Just when you thought this is it… a family of bluebirds or chickadees- nature might play a most wicked April Fool’s joke! Except it’s not funny and most times fatal to nestlings.
Should you become inquisitive and brave enough to monitor the nest inside your birdhouse (yes, it’s recommended) and spot an egg that’s different in size and/or color- it’s likely the wicked antics of a cowbird.
Talk about shirking responsibilities! Known as parasitic eggs, because Mom will deposit her egg in the nest of another bird, typically with at least 2 eggs already laid. She then flies off leaving full responsibility for upbringing to the unsuspecting parents.
Imagine trying to raise a baby who has grown twice the size of yourself. Just picture that for a moment. Other nestlings in the group barely have a chance at survival as the large cowbird baby hogs most of the food. This actually happens often- to wrens, bluebirds, chickadees, tree swallows and others. Some birds recognize the foreign egg and may abandon the nest or remove the egg. Most birds are unaware an imposter is looming, and end up raising the ridiculously large intruder to the detriment of their own nestlings.
It’s the natural instinct to thrive, though cowbirds won’t be bothered raising their own. Also considered nomadic, they tend to follow livestock herds for the abundant insects, their habitat being open grasslands and meadows which are far away from most nesting spots.
Cowbirds are native (unlike house sparrows or starlings) and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty, thus it’s illegal in most cases to remove the egg. Sometimes permits are issued to bluebird monitors and others when circumstances warrant. This is just one good reason for using correctly proportioned birdhouses. Nix the houses with really large entries, they do no favors to the birds you’re trying to attract. Avoid feeding birdseed containing millet as the tiny round seed tends to attract cowbirds. Most birds will flick this filler seed out of your feeder and onto the ground anyway.
A bit smaller than blackbirds, cowbirds have brown heads. To view they gray female or juvenile cowbirds- check sialis.org for more informtion.
And should you like to become a really, really good landlord- monitoring nests actually helps backyard birds thrive. Head over to Sialis.org where you’ll find a wealth of information and any question answered on hosting bluebirds and all native cavity nesting birds (those who use birdhouses).
Photos courtesy of Sialis.org
Sure you can save your egg shells, then you can sterilize the egg shells, then you can crush the egg shells and them to bird food, suet or mealworms. Or you can save a ton of time and shake-shake calcium powder right into meal worms just prior to feeding.
Some birds will actually eat the shells straight-up when sprinkled on a deck rail or on the ground below bird feeders. And some adult birds are known to eat their hatchlings’ shells as a means of keeping the nest clean and gaining calcium.
Why add calcium to meal worms?
So you’re trying/or have finally attracted bluebirds to you yard, Maybe you’re lucky enough have them stick around all year? Feeding lots of mealworms is calcium-depleting because they’re so high in protein. Similar to a sugar overdose for kids, too many worms can be too much of a good thing for bluebirds and others. We’re guilty on this charge!
Babies need strong bones to form properly, it’s critical for first flight. Lack of calcium (via parents feeding a disproportionate amount worms vs. natural food like insects or berries) can contribute to deformities. In breeding females, lack of calcium may cause her eggs to form with thin or weak shells. This makes passing the soft eggs difficult and exhausting- sometimes even fatal. Called egg bonding, it can also happen in nature to birds who’ve never eaten from mealworm feeders.
What’s the easiest way to add calcium?
A simple “shake-shake” from a spice jar does it! Calcium carbonate is a powder supplement readily available at most health food stores and online. Fairly inexpensive, one pound will likely last for a few years. Save one of your spice bottles and clean thoroughly.
Fill the jar with powder and store the bag for future use. Two shakes into the worms and toss gently to lightly coat/dust the worms. That’s all there is to ensuring your bluebirds are getting enough calcium!
A new children’s book worth mentioning… because spring is upon us and birds are calling!
By Hendrik Jonas, The Song of Spring is whimsically illustrated for bringing wonder and smiles to small ones.
Reminiscent of Eric Carle’s famous style, it’s the story of a little bird who forgets his spring song. Along his journey in search of a friend, he meets a goat, cow, pig, cat, dog and more. The little bird imitates all of their sounds as they try to help… to no avail.
It’s not until the female (migratory) bird appears from far away that the little guy remembers how to sing again.
The Song of Spring is a great way to introduce small children to animals and birds. Descriptively written to captivate kid’s attention.
Hendrik Jonas is a Berlin-based illustrator whose work has appeared in The Times and The Guardian. The Song of Spring is his third children’s book. Due March 2019; (ISBN: 978-3-7913-7379-9; Ages 2-5; Hardcover $12.95.
