Wild Bird Blog


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Welcome to our Wild Bird Blog!

  • What are they up to down there. Part 2 of 2

    Oct 18, 2019

    What are they up to down there? Part 2 of 2

    More birds are feeding in a smaller geographic territory in winter habitat, so rubbing shoulders is probably inevitable. Also, as our chickadees and titmice have found in our backyard mixed flocks; more eyes looking can mean easier and safer feeding.

    There is a fair amount of competition for good habitat, a situation that is likely to become more critical as more habitat is destroyed. On the surface, it would seem that that the lush vegetation and abundant insects of the tropical forests would be sufficient to feed all comers, but there is a clear difference in the quality of life between, for instance, cloud forests and scrub forests.

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    It makes sense that the stronger birds, better fed and protected in winter, will have the easiest time during migration and the easiest time defending a breeding territory. Thus, many birds’ chances for reproductive success are sometimes set up before the trip north even begins.

    A great deal is still unknown about how migrating songbirds spend their winter “vacation”, but one thing is sure: whatever they do down there, they’ll linger in our memories until they return in spring.

  • What are birds up to down there? Part 1 of 2

    Sep 25, 2019

    What are they up to down there? Part 1 of 2

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    It’s easy to assume that we know all about them. We watch for them as they arrive and study them while they are courting, breeding, parenting, and even molting. But the truth is, most migrating songbirds spend only four or five months here before they head back to Central America, South America or the West Indies, where they live the rest of the year. What are they up to while they’re down there?

    For starters, they eat. That’s one of the things these birds can’t do up here in winter and a major reason they don’t stay. Most long-distance migrants are insectivores and/or nectar eaters. Temperate climates don’t support enough insects or flowers in winter to sustain birds through the colder season. The migrants seem to have a better chance of surviving a round trip of 3,000 to 5,000 miles than sitting out a winter in North America.

    Another thing birds do is hide. Well, maybe not exactly hide, but they don’t stand out the way they do in breeding season either. Although they are not silent by any means, their best songs are saved for defending a territory and for attracting a mate. And some species look completely different in their alternate plumage. Not all warblers, for instance, put on drab winter feathers, but enough do to earn several pages of “confusing fall warblers” in many field guides. In winter plumage, warblers, tanagers, and buntings disappear in the leaves and shadows of tropical forests.

    They also socialize down there. Warblers that are strictly territorial on summer breeding grounds, such as the Northern Parula and Blue-winged Warblers, can be found in loose, mixed-species flocks in winter. This probably reflects a lack of space in this more crowded winter habitat

    Next time: Feeding, protection and habitat needs “down there”.

  • How long is a birds' life?

    Sep 11, 2019

    How long do birds live?

    Enormous hazards face birds even before they hatch. Although the odds against one individual bird appear staggering, avian species as a whole survive well, except where they are threatened by the man-made effects of environmental destruction or poisoning. 

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    The life span of most birds in the wild is probably no more than six months to a year or two at most. Generally, larger birds have longer life spans – wild Canada Geese have lived over 18 years and Golden Eagles for 30.

    Among medium-sized birds, cardinals have lived for 10-12 years and robins for 17.

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    Chickadees and goldfinches are known to have survived for 8 or more years in the wild. But, keep in mind that these are not the norm, since the stresses of disease, injury, migration and winter starvation take enormous tolls, particularly on young birds during their first year of life.

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  • Have you seen any bald birds recently?

    Aug 29, 2019

     

    Keep your eye out for a few balding feathered friends!

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    Yes, they’re out there, barely there feathers on their head making them look quite a bit bald and somewhat skeletal.

    Birds molt their feathers throughout the year, and that process is usually slight enough that you’d never notice. But often times during late summer and early fall, Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays, among others, experience a complete molt of their head and sometimes neck feathers.

    Not winning any beauty contest, sure, but their bare heads are rather fascinating to behold.

    Nothing is wrong with the birds, the molting—shedding of old feathers and growing new ones-- is temporary, and soon they'll be back to the birds you know and love.

    Still…it certainly is a startling sight to see. 

    PHOTO CREDIT: CARLA MASON

  • Water Works! part two

    Aug 14, 2019

    Birds and baths:

    Bird baths are an important part of ensuring your favorite birds frequent your backyard. Not just for drinking, birds also use baths for bathing, preening and to keep cool. 

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    Most birds prefer relatively shallow watering holes. Birds don’t swim. Smaller songbirds prefer an inch or so of depth, while bigger birds such as jays, robins and doves, don’t bathe in water more than two or three inches deep.

    Bathing styles very from species to species. Most people are familiar with the bathing style of robins, splashing around in belly-deep water until their feathers become wet.

    Some smaller songbirds are more included to use water covered foliage to wet themselves down. Others will wet their beaks, then toss water onto their feathers. They may even use water collected on large leaves for bathing.

    Hummingbirds and warblers can often be seen flying through fine sprays. And some larger birds, such as raptors, will sit in belly-deep water to enjoy a good soak.

    Birds baths, once located and deemed reliable, can become part of a bird’s daily routine. They’ll learn to depend on them and return again and again for drinking and bathing.

    One way to alert and attract birds to your yard with adding movement to the water. Rippling, splashing, sparkling, spraying, the sound and sight of water movement will attract these feathered neighbors to your yard.

    Wigglers, drippers, misters, waterfalls and fountains offer the sound and motion of moving water that birds are attuned to find. Many may also offer a landing surface for birds to use as a perch if the think the water is too deep.

    With the days of summer here, consider adding a bird bath as a cool offering to the birds in your backyard. 

  • Water Works! part one

    Jul 31, 2019

    Bird baths provide water for drinking . . .

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    Bird baths make a beautiful addition to your garden, as well as helping to attract birds to your yard.

    Birds, like people, need water to survive.

    They drink it, play in it and bathe in it. Unlike people, they don't have ready access any time they need.

    Finding and using water requires birds to be ingenious. As with food, most water is located visually by birds. Even very small amounts of water can help sustain life, and birds will find and use what they can, anywhere they can. Puddles on the roadside, low spots in a field, leaking water faucets, run-off from lawns, condensation from air conditions. Some birds actually “drink” the dew off leaves and raindrops from pine needles.

    Add a bird bath and you’ll find that birds appear. They are attracted to that sparkling surface that signals to them the presence of water. Most will drink by dipping their bills, then holding up their heads to allow the water to flow down their throat. A few birds, such as doves and pigeons, drink by actually sucking water into their mouths.

    The amount of drinking water required by birds varies from species to species. Hummingbirds, whose diet is high in nectar, seldom need to supplement with plain water; they get sufficient liquid from flowers or feeders.

    Insect eating birds also take in supplemental moisture from their diet of worms, grubs and other crawling things.

    Even seed has some moisture that can help bird keep their systems balanced when water is scarce.

    Birds living in arid climates make sure of water created by “cellular respiration” (water released as a by-product during the metabolic process) to keep their body chemistry stable and allowing them to go for longer periods without drinking.

