Wild Bird Blog


Welcome to our Wild Bird Blog!

  • Choosing a Healthy Habitat

    Sep 07, 2021


    What you have in your yard – the grasses, bushes, trees, flowers, and water – determines the wildlife that makes it their home. You can decide who you create space for, and those choices can help create a healthy ecosystem in your backyard that also extends into your community and region.  

    The changing climate and resulting events such as wildfires, extreme spring heat, and heavy rainfall are already affecting wildlife, including birds and their habitats. Though birds’ ability to migrate makes them more resilient to habitat changes than less dynamic creatures, more than two-thirds of North America’s bird species will be vulnerable to extinction due to range loss if the earth continues to warm following current trends.1

    BrownThrasher_shutterstock_30140740If Earth warms by 3 degrees Celsius, as predicted, Audubon estimates that 13 out of America’s 50 state birds might struggle to live in the states they represent during at least one season of the year, including Minnesota’s common loon; Pennsylvania’s ruffed grouse; the willow ptarmigan in Alaska; the American goldfinch in Washington, Iowa, and New Jersey; the purple finch in New Hampshire; the northern flicker in Alabama; the mountain bluebird in Idaho; the lark bunting in Colorado; the hermit thrush in Vermont; the California quail in California; and the brown thrasher in Georgia.

    Birds are an “indicator species,” indicating the health of the environment. What happens to the birds extends to every other creature. As such, what we do to help birds in our backyards will, in turn, impact the health of other animals, including ourselves.

    Primarily, your backyard shoulGoldfinches_(12285115)d be an ode to diversity – welcoming to many species. The more complex the species mix, the healthier the habitat. For birds, that would mean ground-feeding, seed-eating and bug-eating birds, as well as woodpeckers and even hawks. Having a mix of birds will give your yard balance: worms and other insects will attract warblers. Flocks of goldfinch will come by if you have a flower garden and feeders.

    The best way to encourage this diversity is with a healthy base: soil. Improving soil structure by helping it hold water with compost and other organic soil amendments will provide food for the entire soil food web, including insect-eating birds that help control pests. The resulting rich soil produces a good base for growing healthy plants, and the plants produce food for the birds and other animals. The circle is completed when the animal waste then becomes food for the microbes in your soil; they recycle the nutrients and convert them to a form that plants can use.

    Garden-BabyPlantHealthy soil does not contain pesticides. It makes no sense to put out bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths and then spread pesticides and herbicides in our yards that kill pollinators and natural insect predators, such as birds, frogs and bats. The recent mysterious bird illness is a prime example of what could happen when we try to rid our yards of certain “pests.” While the cause is still not known, researchers are considering the possibility that pesticides used to kill the cicadas this summer were the cause of the deaths among our beloved songbirds.

    We are a part of nature. All of us – plants, birds, and humans – depend on soil health: plants feed on nutrients in soil, we feed on plants. When we choose to create a healthy habitat, starting with a strong foundation, the impact goes well beyond our own backyards.

    1National Audubon Society, Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink, October 10, 2019

  • Mystery Bird Illness - What you can do to help

    Aug 02, 2021


    Following a year when the birds gave us so much solace and joy, seasoned birders and the thousands that discovered bird feeding in 2020 are learning about a new mystery illness that is now affecting our feathered friends. Birds in eleven states and Washington, D.C. are becoming sick and dying from what scientists are calling a “mortality event,” when animals die in a short period of time from what appears to be a similar cause.

    Carla-Mason-1223Scientists are still trying to determine what is sickening and killing primarily young blue jays, grackles, starlings and robins. While there has been no evidence that this is contagious, or caused by anything related to bird feeding, people are being asked to refrain from feeding birds as a precautionary measure. The Department of Natural Resources in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have issued guidance to restrict feeding birds. As of July 14, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are also on the no-feed list, but no sick birds have been reported in either state. On July 28, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) issued a bit of good news, saying that the number of reported sick or dead birds has decreased since June.

    This is what we know so far*:

    1. The disease presents itself as crusty eyes coupled with blindness. In addition, there is a neurological element that causes tremors and disorientation. The disease can be fatal as the birds may not be able to find food, defend themselves or fly.
    2. Common causes have been eliminated including Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites.
    3. Besides blue jays, grackles, starlings and robins, it has been seen in limited amounts in such bird species as Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, House Finches, House Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees and the Carolina Wrens.

    Scientists continue to investigate many possibilities, even this spring’s eruption of 17-year cicadas, since their appearance began around the same time as reports of ill birds. Cicadas are known to carry a pathogenic fungus, although no connection has been found with the bird disease. On July 28, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called the emergence of the illness in the eleven states, "an exact replica of the cicada map,” so this theory appears to be the leading one at this time: “The decline in cases corresponds with the retreat of the cicadas. Although researchers will continue to monitor the situation, Bunton (of the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab) expressed that the outbreak should not be a cause of alarm.”**

    What You Can Do

    If you find a sick bird, make sure to report it to your wildlife agency and the Smithsonian National Zoo, which is tracking the data. You should not try to care for a sick or injured bird that you find, but instead, submit the date, location, bird age, species (if you know it) and a photo or video. Your discovery could be key in finding a cause!

    Until the mystery is solved, there are things you can do in your backyard to continue to take care of your feathered friends and prepare for the time when we can start feeding them again:

    1. Birds are drawn to varied habitats and plantings, so consider putting in a few plants or shrubs that will turn your yard into a natural bird habitat; they will attract a greater number and variety of birds, make your yard a healthier place for the planet, and will enhance the beauty of your landscape!
    2. To prevent spoilage, store any unused bird food in an airtight container; heavy-duty plastic zip bags, sturdy plastic bins, and galvanized metal cans are popular bird seed storage containers. By keeping it in a cool, dry location such as a garage or basement, bird seed can last well over a year.
    3. Give the eventual return to bird feeding a fresh start by sweeping up and cleaning your bird feeding areas of discarded seed. Perhaps invest in a new feeder to welcome the birds back!

    Some have suggested that if people do continue bird feeding, that they make sure to clean feeders and baths once a day with a 10% bleach to water solution (see illustration below). While it has not yet been determined if the bird disease is contagious, you should always wash your hands with soap and water after dealing with birds, feeders and bird baths.

    We are hopeful that by working together with scientists, we will discover the reason behind this event, and get back to seeing our bird populations healthy and happy – which, as we know, brightens our days as well.

    *“What we know about the mystery bird death crisis on the East Coast,” National Geographic, July 15, 2021

    **Ithaca.com, July 28, 2021

    Photos by Carla Mason



  • The Birds and The Bugs

    Jun 23, 2021


    How can you achieve the “perfect yard,” one with beautiful plants, a green lawn, and healthy trees? Start with creating a space that will invite natural pest suppressors: the birds! They're your "pest protection"!

    Most backyard birdsIMG_4702 eat a combination of seeds, berries and insects. But in late spring and early summer, when garden pests are at their peak, birds are busy feeding their newly hatched young, who like nothing better than freshly caught bugs.

    The world's birds eat 450 to 550 million tons of insects each year. That's as many as 20 quadrillion individual bugs, a study reports.1 Birds play an important role in keeping plant-eating insect populations under control, as they consume plant-eating insects like beetles, cabbage worms, earwigs, grubs, flies, ants, moths, aphids, grasshoppers and crickets – just to name a few!

    Want to keep the bird bug-eaters content in your yard? Keep your feeders filled with a quality seed blend that will appeal to chickadees, grosbeaks, cardinals, nuthatches and sparrows. Suet and seed cakes will attract titmice and woodpeckers to your yard, and while there, will round out their meals with some insect larvae and other delicacies. Don’t forget a bird bath as it will attract many additional bird species, outside of feeder birds, that will help and add to the fun!

    Pollinator Protection

    Using birds for pest control instead of harmful pesticides also proCarla-Mason-1267tects pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce, including more than 3,500 species of native bees. Many of the foods and crops we rely on need or benefit from bee pollination.

    While bees are considered essential pollinators, recent discoveries suggest butterflies are effective in pollinating crops where bees don’t visit. Until now, butterflies had not been taken seriously as pollinators because they are not considered major players in commercial food crops. However, a paper published this year found that butterflies were responsible for about one third of cotton pollination in Texas.2 If the results are found in other crops, butterflies may be added to a short list of commercially important pollinators.

    Viceroy_ButterflyButterflies also contribute to the pollination of fruit and flowers. As they spend their day floating from one large, HRT_198Bjpgbrightly colored, scented flower to another, they gather pollen on their legs when walking around the flower clusters. Zinnias, daisies, mimosa and butterfly bush are favorites. June 21-27 is #PollinatorWeek, so do what you can to protect and preserve these important insects!

    The next time you see or hear a bird in your yard or watch a butterfly gracefully fluttering about, take comfort in knowing that they're helping keep your garden healthy and looking good.

    1“Insectivorous birds consume an estimated 400–500 million tons of prey annually,” The Science of Nature, 2018.

    2“Butterflies provide ‘extraordinary’ help pollinating cotton fields,” Science Magazine, April 12, 2021.

  • Birders of Many Feathers

    Jun 01, 2021

    The Outdoors is for Everyone, Everywhere


    This week – May 30 to June 5 – marks the 2nd annual Black Birders Week, a series of nationwide events focused on increasing the visibility of black birders while celebrating cultural diversity in bird watching, bird feeding and nature-related research.

    This rapidly growing event was created by American ornithologist, Corina Newsome, who helped bring to light challenges Black bird watchers face as they commune with nature, including underrepresentation and racism. Black Birders Week also focuses on a younger, more diverse audience who have recently taken up bird watching. This new generation has been joining the bird watching ranks, drawn by the discovery, science and joy of being outside, though with concerns about being welcomed and feeling safe in outdoor spaces. Birding, after all, is the observation and passion around one of the most diverse classes of animals in the world – full of different colors, sizes, shapes and behaviors.

    As fellow birders, we applaud and support this effort. Reaching out to underrepresented audiences, especially in the younger generation, is vital in raising the popularity and profile of birding, as well as conservation efforts for habitat and species preservation. How exciting it is to see children, teenagers and young adults on a bird walk, feeding them from their home or just being outside with a pair of binoculars.

    “Reaching New ashutterstock_1031702722_kidbinoculars2nd More Diverse Audiences for Conservation,” a study by the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Partnership, says we have work to do. It found that many of the younger, urban, multi-cultural population consider themselves birders, but also have the least participation in the hobby. We need to commit to understanding cultural differences, age group differences, physical limitations and social dynamics if we are to be successful in engaging underrepresented groups.1

    Black Birders Week represents this broader call, and we don’t have to go far to find a successful example. Locally, the Washington, D.C.-based group, Brown Girls Climb, brings together those seeking inclusive and accessible opportunities for women of color. They have redefined what a climber looks like and who is considered “outdoorsy.” Their accomplishments are readily seen as Brown Girls Climb now has 40,000 Instagram followers and eight chapters across the country. 2

    Birding is a hobby for all people, races, nationalities, creeds and gender; its only requirements are a common interest in our feathered friends – and maybe a pair of binoculars!


    2 ”Scaling the Walls,” The Washington Post Magazine, May 23, 2021

  • Why Woodpeckers Peck and What You Can Do About It

    May 10, 2021

    Birdsong is one of the beautiful sounds of spring, but some birds employ a somewhat different way of communicating their joy for the season


    Spring brings on bird sounds of all types, including one bird who sounds like a member of a marching band! Armed with shock absorbers made of soft tissue in their heads, woodpeckers, as their name implies, will "drum" or peck in rapid, rhythmic succession on a variety of surfaces. And when they drum on metal (gutters, drainpipes, chimney caps), their sound is amplified and can be heard for up to a mile away. 

    It’s good to know this social behavior is temporary. "Drumming" is a spring thing; the woodpecker drumming on metal is likely either trying to find a mate, establish territory, or protect itself from would-be predators.

    Woodpecker-PilMale woodpeckers are most persistent when setting up nesting territories. They drum loudly to get the attention of available females, who will often drum back in response to indicate interest and let them know where to find them. They also could be trying to scare off other woodpeckers or potential predators, so they strive to be as loud as possible. Since woodpeckers don't sing like other birds, this drumming is their form of communication.Woodpecker-RB

    Woodpecker drilling is temporary, so in many cases nothing needs to be done. But they also use their beaks to forage for food and to build nests. If the sound or drilling gets to be too much, here are some environmentally conscious and bird-friendly ways to deter them:

    • Put up a bird house to give them an alternative location for nesting. If they are making one large hole in your roof or siding, then they are most likely building a home. Putting up a woodpecker house nearby or over the hole they are creating can be a win-win for everyone.
    • If woodpeckers are making a series of small holes, then you may have insects in your siding. Woodpeckers can hear insects moving around in/under wood and will drill holes so they can snake in their surprisingly long tongue to catch them. Woodpeckers may be doing you a favor by identifying a problem for you. Have your siding checked for insects and the woodpeckers may move on.  
    • Hang a large sheet of plastic, such as a drop cloth or heavy-duty garbage bag, over the wood or metal on your house. Attach the plastic sheet at the top and leave the bottom free to blow in the wind. The birds won’t be able to get a good footing on the plastic, and the movement of the plastic will help scare them away.
    • Try hanging several, long mylar streamers (found in party supply stores) 10 inches apart over the area to create movement. Supplement these tactics by squirting a hose near the bird before it gets settled in to work in the mornings.*

    Woodpecker-RB_(12280612)While this behavior can annoy us, it’s important to remind ourselves of the many ways woodpeckers help keep nature in balance. They eat insects, including wood-boring insects, grubs, spiders, and ants. And the holes they make in trees are often used by other small animals after the woodpecker has raised its family in them. Many small animals rely on these holes because, without them, safety and security from predators would be much harder to find.

    We hope this information makes it a little bit easier to understand and appreciate the sounds of nature’s headbangers!


  • Earth Day 2021 Supporting Birds Restores their Health and Ours

    Apr 19, 2021


    “In nature, nothing exists alone.”

    — Rachel Carson, 1962

    Birds are an “indicator species,” animals whose presence and behavior can tell us about the health of an ecosystem. On Earth Day and every day, supporting birds and preserving their habitats is vital to protecting our planet and restoring the environment to a healthy place for all living things.

    “Restore our Earth” is the theme of this year’s Earth Day. You can restore your piece of the earth – your backyard -- by planting a bird-friendly habitat with local plants that require less maintenance to thrive. Planting native plants and maintaining a bird feeder and/or bath is a great way to increase biodiversity and help native species survive. It also allows you and your family to connect with the nature around you, and will establish care and concern for the environment that may impact future decisions.

    Plants are a source of food (nuts, seeds, insects), moisture (sap, nectar) and Backyard1shelter for birds. Here are some ideas for creating a bird-friendly backyard:

    • Creating corridors. Help birds travel safely by creating edges of trees, shrubs or brush piles along the borders of your yard.
    • Think in layers. Vary heights among plants for birds that prefer different elevations for feeding and nesting. For example, shade-tolerant plants beneath large trees.IMG_4746
    • Color in the edges. The greatest variety of bird life is found in places where different habitats join, so plant flower and grass beds alongside hedges.
    • Evergreens. Adding evergreen trees helps provide shelter for birds in winter.
    • Bushes or Brush Piles. You can greatly increase the number of birds visits to your feeder by adding nearby bushes (within 20 ft.) that provide cover to which birds can fly back and forth from the feeder. Brush piles can also serve as cover and increase their sense of security.

    Eagle-bald1_SmIn addition to helping our backyard birds thrive, it is important to support conservation efforts of bird populations in the wild. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress in 1973 to protect fragile species and their habitats, efforts to bring back once-threatened birds and animals have proven successful and provide hope that we can restore bird populations – and the health of our shared world.

    American Bald Eagle populations have quadrupled since 2009, according to a report published in December 2020 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Using data gathered by USFWS and Cornell Labs’ eBird checklists (thank you, Citizen Scientists!), eagles that were once on the brink of extinction – with just 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 – are now flourishing, with more than 71,400 nesting pairs. Habitat protections, conservation efforts, and banning the use of DDT all contributed to the multi-decade effort.Kirtlands-Warbler_Peter-Tamas_PR

    The emergence of eagles from endangered status joins the 50-year conservation effort of the Kirtland’s Warbler, which was removed from the list in 2019. In 1971, its population declined 60 percent, with just 200 singing males. Michigan state and federal agencies replanted jack pine forests – the warbler’s favored habitat – over the course of 30 years and removed 3,500 brown-headed cowbirds due to brood parasitism. With cooperative efforts among conservation partners, the Kirtland's Warbler population is now estimated to be over 2,300 pairs – more than double the recovery goal.

    Birds not only indicate earth’s health, they also play a vital role in maintaining our planet’s delicate balance by controlling pests, spreading seeds, and acting as pollinators. They respond quickly to changes in our environment and, as such, should be carefully monitored and supported for their sake – and ours.


  • Brainy Birds

    Mar 22, 2021


    Birds’ brains are more sophisticated than a certain epithet would imply

    birdbrained \ 'b?rd-brand   \ adjective

    1: a dumb person


    The term “bird-brained” was derived in the 1600s to describe someone as “flighty” or “scattered,” or “dumb,” yet it is truly a misnomer when you use it to describe actual birds. Though bird brains are much smaller than humans, their proportionally higher neuron counts could provide them with greater “cognitive power” per pound than mammals.1

    Birds can plan, problem-solve, reason, learn, teach and empathize – traits that were once thought unique to humans. Like us, birds have to figure out how to obtain food, how to get along with others and how to defend territory. The difference, however, is in how birds use these traits.

    Birds learn and remember remarkably well. In a study of White-crowned Carla-Mason-593Sparrow-WC_(10583701)Sparrow migration, a flock was taken to New Jersey, 3,000 miles away from their migratory path on the West Coast. After just a few hours, the birds were flying solo back to their wintering grounds in southern California and Mexico, including young birds who had only made the migratory journey once before.2 Can you imagine a person being able to do this without a smart phone?

    Birds use calls and songs to communicate. Scientists who studied the varied calls of Black-capped Chickadees declared their system of communication “among the most sophisticated and exacting of any land animal.”2 The number of “dees,” tells other chickadees the size and degree of threat. They also have a gargling call used when a lower-ranking bird gets close to a higher-ranking one, and make a high-pitched “see” alarm call when a predator is approaching quickly.

    Birds locHummer_(10613182)ate themselves in space. Rufous Hummingbirds can relocate a flower after visiting it once for only a few seconds. They also can remember whether or not they’ve visited a certain flower, and can calculate how long it will be before that flower refills its nectar.2

    Birds make and use tools. The Galapagos Island’s Woodpecker Finch uses its bill to hold a twig and probe the bark of trees for insects. In a study of New Caledonian Crows, researchers discovered the birds can create compound tools, something that has only ever been observed before in humans and great apes. The crows were given objects that were individually too short, but which could be combined to make a tool long enough to reach food. Withonew_caledonian_crowut any help, the crows figured out how to partially insert a plunger into a barrel to make a longer tool that could reach the food treat, and they accomplished the task within 4-6 minutes of interacting with the objects.3 Captive Blue Jays have reportedly used strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets from outside their cages.4

    Birds deceive and manipulate. Blue Jays, a member of the same bird family – corvid – as crows, will mimic hawk calls to warn other jays in their flock that danger is near. But they’ve also been seen reproducing the raptor’s call in order to scare off other songbirds, making them believe a hawk is around.

    Birds are self-aware. The Magpie, another member of the corvid family – the “masterminds” of the avian world - has the ability to recognize itself in the mirror, one of the first signs of social behavior. Self-recognition was once thought to be something only humans and certain select primates enjoyed. Of hundreds of animals tested besides humans, only four apes, bottlenose dolphins and Asian Elephants have also passed the “mirror mark test.”5magpie

    “For a long time having a ‘bird brain’ was considered to be a bad thing: Now it turns out that it should be a compliment,” said Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel.

    While many of us simply enjoy our avian friends for their outward beauty, charm and song, there is so much to discover about their amazing inner lives. As it turns out, their beauty is more than feather deep!

    Chickadee Photo by Carla Mason
    New Caledonian Crow Photo: NewScientist.com
    Magpie Photo by Circled Thrice/Flicker.com

    1“Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

    2The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman

    3 “Compound tool construction by New Caledonian crows,” Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and the University of Oxford



  • Winter is a Great Time to Start Feeding Birds

    Feb 23, 2021


    Getting to know what birds are in your backyard will make spring migration even more exciting

    cardinaltreeFeeding birds in winter is a great time for the beginning bird feeder. It’s easier to learn which birds are in your backyard because there are fewer of them, and they are easier to spot when the leaves are off the trees. Because these birds did not fly south for the winter, they are the ones you will see year-round, which will make spotting the rare birds and migrants much easier to identify – and more thrilling – when they stop by in the spring!

    There is a reason that February is designated National Bird Feeding Month. Small songbirds eat more food in the winter than in the summer, making putting out a bird feeder or two an entertaining and valuable resource this timeCarla-Mason-947 of year. Studies have shown an increase in winter survival of birds who visit feeders, which also help boost birds’ breeding success.

    Dwindling food supply makes the birds very eager to visit feeders, giving you a window into fascinating bird behaviors. In winter, small birds of different species adapt to the season by joining together in mixed flocks, which helps them ward off predators and locate food more quickly. Downy woodpeckers often travel with chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and house finches; The small birds sound an alarm of approaching danger and gather together in a “mob” to harass the predator, while the woodpeckers discover food sources where the other birds can forage with the added protection of the group.

    When you put out a feeder in winter, watch as some birds fly quickly back and forth from the feeder to a nearby spot. They often hide their food, up to hundreds of seeds a day and each in a different location, that they will then remember and retrieve later for eating.

    Carla-Mason-1127Seeing how birds adapt to severe temperatures is inspiring. How do they do it? They have several physical adaptations – dense plumage, shivering, and the ability to survive reduced body temperatures. They store fat to keep warm, and fluff their feathers to trap warm air against their bodies. As the temperature drops outside, birds also shiver to keep warm. But on some cold winter nights, chickadees will go into a state of regulated hypothermia – actually dropping their body temperatures by decreasing the shivering. Birds feet also are designed to endure winter, with a protective covering and special veins that keep them warm.

    Feeding birds in winter not only benefits the birds themselves, but also those of us who feed them. When we give a boost to nature, we are rewarded with a front row view of a captivating and inspiring world. Our winter birds brighten the short, gray days with their presence.

    Photos by Carla Mason and Wild Bird Centers

  • Birding with Presidents

    Feb 12, 2021


    In honor of President’s Day, we rounded up some history of U.S. presidents who kept birds while in office. Nineteen presidents kept birds, including Teddy Roosevelt, who also maintained a bird checklist of species he saw on the White House grounds. 

    Thomas Jefferson owned several mockingbirds, who he would write about in his meteorological diary, “Weather Memorandum”:  

    1808 Jan. 31: “The old mock. bird sings.”

    1808 March 2. "The middle aged bird sings."

    1808 March 3. “Dick sings.”

    “Dick the Mockingbird” (who has his own Wikipedia page) was Jefferson’s favorite, according to friend/biographer Margaret Bayard Smith, who wrote “[he had] a peculiar fondness, not only for its melodious powers, but for its uncommon intelligence and affectionate disposition…It was the constant companion of his solitary and studious hours. Whenever he was alone he opened the cage and let the bird fly about the room. After flitting for a while from one object to another, it would alight on his table and regale him with its sweetest notes, or perch on his shoulder and take its food from his lips. Often when he retired to his chamber it would hop up the stairs after him and while he took his siesta, would sit on his couch and pour forth its melodious strains."  In the spring of 1809, Jefferson moved south for retirement, where he wrote from Monticello: "[M]y birds arrived here in safety & are the delight of every hour."

    A turkey sent to Abraham Lincoln in 1863 for a holiday feast became the family pet when ten-year-old Tad Lincoln befriended the bird and named him “Jack.” When Tad realized Christmas was near and it would be time to prepare the turkey for Christmas dinner, “he burst into the cabinet meeting in tears and pleaded with his father to pardon the bird from the ‘executioner.’”This story is the basis for the modern-day presidential turkey pardoning at Thanksgiving.

    Jimmy Carter, an avid birder, said he and wife Rosalynn Carter had “certified a little over 1,200 different species” of birds from all around the world. Yet his “life bird” was discovered not far from his home in Americus, Georgia, in 2002, where he and his wife were excited to see their first – and only –  Painted Bunting.





    Here is a sampling of other “presidential birds”:

    • James Buchanan: Bald Eagles

    • Calvin Coolidge: Nip and Tuck (canaries); Snowflake (Canary); Peter Piper (Canary); Goldy (a yellow bird); Old Bill (Thrush); Enoch (Goose); Do-Funny (Troupial); and a Mockingbird

    • Dwight D. Eisenhower: Gabby (Parakeet)

    • Andrew Jackson: Polly (Parrot)

    • John F. Kennedy: Robin (Canary); Bluebell and Marybelle (Parakeets

    • James Madison: Uncle Willy (Parrot, pictured above left with Dolly Madison)

    • William McKinley: Washington Post (Parrot that could whistle “Yankee Doodle Dandee”)

    • Teddy Roosevelt: Eli Yale (Hyacinth Macaw, pictured above right with Teddy, Jr.); one-legged Rooster (pictured above center)

    • John Tyler: Johnny Ty (Canary)

    2017-04-26-RooseveltBirdsBirds appear to be one of the most popular presidential pets, but the title of “birder president” has to go to Teddy Roosevelt, who took time out of his busy days to list 91 bird species he saw – or heard – at the White House, and helped establish 51 preserves for birds, five national parks, 18 national monuments and 150 national forests.

    Though presidents eventually depart the executive mansion, a couple of birds remain there: Gabby and Caroline Kennedy’s canary, “Robin.” Gabby died in 1957 and was buried by the gardener at the southwest corner of the executive mansion. Her grave was marked with an asbestos shingle stenciled with her name. “Robin” died in 1962, the day before the Queen Farah of Iran visited Washington. When the queen arrived, Caroline insisted on taking her to the burial site near her play area: “That was the one thing Caroline wanted the empress to see,” said Jackie Kennedy. According to The New York Times, the canary got its name because Caroline “likes robins.”

    Don’t we all?


    (Sources: Audubon.org; Monticello.org; BirdNote.org; WhiteHouseHistory.org; PresidentialPetMuseum.com; BirdWatchingDaily.com)

  • New Year Brings New Opportunities to Enjoy the Birds!

    Jan 05, 2021

    If the past year is any indication, the future looks bright for the birds!

    Carla-Mason-9872020 was a wild year, especially for those who discovered the joys of bird feeding and watching. Sales of bird seed, feeders and baths soared as more and more people became interested in bringing birds to their backyards.

    Staying home allowed opportunities to see the wildlife outside our windows, to be more engaged with nature, and take comfort in its beauty. In the new year, birds continue to provide an easy reason to get out and escape in nature’s bounty.

    Accenting our backyard birds, we often get “accidentals”, especially in PBmigration flyways. Near the Wild Bird Center home office in Glen Echo, MD, the first weekend of 2021 brought a multi-colored Painted Bunting, which was spotted in Great Falls Park. This “accidental” was far north of its typical winter habitat in Florida and Mexico, making bird watchers aflutter at the promise of seeing this rare caller colorize the grey sky in cold January. More than a thousand park visitors – from experienced birders to families with strollers – descended on the area where it was first spotted, hoping for a glimpse of a bird whose nickname is “nonpareil” (“having no equal”) due to its brilliant red, blue and yellow plumage – a painting come to life. Some at the park called the bird “a bona fide lifer,” and “a magical way to start the new year.”1

    And it’s noCarla-Mason-981 wonder. Being in nature is a proven mood booster, and the sounds of birds have been shown to bring happiness. Researchers from California Polytechnic State University analyzed how much the natural sounds people hear when they are outdoors affects well-being.2 They found that birdsong piped in along hiking trails made hikers feel better and had a measurable effect on the Carla-Mason-973quality of their experiences on the trail. The same can be enjoyed at home, brought up close by our feeders and seed.

    Since our founding in 1985, Wild Bird Centers has had the pleasure of helping people discover the joys of bird feeding. Time with the birds can have a positive impact on our outlook. I know we certainly appreciated their company in 2020, and hope we all continue to find fun with our feathered friends in the new year.

    1 “Rare avian visitor draws eager eyes to C&O Canal,” The Washington Post, 1/4/2021

    2 “Are birds the reason you feel good in nature?” Treehugger.com, 12/20/2021

    Photos by Carla Mason

  • Three Easy Ways to Woo the Winter Birds

    Dec 08, 2020


    Have you noticed that your favorite birds stick around during the colder months of the year? Depending on where you live, many birds will stay year-round in your backyard, and some who flew north for the summer, have now returned to winter in your yard. Winter can be just as fulfilling for bird watching as the other seasons if you take a few simple steps to help the birds who share their interesting and inspiring lives with us.


    1.  Fill the Feeders. Give your backyard flock the energy to survive even the worst weather. Birds often rely most heavily on feeders in winter, when natural food sources are scarce. Add food high in oil and fat, such as suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer to your feeders when the temperatures drop. You can also watch to see who is in your yard and tailor your backyard buffet to their needs. You will have more birds visit if you have trees and shrubs nearby for cover, as well as leaves/twigs on the ground for ground-feeders. Pro Tip: Move feeders a bit closer to your house so it’s easier to fill them in bad weather (three feet away from a window to help prevent window strikes).WBC_BB2CONV

    2.  Boost their Roost. Keep bird houses up; some birds use houses for roosting to escape periods of extreme cold. Woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and bluebirds will roost in boxes during the winter. WBC’s houses are designed to insulate from wet weather, with slanted roofs and drainage holes, while the Convertible Bluebird Box (pictured at right) serves double duty as a roosting box in winter and nesting box in summer – just reposition the door opening and seal the vents. Adorable, woven roosting pockets make for cozy cold weather accommodations for smaller birds, with ventilation and drainage built into the design. Pro Tip: Be sure to mount your houses six feet off the ground in an open area, facing away from the wind.

    3.  Draw a Warm Bath. Turn a b-r-r-r-r-rdbath into a bird jacuzzi. Water is a year-round necessity for birds. Since feathers keep them warm in the coldest weather, birds need water to keep this natural insulation clean. Plus, having a water feature like a bird bath will increase the variety of birds you’ll see, including those who don’t regularly visit bird feeders! An author on bird feeding recorded 75 different bird species at his birdbaths vs. 45 at the feeders.* Adding a heating element like a bird bath deicer – or using a heated bath – ensures a cBirdbath_Heater_shutterstock_301874531ontinuous water supply. Pro Tip: Placing a bath in a sunny spot will increase visibility and help keep the water liBluebirds_Bathquid. For really cold weather, place a few stones or sticks on top that birds can use as perches while they drink.




    Brighten the gloom of a cold, gray day with the sight of your feathered friends busily going about their lives, and marvel at how they adapt to survive the winter season. Your efforts to support them will bring you much pleasure and encouragement. Just think: if the birds can get through it, we can too!


    *John Dennis, “Beyond the Bird Feeder,” 1991.

  • Three Ways to Invite Only Your Favorite Birds To Your Feeder

    Nov 06, 2020

    DSC_1365_DoubleHook_Arm_Squirrel_1We love all of our backyard inhabitants, but sometimes we want to be selective about who dines at our bird feeders. We all know how hungry and persistent squirrels can be, especially  in the fall, when they are gathering as much food as possible for the winter. The same can be said for some of our more enthusiastic, flocking birds like starlings, crows and grackles. Here are some tried-and-true tips to keep your favorite birds coming to the feeders while redirecting other “guests”:

    1.     Baffle Them!

    If it’s put in the right location, a pole-mounted feeder with our disc-shaped or torpedo squirrel baffles are extremely reliable in keeping squirrels from seed. First, place the pole at least 8 to 10 feet away from anything else that a squirrel can leap from (sturdy bushes, trees). Disc baffles should be placed at least five feet from the ground, while the smooth torpedo baffles are mounted toward the bottom.

    2.     Heat Things Up!

    Hot pepper attracts birds, but not squirrels. Birds can’t sense the heat, while Feederwise_HOT_4.25Hot_TrailWise_Groupsquirrels tend to stay away. Hot seed cylinders, suet and seed blends are easy to use and filled with the seed birds love, infused with just enough hot pepper to deter the squirrels. Look for chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches and other favorite birds, who will have plenty of time to dine when you add a little heat to your feeder.

    3.     Choose the Right Feeder:

    Tube feeders: Bigger, voracious eaters like starlings, doves and grackles have a harder time eating from feeders with just perches without a tray. Smaller song birds such as chickadees, goldfinches, titmice and nuthatches will come right up and feed all day long.

    Nyjer feeders: Nyjer seed is not popular with starlings, grackles or squirrels. In addition, Nyjer feeders are especially hard for these backyard visitors to eat from due to the small port size.

    Upside-down suet feeder. With an exposed side facing down, these unique feeders allow woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches to feed easily, but starlings, grackles, blue jays and other bigger birds struggle to cling to the cage.

    Squirrel-Proof Feeders:If space is limited, there are squirrel proof feeders that prevent squirrels from gaining access to the seed no matter where the feeder is placed.

    SBUST_Peanut_NThe official “Squirrel Buster” feeder – guaranteed by the manufacturer to be squirrel proof– attracts clinging and perching birds, but prevents squirrels from eating as the weight of the squirrel and large, unwanted birds) denies them access by closing off the seed ports.

    ARU360_NClearly one of the best barriers is the Sky Café Squirrel Proof Feeder. Topped by a 17-inch see-through dome hat, this feeder has dual benefits: confusion and clarity. The domed baffle helps prevent squirrels from accessing the seed below, while also allowing a clear view of all the birds enjoying a peaceful meal.

    HF7536_NYou get to choose your dinner guest list with the Meta Absolute Squirrel Proof Feeder, which has adjustable weight perches that make the feeder window close when squirrels invade. The weight sensor allows for both smaller or larger birds.


    While these tips will help you and your birds have a better backyard bird feeding experience, we think all of our backyard creatures bring their own joys and lessons. WBC has fun feeders designed for squirrels that make watching their antics entertaining, as well as feeders for birds who normally feed on the ground. We can be selective and inclusive all at the same time!DSC_0310Chair_N

  • Why Quality Bird Seed Matters

    Oct 14, 2020


    How is WBC seed different from most commercial blends? What makes a “quality” seed or mix?

    We look for three things in the seed we sell:

    1.   Are the seeds proven to attract the birds as advertised?

    Many low-cost commercial mixes are formulated to a price point rather than to the attractiveness to birds. While the mix may be inexpensive, the results are often lackluster as the bulk of the mix are less attractive seeds such as wheat, milo, sorghum or other grains. Will some birds eat them? Sure, but it will be hard to attract the colorful birds and you may end up with a mess on the ground as birds search for the “good stuff.”

    2.   Is the seed fresh?










    Packaging is important. WBC uses triple-barrier bags to seal in freshness. It prevents any leakage and insects from spoiling the product and ensures the seed you put out is in a premier state. Just like us, birds prefer their food fresh, and as a result, you’ll have more colorful visitors than ever before!

    3.   Is the seed clean?

    There are varying grades of cleanliness when it comes to bird seed. The less sticks, dirt,chaff and debris, the “cleaner” the mix. WBC sells 99% clean seed, which is just below human-grade. This is accomplished through running the seed through gravity tables, sizing screens and aspirators – all of which give us the cleanest seed possible for our feathered friends.

    What are the quality seeds most attractive to birds?

    When WBC first started 35 years ago, our founder George Petrides, Sr., consulted with Dr. Aelred Geis, a U.S. Department of the Interior researcher, who revolutionized bird feeding with his research on which seeds birds actually preferred. This research was updated and further refined by an early 2000s study – Project Feeder Watch – conducted by Dr. David Horn of Milliken University and the Wild Bird Feeding Institute. Both studies concluded that these were the most attractive seeds to backyard birds:Black_Oil_Sunflower

    ·      Black Oil Sunflower: An oily, black-shelled seed, sunflower is a major ingredient in many mixes. Attractive to most birds, especially cardinals.

    ·      Hulled/Chipped Sunflower: Black Oil sunflower without the shell, this attracts smaller birds such as goldfinches, chickadees and titmice.

    ·      Safflower: Attactive to cardinals, but less so to sparrows, grackles, starlings and squirrels.

    ·      Nyjer: Imported from India and Ethiopia, this small black seed is a favorite of goldfinches and chickadees.

    ·      Peanuts: A great offering for woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and nuthatches.

    ·      Millet & Corn: Good for ground feeders such as doves, juncos and the occasional duck. 

    ·      Striped Sunflower: Perfect for bluejays and red-bellied woodpeckers.







    When feeding your birds, it’s important to do your research. Check the list of ingredients on the bag of seed to make sure they have the “quality” seeds, look over the bag to make sure it looks clean and fresh in the bag. This may mean spending a little more, but you’ll get better birds, less waste, and a better experience in your backyard with better seed.

    Visit your local Wild Bird Center or visit us online at wildbird.com to help you learn what seed and feeder works best for the types of birds you want to see in your yard. Soon, you will discover the joys of feeding birds the food they want to eat!


    Photos by Carla Mason

  • Migration 2020: The Leaves are Falling and the Birds are Flying

    Sep 21, 2020

    Tips on how you can help migrating birds on their journeys


    "Mystery of the Missing Migrants"

    by Charley Harper, 1992

    Fall migration is in full swing – with millions of birds traversing the night skies to head south, with some flying as far away as Mexico and Central America from the northern U.S. and Canada. Nearly 300 species will depart from their breeding areas and travel up to two or three months and thousands of miles to pass the winter in more tropical climes.

    Migration allows many birds to go where natural resources, like food and nesting locations, are most abundant. As cooler weather and longer days arrive in the fall, birds are lured to warmer regions where food supply is readily available from season to season – feasting on insects, nuts, berries and seeds.

    Carla_Mason_314Not all birds are long-distance migrants. For some, the trip south is short; mourning doves, for example, migrate from northern states to southern states. Some birds stay in the same place year-round: House Finches, House Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, and Northern Cardinals, to name a few.


    With the help of the Earth’s magnetic field, birds learn to recognize various landmarks and form mental maps. These annual treks vary at times, depending on environmental cues. In the case of the Veery, a tiny bird species that migrates from Delaware to South America, a Delaware State University researcher found a direct correlation between the length of the Veery’s breeding season and the severity of the Atlantic hurricane season. The bird would nest longer in years with a bad hurricane season, postponing its journey south.*

    This week is an especially active one for migration; BirdCast announced a high intensity migration for the night of September 14, when an estimated 405 million birds took flight across the lower 48 states, including 50 million birds in the northeast alone. “This likely will represent one of the largest migration nights of the year in this region,” the forecast announced, adding, “Those in the northeast should keep a close eye on the nights of September 17-19 as well.”

    Those hoping to catch a glimpse of these night flyers should aim binoculars or a spotting scope at the moon, where you might see streaks crossing over. In the daytime, it’s best to go to a local park or large outdoor space between 7 AM to 10 AM.

    Make Your Yard a Stopover SpotMigrationStation.pg

    Fall migration is a great opportunity to attract bird species not normally seen in your yard.

    By taking a few easy steps, your yard can support the basic needs of birds as they rest and refuel before continuing on their journey. Create a “migration station” – with food, shelter and water – and see who comes to visit!

    Food: Set up a feeding station with a variety of feeder styles and bird food to accommodate many different birds. Suet feeders provide the nutritious fat birds need for migration, seed cylinders and cakes are an easy-to-use option to slide onto or into a seed cylinder feeder, nyjer mesh feeders are perfect for finches and pine siskins, and WBC specialty seed blends attract many more of the birds you want at your feeders. In addition to what we can supply, hCarla-Mason-328aving bird-friendly plants in your yard helps round out your offering since not all migrants are seed eaters. “Leave” some of the fallen leaves under shrubs to provide an ample foraging area for ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, doves, and thrushes.

    Shelter: Keep bird houses up as nights get cooler as they provide a windbreak, and you may even find many of the same species crammed in as they use body heat to keep warm. Try our convertible bird houses, which are designed to insulate for colder weather by being able to seal up top ventilation holes and trap heat; the birds will be grateful for a safe, warm place to huddle on a fall night!

    Water: Having a water feature, like a bird bath, will broaden the variety of birds you’ll see, including those that don’t frequent feeders. Use a heating element, such as a birdbath heater, to keep it from freezing. Bird baths are valuable, even in cold weather, as birds use them for hydration as well as keeping their feathers clean. Clean feathers are key to birds’ ability to weather the elements as they trap air between their feathers and their skin, much like our double-paned windows at home, forming an efficient barrier to keep the cold out. SongbirdBirdbathPlanter

    As summer comes to a close, you can reap the rewards of watching nature in action, taking note of any new, seasonal arrivals and enjoying the last glimpse of departing summer species. Make sure to keep your binoculars and bird list close!

    *“A Nearctic-Neotropical Migratory Songbird’s Nesting Phonology and Clutch Size are Predictors of Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” Nature/Scientific Reports, July 2, 2018


    Photos by Carla Mason

  • Back-to-School is for (and with) the Birds

    Sep 03, 2020

    shutterstock_1374932258The new school year is upon us, though it is quite a different experience than in years past. We know learning from home isn’t easy, but you can make it more joyful by taking part of your students’ education outside. There, they will discover and learn about nature in a more meaningful way, and boost spirits in the process.

    Feeding backyard birds can be part – and a highlight –  of a student’s daily curriculum. The hobby is a natural fit with science lessons, but it also can be used in writing, math, and physical activity. Feeding and watching birds not only helps children develop and improve these skills, it feeds them holistically – soul, body and spirit – and makes learning more enjoyable.shutterstock_145702757_kid

    Anyone can take part in this activity – birds are everywhere: backyards, parks, and cities. Birds’ variety – there are more than 9,000 species in the world – turns looking for them and seeing which ones come to visit feeders a treasure hunt.

    Birds inspire us to get outside, go for a walk or sit quietly to watch and observe the sights and sounds around us. Kids will soon start spotting details they may not have noticed before:  the size and shape of the beak, colors of birds’ feathers, eating habits and personality differences. This helps build observational skills and shows the importance of details in identifying things.

    Learning more about the animals that live in our backyards gives children a better understanding and appreciation of the environment and an awareness of the interconnectedness of living things. The hobby may even peak interest in pursuing future study in science, conservation or natural history.

    kidsonhikekidbinocularsThere is a certain thrill in catching sight of a bird, in a shared moment with wildlife. Young birders will experience the excitement of flipping through a field guide or online guide, such as the Merlin app by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to identify it and begin to build an amazing list of varied bird species. They can keep a journal and “bird list” to record their discoveries, drawing or writing down the characteristics of a bird or even the emotions they experienced as they were watching it. Bird feeding invites further exploration to include habitat, range and migration, diet and feeding behavior, eggs and nesting, and conservation status.

    Birds are universal creatures that bridge cultural and geographic barriers, offering connection to everyone in the world. The joy of bird feeding can be shared with family and friends; observing birds is something kids can do outside with others. They could even start a birdwatching club, going on walks together and sharing sightings and tips on where to look for and what to feed birds.

    How to Get Started

    Wild Bird Centers has bird feeders to fit nearly any backyard set up – they can be mounted on a deck or fence, from a pole on a patio or in a yard, or hung in a tree. With our selection of hooks, poles and brackets, the possibilities are endless. Different feeders attract different birds; our large selection of feeders and seed will attract a wide variety. The key to getting children engaged is to make sure the feeder is easily seen from wherever they hang out.

    Getting outside and seeing which birds are in our backyards gives young learners a chance to break from the routine (and the screen!). It is relaxing and can improve the ability to focus. Let the birds do what they do best: entertain, educate and fascinate!

  • Celebrating the Great American Outdoors Act

    Aug 18, 2020

    Sparrow-Song_(3014370)Signed into law on Thursday, August 4th, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the first time since it was enacted in the 1960s, and creates a new fund to finance deferred maintenance projects at the National Park Service, National Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

    The preservation of these public lands protects a crucial part of bird health – habitat. The more protected territory they enjoy, the more species will thrive and the more birds we will see in our backyards and feeders!

    The conservation legislation, first introduced in the House by the late Rep. John Lewis in March 2019, will also help fix a national parks system that lacked funds to clear a $12 billion maintenance backlog, despite large increases in visitation. The GAOA is expected to create more than 108,000 new jobs to repair park infrastructure, including access roads and bridges in adjacent communities.

    In addition, the law also supports funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership to create more parks and playgrounds in urban areas. Expanding access to the outdoors will allow more people to connect with birds and other wildlife in every community.

    Land conservation is a Jay-Scrub_(659090)natural climate solution that preserves critical bird habitat, protects endangered species and limSwallow-Treeonbranchits the effects of pollution on birds and other wildlife. With this law, bird habitats, like coastal marshes that also protect against storm-water surge and flooding and forests that soak up carbon dioxide, will be preserved.

    As both the impacts of climate change and the need for people to rejuvenate outdoors converge, this new law came at a crucial time. We gladly celebrate the protection and appreciation of the great outdoors!


  • Bird Baths: The Bird Magnet!

    Jul 31, 2020

    Bluebird_in_Bath_shutterstock_789398740When the summer heat sets in, we dream of cooling off in sparkling, invigorating water. It’s not just a people thing, birds need water to survive too; They drink it, play in it and bathe in it. Water, especially if it’s moving, is a bird magnet!

    As temperatures rise, birds need shade, cover and water more than ever. Birds pant to cool off, exhaling air and water. The hotter they get, the more water they need to expel. According to the Grinnell Resurvey Project, the mourning dove requires 10 to 30 percent more water to keep cool than it did a century ago.*SongbirdBirdbathPlanter

    The bird bath is as popular as the feeding station with most people who attract birds. Offering water will also help to attract a wider variety of birds, as it will tempt those who don’t normally visit feeders. You may see birds such as orioles and warblers that normally spend their time in treetops be lured to come down and splash around a bit. Moving water makes a big difference as to whether birds choose your bath or not. Who can resist the trickling sounds of water on a hot day?

    You can easily incluCarla-Mason-842de water to your garden, whether it is a small pond or a self-contained bird bath. You can choose from many styles, from pedestal-type to hanging bird baths. To provide a steady supply of fresh water to a regular bath or pond, drippers and/or misters can be added, creating the mystical allure of noise and movement that will draw birds to your yard. WBC’s water wiggler sits in the middle of your filled bird bath to create the moving water effect that will encourage birds to tCarla-Mason-843ake notice.

    Place your bird bath in the shade if possible, to keep the water cooler and fresher. Trees and perches nearby provide a safe place for birds to perch and preen after washing their delicate feathers. Water for bathing is as vital as drinking, as the sun, mites, and bacteria take a toll on feathers.

    Birds don’t like to bathe in deep water, so look for something shallow or with a platform, or simply add a cluster of rocks to give your birds somethingWaterfallPond_darkerrocks_shutterstock_191953328 to sit on.

    Birds’ need for water doesn’t end in summer, however, it is just as important in cold weather when dependable water sources often freeze over. They still need water for drinking and bathing, which increases the insulating capacity of their feathers. In winter, a bird bath heater is essential to warm the water above the freezing point.

    It is a delight to see birds share a bird bath, flicking and shaking until they are wet or filling their beaks with water and tossing it on their feathers. Water helps create a beautiful, welcoming oasis in your yard.

    *YaleEnvironment360, “With Temperatures Rising, Can Animals Survive the Heat Stress?” March 19, 2020


  • Birding Boosts Seniors' Mental Health

    Jul 09, 2020










    "There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature, the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter."

    – Rachel Carson


    The health benefits of watching and feeding birds is enjoyed by all generations, but can be especially therapeutic for older people who live in elder care facilities, away from their families and the social routines of their past.

    A survey of assisted living and nursing home administrators by Birding magazine* found that the nursing home staff agreed their residents enjoyed watching birds, and that both feeding and watching birds had a positive, therapeutic effect on residents’ morale. These good vibes extended outward to the staff and the institution as a whole.

    As a recent example, a chat with friends from the Chamber of Commerce led the owners of the Wild Bird Center of Evansville (IN) to start a “Bird Roadshow” this summer to deliver birdseed, feeders and birdfeeding/watching stories to local nursing home residents. They partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, who brought raptors to “enliven” the discussion.EVV2

    “It was amazing to see how many of them feed birds,” said Greg Miller, WBC Evansville. “Especially during these times, watching birds stimulates the brain and is a great, cognitive exercise.”


    The group gathered in small, socially-distanced groups, sharing stories and filling feeders. Fellow Chamber members supported the effort with funds to purchase the donated seed.

    Feeding birds cEVV1an give renewed purpose to the elderly, who may feel adrift after spending a good part of their lives working or taking care of family. Further, it gives those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s a sense of pleasure and focus. Bird watching is an excellent form of active learning; it challenges our brains to interpret color, sound and motion, and to classify the birds who visit our feeders. It’s a treasure hunt for the mind!

    If you have a loved one in an assisted living home, providing a bird feeder for them will brighten their days and give them something to look forward to and care for. Birds can be a link to the outside, to those who share the same interests, and as a way to open up communication with other residents. Whether it is something they enjoyed all their lives, or it is a completely new activity, feeding birds is a wonderfully healthy hobby – for young and old!

    *NewburyPortNews, March 21, 2020

    EVV3One of the residents got into the spirit of things by wearing a “St. Louis Cardinals” shirt to the WBC Evansville event.



  • Gardening is for the Birds

    May 29, 2020

    BackyardWhile birds love birdseed – and feeders are an excellent way to attract them – they also are drawn to varied habitats and plantings. Plants are an important bird habitat element – a source of food (nuts, seeds, insects), moisture (sap, nectar) and shelter.

    When planting your garden this season, consider putting in a few plants, trees or shrubs that will turn your yard into a natural bird habitat; they will attract a greater number and variety of birds, make your yard a healthier place for the planet, and will enhance the beauty of your landscape!

    Edges. The greatest variety of bird life is found in places where different habitats join, so plant flower beds alongside hedges.

    Layering. Vary heights among plants for birds that prefer different elevations for feeding and nesting. For example, shade-tolerant plants beneath large trees.

    Evergreens. Adding evergreen trees helps provide shelter for birds in winter.

    Brush or Leaf Piles. Yes, we are encouraging you to keep your yard a little messy! You can greatly increase the number of birds visits to your feeder by adding plants that provide cover or leaving fallen leaves and branches underneath the feeder.

    Corridors. Help birds travel safely by creating edges of trees, shrubs or brush piles along the borders of your yard.

    Plantings. Whenever possible, choose native trees and plants for your birds. Encourage variety in your yard by planting different plants to attract the birds you want to see:

    ·      HummingbirdsHummer_BlackChinned_shutterstock_140167261

    Trumpet honeysuckle, Beebalm, Cardinal flower, Sages

    These tiny pollinators love nectar-producing plants. Not only do hummers love beebalm, this plant supports monarch butterfly populations.

    ·      Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Cedar Waxwings

    Sunflowers, elderberries, serviceberries, raspberries and blackberries

    Sunflowers – the “feeder flower” – have seeds that attract a wide range of birds.

    Elderberries, serviceberries, raspberries and blackberries are nutritious fruits that are not only loved for their food value, there also provide excellent cover.

    ·      WoodpeckersWaxwing-Cedar_(1459072)

    Pine, hickory, oak and cherry trees

    These trees provide fruit during fall and draw insects, which in turn attract a range of birds, including woodpeckers, who may make your yard their home throughout the year.

    ·      Chickadees, Titmice

    Oak, birchGoldfinch_Sunflower_shutterstock_713866882

    While these cute birds love their seed, they also consumer copious amounts of insects, which these trees host in abundance.

    ·      House Finches, Purple Finches, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins

    Daisies, spruce, hemlock and pines

    Daisies offer tiny seeds these birds love, while the conifer trees provide food sources and needles for nests.

    Birds not onGardenPathway_(9695596)_smly benefit from a healthy garden, our gardens benefit from birds: they add color, movement and music! They also are a natural form of pest control, eating large amounts of insects, and birds help plants thrive by dispersing seeds. Gardening for birds is a win-win! 

  • Backyard Birding is Trending!

    May 14, 2020

    NYT1Add backyard birding to the list of popular hobbies people have discovered while quarantined at home. The inducted know that watching the birds entertains, educates and allows for a relaxing escape, and now many more are taking notice. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016 survey, backyard bird feeding has over 65 million Americans, young and old, giving it a try and that number is growing.

    The current pandemic has reoriented pastimes and concentrated more attention to home hobbies, including backyard bird feeding. News articles, radio programs and social media stories are extolling the virtues of the drama of backyard wildlife and is fast gaining new fans. The New York Times on May 11 published an article illustrating the parallels between now and an age gone past: 



     “How Animal Observation Can Free Us from Ourselves: Watching birds is a way of mobilizing attention, to turn it into a means of imaginative escape”

    by Helen MacDonald

    In Britain, comparisons to the Second World War have become a refrain of the Covid-19 crisis…something about the present circumstances made me remember those men and want to revisit the notes they took. They wrote about arriving in the camp and deciding it was paradise for a bird-watcher. Of how they watched for hours at a time, alone or in shifts — teams of men whose attention was fixed on the goldfinches that nested within the wire fences, on redstarts and wrynecks or warblers or crows — taking exactingly detailed notes of what those birds were doing every second of their witnessed lives…


    …I think doing so brought them comfort; the birds they watched were free and knew nothing of war, and they were the same kinds they knew from home. But mostly watching the birds was a way of mobilizing attention, to turn it into a means of imaginative escape, a way to counter their own sense of captivity, of powerlessness, futility and despair…

    …During lockdown I have been spending a considerable amount of time watching the common birds that visit my small backyard…Watching animals from your home — and they can be anything from sparrows to spiders on windowsills — can give solace…

    …While the prison-camp ornithologists took their notes, trapped in a situation in which they had no control over what would happen to them. But they could observe. The simple act of watching the birds could lessen the grip of dismal circumstances upon these men. But by making their careful notes, they did something more: grant themselves a new sense of control…

    … We can become deeply connected to the world through paying the most careful and fearless attention to what we can see, from wherever it is we must be.”

    And other articles showed us how valuable the bird watching habit could be during the exact quarantine situation Americans now find themselves in:


    The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), May 7, 2020

    “Stuck at home? Backyard birding is the perfect quarantine activity” by Eli Francovich

    “It has all the drama and intrigue of your favorite Netflix show. It’s an activity that can be done from home and doesn’t involve watching TV, drinking or cleaning. In short, backyard birding is the perfect quarantine activity.

    It’s like having a whole cast of characters outside your windoSpokesmanw,’ Angela Roth said. ‘The hummingbirds, they’re kind of like divas and they are known to be backyard bullies. I’ve been watching the swallows try and take over the bluebird nesting boxes, so you’ve got your villains.’

    From her home near Nine Mile Falls, Roth said backyard bird watching is ‘sheer entertainment’…


    ..now is a prime time to take up backyard birding. 



    The New York Times, April 22, 2020

    “How Bird-Watching Prepared Me for Sheltering in Place” by Nicholas Cannariato

    “… Like any vulgar American, I had been socialized to value the blockbuster, the high status: the elephant seals, the humpback whales spouting just offshore. But when she showed me this modest and compelling bird — one I’d seen many times before, with whitish-gray plumage and a black-capped head, now completely close up — I began to see things differently…

    …Birds have taught me to love what is small, what is delicate, what is elusive…In looking at common birds in my neighborhood, there’s a refreshing variety in their sameness, a consistent challenge to discern what seems too normal to even notice after so many times noticing. Bird-watching, in short, is about taking in the most in the shortest span of time.”

    WAMU – National Public Radio, April 8, 2020

    “You're Stuck Inside, But the Birds Aren't: Tips to Start Watching from Home” by Sam Nelson



    ‘Backyard birding is a perfect family activity for those sheltering at home,’ Rauch adds. "It is a great STEM lesson in terms of biology, ecology, food webs, adaptation, and more…


    …In addition to planting native trees and plants, Rauch says people can support birds by setting up feeders and keeping cats indoors. But proper care starts with paying attention and the first rule of birding: look at the bird…You never know what you're going to see. It's like a treasure hunt every day. There's a meditative value to it…

    …In this time of social distancing from other humans, some might feel a familial warmth in watching the birds fly home to D.C. ‘It's like seeing old friends,’ says Rauch.”


    Slate, March 28, 2020

    “You Have No Choice but to Become a Backyard Birder: A guide for how to start engaging with the most accessible and most delightful nature out there” by Nicholas Lund

    “…the optimistic isolationist will find a whole amazing world of wildlife out there, enough to keep you busy until this is all over (and even beyond). It’s time to become a backyard birder…

    …Birding is a perfect hobby for the quarantined. It requires little more than eyes and ears and some open sky. Like a good sitcom, you can follow the exploits of the main cast (the resident birds in your neighborhood) and enjoy a rotating collection of guest stars (migratory birds passing through in the coming weeks). You can be an active participant by feeder or building bird boxes, or you can just watch the action unfold…


    …There’s a ton you can do to make your backyard more attractive to birds…put some feeders up…One tip here is to look at the seed you’re buying and avoid mixes that contain milo, a big red seed that is used as filler but is avoided by most birds. Nature stores have better selections than big chain stores, and those smaller businesses could sure use your dollars right now…

    Don’t have a backyard? …Feeders work in the city, too, and there are ones that can be suction-cupped to a window…

    …Excited to take advantage of this forced quarantine to develop a deeper appreciation for your local nature?...birds are the perfect way to remember that even the smallest backyard contains a big world, and one that’s worth watching.”


    LIVE with Kelly and Ryan @LiveKellyandRyan


    Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest ask their audience for Isolation Updates/what hobbies they are picking up. Viewers are responding with their bird feeding pictures with the hashtag #myquarantinehobby.





    It’s no wonder that the birding hobby has found an expanded audience. The urge to find an activity that brings one in touch with nature is powerful, especially when you’re in one spot and have the time. Every time you pass a window, you can see something new. Birds are a comforting companion, a constant joy of color and activity that keeps us grounded and makes things simple and good for a few moments, which is especially vital during these unprecedented times.

  • Need a break from indoor learning? Take teaching outside with a birding safari!

    Apr 29, 2020

    Family_shutterstock_193298780Many of us are spending most of our days indoors, social-distancing, and looking for safe ways to recharge. Since we’re not running around from place to place, we have more time to watch what’s going on outside our windows – or up in the trees!

    Getting the kids outside will not only boost their spirits and confidence, it will enhance their learning and connection to the environment where they live. When we commune with nature, we grow to understand the importance of the living things around us.

    According to the folks at Outdoor Classroom Day, which is on May 21 this year, 88% of teachers say that children are more engaged in learning when taking lessons outdoors. “Individuals who feel inhibited by the curriculum often thrive in an outdoor environment,” they report.

    Birding is an ideal way to introduce children to the outdoor world. By taking advantage of their natural curiosity and sense of adventure, you can help them listen and observe what’s happening right in their backyard or neighborhood. Spring is nesting season, so the time is perfect for listening to the increasingly energetic calls of mating birds, watching them gather nesting materials, and observing male and female birds and their growing bird families.Mom_Kidshutterstock_BBFeeder_601276163

    Here are some simple ways to get kids started on their birding safari:

    Set up a bird-friendly garden. Kids can help choose which tree to hang a feeder, where to place a bird bath, and can help mount a bird house – all of these will greatly enhance bird-visiting opportunities. Planting native, bird-loving plants will attract and provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

    Choose an observation post.  For 20 minutes each day, have your child pick an outdoor spot to sit, where they can write or draw their observations or where you can assist them by asking questions and taking notes for them. You can help them identify birds by using a chart or field guide. Visit the Wild Bird Center website for bird identification information.

    Take a hike. Go on an outdoor bird scavenger hunt and see how many different birds you can find. Let the kids decide where to go – birds can be found almost anywhere: in city streets, parks, yards and nature preserves. If you live near water, you will see even more varieties.  It doesn’t have to happen all on one hike: see how long it takes to find 20 different varieties, what time of day more birds seem to appear, or how many come out after a rainstorm. Binoculars can help them see things they may not otherwise.Carla_Mason_298

    Listen for the calls. First, ask kids to imitate the bird sounds they hear. It’s fun to hear their interpretations. Afterward, use a field guide app to play back clips and identify the birds.

    Take pictures. Keep track of what you’ve seen with photos to help you identify them. It’s also a fun way to remember and look back at your finds.

    Follow up with research. Why is a bird a certain color? What Carla-Mason-597physical characteristics – such as their beaks – determine the types of food they eat? Researching why certain birds look and act the way they do gives kids more incentive to quietly observe wildlife. They also will learn what habitats birds are attracted to and the many bird varieties that live in their area as well as the migrating birds that just stop by for a visit.

    Learning opportunities are everywhere – you can use them to inspire your child’s appreciation for nature and give you a much-needed reason to get outside and refresh!


    Photos by Carla Mason

  • What Our Animals Are Telling Us This Earth Day

    Apr 16, 2020


    On this Earth Day – 50 years from its founding in 1970 – it is reassuring to see nature continue its springtime rituals – flowers bloom, animals are born, water thaws and the air warms – as we humans are changing our behavior in ways we never could have imagined.

    National parks report that the animals who inhabit these spaces are coming out of their usual hiding spots and roaming the parks freely in the absence of millions of visitors. Images from above show that the skies are clearing -- we can see stars at night that were previous hidden. Fish can now be seen, and birds are returning to cleaner waterways.

    These are glimpses of what it might look like if we take better care of our planet. We can start by celebrating the space around us by nurturing a healthy habitat for our backyard birds.


    Take notice of what’s in your backyard and neighborhood – do you have a mix of species? The more complex the species mix, the more balanced (and healthier) the habitat. Do you have birds that feed on the ground and birds that feed in the trees? DDSC_0285o you have birds that eat seed and birds that eat bugs? Do you have birds that eat fruit and berries? How about cavity-nesting birds, as well as cup-nesting birds? Do you have woodpeckers? Hawks? The more often you say “yes,” the more likely you are to have a well-balanced yard.

    If not, you can encourage diversity by making these improvements:

    1.     Feed migrating and year-round birds with feeders filled with fresh seed, suet and nuts - the energy they need to see them through mating season.

    2.     Offer a bird house, nesting material and native plantings – secure spots to raise their families. 

    3.     Let your lawn grow naturally, cut it a little higher and skip the pIMG_4710esticides. It saves water, essential insects and promotes a healthy lifestyle. 

    4.     Add some water. A bird bath, mister or dripper will attract a variety of birds and help keep them hydrated and clean.

    Birds are part of the web of life – a mixture of hunters and gatherers, predators and prey. Each animal has a role to play, and our actions make a difference in their – and our – survival. Nearly 30% of North American birds have disappeared since 1970. Our warming climate is forcing birds to winter and breed farther north than in the past.

    According to the National Audubon Society, two-thirds of North American birds are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise and many will be forced to relocate to survive. Based on 140 million observations, the Society’s project – “Surviving by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink” at https://www.audubon.org/climate/survivalbydegrees -- allows us to see the potential climate impacts on the birds where we live.

    It is more important than ever to celebrate and support our wildlife and their vital contributions to our shared world. With cleaner air, water and room to roam, the earth’s wildlife’s actions during these times are speaking loudly.

    If we listen, we can make a difference.


  • How to Introduce a New Bird Feeder to Your Yard

    Apr 02, 2020

    IMG_1027How exciting! You have a new feeder and you’re all set to hang it and watch as the birds come flocking! To improve the odds that this will happen, here are a few tips to ensure birds will find your new bird feeder quickly:



    Use any of the Wild Bird Center seed blends that include black oil sunflower to attract a wide range of birds. Selective mixes also contain nutmeats and fruits, which may spur the arrival of titmice, jays and woodpeckers. BirdWise, FeederWise and PatioWise are all great blends to attract a wide variety of birds.



    Consider both the outside and the inside of your home when deciding where to place your feeding station. Birds discover feeders by sight, so place your bird feeders where they’re easily seen by them...and you! From the inside, choose a window you look through often, whether a kitchen window, near your workspace or a favorite chair – “Armchair Birding”!



    Hang or mount feeders near trees and shrubs, new plantings or a brush pile that will offer cover and needed perching spaces for the birds. Birds love to flit back and forth between cover and the feeder! A bird bath or other water source will also make your yard more attractive to the birds you want to see. Adding running water through either a Water Wiggler, mister or dripper is an easy way to double the amount of birds visiting your water feature.



    House finches and chickadees may be the first species arriving to dine, as these little acrobats are among the most curious and adventuresome of all birds. Once the chickadees have found a feeder, the titmice and other favorite birds will not be far behind.


    Spring has sprung and hummingbirds will be coming! The best way to attract these speedy flyers is with a bright-colored feeder filled with fresh nectar and/or plants in your garden, such as Beebalm, Coral Honeysuckle, Cardinal Flower and Sage. WBC offers Pure Hummer Sugar – just add water, pour into your hummingbird feeder and watch as the hummers come to feast. Since they eat up to half their body weight every day, you may see them from 5 to 8 times per hour!


    As our days begin to lengthen, there is even more time to enjoy your yard and the birds that come to visit. Happy Feeding!


  • Hummingbirds: Peppy Little Pollinators

    Mar 16, 2020

    Hummingbird_Annas_shutterstock_1015292908The arrival of warmer weather means hummingbirds – those beautiful, bitsy, fluttering birds – are showing up in our yards and parks, feeding from freshly bloomed flowers and spreading pollen as they travel from plant to plant.

    While bees get a lot of buzz as pollinators, hummingbirds, too, play an important role in pollination. When visiting flowers, they not only feed on the nectar, they collect pollen from the stamens and pistils on their heads, which then gets dispersed to the native wildflowers in parks and plants in your garden that they visit. The resulting pollination allows these plants to produce fruits or seeds.

    These small-but-mighty birds have many characteristics unique to their species. Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward and upside down, with wings flapping between 50-80 beats per second. They eat half their weight in nectar and insects every day. They are the smallest migrating bird, lay the smallest eggs, and the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba is the world’s smallest bird.

    Although hummingbirds have a surprisingly poor sense of smell, they have excellent vision; Their “eagle eyes” are attracted to red and other bright colors, which explains why many hummingbird feeders are colored this way.

    The Wild Bird Center has a wide selection of BLOOMCALhummingbird feeders, from practical to beautiful, and “Pure Hummer Sugar” that is all-natural and easy to feed from any hummer feeder. This food provides a great source of energy for these diminutive birds.

    To further attract hummers to your yard, you can add these plants to your garden:

    ·      Beebalm

    ·      Coral Honeysuckle

    ·      Cardinal Flower

    ·      Sages

    There are over 340 species of hummingbirds in the world, with 10 who spend their summers in North America. If a hummingbird discovers your feeder, it will likely return every 15 minutes for months – and will return every year – so long as the feeder is kept full.

    These smallest of birds with a large appetite provide hours of entertainment, so keep those feeders full and watch your yard come alive!

  • The Benefits of Birdsong

    Feb 27, 2020

    “No air is sweet that is silent; it is only sweet when full of low currents of under sound – triplets of birds, and murmur and chirps of insects,” wrote John Ruskin, a Victorian-era writer and art critic.

    Bird sounds haveDSC01363 proven to be both therapeutic and powerfully effective for gathering environmental data. Each species has its own unique song and calls. The Brown Thrasher can sing 2,000 song variations and the cowbird has 40 different notes. Male cardinals sing to defend nesting territory, and male and females sing softly to each other while courting.

    Birdsong’s clarity and consistency has made it especially effective for researching not only birds themselves, but also the impacts of wildfires, droughts and other environmental disturbances on birds and humans. Researchers are using these sounds – bird bioacoustics – to gather valuable information to assist various projects and studies around the world, including measuring bird songs as an indicator of the health of California forests after fires, coffee farm pesticides’ effect on bird populations in Central and South America, and counting the number of birds that crash into high-tension power lines along the Pacific in order to find remedies.

    A single bird can have a huge effect on a single region, such as the Hawaiian rainforest, where researchers are trying to recover the Puaiohi thrush, whose population has diminished to just 500 birds. The Puaiohi’s role as the island’s primary fruit eater and seed spreader makes it indispensable for maintaining the forest.

    Chickadee-3The positive effects of birdsong on humans is well documented. The sounds of birds, especially songbirds, has consistently shown to improve mood and mental alertness. An experiment with British schoolchildren found that students listening to birdsong were more attentive after lunch than those who didn’t listen.* In its relaxation lounge, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport plays birdsong to soothe weary travelers. “People love it,” writes Florence Williams in “The Nature Fix.”

    The popularity of bird sounds spurred creation of a “Shazam” (the popular music app) for birds. The app, developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, can record birdsongs and instantly identify the species.

    Birdsong brings benefits to both our inner and outer worlds, so take time to get out and go for a listen.

    * “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams, 2017.

  • Birds are our love connection to nature

    Feb 11, 2020


    Starting on Valentine’s Day, from February 14-17, bird lovers worldwide will participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an initiative launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society to collect data from people about the distribution and abundance of birds.

    Bird watching – or “birding” – has been a popular pastime since the Victorian Era and, today, is second only to gardening as the most popular outdoor activity in the United States. An estimated 57 million U.S. households feed birds.

    Birding is a gateway to nature. It gets people outside, to enjoy fresh air and natural sounds, lift our spirits and improve our health. Psychological studies using birdsong show improvements in mood and mental alertness. In short, birds make you feel better!

    Birds have an important role to play in our ecosystem. They eat insects that destroy crops, spread seed that contributes to plant growth, and are an early indicator of environmental degradation. Healthy bird populations are essential to our well-being and the natural cycle.

    One way to see more birds is to feed them, which sustains them and helps to counteract the stresses of climate change and human development. Seeing a chickadee, cardinal, woodpecker or so many other colorful birds feeding in your backyard will open your eyes. This lens is the first step to seeing the rewards that these birds give to the world around us.Carla_Mason_133

    Want to get started? Your local Wild Bird Center store offers a variety of feeders – tube, hopper, platform, nyjer, nectar and mesh, as well as feeders that hold suet and seed cylinders – depending on what species you want to encourage to come visit. Call or visit WBC for advice on how to feed in your backyard and get the most out of this hobby.

    When you look up, you never know what you’ll see! Maybe it will be a bird you see regularly or a new one to add to your bird list. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to start or deepen your appreciation of birds. To take part, create an online account through the Cornell Lab. In 2019, GBBC participants in more than 100 countries counted more than 6,800 species of birds on more than 200,000 checklists!

    Carla-Mason-355You don’t have to go far to connect with nature; it’s waiting for you right in your backyard.

    Photos by Carla Mason

  • Look Who's Coming to Dinner!

    Jan 31, 2020

    Two_Feeders_WinterUnlike many people who start dieting this time of year, birds are in search of food in winter. Because of this need, February was declared “National Bird Feeding Month” by an Illinois Congressman in 1994 to recognize that winter can be especially harsh for birds and to encourage people to support them with additional food.

    As a hobby, bird feeding is a relaxing, inexpensive way to help birds and the environment. A hopper or tube feeder and a bag of seed is a great place to begin. You will be amazed at how simple it is to coax a variety of birds to your own backyard.

    Depending on the species you want to attract, you should identify their favorite foods, the feeder styles they prefer, and finally, a spot to hang the feeders.

    First off, it’s important to feed birds the right food. Just as you wouldn’t serve just cookies and french fries for dinner, you don’t want to feed birds food that will hurt rather than nurture them. Products sold at the Wild Bird Center are carefully selected to ensure that they do not harm birds or other wildlife.

    DSC_0061Suet is popular with woodpeckers, creepers, nuthatches and chickadees, and because it is high in calories, it helps provide the energy birds need to make it through the winter. Offered in an inexpensive cage, suet can be an easy addition to your feeding station. WBC offers suet in seven BIRDelicious flavors.

    Unlike some cheap bird seed mixtures that are packed with fillers that birds pick through and leave debris under the feeder, WBC seed contains no fillers, only premium grains. In addition, no-shell seed blends – such as PatioWise® – along with no-shell sunflower and peanuts will invite birds to feast without a mess.

    Not all birds dine from the same style of feeder. While hopper and platform feeders work for most birds, tube feeders bring perching birds, and Nyjer® and nectar feeders attract goldfinches and hummingbirds. A mesh feeder filled with peanuts will make the woodpeckers come calling.

    So, go ahead, feed the birds and see who’s coming to dinner!


  • Celebrating Squirrels

    Jan 21, 2020


    Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day – a day founded in 2001 to raise awareness of the difficulty these common critters face finding food this time of year. The gray squirrel – the most prevalent squirrel in the United States – doesn’t hibernate in winter, so they rely on dwindling stores of acorns and other nuts to sustain them until spring.IMG_1895

    Squirrels were introduced into U.S. parks in the mid-1800s. Before that, they were only seen in wooded areas. People were so amused by these furry creatures that a movement took hold to fill U.S. parks with them. The squirrels in Washington, D.C.’s National Mall were part of a 1901 campaign to “increase the attractiveness of the park.” Today, they are a fact of life in yards and cities from coast to coast.

    While some may see squirrels as a nuisance, they are beloved by many. In Brevard, NC, they love their white squirrels – a result of an overturned carnival truck – so much they have a research institute and a two-day festival every year in their honor! One Kensington, MD, neighborhood’s listserv was alight with news of a white squirrel sighting this fall, with neighbors tracking its whereabouts and trying to capture the critter on camera.

    At this time of year, the pressures of finding a mate (winter is mating season for squirrels) lead to fights between male squirrels and difficulty finding time to search for food. We can help by setting up a squirrel feeding station in our yards.

    Wild Bird Centers offers squirrel-friendly products that provide a place for them to eat and hours of enjoyment. Squirrels’ tail-flicking, chattering and aerial antics will keep the whole family entertained.

    Squirrels are one of the only wild mammals many people regularly see, so keeping them happy and healthy is in everyone’s best interest!


    Squirrel Stats

    ·       Squirrels don’t always remember where they stored their food for winter; these abandoned seeds and nuts often take root, establishing new plant communities and ecosystems.

    ·       There are over 265 species of squirrel worldwide. The smallest, the African pygmy squirrel, is tiny at around four inches long. The largest is the Indian giant squirrel – a massive three feet long.

    ·       The U.S. is host to five species: fox, gray, red, flying and ground.

    ·       Squirrels’ front teeth NEVER stop growing!

    ·       Squirrels are very acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable, and run in zigzag to escape predators.

    ·       The squirrel is the Native American symbol for preparation, trust aDSC_0088nd thriftiness.

  • "National Bird Day" is Every Day

    Jan 14, 2020

    Each January 5, we celebrate National Bird Day – a day first observed in the United States 12 years ago to educate the public and support conservation of the world’s bird populations. This year’s celebration took on special significance in light of a recent report that North America has lost 1 in 4 breeding birds since 1970.

    Since birds are indicators of our ecosystem’s health, every day should be National Bird Day. We can begin by taking notice of our surroundings to understand how we can best support the birds who share our habitat.

    Habitat provides the four basic needs of all animals – food, water, shelter and space – and birds need lots of space. We should take this into consideration when planning our backyards and our communities.

    What does a healthy habitat look like?IMG_1112


    FOOD: Feeders with quality seed or delicious nectar help supplement natural food sources, which are becoming scarcer due to development. Suet is easy to feed as an addition to a feeding station; it provides year-round nutritional value and prepares birds for migration.

    WATER: Bird baths provide a clean, safe, reliable source of water for drinking and bathing, which is necessary for feather and wing maintenance.

    SHELTER: Bird houses provide shelter and replace nesting space lost to urban sprawl.

    SPACE: Plant bird-friendly, native plants, with berries for eating and thorns for protection from predators. Native plants have evolved their own natural chemical defenses against pests, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides.

    With some attention and care, we can make our little piece of the world a better place for wildlife and increase the number of bird species that visit!

    Happy National Bird Year!

  • Not all birds are "snowbirds"

    Jan 07, 2020

    Sticking around in winter



    Not all birds fly south to their bird condo for the winter in search of warmer locales, clogging southern bird feeders and flying too slow..Jays, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, titmice, and woodpeckers will stick around, hiding food during fall and winter, up to hundreds of seeds a day, and each in a different location that they will remember and retrieve later for eating.


    Offering food in bird feeders supplements their natural diet, so be sure to keep your feeders full - and offer suet as well! Some birds you think of as leaving - American robins, bluebirds and many finches - may elect to hang out if there’s food to be found.


    Leave bird houses available for them to roost. Birds will pile together for protection from the elements and colder temperatures.



    Bird feet are designed to endure winter, with a protective cover and special veins and arteries to help keep them warm, so no, they won’t stick to cold perches!


    Birds will drink from heated bird baths, but instinct tells them to not bathe or get their feathers wet if the temps fall below freezing.


    Giving birds a bit of southern hospitality in northern climes will help see them through the winter season.

  • Nature's Elevator

    Dec 23, 2019


    Essential Equipment for Migration

    “Thermals” are not just another name for long underwear. They’re also what make landing at airports such a bumpy affair. And whereas pilots have to compensate for thermals in their approach, birds often count on them for their migratory departures.

    Even small differences in the landscape create various heating patterns in the air. A plowed field absorbs heat more quickly and releases it more slowly than a planted field or forest. Bodies of water, large and small, respond differently to the sun’s effects. Small towns and housing developments have a different heat index than large concrete jungles. And over some parts of the landscape, a kind of inverted funnel of fast-rising air bubbles up to elevations from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, creating a natural elevator to the skies above.


    Many birds- especially large, soaring daylight migrants – take full advantage of these thermals. Through experience, instinct or luck, a bird will find one of these updrafts and take it upward to its peak. From there the bird soars, losing altitude slowly as gravity takes over, until it finds another thermal and again rises through the turbulent air. This very energy-efficient way to travel makes it possible for some birds to migrate long distances without a large fat reserve.

    At any time of year, you may see a single hawk, or even a pair, lazily floating on thermals as they travel about looking for food. But during migration, you can see dozens, sometimes even hundreds – of birds using the same thermals in their efforts to push ever southward. This can be particularly impressive when Broad-winged Hawks are migrating en masse. Groups of migrating birds climbing the same invisible ladder are called “kettles”, and kettles are one of the most visible signs of migration in process. Watch for them – hawks, vultures and falcons circling higher and higher in the sky, seemingly static, but actually headed south to Louisiana to Mexico, to Peru and Brazil and other wintering havens, using nature’s elevator to speed them on their way.

  • Squirrels!

    Dec 10, 2019



    Whether you love them or you don’t, they’re still interesting!

    Did you know…

    The word ‘squirrel’ stands for shadow tail in Greek

    The United States is host to five squirrel species: fox, gray, red flying and ground squirrels.

    Squirrels bulk up to stay warm in colder seasons, and can find food buried beneath a foot of snow. While they store nuts for the winter, they don’t actually hibernate.

    They pretend to bury nuts to throw off potential poachers, but may lose 25% of their buried food to thieves.

    They don’t always remember where they’ve buried these nuts which results in more trees!

    Male squirrels can scent a female in heat from a mile away, and newborns are about an inch long when born.

    Squirrels have 4 toes on their front feet and 5 toes on their back feet.

    They’re very acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable, and run in a zigzag pattern to escape predators.

    Humans introduced squirrels to most of our city parks.

    Hawaii has no squirrels.

  • Where have all the birds gone?

    Nov 21, 2019


  • 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.


    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


    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. 


    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.


    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.


  • Have you seen any bald birds recently?

    Aug 29, 2019


    Keep your eye out for a few balding feathered friends!


    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. 


  • 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. 

    PaintedBunting_Female Hummingbird_Bath_shutterstock_139380491

    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 . . .

    DSC_0885  IMG_1083

    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!


  • 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.


    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.


    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. 


    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! 


    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


    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).


    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


    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


    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


    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!).


  • 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.


    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.


    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


    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.



    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.


    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, 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.


    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.”


    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. 


    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.


    Every day - the same. 

    Every day - new.

    Every day miracles - made just for you.

  • Small Space Birding!

    Nov 19, 2018



    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.


    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.


  • Who is Missing?

    Oct 29, 2018

    Who’s Missing?


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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?


    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.


     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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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.


  • 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



    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.


    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.


    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


    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!


    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.


    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.


    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.