We in New Jersey live in that iffy “between zone.” The zone between sure survival and getting a good pole position for Spring migration. The strategy for many birds is migrate just far enough south to insure survival but get a head start on the competition come Spring. It’s a gamble. Belted Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons play this game. If the winter is mild and and they maintain access to open fish bearing water, they win. If a prolonged freeze grips the region, they lose. This time of year I find many kingfishers perched on utility lines overlooking tidal creeks. It always makes me wonder whether the guessed right or wrong. Only time will tell. Come April, I navigate these same roads and assess the damage or “attrition,” as it is known in the trade. Most of these envelope pushers can survive several days of freeze but without food in the gizzard, their primary defense against winter cold diminishes.
It’s all about food and access. Winter is a genetic culling device. It helps insure only those hardy birds that play a winning hand survive to pass those genes on.
Hard standards, perhaps, but natural ones, too.
As for the birds coming to feeders in your back yard, your offering may serve to get them through a rough patch. It’s not cheating nature’s design, it’s just lending a helping hand in time of need. It’s what we humans do. Nature will take care of itself. It always does. In the meantime, enjoy the show and watch the thermometer. When temperatures fall, your minions will fall upon your feeders.
Our visitor centers carry a large selection of bird seed – give them a call today to see what is available for pick-up or what is recommended for your feeders
Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary
NJ Audubon Birding Ambassador
Author Birds of Prey and coauthor Hawks in Flight