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.
Do you ever notice or look for birds when you travel?
One of the wonderful perks of my work is to find locations for the Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners to go birding and then lead them.
We were in Savannah, GA for our annual conference and we did part of the Colonial Coast Birding Trail.
We started at Tybee North Beach which is on Tybee Island. It is the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Savannah River. The habitat of sandy ocean beaches and coastal shrub offered up birds such as Royal and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmers, Brown Pelicans and of course gulls.
We visited Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and found many wading birds like herons and egrets. We saw a couple Roseate Spoonbills as well as Purple and Common Gallinules.
We ended our afternoon at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. An abandoned WWII Army airfield, this 2800 acre area is a coastal lowlands habitat with mixed hardwoods, grasslands, freshwater pools and salt marshes. It boasts one of the largest Wood Stork rookeries in Georgia. There are 47 nests this year and those young are very loud. It is quite the nesting area for wading birds like six species of herons, three species of egrets, White Ibis (like in the picture) and more. Other birds we found include the Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, and other edge and woodland birds. Click here for a pdf of the site map.
What birds have you seen in your travels?
Dads take on all sorts of roles in the bird world.
Some birds grab “take out” meals. Chickadee and nuthatch dads feed Mom while she broods the eggs. Dad also helps feed the young once they have hatched.
Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatch dads provide future-dads with on-the-job training. The young helpers assist Dad in raising the next brood by feeding Mom while she sits on eggs and feeding the nestlings as well as the new fledglings.
Dad’s Favorite Diner
American Goldfinch and Downy Woodpecker dads like to take the family out to eat. When the young fledge from the nest, dad leads them to great food sources as well as teaches them how to use his favorite backyard bird feeders. Check out the picture above of a Downy Woodpecker dad feeding his newly-fledged son.
What kind of “Bird Dad” activity is happening in your backyard?
Killdeer Mom on Nest
We celebrate Moms this weekend. As you are celebrating or thinking about Mom or that special lady in your life, keep in mind bird moms.
Killdeer moms sit on the eggs when temperatures are cool and stand over them for shade when it’s too hot. Can you find Mom sitting on the eggs in the picture above?
Here is a picture showing how well camouflaged her eggs are in the nest.
Killdeer Nest & Eggs
As you are celebrating or thinking about Mom or that special lady in your life, keep an eye out this weekend for bird moms that are building nests, sitting on eggs or already feeding fledglings.
Stop by your local Wild Birds Unlimited store to share your bird Mom story or learn more about giving bird Moms a helping hand.
Happy Mother’s Day!
“Now…if I can just get them to use the nest box down by the creek…”
You may remember this closing line from the blog I posted back on March 15th, Not the Least Bit Blue, in which I shared my joy at finally attracting bluebirds to the feeders in my yard.
Guess what…it really happened! They ARE nesting down by the creek!
The only part of my musing that didn’t come true is that they are using a natural tree cavity instead of the nest box I installed for them.
Needless to say, my family is ecstatic! And I have a cool video to share with you of some nest-side action.
The adults are busy feeding their young and we are having more fun than ever watching them raid the mealworm feeder in our backyard. We put mealworms out every morning and evening and within a few minutes they are gathering mouthfuls at the feeder to take back to the young in the nest.
By my calculations, the youngster should fledge sometime early next week!
Now…if I can just get them to bring all of the youngsters to our feeder in the backyard…
Who’s nesting in your backyard?
Tis the season for drumming, pounding, beating, tapping and drilling. All words used to describe what active woodpeckers are doing this spring on the sides of houses, antennas, dead tree trunks and limbs. It’s enough noise to beat the band.
Woodpeckers and flickers make these sounds for three main reasons: communicating, foraging or making a home.
The loudest of the woodpecker sounds are when a male is pounding away on something that resonates really well. This is called drumming. It’s all about communication. The male woodpecker is trying to let potential rivals know that this particular area is his territory and he is also trying to attract a mate.
There is a Red-bellied Woodpecker using the top of a dead tree trunk in my yard to drum out his declaration of territory. He pounds a few times for a few seconds on the resonant trunk and then does a few calls. It’s very interesting to watch and listen.
If woodpeckers aren’t drumming, they are foraging. Two years ago a Downy Woodpecker was seemingly foraging on the wood trim of my house. You could hear him lightly tapping. He was leaving small-diameter, shallow holes all over the place. We went about trying to scare him off by hanging iridescent scare tape over the areas and he eventually gave up for less annoying pastures.
If woodpeckers aren’t drumming or foraging they are drilling. Woodpeckers and flickers are primary cavity nesters. They drill entrance holes into trees and excavate a nice one bedroom home. If a woodpecker is doing this on your house, try placing a nesting box directly over the hole. Use the species-appropriate box and fill it with wood shavings. Otherwise you’ll need to use scare tactics or barriers to encourage them to move elsewhere.
Are woodpeckers causing you to exclaim to beat the band this spring? If so, click here to check out our educational woodpecker page at wbu.com or visit your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for tips and products to alleviate the pounding. Find your nearest store here.
Many songbirds raise their families in the spring and early summer with the juveniles seen hungrily flitting about in June and July. The American Goldfinch, however, is one of our latest nesting songbirds waiting till July or early-August before they even build a nest. But why?
The main reason…diet.
Young songbirds need a lot of protein as they grow. They are fed loads of insects to satisfy their protein needs. Goldfinches, however, are vegetarians. The young are fed loads of plant, grass and tree seeds. The best time to raise a brood is when these seed sources are readily abundant; hence, mid-to-late summer nesting.
The key time to start watching for nesting activity is when you see the soft, downy heads on thistle plants. They often use this for lining their nests.
American Goldfinches prefer to nest in habitats with trees and shrubs and usually place their nest four to ten feet high. The female chooses the nest site, builds the nest and incubates the eggs all on her own. She attaches the nest to supporting twigs with spider web. Sometimes she’ll weave the nest so tightly that it will temporarily hold water.
Goldfinches usually lay five pale-blue or greenish-blue eggs that will hatch in about 12 days. Nestlings will fledge (leave the nest) about 12 days after that.
The male feeds the female on the nest throughout incubation and takes on an ever increasing role in feeding the nestlings as they grow older.
Young American Goldfinches are dependent on their parents for at least three weeks after fledging. Be sure to watch and listen for their energetic wing fluttering as they harass their parents for food with a two-note begging call at your feeders.
American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors and prefer thistle (nyjer) and sunflower chips. They are also very attracted to water sources for drinking and bathing.