Q Why do birds bother with migration all the way to South or Central America? Couldn't they winter in our southern states?
A Some do go no farther than Missouri or Texas or Florida. But appropriate and adequate food supplies for many species require those long journeys. The tropical forests offer much more food. Some of "our" birds -- warblers, orioles and tanagers, for instance -- can be considered tropical by nature. The question might be: Why do they come north to nest? They do so because in spring and summer North America offers the feast without as much competition for either food or nesting sites. Minnesota and other northern locations are good places to raise children.Decorations deter birds
Q Will yard decorations such as wind chimes or whirligigs keep birds out of our yard?
A Yes, they can do that. People use such items to purposefully keep birds away from gardens. If you want to welcome birds, fewer distractions are better.Soffit storage
Q I watched a nuthatch take a sunflower seed from the feeder on our deck, carry it to the house soffit, and then, hanging upside-down, carefully tuck it out of sight in a soffit seam. The bird did this repeatedly. What was it doing?
A Caching the seeds. Laying in supplies for winter. Birds like nuthatches have excellent spatial memory. They can remember the locations of hundreds of hidden seeds. This is an adaptation to help them survive when food sources are limited, as they would be in winter.Robins' winter fare
Q What do robins eat in the winter?
A Mostly berries and fruit that remains on trees and bushes. They've also been seen eating dead minnows outside a bait store in Wayzata. It's unknown if this is a universal behavior.Suet is high-energy food
Q What is the nutritional value of suet?
A Suet is fat. Fat is high-grade energy food. It's of particular value in winter when insects, a source of fat, are in short supply. Suet, incidentally, comes from cows. It surrounds a cow's kidneys.Woodpecker size is clue
Q I see larger black and white woodpeckers and smaller ones. Am I looking at males and females of the same species?
A No. The larger black and white birds are hairy woodpeckers. The smaller ones are downy woodpeckers. They share habitat, but don't interbreed.Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at email@example.com. Join his conversation about birds at www.startribune.com/wingnut.