     

    Up next: Birds need water for bathing

     

     

  • Hot Weather Help for Birds

    Jul 19, 2019

    Help the birds during these hot and getting hotter summer days by offering plenty of food as well as water for drinking and bathing.

    Your birds will thank you!

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  • Neighboring Nuthatches!

    Jun 28, 2019

    Lively as windup toys, nuthatches pirouette on branches and descend headfirst down tree trunks, combing the bark for insects. Divided into four species, these short-tailed song birds are found almost anywhere in North America where there are trees. Easily drawn to seed and suet at feeders, especially in colder weather, nuthatches’ nasal bleats are a familiar part of our backyard soundtrack. But common does not mean mundane! Nuthatches possess some fascinating eccentricities.

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    Readily identified by its white underside, gray back and shiny black cap, the White-breasted Nuthatchranges across most of the United States and southern Canada. The largest of its tribe, the White-breasted Nuthatch can seem downright gluttonous, as it flies onto a feeder, grabs a seed, and then returns again and again for more. In fact, the White-breasted is a miser that stashes seeds in bark crevices. With a little patient observation, it is easy to locate the bird’s storehouses.

    Sporting a distinct orange belly and white eye-stripe, the smaller Red-breasted Nuthatchreplaces the white-breasted in northern forests and western mountains. The Red-breasted nests in tree cavities (as do all nuthatches) or man-made nest boxes. Like its White-breasted cousin, the Red-breasted improves its homestead by narrowing the entrance hole with mud and smearing the area with sticky stuff, such as sap, which probably serves as a predator guard. The bird itself avoids this mess by shooting straight as an arrow into the nest hole.

    Native to the Far West, the plain-gray Pygmy Nuthatchis easy to overlook. But its peculiar domestic arrangements make it an unusual bird. When raising and feeding their young, Pygmy Nuthatch parents rely on “helpers”, who may be their own young from an earlier brood or even “surplus” males. This unusual avian behavior is comparable to human bachelors volunteering to change diapers.

    The tiny Brown-headed Nuthatchof the southeastern United States also employs nesting “helpers”. But it one-ups the Pygmy Nuthatch in an astonishing way – the Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of the very few North American birds with a talent for tools. Gripping a chunk of bark in its bill, the bird pries up pine bark in pursuit of a meal.

    The nuthatch is an intriguing neighbor with, perhaps, more to reveal so feel free to spy on the delightful birds – they won’t mind at all.

     

  • Attracting Fruit Eating Birds (and fruit flies?)

    Jun 19, 2019

    Attracting fruit-eating birds (and Fruit Flies as a bonus?)

    There are a number of birds that eat fruit. Orioles love citrus fruits. Just cut an orange open and place it on a platform or screen-bottom feeder or on a spike on your fence. The fruit should be placed “inside up” so your birds can readily eat the pulp and juice.

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    Other birds such as bluebirds, woodpeckers, and jays, can be attracted with halved apples. Grape jelly and strawberry preserves (a great area to test other flavors too!) are enjoyed by many of these same birds. 

    An added benefit of placing fresh and over-ripe fruit out is that it attracts fruit flies, a favorite protein supply for many birds, including hummingbirds! 

  • Now's a great time to get Dad and the birds a new feeder!

    Jun 10, 2019

    Now is a great time to hang a few new bird feeders!

    Contrary to popular belief, filling backyard feeders is at least as important in the springtime as during the winter months.

    Think about it. During the fall and early winter, natural supplies of seeds and berries become available as food sources.  By spring, most of these foods have been eaten, and new crops of natural foods are still months from maturity.

    Spring feeding is important to our feeder regulars; permanent residents, such as goldfinches, chickadees and others have been using our feeders all winter. It also helps our migrants and birds that arrive early to their breeding grounds. Even those birds that feed primarily on insects may stop by if they see other bird activity in your yard.

    By late spring, most birds have settled in and begun to nest. They need extra energy as the males define territories and the females build nests and produce eggs. Later in the season, the parents will bring their fledglings to your feeders, and you can watch awkward youngsters as they beg for food and learn to feed themselves. 

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    With Father’s Day approaching, now is a great time to get Dad – and his backyard birds – a new feeder.

    As feeders are filled and supported throughout the year, Dad’s yard, and yours, will come to life with the color and song of favorite backyard birds.

  • Even More Fun Hummingbird Facts

    May 24, 2019

    Even More Hard-to -Believe Hummingbird Facts! 

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    Thirty percent of a hummingbird’s weight consists of flight muscles.

    The hummingbird’s tiny brain, which comprises 4.2% of its body weight, is proportionally the largest of all birds.

    In their non-stop quest for fuel, hummingbirds may visit up to 1000 flowers per day.

    For protein, hummingbirds also eat spiders and grab gnats midair. They will also pull trapped insects (and even the spiders) out of spider webs.

    Hummingbirds can fly short distances upside down, a trick rollover they might employ when attacked by another bird.

    Everything about hummingbirds is hard to believe!

  • Watching Baby Birds

    May 17, 2019

    Watching baby birds at feeders

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    One of the most satisfying and pleasurable aspects of bird feeding is watching adult birds interact with their young, especially when bringing them to your feeder for the first time.

    If you expect to see small birds, half the size of their parents, you are in for a shock! The newcomers will be approximately the same size as their parents, but you will be able to recognize them by their stubby tails, feathers with wisps of fluffy down, and poor table manners – somewhat as spoiled human children might do when teasing their parents.

    They usually beg with mouths wide open and wings fluttering. At a feeder well stocked with suitable foods, the parent is usually able to jam down food into every gaping mouth, but that doesn’t stop the youngsters from wanting more. Often, the parent will try to escape by flying a short distance away but the young birds will pursue the parent, squawking and screaming all the way.

     Enjoy the fun!

  • Most Baby Birds are Best Left Alone

    May 10, 2019

    NestA baby bird on the ground always presents a dilemma. It’s not true that handling a bird will cause it to be rejected by its parents or other birds. On the other hand, sometimes the best course of action is to take no action at all.

    Any bird that is feathered and mobile – even if it is flightless – is best left alone. Young birds that have left the nest on purpose or by accident are often moved to a safer place by their parents. By interfering, we may actually decrease the chance of a successful move. Yet we can reduce potential hazards (such as pets).

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    If you find a featherless bird that has obviously fallen out of the nest, the best thing you can do is to simply put it back. Even whole nests that have fallen from a tree should be put back as closely as possible to its original location, and then left alone. The parents will usually return, and their care of the young is most often the young’s best chance for survival.

    Care of young birds should be undertaken only by licensed wildlife rehabilitators. These wonderful volunteers can also help you decide what to do if you find an injured bird.

  • Hummingbird Moms & Babies!

    Apr 23, 2019

    Hummingbird Mom & Babies

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    When the female hummingbird is ready to lay an egg,  she’ll sit on the nest, alternately shaking and wiggling every few seconds. Then: egg! Hummingbirds lay two eggs, each about jellybean size, and arriving on different days. ‘Mom’ will sit on her eggs to keep them around a constant 96 degree temperature, with incubation approximately 16 to 18 days.

