Fresh water is known to entice more feathered friends than any single feeder or birdhouse. One of the critical elements for just about any life form, birds require fresh water, even in the harshest winter weather. Sure they can eat snow, but it takes work to convert the snow into water and uses precious calories needed to stay warm. That’s why heated baths and de-icers are so popular among dedicated backyard birders-especially this past winter, no… make that this persistent winter!
With the first bulbs forcing through, it means spring’s around the corner… even if there’s still snow on the ground in your neck of the woods! The calendar and number of hours of daylight are signaling birds it’s time for nesting, to claim a spot, settle down and raise their broods. Although American goldfinches and house finches don’t use natural cavities (or birdhouses) for nesting, you can absolutely attract these cool little fliers to your place with finch feeders and a fresh water source.
Goldfinches can be seen chowing down on straight nyjer or thistle seed (their preferred meal), as well as finch mixes containing finely chopped sunflower hearts and thistle. The latter being more likely to attract a wider variety of species. House and purple finches, cardinals, pine siskins, towhees and several types of sparrows are commonly seen visiting finch feeders.
The timid demeanor of the vibrant yellow goldfinch keeps them from competing at feeders among crowds. They’d actually prefer to just give up and fly off than to fight for a chance to eat. This not very characteristic of too many birds!
A great way to offer extra feeding space during the busy finch season (without buying several full-blown feeders) is to offer thistle socks. Convenient and inexpensive, these smaller mesh feeders provide several birds a good meal instead of a missed opportunity!
One of very few birds who molts twice per year, their electric yellow breeding plumage has started developing. When all other birds are just about through with nesting for the season, goldfinches are just getting started! Their busy season? Late June through July.
Though they might not be sporting that amazing yellow color, goldfinches are still around. Keep thistle and finch feeders out year-round for best results, to see more of these delightful feathered friends at your place!
Feeders have been in full swing this winter with hungry birds braving the most frigid days seeking calories to keep warm. Every feeder’s seen its share of flying traffic through this most miserable season.
With bulbs forcing through, birds are already starting to nest in the southeast, we’ve already changed up two peanut bird feeders for another good use… nesting materials!
Here’s one of the cool things about backyard birding. Not too much is cut in stone so to speak. You needn’t buy a full-fledged peanut bird feeder to offer peanuts, nor a complete nesting material kit to offer the materials. Here’s a cool recycled 3-in-1 feeder that perfect for suet, peanuts, nesting material or even fruit in summer. Just be creative and see what works best for your birds!
That same spring feeder offers peanuts, suet, nest material, and yes… fruit in summer. Oh yeah, and the nesting materials? You can do this one yourself! Cats or dogs? Save their hair (not such a good idea if fluffy or fido has been treated with flea & tick medication). Decorative mosses are another favorite, sphagnum or sheet moss, Spanish moss, coco fibers from old plant liners too. Just be sure they’re clean. Feathers are coveted as well for some species’ nests. Again, just be sure thee have been sanitized, and use light or natural colors in the mix.
Recently cruising one of the video platforms, a big retailer’s video came up about nesting material. With lots of video views, “how dead wrong” is what came to mind. Cardinals don’t use those shelves, they nest in trees or shrubs. But I guess if you have no trees or shrubs they might use one? And they don’t use that cotton stuff either. Weed stems, twigs, bark, grasses and leaves are what make up cardinal nests in these parts… come on!
We counted on Monday, the last day for the 2014 Great backyard Bird Count. Had the event been last week-during the ice storm, more species would’ve been recorded. A warm sunny day saw a bit less activity at feeders than the first half of February when treacherous weather brought a slew of new visitors to this North Georgia yard. But with this warmer weather and the first glimpse of spring… a new glass bird feeder or two always helps to celebrate!
Stationary, the count was limited to the backyard where most of our feeders and baths are placed. Superior habitat occurs with mature pines, shrubs and hardwoods. By the way, the greatest benefit to glass feeders is the non-porous surface. Bacteria and mold can not penetrate surfaces like wood, this makes them healthier for birds. Plus they’re much easier to clean.