Where ya been little birdie? Stinks being gone so long but we never really went anywhere. Just out in the garden with plants and birds- it’s our happy place that universally removes chaos and preserves sanity 🙂
The elves have been hard at work, crafting the most unique birdhouses, bird feeders and garden art for all nature buffs on your list. Find new rustic church bird houses, cool bird feeders for all species and recycled metal yard art made in Mexico… plus cool stuff for your nest too!
The gift guide below features 12 themes (one for each day) with 2 or 3 fab holiday gifts. Once on the gift guide, you can click back to the main page to further investigate the different days and offerings. Most items are in stock and ship within 1-2 days.
Find Holiday Gifts with real purpose that are long-lasting … for this season and well-beyond… for everyone on your list!
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Thurs. 11/22 – Sun. 11/26 midnight!
Use Code UBB10
Some exclusions may apply: Custom orders, Freight/Truck items
It’s definitely time as the sprites are making their way north!
The key to attracting migratory birds like hummingbirds and orioles is to be ready prior to their arrival. Even when trying to get resident birds (like bluebirds) to nest, houses should be ready while scouts are claiming territory.
So by the looks and dates of the migration map, hummingbird feeders should be up and filled now to welcome Ruby Throated friends. It’s a long journey for the little guys and natural food sources are still scarce as snow flies across much of the mid-west and northeast US.
Whether the weather decides to cooperate or not… birds will make their way and nature will take her course, some years migration is easier than others. The very same day we spotted our first hummingbird in GA, American goldfinches’ first molt was completed. Overnight, these birds turned bright yellow with summer (or breeding) plumage.
Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeders
It’s the new craze that provides big thrills. Getting so close to such a tiny and amazing creature and just feeling them on your hand gives off a dose of adrenaline! How to explain that? We can’t- but you’ll see countless videos of folks using Nectar Dots, Whimsy Wands, Hummer Rings and other hand held feeders to experience the thrill. Reactions are priceless, and videos go viral.
To perch or not to perch?
It’s likely a matter of preference and what style feeder’s best for you to maintain. We prefer perches as hummingbirds can rest while feeding thus conserving energy. But in nature most flowers which hummingbirds feast upon… don’t have perches!
Folks always ask “What’s the best feeder?” or “What’s the best bird bath?” Simply put, the best of anything is the one that you will maintain. But we would suggest ceramic or glass hummingbird feeders in a saucer style that won’t leak or drip.
Make this the year to make your own nectar
It’s SO EASY! The ratio is always 1:4, pure cane sugar to water. No need to boil water but 1 part water will dissolve sugar quickly and effectively. Add 3 parts cold water and eliminate cooling time. Economical, simple and best for bird’s health too!
Happy Birding and may spring head your way soon!
Since the birds are extremely beneficial to have around the yard, gardens and barns for natural pest control, you can easily entice them with our barn swallow nest cups.
Handmade set of wooden nesting cups closely resemble a barn swallows’ own digs! Simple to hang, they’re best placed up high near roof lines or eaves and most definitely sheltered from the elements.
Do they really work? You bet! Just check out some of the on-page reviews over the years. And especially Leda’s testimonial with pictures for living proof!
Swallows adore the sturdy artificial home and folks are thrilled as the nest cups allow the birds to be coaxed from inconvenient nest spots- a common occurrence around stables or barns. Nine times out of ten, the birds will use the cups for their second brood… and return next year to use them again.
Don’t be too surprised if an Eastern phoebe takes up residence either… they like the nest cups too!
They’ve started already, in the Southeast and further North, lots of folks are reporting first nests and first eggs laid in their bluebird houses. It’s one sign of springs’ arrival… bluebirds are house hunting!
Bluebird landlords (or folks who monitor bluebird houses) are eagerly awaiting the first clutches. Weather can be a tricky factor with late winter/early spring broods as natural food is still scarce. Bluebirds’ diets may be supplemented with meal worms, suet, shelled peanuts and sunflower hearts to help brooding birds cope with frigid or extremely wet weather.
Find the most handsome bluebird houses for all tastes, most are approved by the North American Bluebird Society (NABS). A house with side door makes for easy monitoring, as does the famous Gilbertson Nest Box.
High quality and USA made, find durable cedar, recycled plastic (or poly-lumber) and stunning vinyl bluebird houses with copper roofs. Standing the test of time, bluebirds will return to these fine digs year after year should fledges be successful.