    Although each was laid on separate days, they’ll generally hatch the same day.

     

    The female hummingbird is the sole carer and provider, and will chase off any male that comes too near. She also may very well care for more than one brood at a time.

     

    She’ll sit on the new hatchlings, keeping them warm and feeding them about every 20 minutes. Over the first few weeks, they’ll begin to feather. 

    Around three weeks, the babies are looking  more like hummingbirds, testing out their wings and in a matter of days, will take off as adults starting the cycle all over again.

  • Sing to your birds!

    Apr 11, 2019

    Sing to Your Birds with Water Sounds

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    Moving water can sing to birds just as birds seem to sing to people. It’s the sound of spring and summer, the sound of life. So if you want to enjoy more birds, more of the time (all year round, actually) this season, try serenading them with water!

    Remember how you feel when you are exploring a new path or trail and hear the inviting sound of water? When you offer that same joyous discovery to birds, you’ll increase both the number and kinds of visitors that regularly stop by your yard.

    Birds find still water just like they find food by sight. But when water sings, it appeals to them with seductive allure. They seem to respond with combined curiosity and delight! Birds such as warblers and orioles which normally spend their time in your treetops may suddenly swoop down to drink and bathe. Secretive thrushes and thrashers may also leave their comfort zones in the undergrowth to drink and splash around a bit for your enjoyment.

    Birds often offer a serenade and sights which we humans treasure. We can encourage them and return the favor by offering water that sings of peace and pleasure to all.

  • Fun Hummingbird Facts!

    Apr 04, 2019

    Hummingbird Facts to Amaze Mere Humans

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    1. Hummingbirds can fly forwards, backwards, shift sideways and stop in midair.
    2. Hummingbirds are the world’s smallest birds.
    3. Hummingbirds can reach speeds of 60 mph.
    4. On average, a hummingbird consumes half its weight in nectar each day.
    5. Hummingbirds may not have a sense of smell. They seem to locate their food (including small insects) entirely by sight.
    6. A hummingbird has between 40 and 60 taste buds; a human has approximately 10,000 taste buds.
    7. Hummingbirds lap nectar with their tongues at the rate of about 13 licks per second.
    8. Hummingbirds feed 5 to 8 times an hour for about 30 to 60 seconds per time.
    9. Hummingbirds cool themselves by panting, much as dogs do, and by using an internal evaporative-cooling system.
    10. Hummingbirds beat their wings about 78 times per second during regular flight and up to 2000 times during a dive.
    11. The fastest wing beat during normal flight – 90 beats per second – belongs to the Sun Gem, a South American species.
    12. A hummingbird egg is about the size of a pea; a nest s about the width of a Quarter coin.
    13. A hummingbird’s heart beats about 1260 times per minute.
    14. Hummingbirds decrease their heart rate and their breathing dramatically overnight. In the morning, it can take more than an hour for a hummingbird to wake up and fly.
    15. The adult male “Bee Hummingbird” of Cuba is only 2.24 inches long, including bill and tail. It weighs 0.056 ounces.
    16. Hummingbirds may use the same nesting site repeatedly.
    17. Hummingbirds bathe by flying through sprinklers or misters, rain showers or through the spray of waterfalls.

  • Vacationing? Remember your Binoculars!

    Mar 20, 2019

    Vacationing? Remember your Binoculars!

    Birds often choose to live in the midst of spectacular scenery – the very thing you vacation for too. Take advantage of those places where your desire for natural beauty intersects with the birds’ concept of home. 

    Even a casual walk around the gardens at a resort can offer a view into the life of local birds. No matter where you go, you’ll want your binoculars. There’s nothing more frustrating than not seeing an interesting new bird because you left the bins at home (even the scenery looks better when seen through quality glass!).

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  • Landscaping for Your Birds

    Mar 15, 2019

    Landscaping for your birds

    We can encourage birds to make their homes near ours by creating habitats they will enjoy and benefit from. Birds have four basic needs: food, water, cover and nesting sites, so the ideal backyard habitat will meet most of these needs.

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    Consider this sampling of plants which attract birds:

    Fruit-producing trees: cherry, crab apple, hawthorn, mulberry, mountain ash.

    Evergreens: juniper, fir, hemlock, boxwood, pine, spruce, cypress, holly

    Shrubs: barberry, azalea, choke-berry, viburnum

    Vines: honeysuckle, trumpet vine, Virginia creeper

    Grasses: quaking grass, pampas grass, oat grass, reed grass

    Annuals: bachelor’s button, morning glory, impatiens, marigold, petunia, sunflower, zinnia

    Perennials: aster, bee balm, black-eyed susan, coneflower, chrysanthemum, phlox

    So, before purchasing a plant for your yard, around your feeding station or water source, consider whether it will provide food, nesting sites or shelter for your birds. With the right plants, you can easily enhance the effectiveness of your feeding station dramatically.

  • Climate Matters

    Feb 25, 2019

    Climate Matters

    Now that we are well into this new century, global climate change has become an increasingly hot topic!

    Our world is getting warmer, though opinions differ about the severity of the problem and the extent to which it is caused by the burning of fossil fuels or factors that include natural cycles longer than human records.

    Some people believe that market forces will provide solutions, and that energy efficiency is the key because it is good for the environment and good for business. Some people promote the use of alternative technologies. Some are trading in their SUVs and high-energy appliances to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Others won’t be concerned until they sense specific threats to their lifestyles.

    So we can see that our debates about these issues have begun to tell us something important about our individual values and other hot topics! 

  • Will a bird . . .

    Feb 08, 2019

    Will a bird’s feet stick to metal perches in the winter?

    This is a common concern, often based on stories that have circulated for so long, they are accepted as fact. The idea that birds’ feet could freeze to metal perches is probably based on the fact that human skin or eyeballs (ouch!) will stick to sub-freezing metal.

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    However, birds’ feet – unlike human skin – do not contain seat glands.   Their feet have no outside moisture and are perfectly dry. Take a look around this winter – you’ll notice birds safely perching on wire fences, etc. even during the coldest temperatures. So don’t worry about your metal feeder perches.

  • What is an 'IBA'?

    Jan 31, 2019

    What is an “IBA”?

    While these daunting percentages vary by source, they all suggest that about 30% of North American birds are in significant decline, including:

    70% of grassland bird species

    25% of forest bird species

    13% of wetland species

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    These declines are abnormal; they’re not part of the natural cyclical rise and fall of bird populations. Among the many threats to birds, the most serious is loss of habitat due to poor land-use planning and possibly, climate change. Many remaining habitats are degrading due to fragmentation by roads, over-browsing by deer (for example), drainage of wetlands, poor forest management and invasive species impacts.

    Have you heard the term “Important Bird Area”? Although it may sound like a simple term, an Important Bird Area, or IBA, is a powerful conservation concept. In its simplest terms, an IBA is an area identified for its significance to bird conservation. IBAs may be huge and of global importance, like the Chesapeake Bay which is surrounded by the Mid-Atlantic States, or they may be locally important areas like Belt Woods in Prince George’s County in Maryland.

