Watch this entertaining video to see some beautiful birds nesting!
“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/
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.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; especially, if the bird is eating from your hand.
This is the perfect time of year to teach birds like chickadees to eat from your hand. Here are some suggestions to create this amazing experience.
If the birds hang nearby while you fill your feeders, try putting some food in your hand and wait patiently with your hand near the feeder. You can help to speed up the process by covering the ports on one side of the feeder to help guide the birds to your hand on the opposite side. It is amazing how often a chickadee will land on your hand with no fear or intimidation.
If the birds are not adventurous enough to check out the food in your hand with this method, then try setting up a bird-feeding “double” of yourself. Just think of a non-scary scarecrow. Stuff some clothes with paper or something and “sit” your double in a chair by the bird feeders. Rest an arm on the chair’s armrest with a glove filled with food. Finish it with a hat and sunglasses.
Once the birds are comfortable feeding from your double’s hand, don the clothes and sit in the chair with food in your hand.
Patience is key; but, the rewards are so worth it.
Tell us about your bird-in-the-hand feeding experience?
Right now chickadees, nuthatches and titmice are hiding food to retrieve and eat at a later time. This behavior is called “caching.” Caching helps birds survive during bad weather and when food sources are low.
These birds store hundreds of seeds a day, and each seed is placed in a different location and they generally remember where each one is even a month later.
By providing an easily accessible food source, you can help your birds with their caching needs. Below is a little more detail on some of your favorite birds’ caching behaviors.
• Cache seeds (in the shell and out), nuts, insects and other invertebrate prey
• Food is typically cached about 100 feet from feeders
• Cache more during the middle of the day
• May carry off several seeds at a time, but each item is stored in a separate location
• Store food in knotholes, bark, under shingles, in the ground and on the underside of small branches
• Prefer to cache hulled sunflower seeds, because they are easier and faster to cache; occasionally mealworms
• Choose heavier seeds (because they are larger or have a higher oil content)
• Food is typically cached about 45 feet from feeders
• Most active caching time is early in the day
• Store food in bark crevices on large tree trunks and on the underside of branches
• Cache sunflower, peanuts and safflower
• Food is typically cached about 130 feet from feeders
• Cache one seed at a time and typically choose the largest seeds available
• Often remove seeds from their shell (80% of the time) before hiding them
What caching activity have you seen in your yard?
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.
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.
I spent some time during the recent holiday weekend taking care of the feeders in my yard. It is an annual Thanksgiving break ritual of cleaning, moving, changing and improving the feeder set-ups around my yard.
My chores were made much more engaging due to the constant companionship of my resident Carolina Chickadees. They were a continuous distraction as they hurriedly rushed back and forth between feeders, chattering nonstop and scolding me when I removed their favorite feeder for cleaning.
Chickadees are probably one of the main reasons I enjoy the hobby so much. Their energetic and saucy attitudes always brighten up even the dreariest day!
At this time of the year, chickadees are extra busy caching seeds for the winter by the hundreds. In a behavior called “scatter-hoarding”, each seed they collect is individually hidden in a unique location. Common storage sites include under tree bark, dead leaves, knotholes, and even behind house siding and underneath shingles.
The amazing thing is that they can accurately remember the location of each seed they hoard! Not only that, they also remember the quality of seed they initially stored, and make more of an effort to retrieve high quality seeds than inferior ones.
How do they do it?
Scientists have found that the hippocampus region of the brain, the area associated with this type of spatial memory, is proportionately larger in chickadees than in other birds that do not cache food. Not only is it generally larger, it actually increases in size in the autumn and shrinks back to its original size each spring!
It’s as if the chickadee adds more hard drive space to its brain’s computer as needed and then efficiently wipes it clean when it’s not.
It’s a very cool bird with a really cool adaptation to help it survive the winter and I am glad to have them around my yard to make my world a lot brighter…and my work just a little bit more enjoyable.