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Saving our Chat

January 21, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Our Yellow-breasted Chat remains alert, active and eats vigorously several times per day. It remains alive only because of our help. I provide it red grapes, its favourite food by far, suet, grape jelly and peanut butter. The key to its survival is the first visit to the feeder in the morning, usually about one half hour before sunrise. But here's the problem! A cold bird that has burned off all its energy reserves keeping warm during the night has little left to peck at frozen grapes and even worse for it is to ingest frozen food into an already very cold bird.


I have two options to deal with the cold food in the morning. The first is to bring it in at night and then return it in the morning an hour before sunrise. Needless to say this option is not attractive. So I opted to heat the food so the grapes and other eatables are warm and soft. I place a pair of 250 watt flood lights within a foot of the food. The chat just loves this arrangement and will often remain at the grapes just feeling the warm air welling up under its belly and not eating at all. Grapes at $14 a package and running two 250 lights is not cheap but what is a guy to do?


Our Yellow-breasted Chat will survive this winter barring predation or accident as many others have previously done over the ions. Nova Scotia bird records cannot confirm such an event has happened but these records are short lived and cover only a tiny fraction of the territory in play. My signpost will be the flowering of the Coltsfoot. When this yellow flower emerges from the earth I will say with confidence that the chat has made it through the winter whether or not we see it again. Typically the Coltsfoot blooms out this way in early to mid March.  In a terrible winter like last year it bloomed in early April.


Yellow-breasted chat at the kitchen table with offerings of red grapes, suet, grape jelly and peanut butter, a messy presentation for sure, but I doubt the chat cares Yellow-breasted ChatYellow-breasted Chat

The lights at night warming the kitchen table offerings in preparation for the morning

Warming the GrapesWarming the Grapes