But back to the count: Again this year, participation increased over last with 131 countries reporting checklists, as opposed to 110 last year. Although data is still being entered, here’s a brief overview of country, number of species reported, and the number of checklists for that country. Pretty impressive!
United States 643 112,281
Canada 234 12,340
India 806 3,195
Australia 492 854
Mexico 658 451
Costa Rica 554 165
United Kingdom 155 150
Puerto Rico 113 150
Portugal 177 134
Honduras 335 104
Here’s our list for a 30 minute count: 22 species… not too shabby
- Mourning Dove 4
- Red Bellied Woodpecker 1
- Downy Woodpecker 1
- Hairy Woodpecker 1
- Eastern Phoebe 1
- Blue Jay 2
- Carolina Chickadee 3
- Tufted Titmice 6
- White-breasted Nuthatch 2
- Brown-headed Nuthatch 1
- Carolina Wren 2
- Eastern Bluebird 2
- Chipping Sparrows 9
- Cardinal 6
- Robin 3
- American Goldfinch 11
- Eastern Towhee 2
- White-throated Sparrow 1
- Pine Warbler 8
- Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
- European Starlings 2
- American Crow 3
Cornell’s data won’t be complete until the end of the month, but they’ve listed some noticeable trends:
After last year’s “superflight,” this year’s GBBC reports for 10 irruptive species (mostly finches) are down considerably. This includes reports for the White-winged and Red crossbills, Common and Hoary redpolls, Pine and Evening grosbeaks, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Bohemian Waxwings. These are believed to be natural fluctuations in numbers because of variation in seed crops.
Snowy Owl Invasion Continues
A massive irruption of Snowy Owls into the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes States of the U.S., as well as southeastern Canada, is easily seen in GBBC numbers. Preliminary results show participants reported more than 2,500 Snowy Owls in 25 states and 7 provinces of the U.S. and Canada!
The Polar Vortex Effect
The frigid cold in many parts of North America has resulted in unusual movements of waterfowl and grebes. With the Great Lakes almost completely frozen, some species, such as the White-winged Scoter and the Long-tailed Duck, have fled the frozen lakes and stopped at inland locations where they are not usually found at this time of year.
You can still count birds!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds at your feeders. The lab is offering a 2-for-1 to join this fun project now.
You can always count birds!
Anytime, anywhere in the world you can report bird sightings through eBird. Use the same user name and password you used for the GBBC and keep on counting at eBird.org.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a nonprofit membership institution interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab website at www.birds.cornell.edu
Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. www.audubon.org
Bird Studies Canada administers regional, national, and international research and monitoring programs that advance the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of wild birds and their habitats. We are Canada’s national body for bird conservation and science, and we are a non-governmental charitable organization. www.birdscanada.orgFollow @allpetsupplieso
Okay, so maybe this one’s not so decorative, but it’s popular among downy woodpeckers. In time for nesting season 2014, it’s getting a facelift complete with metal predator guard… thanks to squirrels, and my neighbor, Tom. Because the guard was attached without measuring the roof line (duh!) he re-fashioned it to fit perfectly under the roof. Our downy’s say thank you!
Although it may not seem like it… nesting season is under way! Even though there’s still snow, bird’s instincts tell them it’s time. With just a day or two of warmer temperatures and sunshine, there’s already less activity at feeders and more time spent scouting and claiming nest boxes.
So it’s time to get all possible nesting spots ready for vacancy! You may have to drag your ladder through the snow… what? You’re not crazy like us? Remove old nests, and be sure boxes are in good repair, securely attached to their mounts, with no loose or questionable parts. If the entries have been damaged or enlarged, simply attach a predator guard to remedy. Your birds will be pleased
Here’s one of our new decorative bird houses that won’t need repair because it’s vinyl and comes with metal predator guards already attached. In a stunning Merlot color for spring, it’s like a two-for-one, it will host two families in the dual nest compartments. Four entrances with two bedrooms are perfect for chickadees, bluebirds, titmice and other small backyard birds.
Townies, the birds who live in the burbs are more likely to see early successful broods and fledges this year than their counterpart county birds. Townies have it good, with feeders, water and housing offered in many scattered backyards. Country birds have a tougher go of it with the miserable weather and what looks to be, a late spring. We hope for the best.
Competition for nest sites is tough out there!
So to help wild birds thrive, just pick out a new decorative bird house and nab 10% off, plus free shipping on $95 or more for President’s Day (all week)… our thanks for housing the birds
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day
Here’s to thoughts of spring and hungry migrating sprites heading north~
Have your hummingbird feeders ready and filled before they get to your location! We know, with ice storms and and snow everywhere, this seems ridiculous… but it won’t be long before the tiny sprites start their long and exhausting journey!
Staked Mini-Blossoms by Parasol are a fun way to feed and watch these amazing birds. Place them alone or in pairs, in flower pots or right in the ground to catch some antics from a different vantage. Hand blown recycled glass, these feeders last – and hummingbirds love them! Cadmium and lead-free, they’re good for the birds
Now come on spring!Follow @allpetsupplieso
The 17th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count wants you!
For just 15 minutes on any day from February 14th-17th
It’s open to everyone, regardless of experience, a fantastic science project for grades K-12 too. Do it this year… for the birds, for science, and for fun!
Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time. Participants reported their bird sightings from all 7 continents, including 111 countries and independent territories. More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded – nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.
It’s easy to get started… just a few simple steps
A more in-depth video from The Cornell Lab explains how to take part, why participation is needed, and what we can learn from the count.
It’s actually bigger than you think, and you really do matter!
Despite adverse conditions of the polar vortex and another extreme winter, bluebirds and others are on the move, searching for suitable digs to raise their young. Even though snow is covering most of the country, Mother Nature’s biological clock tells them it’s time, the calendar and number of daylight hours is what lets them know.
Early migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway like swallows, warblers and flycatchers rely on insects as they island hop through the Caribbean onto Cuba. When making landfall along the gulf states, their usual smorgasbord of insects, flowers, fruits and berries will be be scarce. Many neo-tropicals, including hummingbirds run the risk of depleting fat reserves before they reach spring breeding grounds here in the US. Simply put, if you think the weather has been an inconvenience – it makes life miserable for wildlife as well, and many birds just won’t make it
Closer to home, over-wintering residents like bluebirds are already checking bluebird houses to claim for nesting and raising their broods. With snow on the ground and high temperatures right at freezing, you can hear birds belting out their breeding songs! If there was a way to say “wait… it’s still too cold!” we most certainly would-but then again, man is no force against nature.
Best we can do is help feathered friends along the way by offering fresh water, food, and birdhouses that are ready for nesting. If you haven’t done so already, please check your bluebird houses and remove old nests. Be sure they are secure, sturdy and ready for vacancy. If you can stomach it, live mealworms are their favorite, but suet, peanuts and sunflower hearts also offer much needed fat and proteins.
An Eastern Phoebe perches atop this bluebird house while the male checks out its interior. Phoebes won’t use these houses, but may take up residence in barn swallow nest cups if you offer them in sheltered areas around your home.
During this treacherous weather… please help birds and wildlife with supplemental feeding and a heated water source… thanks on behalf of the birds
Starlings, European starlings have got to be the most annoying, nastiest bird in our yard. It’s usually temporary and then they move on. But sure as day if they start nesting around here, a scope will be a near-future purchase! Yes, it’s legal to shoot them, aggressive, invasive and non-native, they wreak havoc on native nesting birds like bluebirds, tree swallows and purple martins. Not to mention, they make the worst mess and hog all the food too. Like magicians, a tray full of mealworms can disappear in no time flat!
These baffles were just removed and cleaned not long ago. Starting with pole-mount squirrel baffle (at top) the picture was snapped before cleaning the hanging one. Why? Because there was a post on a social site glorifying starlings! Huh, are you kidding me? How could anyone possibly favor this bird? Is that not one of the filthiest things you’ve ever seen?
Using a squirrel baffle won’t stop starlings, but it sure does stop squirrels if used properly. If a feeder is hanging from a pole or shepherd’s hook, the pole-mount ones work best. They’ll keep squirrels from shimmying up the pole, but the bottom of the baffle must be at least must be at least 4.5 feet from the ground. Otherwise, they’ll jump right passed it. These wrap-around styles are perfect if there’s a ground stake at bottom, or decorative piece at top. Smart, smart design!
If your bird feeder hangs from a branch, then a hanging baffle would be appropriate. It blocks squirrel’s from climbing down onto the feeder from above. Feeder placement however should be at east 8 feet away from anything squirrels might jump from (sideways) to gain feeder access. The bottom of the actual feeder should also be at least 4.5 feet from the ground.
These general specs usually work well… unless you happen to host the occasional uber-squirrel! Feeder and baffle placement may then require some tweaking to avoid the critter’s shenanigans in full! As far as the starlings? They do make traps for these pesky birds… but you’re on your own. Actually the website Sialis.org gives some great examples on starling and house sparrow control if you’re hosting native cavity nesters in your yard.
Be gone dreaded starlings and come on spring!
Goldfinches are back in droves.. but they’re not quite so gold yet. Still sporting drab winter plumage, it’s not until late spring/early summer when they’ll molt again. It’s the process of shedding old worn feathers to make way for new ones, and goldfinches happen to be one of very few birds who molt twice per year.
If your nyjer feeder has been sitting for a while sans activity, the older seed may be moldy, and finches won’t eat it. Consider trashing that old seed, giving the feeder a good cleaning and refilling with fresh goods. Doing this provides a welcome sign for these cool little birds.
One of the larger capacity feeders is shown here – holding 5+ lbs. of seed. A relative of the Rainbow Finch Feeder, the Super version is even better for large finch crowds. With colorful perches and a great design, this nyjer feeder lets you fill from both the top and bottom. This eliminates stale seed piling up at the bottom. By alternating which end is filled with fresh seed, there’s never a build-up of old stuff.
There’s another bird out there now who might easily be confused with the goldfinch. About the same size, but very opposite behavior, warblers can be pretty territorial around bird feeders. Males will fight and fend off others, doing this sort of vertical flight dance where the birds look almost intertwined. Goldfinches on the other hand would rather find another feeder than fight. This is when an extra thistle sock or two come in very handy. Inexpensive and simple to use, they offer extra feeding spots during goldfinches’ busy breeding season. Oh and this warbler… he’s got a mouthful of suet and a big attitude too!
To roll out the welcome mat for finches and other songbirds, offer a consistent fresh water source and keep bird feeders clean. Adding some nesting materials in early spring will also encourage residency at your place!
In honor of a belated Squirrel Appreciation Day, which was actually January 21st (yes the critters do have a day named for them) we wanted to show the absolute easiest feeder ever. You needn’t buy anything, as this item’s usually a staple in your pantry.
Peanut butter… because they love it! And with this crazy frigid weather, the high fat & protein gives them extra calories to stay warm. Calories=Energy. So what do ya do with the peanut butter? Slap it on a tree trunk! Just smear some on a tree and the entertainment is free. Why are there no squirrels in the picture then? It’s been so cold overnight, we’re not even seeing them venture out bed until noon!
We’ll use peanut butter on other squirrel feeders during freezing weather too. Smeared on corn cobs, or long-lasting corn logs (compressed corn), it’s simple to do for a special treat. And squirrels aren’t the only ones who love the gooey stuff! Woodpeckers, nuthatches and the warbler shown here seem to like peanut butter too, in freezing weather anyway. Is it safe for birds? Absolutely, because it’s one of the base ingredients in many suet recipes.
The black iron thing in the picture is really a wall-mounted plant tray that was on the front porch – but our plants kept falling off – so it became a feeder. If you wanted to add some other goodies for really cheap, take a plastic plant saucer and tack it to the tree trunk. Heck, you could even offer seed, or water in this fashion! The pale yellow glob is suet, which everybody loves, and it’s simple to make yourself. Some fast and easy recipes are on our site under birding resources.
But say you wanted to go all out, and offer a deluxe squirrel feeder for furry friends? Look no further than the Munch Box Combo. It offers variety in a handcrafted, quality feeder that’s made in the USA.
And why were we late with Squirrel Appreciation Day? Because it was also Penguin Awareness DayFollow @allpetsupplieso