Mar 14
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Watch this entertaining video to see some beautiful birds nesting!

Jun 14
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Kissing cardinals on the WBU Dinner Bell Feeder

Kissing cardinals on the WBU Dinner Bell Feeder

Downy Woodpecker Dad feeding son

Downy Woodpecker Dad feeding son Bark Butter

Dads provide for us, care for us, teach us and guide us. In honor of Father’s Day and dads everywhere, including the bird world, here is some fun bird-Dad information.

Have you ever seen birds kissing? Northern Cardinals and Western Scrub-Jays do this. The male feeds his mate seeds during courtship and it appears they are kissing. You can often see this near bird feeding stations. He does this to show he can be a good provider to raise a family.

Chickadee and nuthatch dads provide in a different way. They feed Mom while she sits brooding their eggs. Once the babies hatch, Dad tirelessly helps feed them, constantly running out to the “store” for more food.

But, the Father-of-the-Year Award goes to the Downy Woodpecker. He provides for the family by sharing daytime nest duties with Mom; but, he is the one that incubates the eggs at night. Once the babies hatch, he roosts at night in the nest-cavity with the young until they fledge. And then, he teaches the young where to find food. Now that is a dedicated provider.

Thanks for providing for us, Dads.

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Mar 15
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You could say I have been blue for almost 20 years!

When I purchased my home in the early 90’s, I did so in large part because of its great bird and wildlife viewing opportunities. My older suburban neighborhood is heavily wooded and features a small lake and numerous creeks. This great mix of habitats has brought me countless wildlife encounters, ranging from Bald Eagles to American Beavers and Spring Peepers to Flying Squirrels!

But my woodland setting has also denied me one of my favorite things in life – bluebirds.

At least, up until this winter!

Yes, the magic of planting a few native deciduous holly bushes (Ilex verticillata) combined with providing mealworms and Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter® Bits finally did the trick and brought them into my backyard!

The brilliant red berries of this “Winterberry Holly” seem to be irresistible to bluebirds and they certainly worked to initially attract them to my yard. But it only took a few days for the four bluebirds to pick the bushes clean. What kept them coming back day after day was their discovery of the mealworms and Bark Butter Bits that I had put out for them.

You can bet, as the drab and dreary days of late winter slowly passed, our lives were constantly brightened by these radiant bluebirds coming to the feeders just a few feet outside our family room window!

It would be hard to find anything as dazzling as a bluebird standing on a fence post in the early morning sun. Its brilliant blue plumage might even be said to rival the sky itself.

Too bad it’s just one big illusion!

It’s true! bluebirds aren’t really blue … they just look like they are!

Most bird colorations are due to pigments deposited in their feathers. A Northern Cardinal is red because of the red pigment called carotenoids. Crows are black because their feathers contain a dark pigment called melanin.

In contrast, bluebirds do not have a single molecule of blue pigment in any of their feathers. So where does that brilliant blue color come from?

The answer is that the color is not produced by a pigment, but by the structure of the feather. The top transparent layer of each bluebird feather is filled with miniscule pockets of air. When sunlight strikes these pockets, all of the other visible wavelengths of light are absorbed. Only blue escapes and is scattered in all directions.

So while the bluebird’s blue color may technically be an illusion…it is no longer an illusion to have them in my backyard and I am enjoying every single visit they make to my feeders!

After almost 20 years, their arrival has finally signaled the end to my case of the bluebird “blues!”

Now…if I can just get them to use the nest box down by the creek…

Feb 03
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OK…let’s be honest, things have been a little slow at my feeders this winter.

Apparently I am not alone! Anecdotal reports from much of North America seem to paint a similar picture of less than stellar activity.

Why?

At this point we can only speculate; but, there are a couple of prime suspects: an incredibly mild winter, a bumper crop of natural foods produced during last year’s growing season and the almost total lack of a southward movement by the “winter finches” out of northern Canada.

It is all speculation at this time, but this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) looks to be perfectly timed to help bring some factual answers to the question, “Where are all my birds?”

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages and skill levels in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent.

The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be held February 17-20, 2012. Participation is free, and everything you need is available online.

Last year’s count, which includes Canada and the United States, identified 596 species and tallied over 11.4 million individual birds. Citizen scientists like you submitted over 92,000 checklists for the four day count period.

While the European Starling was the most abundant species reported by GBBC participants at almost 1.4 million, the American Robin was a strong second with 1.04 million birds reported.

The Northern Cardinal appeared on the largest number of checklists – 45,709, which is almost half of all the checklists submitted, the Mourning Dove took second place.

Information like this will help ornithologist determine how this year’s weather and other factors are influencing the activity, movements and populations of birds throughout North America.

And you can help!
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.
You can find all the details on how to participate at the GBBC web site.

This event is coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada and I am proud to say that Wild Birds Unlimited has been the major corporate sponsors for the GBBC since its beginning.

Dec 27
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Just like we change some of our habits for winter, birds can behave very differently in winter compared to summer.

Each morning I wait with my youngest daughter at the bus stop. As the sun is pulling into the sky, without fail, flocks and flocks of American Robins fly overhead. They are leaving their overnight, congregational roost and heading out to feed together. Normally found alone or in pairs in the summer, it is easier to survive the winter in a group than on their own.

Individual territories are no longer being held by Northern Cardinals; they are flocking together for night-time roosting and day-time feeding parties. When it comes to visiting busy backyard feeders, they prefer to be the so-called “early birds” beating the morning rush. They also like to wait till the evening rush is over and be the last to visit backyard feeders.

Watching a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos at feeders is a fascinating business. Almost like a concentric ring of circles, each winter-flock of juncos has a dominance hierarchy. The adult males are often in the prime, center spot of a food source followed by juvenile males, then adult females and finally young females. This is why many female juncos travel farther south than most of the males; less competition for food.

American Goldfinches also have a dominance hierarchy; however, it changes between summer and winter. Female American Goldfinches are dominant over males in the summer (presumably because they do the nest building, egg laying and brooding) and appear to be subservient to males in the winter.

Take a closer look at bird behavior at your feeders this winter. What changes do you see?

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Mar 25
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Spring-time calls to me like a siren’s song. Enticing all my senses, it compels me to stop and experience what is going on around me.

Each morning I arrive at work, get out of my truck and take 30 seconds to quietly listen. I want to experience who is singing over their territory. It is a great way to begin each day.

I recently attended a professional conference where we were tasked to find a solitary spot in the courtyard garden and write for 10 minutes. My spot was on a marble pergola by a flowing mineral spring. Here is a snippet of what I experienced.

I hear White-breasted Nuthatches, American Crows, Northern Cardinals and a Carolina Chickadee. Song Sparrows battle back and forth in song.

Smell of sulfur from the spring.

Cold from the marble pillar seeps into my back.

An American Robin buzzes the ground, sounding off wing-beat-squeaks as it passes.

The smack of a nut dropped by a squirrel. It chatters and runs through tree branches.

The entrance of a male Cooper’s Hawk. He perches, surveys, and takes flight, catches a small thermal and circles away.

Heed the siren’s song of Spring. Take a nature break and you’ll be amazed at what you experience.

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