    The IBA program identifies sites that provide essential habitat for birds so that conservation efforts can be focused on priority locations. A great strength of the IBA program is that it takes a proactive approach to conserving birds instead of just responding to specific threats  -  that’s why the IBA program deserves understanding support from us all.

     

  • Birds as Flying Machines - part two

    Jan 24, 2019

    Birds can fly because they have low weight and lots of power. Their feathers, wings, hollow bones, warm bloodedness, powerful breast muscles, and a strong heart all contribute to this ability. Last week, we discussed body weight and feathers. This week we cover:

    Strong Body Systems

    The avian repertory system includes a unique system of five or more pairs of air sacs connected with the lungs. The air sacs provide a one-way traffic of air, bringing in a constant stream of unmixed fresh air. This is in contrast to mammals, where stale air is mixed more inefficiently with fresh. Birds also have a four-chambered heart, which allows double circulation. That is, the blood makes a side trip through the lungs for purification before it is circulated through the body again. Bird hearts beat rapidly, and relative to overall body size, they are large and powerful.

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    Fuel

    Even in the foods they select to feed their “engines”, birds conserve weight. Their foods – seeds, fruit, worms, insects, frogs, rodents, fish, and so on – are rich in caloric energy. They usually do not eat foods such as leaves and grass for this reason. Furthermore, the foods most birds eat are burned quickly and efficiently. Fruit fed to a young Cedar Waxwing will pass through its digestive tract in less than 30 minutes. Birds also utilize a greater proportion of the foods they eat than do mammals.

    In all these characteristics, we see that birds are incredibly well-suited for flight and it is no wonder we admire them for this ability. Amazing!

  • Birds as Flying Machines Part one

    Jan 21, 2019

    Birds can fly because they have low weight and lots of power. Their feathers, wings, hollow bones, warm bloodedness, powerful breast muscles, and a strong heart all contribute to this ability.

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    Light Skeletons

    Because of their hollow bones, bird skeletons are filled with air. Although extremely light, bird skeletons are also very strong and elastic because of an interlacing network of fiber. To “trim ship” further, birds have heads that are very light in proportion to the rest of the body. This is because they do not have teeth and heavy jaws to carry them. The function of teeth is handled by the bird’s gizzard, which is located near the bird’s center of gravity.

    Feathers

    Feathers, the most distinctive and remarkable feature of birds are magnificently adapted (or designed) for fanning the air, insulating against the weather and reducing weight. It has been claimed that for their weight, feathers are stronger than any wing structure designed by man. Amazing!

    Coming Up: Fuel and breathing!

  • The Pileated Woodpecker

    Jan 02, 2019

    This dramatic woodpecker is the largest in North America and a welcome, but uncommon, visitor to feeding stations. Once you’ve seen or heard this exciting crow-sized bird, you’ll not soon forget it!

    Pileated Woodpeckers are found from mid-Canada to the southern United States and are year-round residents in the East. This large jet-black bird has a bright red crest and a white “racing stripe” running from its bill down its neck. The female has a black forehead and lacks the red moustache. The Pileated’s call is similar to that of the Flicker but louder and more irregular.

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    Sweepings wing beats and flashing white underwing patches identify the Pileated in flight.

    In nesting season, both sexes construct the nest by chiseling a hole with an oblong entrance 15 to 80 feet high in an old tree trunk. The cavity is lined with wood chips and may be used for roosting after the nesting season.

    The pair raises only one brood per year. The female lays three to five white eggs and both sexes incubate the eggs which takes a little over two weeks. The young leave the nest 26 to 28 days after hatching. Both parents tend to the young, which are fed regurgitated food.

    The male and female, which are monogamous mates, set up a year-round territory, usually consisting of large tracts of mature deciduous or coniferous forest. However, as they seem to become more tolerant of humans, they are moving into suburban areas with second-growth forests.

  • Everyday Miracles Made for You.

    Nov 26, 2018

    Everyday Miracles Made for You

    It’s official. The glory days of conspicuous consumption have ended. With this century well underway, our group has largely chosen to appreciate more simple and familiar pleasures. 

    This idea is often expressed as: “The closer we live to each other, the closer we want to be to Nature.”

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    In other words, the more urbanized our society becomes, the greater our need for connections to nature. The more complicated our lives, the more we benefit from attention to everyday beauties.

    Our group knows full well that the natural world is filled with beauty. But in these stressful times, we must make an extra effort to appreciate it, because our senses have been chilled by overstimulation. Even nature shows are packed with highlights of wildlife drama so that a simple walk in the woods can seem uneventful by comparison.

    We’re on the right track when we appreciate not just the striking bright blue of a male Indigo Bunting but also the mottled beauty of finch wings. We appreciate a sunrise not just for its glorious color but also for its gracious predictability. We stop to admire the bark peeling off a birch tree as a work of art. When our soul is stirred by the hollow, flutelike song of a thrush floating through springtime woodland, we know we are truly connecting to nature. These are nature’s miracles, everyday events that bring peace and joy to our busy lives. 

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    The birds that visit our feeders every day help bring these miracles into view.

    Every day - a chickadee shakes off the chill of night and climbs through our trees, then approaches our feeder with bright-eyed optimism.

    Every day - a woodpecker hitches up the side of a nearby tree on his way to our suet feeder, a study in black and white with a spot of red for pure excitement.

    Every day - a jay takes flight, launching four ounces of controlled blue or gray energy into the air, then lands with aplomb, and an attitude!, on our feeding tray, just filled with new seeds.

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    Every day - the same. 

    Every day - new.

    Every day miracles - made just for you.

  • Small Space Birding!

    Nov 19, 2018

     

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    Small Space Birding!

    Feeding our friends on a deck, balcony or patio presents a few challenges, but the rewards are well worth the effort. In fact, there are many products to help you enjoy your birds in small spaces.

    One easy way to bring a wide variety of birds is to offer suet. Available in a range of bird-friendly flavors, suet provides nutritional benefit throughout the seasons. Plus, it’s small and compact nature readily lends itself to small space living.

    Another of the easiest and most satisfying ways to get started is with a hummingbird feeder. A popular way to hang a hummingbird feeder is from a simple hook from the eave in front of a window.

    Hummingbirds are bold and will readily come right up to your house to investigate a (red-colored) feeder.

    Before we discuss seed feeders, let’s not forget about water which is crucial for birds, and an adequate supply will attract great variety of birds for your enjoyment. There are birdbaths available that easily attach to deck railings. An alternative is to put out hanging bath. Remember, a popular birdbath requires daily filling so be mindful of this requirement when choosing a spot for your birdbath. There are also baths available with plastic inserts that can be easily removed for cleaning and filling.

    An important challenge of bird feeding on decks, balconies and other small areas is keeping the area clean. The easiest way is use “no-mess” seed blends which contain no hulls (what the birds leave behind). Another solution is to use a deck hanger to suspend your feeder over the side of the deck. Seed trays on tube feeders also help keep debris off a deck or balcony.

