howard Nursery. Focus on blue and white spruce for boreal birds, but consider adding Canadian hemlock and American sweet crabapple for native songbirds. An order form can be downloaded from the agency’s website at www.pgc.state.pa.us, click on “Forms and Programs” in the left-hand column, then click on the “Howard Nursery Seedling Program.” The deadline for orders is
“Making your yard a bird paradise is an exceptional way to help songbirds at a time when habitat continues to disappear with alarming frequency,” Gross said. “Remember, our wild birds can never have too many friends!
“Also, if you don’t catch the irruptive winter finches shouldn’t feel too left out. Spring migration is just around the corner and backyards will soon be stopovers for an exceptional parade of neotropical birds making their way north or returning to
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Note to Editors: Photos to accompany this feature may be downloaded from the agency’s website – www.pgc.state.pa.us – by clicking on Release #032-09 in the “News Release” section.
CONTACT: Jerry Feaser 717-705-6541, PGCNews@state.pa.us
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission