Be entertained and learn more about woodpeckers.
Have you ever seen juncos fan their tails at one another? What about lunging at each other?
Juncos definitely have a dominance hierarchy (kind of like a pecking order) in their winter flocks. You can often observe individuals challenging the status of others with aggressive displays of tail fanning and lunges.
So, who’s in charge? Males are dominant over females; but, it breaks down more specifically than that. Adult males are at the top of the hierarchy, then juvenile males, adult females and finally young females at the bottom.
You can attract juncos to your yard by offering some of their favorite seeds, millet and hulled sunflower, in a blend such as our Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend.
Have you seen any of these behaviors?
It always amazes me that so many kids want to learn about birds. We can only take so many for our class and there is always a waiting list.
What class is that? We just completed our fourth annual Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with the local Christmas Bird Count. This has been a very fun partnership between the Boy Scouts and the local Amos Butler Audubon.
It was a very snowy day for the class and we were all bundled up for the birding part. But, the snow didn’t deter us from finding our required 20 different species nor did it deter us from having fun.
One of the highlights was a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree for all the boys to see it through the spotting scopes.
Another highlight was a very common bird that is not commonly known, Horned Larks. A flock flew overhead making their distinctive flight call, listen here. Horned Larks live in fields and can sometimes be drawn to yards with cracked corn.
Hopefully, some of the boys were inspired to begin the hobby of birding or bird feeding. At minimum, they learned a little bit more about noticing and appreciating birds.
Special thanks to the Rob and Eric Ripma of Nutty Birder for assisting with the class.
Every winter the Dark-eyed Junco departs from its northerly breeding grounds of summer and descends upon the lower 48 states. Some western and northeastern states have them year-round where they can be heard singing their pretty trilling song.
For those who only have juncos in winter, we only get to listen to their call and chip notes. Have you ever heard their call notes? Their “tew-tew-tew” call sounds like they are communicating in morse code.
Listen to the call here, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/82346
You can listen to the song and chip notes here, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Dark-eyed_Junco/id
Want to try and attract them to your yard?
They prefer to roost in evergreens at night; but, will also use tall grasses and brush piles. They return to the same roost location regularly, sharing it with other flock mates.
Now is a great time to attract Junco’s so you can listen to them throughout the season.
I am fascinated by Wild Turkeys. Aren’t we all when it’s Thanksgiving? They are large, beautiful birds.
Early historical reports show amazing numbers of turkey populations.
In 1540 Hernando de Soto’s soldiers were given large numbers of turkeys; 700 in one account.
In 1612 an author wrote that Wild Turkeys were like pheasants in England; forty in a company and the best meat for eating.
Another report from the early 1800’s chronicled a thousand birds in the woods one day.
With a seemingly endless abundance and such good eating, the turkey was heavily hunted by settlers. Also, habitat loss with westward movement was an additional blow to the turkey population. By the 1930’s there were only 30,000 birds left in North America.
However, with conservation and reintroduction efforts the Wild Turkey is now 7 million strong. They can be found in every state (including a localized population in Alaska) as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.
I am so pleased this North American icon is once again very abundant.
Hummingbirds consume more than just nectar. They must have a source of protein and at least half of their diet is small insects and bugs.
But a hummingbird eating suet?
Check out the above photo. Debbie, an employee at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Torrance, CA, put out a fresh Bird Bug Bites Suet Cake and an Allen’s Hummingbird showed up for a bite to eat.
Beyond Bird Bug Bites Suet, we have occasional reports that Ruby-throated and Anna’s Hummingbirds frequent Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter (a spreadable suet-based product). This usually just happens during the winter.
Hummingbirds that over-winter in areas are usually doing so because they are finding localized insect sources that are often around open bodies of water. Of course, they are sourcing nectar as well.
It is not common for hummingbirds to eat suet. But, stranger things have been known to happen.
I recently returned from a cruise sailing seven nights up the coast of British Columbia and Alaska. What an amazing, breath-taking journey of scenery, wildlife and, of course, birds.
There were plenty of creatures to spy from the ship and shore. However, one of the coolest things I experienced was during the overnight hours.
I stayed up one night from 10 pm to 2 am while we cruised the Inside Passage. I sat at the bow of the ship on the top deck 150 feet above the water. The area was black but for the ship’s lights. For hours I listened to birds pass in the night calling out their single-noted flight calls. I heard thrushes, sparrows and shore birds.
There were some birds flying into view from the ship’s lights like warblers and sparrows. They would slow down and look at the ship and then continue on their journey. Some birds stopped on the ship for a brief time like the Song Sparrows I found browsing the deck for food.
But, the coolest bird that night was about 1:00 am. A hummingbird flew out of the darkness, circled over my head and continued cruising on its southerly journey.
How cool is that!
Have you seen any feathers on the ground lately?
Its molting season for many of the birds that visit our yards. Molting is the process of losing old feathers and growing fresh replacements.
It’s not unusual to find a feather or two this time of year. Wing and tail feathers are often the easiest to find due to their length. Can you see the newest, half-grown feathers on the wing of the White-breasted Nuthatch pictured above? Look closely.
Molting is easier to see in birds like vultures and hawks as they soar overhead. Look for short or missing feathers on each wing or tail.
“Daddy, you should become a bird bander so I can help.”
Last weekend we attended the inaugural Young Birders Conference hosted by the Indiana Young Birder’s Club. My teenage daughter was interested in going and insisted on bringing me along. Of course, I was delighted to join her.
The real highlight for both of us was the bird banding demonstration. She got to hold a Carolina Chickadee (pictured above). Can you see the band on its leg?
The chickadee hatched this year. It wasn’t happy about being captured; but, it was docile enough. My daughter helped write down all the data the bander was collecting. After the band was placed on the leg, the chickadee was placed on its back in my daughter’s hand. It didn’t realize it was free to go and stayed in her hand for about two minutes. How cool is that!
My daughter also got to help collect data on a recaptured White-breasted Nuthatch. Recaptured birds are always exciting because someone has previously banded them. The whole point of bird banding is to hopefully recapture/recover banded birds so scientists can use that information to understand things like lifespan, migration, population trends, territory movements, etc.
What a special time I had with my daughter and what a fascinating, unique experience we had with the birds.
To learn more about bird banding or report a bird with a band, go here, http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/
Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners gathered in Indianapolis this year at the end of June for the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference. They came to refresh and reenergize themselves and learn about new innovations for their staff and stores. But before they got down to some serious work, some of them arrived a day early to play.
The day before the conference 50 WBU storeowners joined us for a relaxing morning of connecting with nature by bird watching at Fort Harrison State Park. Leading the trip with me was my coworker and fellow blogger, John Schaust, and a local birder and buddy of ours, Rob Ripma of NuttyBirder.com.
We saw a lot of birds and, as you can imagine with it being early-summer, a number of them were juvenile birds chasing their parents begging for food.
One of the biggest highlights was the Cerulean Warbler. Everyone got to see it! Which is an amazing feat for 50 people birding at the same time.
The Cerulean is a beautiful, sky-blue and white warbler that breeds in the woods of the Eastern US and Canada. It is of special conservation concern due to its overall small population size and is on the watch list to see if it may need to be placed on the endangered species list.
Other highlights included a Ruby-throated Hummingbird mom sitting on her nest as well as a Baltimore Oriole nest where mom and dad were bringing food to the nestlings.
Everyone had a fabulous time connecting with nature. Have you seen any fun bird activity lately?