    Peanut feeders can be a great addition to the enjoyment of your patio or balcony. Wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and a variety of woodpeckers love nuts! Another option is to use a mealworm feeder – virtually all birds love’em!

    So check out your possibilities and select just the right products for all of your outdoor areas.

  • Color Blind?

    Nov 12, 2018

    Color is critically important to birds.

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    For some, color is for camouflage. For others, it is used to attract the right mate. Even baby birds use color to get their needs met. The inside of many baby birds’ mouths is bright red, a visual cue for the parents to feed them. As the babies grow and become independent, the color becomes more subdued.

    Among many species, Such as House Finches and Scarlet Tanagers, the males that have the brightest feathers seem to be most successful at attracting mates. But among flickers it seems that color is irrelevant, at least when it comes to mating. Flickers come in three distinct colorations: Red-shafted in the west, Yellow-shafted in the east and Gilded in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, southeastern California, and Mexico.

    Taxonomists continue to debate over whether or not these represent three species (or two or one!), but the lady flickers have already resolved the issue to their satisfaction. They are philosophically, if not physiologically, color blind. The vibrant red or yellow feather shafts that have given the birds their separate species status for years seem to have no effect on female flickers with regard to their desire to breed, their choice of mate or the success of their offspring when they hybridize. The females may have other less superficial standards for choosing a mate. Or maybe it’s just that bright is bright; whether it’s red, yellow of anything in between.

  • Bird Trivia

    Nov 05, 2018

    Bird Trivia:

    Are Mute Swans really mute?

    No, they aren’t really mute, but their voices are weak and seldom used except for grunts, menacing hisses, and snorts. During breeding season, they may utter puppy-like barks.

    Barred_Owl_Mike_Horn_Columbus_OH_081812

    Which group of birds can turn their heads to the greatest extreme?

    You guessed correctly, the owls! An owl can turn its head about 280 degrees and then quickly swivel it around in the opposite direction.

    Which American woodpecker migrates the farthest?

    The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker migrates to the West Indies and south to central Panama.

    Amazing!

  • Who is Missing?

    Oct 29, 2018

    Who’s Missing?

    bwlots[1]

    From late summer through fall, bird species in our yards and woodlands begin to disappear. Bright colors are replaced by subdued elegance, and as our summer birds begin to head south, the year-round residents begin to establish winter-feeding territories, showing up in our yards in growing flocks of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches , many woodpeckers and finches.

    So who heads south? Largely it is the birds that depend primarily on insects and flowers for food. Hummingbirds begin to head out in August and September, well before the last flowers disappear from our gardens. In a few parts of the extreme southern and western United States they will stay the winter (or in the case of Rufous Hummingbirds, more in for the winter), but most of the country is too cold to support these little bundles of energy. Orioles also go south before the coming winter months. Although these larger birds could probably adapt to winter in some parts of the country, there simply is not enough food (fruit, nectar and insects) for them to survive.

    Most warblers, of course, leave North America as their supply of creeping and crawling things declines for the year. A few will stay in the southern parts of the country, and one, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, has adapted so it can feed on the waxy berries of the wax myrtle, bayberry and juniper in the winter., allowing it to stay at lower elevations of the country (excluding parts of the Northwest and much of the Great Plains). Flycatchers and swallows are out of here for obvious reasons – flying insects are at a premium in the colder, wetter weather of winter.

    For a whole bunch of other birds, fall migration is variable. Some, like Blue Jays, head south in larger or smaller numbers, staying pretty much within their range, but shifting around and spreading out to make better use of reduced food supplies. Banding research seems to indicate that others, like the Robins, may withdraw completely from the northernmost parts of their range, hopscotching over some of their more sedentary kin to winter in the southern states.

     And some, like goldfinches, are simply wanderers, moving around within their range in response to food availability, weather conditions and, perhaps, pure whim - which reason do you prefer!?

     

  • The Mourning Dove

    Oct 25, 2018

    The Mourning Dove; Unique Aspects

    Mourning_Dove_resting_Janet_Furlong_Culpeper_VA_010413The Mourning Dove, a frequent visitor to our feeders, has quite different characteristics than other common feeder birds. The nesting season of the dove is much longer than that of other birds. In most areas, doves nest from March to September. In the southern states, nests have been found in every month. Doves nest as often as five or six times per season, laying two eggs each time. Their young are fed crop milk, a highly nutritious food produced by a gland that develops in the crop (a sac that stores food before it passes through the digestive tract).

    Doves are highly mobile and often congregate in very large numbers to feed on grain in newly harvested fields. You may notice a pronounced drop in feeder use in late summer and fall, when small grains and corn are harvested.

    Mourning_Dove_Janet_Furlong_Culpeper_VA_031813

    It is possible to use their color too distinguish the sex of adult birds. Males have a distinctive bluish or blue-gray cap and a pinkish hue over the throat and breast. Females have a duller color with a more uniform brownish color on their heads and breasts. Young birds are clearly evident by the buff or white tips on their wing feathers. After about ten weeks they no longer have these wing markings.

    The favorite foods of Mourning Doves at feeders are white proso millet and black-oil sunflower seed; however, no other common bird at feeders eats such a wide variety of foods. The feeding habits of doves make them very useful in cleaning up the food that falls to the ground under feeders.

  • Beak Speak 2 of 2

    Oct 22, 2018

     

    Beak Speak

    Convergent Evolution 

    Part 2 of 2

    Last time: During a visit to the Galapagos Islands in the early 1800’s, naturalist Charles Darwin found an intriguing group of finches. Each had a different way of feeding, and, correspondingly, a different type of bill. Now thought to represent 14 different species, Darwin’s finches apparently descended from a songbird that had flown off-course during a flight to or from South America.

    Male_Northern_ShovelerRoseate_Spoonbill_-_Myakka_River_State_Park

    On the other hand, the remarkably similar bills of the Northern Shoveler , the Roseate Spoonbill and the Spoonbill Sandpiper are considered classic examples of convergent evolution.

    woodpeckerfinch

    Members of different Orders, these species are taxonomically unrelated. The Northern Shoveler is a duck, the Roseate Spoonbill is a wading bird and the Spoonbill Sandpiper is a shorebird. Yet they all survive on small marine life found in shallow water and have evolved similar bills – flattened at the end – that are ideal for filtering small organisms.

    Natural selection has apparently enabled these species to independently develop similar bills, suited to their specialized diet. Other examples of convergent evolution are found among unrelated species living in South American and African habitats, long separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

     

  • Beak Speak 1 of 2

    Oct 15, 2018

    Beak Speak

    Darwin’s Finches – Differential Evolution 

    Part I of 2

    During a visit to the Galapagos Islands in the early 1800’s, naturalist Charles Darwin found an intriguing group of finches. Each had a different way of feeding, and, correspondingly, a different type of bill. Now thought to represent 14 different species, Darwin’s finches apparently descended from a songbird that had flown off-course during a flight to or from South America.

    fINCHES

    With beaks ranging from strong, conical seed crushers to thin insect-eaters, these birds provided a basis for the evolutionary principles Darwin later formulated in his renowned work, “The Origin of Species.” (Note: the Woodpecker Finch used its bill to hold a twig and probe the bark of trees for insects).

    For Darwin, these distinctive finches were evidence that developing species adapt, through natural selection, to exploit different niches in their environment.

    Next time: Convergent Evolution!

  • Gently Tapping

    Oct 11, 2018

    Gently Tapping

    Sometimes human inventions can create a whole new set of problems for birds. Take windows, for example. Once upon a time a pair of cardinals could settle down, raise a family, send their young off to find a nice spot in neighboring yard, and spend a peaceful winter feeding on berries and seeds. Then came multi-story houses and buildings with windows everywhere, peeking out at shrubs and trees on all sides. Where’s a bird to go to be alone?

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    It was inevitable that our need to see them and their need for privacy would create a conflict – and danger of head-on flight collisions, too. But one occasional result is window tapping. It is clearly a territorial behavior but not an aggressive one. Sometimes, during breeding season, robins, cardinals and other birds will see their reflections on shiny objects and begin breast-beating attacks. Window tapping is much more benign. The birds just tap away, perhaps frustrated and confused, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs. Perhaps they think they are challenging strangers, but, since their hormones may not have kicked in yet, the interaction is less intense. Encounters with reflected competitors seldom do any damage to the birds or to the windows. But regardless of cause, window tapping can become annoying to humans who listen, day after day, until we begin to twitch a bit in anticipation of the next go-round. Sometimes, placing (on outside surfaces which create reflections) strips of Mylar, fabric or other moving objects will distort the bird’s image enough to solve the problem. Sometimes it takes more direct intervention – opening the window or (gently) tapping on your side of the pane. If the window is near a favorite roosting spot, you might have to cover it (from the outside) until the bird moves on.

    Mr. Poe notwithstanding, as long as there are windows and birds are territorial, there will be tapping evermore.

  • Lawn care is for the birds

    Oct 08, 2018

    Lawn care is for the birds

    People often debate the value of lawns. On one hand, lawns are essentially monocultures that usually require an on-gong external source of nutrients and relatively large amounts of water to thrive. Lawns also require constant maintenance throughout a long growing season.

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     On the other hand, for sheer toe-curling, bare-footed spring and summer delight, nothing rivals a lawn. Lawns are also part of our concept of hearth and home. 

    So few of us will want to eliminate all the grass in our yards, but replacing some of your lawn with shrubbery, natural areas, flowers, water features or brush piles will make your yard a lot more bird-attractive. 

  • Watching your woodpeckers

    Oct 04, 2018

    DWP_028

    Outside your window, a Downy Woodpecker hitches its way down a tree trunk, heading for your suet feeder. A Flicker pounds its head into your lawn, looking for ants. A Red-bellied Woodpecker swoops up to your peanut feeder, catching the mesh at the last possible minute to avoid a collision with the pole.

    Woodpeckers offer an endlessly fascinating study in bird behavior and style. The more you watch, the more engaging they become. Part of it is anatomy. Their broad wings, stiff tail feathers, and unusual toe arrangement are ideally combined for maneuvering quickly through your trees and bushes, screeching to a halt, and grabbing onto the bark with their feet in a perfect, amazing vertical landing. Then, using their tail for counterbalance, they almost rappel down your tree, tail first, until they reach their goal.

    Almost all woodpeckers are year-round residents in their territories, so as you get to know the woodpeckers in your neighborhood and yard, you can enjoy them throughout the year.

  • How to introduce new feeders

    Oct 02, 2018

    How to Introduce a New Feeder

    TrailWiseCy_Lg_N

    Have you ever put up a wonderful new bird feeder, then wondered why your birds did not immediately flock to it? The answer may be simple – they didn’t know it was there!

    Birds are visual and auditory creatures. Except for a few species, most find food by sight. If a feeder is the first one in your yard, it make take the birds weeks to discover and recognize it as a source of food. If you’ve added a new feeder where other feeders are already available, it generally won’t take long for your birds to discover this new opportunity, although there may still be a period of time when the birds hesitate to use the new feeder instead of the old.

    How soon your feeder is used also depends on the availability of natural food sources, the type seed used in your new feeder, and the habitat close to your feeder. Black-oil sunflower seeds usually attract the widest variety of birds. The addition of nutmeats, such as peanut kernels, will make the feeder more attractive to birds such as titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, even wrens. Make certain that the feeder is visible and not hidden by foliage or other obstructions. If you live in a newly developed neighborhood with few trees and shrubs, consider planting some plants near your feeder to provide natural cover. A bird bath or other water source will also make your feeing station more attractive to your birds.

    The first visitors to your new feeder are likely to be chickadees, since these little acrobats are among the most curious and adventuresome of all backyard birds. Once chickadees have found it, titmice and other birds are sure to be close behind.

  • How birds beat the heat Part 3 of 3

    Sep 21, 2018

    PRV_bathing_robinSome birds also stay cool and minimize heat stress by changing their posture or their orientation to the sun. Gulls, which often nest in open areas with little or no shade, will rotate on their nests to face the sun on hot, windless summer days. By changing position, gulls minimize their body surface area exposed to the sun and present their most reflective plumage (white breast, neck and head in many species) to direct sunlight. Young gulls also avoid heat stress by standing in the shade cast by their parents.

    Of course, the ultimate way for birds to beat the heat is for them to drink lots of water and to bathe to cool their bodies. That’s why it’s important to provide a birdbath and/or dripper or mister on hot summer days. So go on, throw a summer soiree, and invite birds over for a cool drink and a swim!

  • How birds beat the heat Part 2 of 3

    Sep 14, 2018

    How birds beat the heat

    Part II of III

    RTH_male_Janet_Furlong_Culpeper_VA_042314

    Finch4Birds keep their cool in other ways too. They squish their feathers down flat to get rid of insulating air. Or, they erect their plumage to take advantage of the cooling power of a passing breeze. Soaring birds may hop thermals that carry them to cooler altitudes. Songbirds seek out shady spots and become as inactive as possible. Shorebirds stand in water for long periods during hot summer days. Their unfeathered, naked legs are uninsulated – perfect for shedding heat and conducting coolness.

    Hummingbirds also show a lot of leg when it’s hot. Hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of any animal: thus, they generate a lot of heat. Add the heat of a summer day plus heat generated by these feathered dynamos, and you could have a recipe for disaster. In order to shed heat and maintain a constant body temperature (about 104 degrees F), hummingbirds usually slow down, limit their quest for nectar sources, perch quietly, and fully expose their feet and toes to the air. Heat radiates from their exposed skin, and passing breezes cool the birds down.

    Next time: Even more techniques!

  • How birds beat the heat Part 1 of 3

    Sep 11, 2018

    House_Finch_cherry_blossoms_Jennifer_Rector_Winston-Salem_NC_041713

    Part 1 of 3

    An old etiquette saying maintains that “horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.” There’s no mention of what Turkey Vultures do. Probably with good reason – they urinate and defecate on their feet to stay cool!

    When summer temperatures soar, and the air resembles warm, sticky molasses, be thankful for that rivulet of perspiration coursing down your back – as the water evaporates, it cools you. Besides sweating, we beat the heat of brutal summers by enjoying air conditioning or fans, swimming holes and tall, frosty beverages. We also slow down and show a lot more skins than we normally do. To stay cool, birds do variants of all of these things, too…. with one exception.

    Birds can’t sweat – they don’t have any sweat glands. To avoid over-heating and sudden death, many birds pant to cool off. Heat wand water vapor are perspired into air sacs, carried to the lungs, and exhaled through the mouth. Some non-passerine birds expel excess heat with a “gular flutter” – a rapid vibration of the upper throat and floor of the month.

    Next time in Part II – more cooling techniques!                     

  • How do I attract Downy Woodpeckers?

    Sep 06, 2018

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    Downies love a variety of tree nuts and suet and can be attracted to your yard all year long.

    DWP_021Introduce a peanut feeder or a suet feeder in a rough-barked tree and watch the show begin.

    They are quite entertaining and often become so accustomed to human presence that they will not fly off when you approach the feeder but just scurry around to the opposite side.

    Fun!

  • How do birds find their food?

    Aug 30, 2018

    How do birds find their food?

    Among most birds, the sense of smell is poorly developed, so they find their food by sight. No other living animals can match the visual acuity of birds. 

    TM_029The eye of a bird is extremely large by mammalian standards. Though they look relatively small, hidden behind their lids and protective rings of overlapping bone, birds’ eyes are enormous. This is because the image must be big and have sharp details so that they can locate their food while flying. Imagine the extraordinary vision needed by a hawk cruising over a meadow in search of a mouse, a loon in pursuit of its underwater prey, a hummingbird gleaning a minuscule insect near a trumpet vine, and a titmouse searching for a source of black oil sunflower seeds – amazing!

  • How to choose a seed blend

    Aug 28, 2018

     

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    How to Choose a Seed Blend (for higher personal entertainment!)

    Wild Center specialty stores carry many varieties of birdseed: black-oil sunflower, peanuts, Nyjer, millet and others. They also carry seed blends with varying characteristics which enhance their entertainment value for you.

    Hopper_Suet_1We believe that our customers mostly feeds birds because you enjoy seeing them, and that you prefer feeding small and colorful birds (e.g. chickadees, cardinals, goldfinches, titmice and woodpeckers) over grackles and squirrels.  

    One seed type which gets lots of attention these days is safflower, a small, whitish, plump seed with very little shell. If you are frustrated with European Starlings, Common Grackles or squirrels at your feeders, safflower (check out that picture with a male cardinal dining on safflower) has the potential to make you happier. They don’t like safflower much and tend to stay away from it, while titmice, chickadees and cardinals usually learn to like it.

    A high-quality birdseed blend should contain black-oil sunflower or hulled sunflower (as one the first ingredients listed). Other quality ingredients are black-stripe sunflower, white proso millet or some forms of nutmeat, such as peanut (pieces). Always read the ingredients list before buying a seed blend and avoid those that don’t list some form of oil sunflower as the primary ingredient. You should also avoid blends from other outlets which contain filler products such as milo, wheat, oats, rice, flax, canary seed or “mixed grain products.” These seeds only add weight and actually diminish the blend’s attractiveness. They may decrease the cost per pound of seed, but they will increase your cost per bird visit so patronize your local Wild bird Center for best seeds, blends and advice.

  • The Last Yellow Rose of Summer

    Aug 24, 2018

    PhotoGalleryAcross their wide North American range, American goldfinches are just about the last birds of summer to build nests, lay eggs and raise young. By waiting to begin the reproductive cycle, they are assured a plentiful supply of seeds on mature plants, such as the thistle. Goldfinches wait for the thistle to produce down for nest building as well as seeds to feed to their nestlings.

    An added benefit to the late breeding is that goldfinches are able to avoid female brown-headed cowbirds looking for nests in which to deposit eggs. Substitute parenting by the cowbird is called "brood parasitism," and it is not beneficial to the offspring of other surrogate parents.

    The female goldfinch selects the nest site and weaves a cup-shaped nest from grass and plant fibers, lining it with silky thistledown seen on page 3. The nest is so tightly constructed that some have been found filled with water after a heavy rain.

    The male's role during the incubation period is to keep his mate well fed. Once the eggs hatch, however, both parents feed their offspring. Goldfinches are complete herbivores, so focused on seed for food that they even feed their nestlings regurgitated seeds.

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    The best reasons to keep feeding stations well stocked throughout the summer is the sight of a Nyjer-filled tube feeder with a male American goldfinch on every perch. Their dazzling breeding season plumage makes them look like lemon-yellow canaries. But when the male goes through its fall molt, the black cap disappears and the bright yellow dims to a drab, olive-yellow color. They are so different looking that many people ask, "Where did my goldfinches go?" Females remain a soft, olive-yellow color all year.

    In much the same way as your backyard birds display different eating preferences, you will notice their different flying styles as well. The little yellow and black "roller coaster" approaching your feeding station is the American goldfinch, using its characteristic finch-style alternate gliding and flapping technique.

  • Relax...watch your birds!

    Aug 02, 2018

    Relax……watch your birds!

    Do you recall the excitement experienced as a child upon discovery of a bird’s nest in your backyard? Then that same thrill turned to elation if the nest contained baby birds? If you were like me, in the days that followed, you became very aware and more keenly interested in the world of nature just out your own back door. You learned that you need not go far or do more than take the time to watch.

    As adults, we are so busy that we often fail to allow ourselves time to relax. Studies have proven over and over that interacting with animals such as caring for a pet and participating in nature-oriented activities promotes mental health and stimulates positive attitudes, resulting in a happier general sense of well-being.

    BLUEJAY_ON_RAILING2Why not experience again your childhood enjoyment by slowing down to watch your birds at a feeder, or the nest-building activities or the dinner time show by baby birders. The idea of feeding birds is not so much to provide necessary food, as it is to enjoy the activities of the birds in our yard from the comfort of our home.

    If time for relaxation is an important goal for you, consider feeding your birds winter, spring, summer and fall. All year long! With a small investment you will enjoy great returns…a better therapy than any amount of money could buy.

    So go ahead…. let yourself relax…. just lean back and watch your birds…

     

  • What to put in your feeder

    May 23, 2018

    What to put in your feeder!

    Black-oil sunflower attracts the widest variety of birds and can be used in almost all feeder types. People who want to attract goldfinches often present Nyjer (thistle) in special Nyjer feeders.

    Goldfinch_pair_upsidedown_Anne_West_062712

    To attract juncos, native sparrows or other ground-feeding birds, you can present (white proso) millet directly on the ground or on a large platform feeder. Millet is favored primarily by ground-feeding birds, including House Sparrows, so we do not recommend using it in the tube-style feeders designed for perching birds. 

    Black-oil sunflower seeds are generally your best choice for tube-style feeders. Medium-sized hulled sunflower (sunflower seeds with the shells removed) is another good choice, especially if you want to eliminate shell debris from your deck or patio.  

  • How can I interest my children in birds?

    May 23, 2018

    aneta_earlybirder

    Q: What can I do?

    A: Simply install feeders that can be seen easily from inside your home. Keep an identification chart close by the window to help teach children the birds’ names. Start a list of the different avian species seen in (or from) your yard; you’ll be surprised how quickly the list grows. There are also window-mounted feeders to bring your birds up close – a child’s delight!

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    Q: What kind of outdoor activities can I do with my children to encourage an interest in birds?

    A; Bird walks can be a great activity for you and your child. Children also enjoy building bird houses and bird feeder and installing them too. 

    All birds are exciting to children and exciting for parents who want to pass on this legacy hobby to future generations.

     

  • How high do they fly?

    May 23, 2018

    When we look at the sky, it’s like a roof – flat, solid – just sort of there. Unless the light is exceptional, even clouds and constellations looked painted on it.

    For the birds though, the sky isn’t flat, it’s multidimensional. Just as different bird species hunt at different levels within the same tree, different birds tend to fly at different levels in the sky. And for them, the clouds aren’t just pretty puffs in the sky. They are a dynamic part of their daily landscape.

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    Flying high exposes birds to dangers, such as higher winds or hungry hawks. So when not migrating, most birds follow the facetious advice often given to new pilots, they “fly low and slow”, usually under 500 feet. But during migration, birds often climb to remarkable heights, probably to conserve energy. They burn fewer calories in the cooler air and become dehydrated less quickly.

    Also, winds that can hinder day-to-day activities become a welcome aid to quick travel. Like pilots, birds seem to know that their optimum cruise altitude increases as their “fuel” is consumed and their weight declines. Long-distance migrants seem to start out at about 5,000 feet then progressively climb to about 20,000 feet. In the Caribbean basin, where considerable radar work has been done, migrating birds are most often observed at about 10,000 feet.

    Clouds and Birds:

    Altocumulus clouds: Migrating swans and geese are known to sometimes fly more than 25,000 feet above sea level , over four miles high!

    Stratocumulus clouds: Broad-winged Hawks routinely soar at around 3,200 feet, aided by thermals created by differing ground temperatures.

    Cumulus clouds: Vultures sometime rise to over 10,000 feet, scanning wide areas for food and watching the behavior of distant birds for clues to the location of a feast.

    Cirrostratus clouds: Jet planes typically cruise at about 35, 000 feet, in what are commonly known as “ice clouds”.

    Nimbostratus clouds: In their daily activities in and around our backyards, many of our favorite songbirds stay in the 30-to 50-foot range above the ground. Robins, bluebirds, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches are all relatively low flyers.

     

  • Neighborhood Nuthatch

    Mar 15, 2017

    Lively as windup toys, nuthatches pirouette on branches and descend headfirst down tree trunks, combing the bark for insects. Divided into four species, these short-tailed song birds are found almost anywhere in North America where there are trees. Easily drawn to see and suet at feeders, especially in colder weather, nuthatches’ nasal bleats are a familiar part of our backyard soundtrack. But common does not mean mundane! Nuthatches possess some fascinating eccentricities.

    Nuthatch_WBReadily identified by its white underside, gray back and shiny black cap, the White-breasted Nuthatch ranges across most of the United States and southern Canada. The largest of its tribe, the White-breasted Nuthatch can seem downright gluttonous, as it flies onto a feeder, grabs a seed, and then returns again and again for more. In fact, the White-breasted is a miser that stashes seeds in bark crevices. With a little patient observation, it is easy to locate the bird’s storehouses.

    Sporting a distinct orange belly and white eye-stripe, the smaller Red-breasted Nuthatch_RBNuthatch replaces the white-breasted in northern forests and western mountains. The Red-breasted nests in tree cavities (as do all nuthatches) or man-made nest boxes. Like its White-breasted cousin, the Red-breasted improves its homestead by narrowing the entrance hole with mud and smearing the area with sticky stuff, such as sap, which probably serves as a predator guard. The bird itself avoids this mess by shooting straight as an arrow into the nest hole.

    Native to the Far West, the plain-gray Pygmy Nuthatch is easy to overlook. But its peculiar domestic arrangements make it an unusual bird. When raising and feeding their young, Pygmy Nuthatch parents rely on “helpers”, who may be their own young from an earlier brood or even “surplus” males. This unusual avian behavior is comparable to human bachelors volunteering to change diapers.

    The tiny Brown-headed Nuthatch of the southeastern United States also employs nesting “helpers”. But it one-ups the Pygmy Nuthatch in an astonishing way – the Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of the very few North American birds with a talent for tools. Gripping a chunk of bark in its bill, the bird pries up pine bark in pursuit of a meal.

    The nuthatch is an intriguing neighbor with, perhaps, more to reveal so feel free to spy on the delightful birds – they won’t mind at all.

     

  • Baffling Squirrels

    Mar 15, 2017

    If there are squirrels in your neighborhood and you don’t want to feed them, try finding a spot you can squirrel-proof with baffles. Baffles are metal or plastic devices placed above hanging feeders and below pole-mounted feeders. They are shaped so that squirrels cannot climb around them.

    SquirrelBaffle2

    Feeder placement is critical to the success of any baffling system. Squirrels can jump six to eight feet sideways and four to five feet high, so consult this handy diagram below if you want to baffle them. If squirrels can reach the feeder by jumping around the baffles, the baffles become ineffective and you may need a feeder to be squirrel-resistant.

  • How to Introduce a New Feeder

    Mar 02, 2017

    PhotoGalleryHave you ever put up a wonderful new bird feeder, then wondered why your birds did not immediately flock to it? The answer may be simple – they didn’t know it was there!

    Birds are visual and auditory creatures. Except for a few species, most find food by sight. If a feeder is the first one in your yard, it make take the birds weeks to discover and recognize it as a source of food. If you’ve added a new feeder where other feeders are already available, it generally won’t take long for your birds to discover this new opportunity, although there may still be a period of time when the birds hesitate to use the new feeder instead of the old.

    How soon your feeder is used also depends on the availability of natural food sources, the type seed used in your new feeder, and the habitat close to your feeder. Black-oil sunflower seeds usually attract the widest variety of birds. The addition of nutmeats, such as peanut kernels, will make the feeder more attractive to birds such as titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, even wrens. Make certain that the feeder is visible and not hidden by foliage or other obstructions. If you live in a newly developed neighborhood with few trees and shrubs, consider planting some plants near your feeder to provide natural cover. A bird bath or other water source will also make your feeing station more attractive to your birds.

    The first visitors to your new feeder are likely to be chickadees, since these little acrobats are among the most curious and adventuresome of all backyard birds. Once chickadees have found it, titmice and other birds are sure to be close behind.