Watch this entertaining video to see some beautiful birds nesting!
“Last week was bitter cold and the birds were crazy at the feeders. This week is warm and sunny and there are no birds in sight. What’s going on?”
Birds need calories to stay warm. They get their calories from food for which they are constantly foraging. The feeders in our yards are a supplement to birds’ daily food intake.
Normal winter weather will bring a steady flow of bird activity to our feeders. However, when the weather turns severe (cold rains, ice, snow, frigid temperatures, etc.), the activity at feeders can seem crazy-busy. The birds need more calories to stay warm under these conditions and are using your feeders as a very helpful source of energy.
When the weather warms up, the birds need fewer calories, their foraging decreases and the activity at your feeders will naturally decrease.
Keep an eye out for crazy weather patterns and keep your feeders clean and the food fresh. The birds will thank you.
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.
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.
Don’t have birds coming to your feeders? Take heart! They are eating from the abundance of natural foods right now; but, they are still watching your feeders and occasionally coming in to grab a snack.
Additionally, birds are currently choosing their winter territories. Access to feeders with quality foods not only provide a great snack today but can influence their decision to choose your yard for meals during the rough winter weather.
So, keep a little bit of food in your feeders right now to help make sure the birds are regular visitors later.
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.
Did you ever wonder how a hummingbird will show up in your yard and check out the hummingbird feeder or hanging nectar plant that was there last year but hasn’t been put out yet this year? How do the birds know? It’s almost like they remember the nectar-rich food source. It is amazing that a bird would remember, especially one with the brain the size of a BB. Consider what a hummingbird does each year. They migrate great distances going south to winter in southern Mexico and northern Panama. They travel as far north as Alaska and Canada for breeding. Up to a 2,500 mile trip one way. An impressive feat performed by such a small-brained bird weighing about one penny. Bird banding records show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, year after year. Males return to stake claim on the same territory as the previous year. Females return to the same tree for nesting and sometimes re-use last year’s nest. One study found a female reused her nest for five years in a row. It is amazing how the smallest bird in the world can be so formidable with its memory and come back to feed from a nectar feeder it remembers from last year.
Hang your hummingbird feeders now and keep the nectar fresh. Those amazing jewels of nature are migrating back for the summer.
Though the recent snow storm in the Midwest doesn’t reflect it, spring officially sprang last week. Have you been listening to the ever increasing dawn chorus (see March 4 post)? It’s a sign that birds will soon be nesting. Your chickadees and bluebirds may have already started new home selections which means precious, little eggs aren’t far behind. Do you have the right nesting-food resources to help birds thrive?
Foods that nesting birds seek include protein and calcium and are found in a number of WBU offerings such as any of the WBU Plus Blends, Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter Bits and mealworms.
WBU Plus Blends, compared to other blends, provide a more balanced nutritional offering at feeding stations to meet the needs of nesting birds and increase the frequency of visits to feeders. Not only do they provide much needed supplemental energy for the high demands of the nesting season, but also the added calcium is the perfect ingredient to help strengthen egg shells for nesting birds and an essential building block as baby birds grow.
Bark Butter Bits are high in fat, protein and calcium and are a convenient nugget way to attract a wide variety of birds and know you are providing the desired nutrients for nesting season.
Mealworms are quite a treat for the birds and you. Birds naturally eat insects for the high-protein value, and much of a nestling’s and fledgling’s diet is insects. Offering mealworms provides that stable supplement. Mealworms are not slimy or icky. They’re like a caterpillar without the fur. Besides, you don’t have to touch them. Use a plastic spoon to scoop them into a feeder.
It’s the perfect time to offer nesting foods to help birds thrive, and you get to enjoy attracting them to your yard for a more intimate look while they raise families.
You head to work early; it’s still dark and cold. It’s too dark and cold to make a logical reason to be up, and already you can hear them – those crazy birds aren’t just awake, they’re already whooping it up with their trills, melodies and crescendos. You are witnessing what is often called the “dawn chorus” – that period of time before the sun shows itself, but when the great outdoors is already filled with beautiful sounds of nature. The birds that you hear are mainly males, doing what male birds do best, protecting/claiming their territory and/or trying to attract a mate.
There are a few theories about why birds sing so vigorously during those per-light hours. For many years, the prevailing theory was that those early hours are typically the coolest and driest hours of the day and this lack of atmospheric variables allowed bird songs to travel the farthest, giving their voices better range, sending a message to other males that they should stay away…and the farther away the better. It was also assumed that females could be attracted from farther distances.
In the 1990s, scientists discovered that this theory had some holes in it. When they studied the range of two sparrow species who participate in the dawn chorus, they found that their songs travelled just as far, if not farther, at noon as in the pre-daylight hours. They conducted their studies on both woodland and grassland sparrow species and found that their results were the same. They found that the individual bird’s songs (believe it or not, each individual bird has a slight, but recognizable song) were more consistent and clear in those pre-dawn hours than at any other time of day, primarily due to lack of wind. So, if you are a male bird trying to attract a mate or stake out your claim to a territory, it’s more important to make sure that your fellow feathered friends or foes know that it’s you singing away than it is to be heard over a long distance.
A completely different theory is that “early bird” singing has little to do with the effects of heat, humidity or wind but has everything to do with proving how strong those sweet, but strong, male birds are. You see, the way to impress the fairer sex (females) and to scare away your competition (other males looking to encroach on your territory), in the bird world, is to be big, strong and vigorous. It is thought that the better you can sing during the most challenging time of the day, the better mate and more challenging competitor you will be. So, if you can sing loud and strong in the early morning, before you have time to warm up and have a good hearty breakfast, the better mate and stronger defender of your territory you will be.
Both theories seem to make sense to me, and I think that a combination of both theories is the genesis of the dawn chorus. In any event, the reason behind the “why” becomes less important to me each and every time I get the privilege and honor of hearing this mysterious, beautiful and wonderful event. I encourage you to set your alarm early this spring, and go outside to experience one of the finest wonders of nature.
It has often been said that the first sign of an American Robin foraging on the lawn means spring is on the way. But is the robin still a harbinger of spring?
Robins typically gather in flocks in autumn to migrate south to escape harsh winter weather. However, times seem to be changing.
More and more robins seem to be overwintering in more northern states and southern Canada. Even range maps show them to winter in the States including coastal Alaska and coastal and southern Canada. Check out the robins’ range map by clicking here.
Robins are not a typical feeder bird; but, they are known to visit feeders in lean times such as periods of harsh weather. Open water is always very attractive to robins and they can be enticed to some foods. Some of my favorite robin foods include the following.
* Raisins or currants soaked for a few minutes in water
* Live mealworms are a great treat and those in more northern areas can offer them in a heated dish filled with sphagnum moss
* Bark Butter Bits
* Sunflower chips
Foods are best offered in tray feeders whether on the ground or hanging. A hopper feeder with a wide platform works well. My personal favorite is the Dinner Bell feeder for offering food to robins because it has an accessible tray and a protective dome.
Are robins still a harbinger of spring? For the most part, I think they are. However, don’t be surprised to see a few robins around your neighborhood before spring arrives.
Where are you seeing robins?