No… you won’t disturb them if you tap on the birdhouse first, steer clear of busy feeding times (dawn and dusk) and especially refrain prior to fledge time (about 19 days after hatching). The latter may scare babies into an early fledge for which they are not fully prepared.
Check out the website Silais.org for a wealth of information on bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting birds. Every question will be answered on this addictive site!
If you don’t have a blue bird house up yet… don’t fret. But now’s the time! Blues will brood two, three and sometimes even four clutches per season. Open space is best with tress or fence line nearby for bluebirds to perch, hunt insects and guard their nests. Fresh water in a birdbath always entices feathered friends too!
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your bluebird house on!
Without fail buds are blooming and bulbs spring forth from the ground… in February. Likewise without fail, the Atlanta area will experience another cold snap, snow or an ice storm before spring decides she’s here for the duration. The rain’s been fairly continuous for about three weeks, yesterday was a balmy 80 degrees!
Warm, wet weather spells disaster for bird feeders, especially finch bird feeders. It’s not that humidity affects thistle seed any differently from other seed mixes- it’s the unnatural and exaggerated number of birds feeding from the finch feeders.
Local populations of goldfinches, pine siskins and house finches are huge around this time of year. Combined with wet or moldy seed means disease can be spread rapidly, with the feeder itself or ground waste below as the main culprit.
Mold creates airborne disease which is usually fatal to birds. A form of strep, the most common way it’s passed is via the feeder. Telltale signs of infected birds are swollen eyes, lethargy (they allow you to get very close) and ruffled or unkept feathers.
The infected finch below will likely fall prey to predators or starve to death as total blindness sets in. It’s the best excuse for keeping bird feeders clean and the area below them raked free of hulls or waste. We attract birds to our gardens simply because we enjoy their beauty, song and grace… sick birds are anything but 🙁
It’s advised to take all bird feeders down and disinfect with a 10% bleach solution. Clean the ground below feeders well. Wait 2 to 3 weeks until the local thistle-eating population has subsided before hanging feeders again. This is a tough chore, both physically (and mentally for some of us bird nuts). So it’s best to avoid and practice good hygiene when enticing birds to your place! Humans do feathered friends no favors at all by causing disease or allowing it to spread.
Love Birds? Us too!
As in do you love wild birds? Vinyl birdhouses-feeders make awesome gifts… for countless reasons.
First, they look like wood. Some folks have even insisted they are not PVC or vinyl! Along with the solid copper roof (no metal over plywood) these vinyl birdhouse-feeders are guaranteed for life. It’s a one-time investment that brings birds and much joy indefinitely. Oh yeah… and curb appeal too, they’re quite handsome in the landscape!
Second, there’s a wide range from which to choose. Bird Feeder or Birdhouse, which is best? Feeders will see more activity on a daily basis… but they must be maintained. Part of the beauty in these vinyl bird feeders is ease of cleaning. For a more thorough cleaning, simply slide the feeder off of the post and take your garden hose directly to it for a good cleaning. Birdhouses on the other hand, only require nest removal after babies have fledged. Another major advantage is that vinyl is non-porous. This means mold and bacteria will not settle into cracks and crevices as it does with wooden feeders. Aside from the traditional Gazebo feeder which is post-mounted, there’s a hanging style with large capacity hopper. This allows for more bird-watching time and less filling the feeder.
Two roof options are lacquered copper- which remains bright & shiny for about 4 to 5 years before weathering to a dark/aged finish. Think copper trim on a real house and how that looks dark after a few years. Patina finish is an acid wash applied with heat and remains an earthy and mottled blueish-green color.
From small (bluebird houses) to extremely large (martin birdhouse) and in between size dovecotes… the range offers something for everyone. Birdhouse-feeders are gifts with purpose. What they give us back is simply intangible. The nature connection alone has the ability to remove daily chaos and lift the spirit. To take in nature- even from the comfort of your own home is awesome gift for your Valentine… or even yourself 🙂
May you be showered with love (and feathered friends) this Valentine’s Day and always.
Use code FH10 to nab $20 off vinyl birdhouse-feeders. They ship for zip too!
In another hour or so, the biggest football event of the year commences… but some of us really couldn’t give a hoot! Even though our home team actually made it to the Super Bowl this year, there’s oodles of other things we’d rather do than watch.
Now, watching one of the many bird cams on Explore.org is mesmerizing! From hummingbirds to owls and bald eagles (go eagles), you can catch live Africa, oceans, bears, bison and northern lights… and so much more! It’s a virtual nature channel in real time. Some of the subjects have names, and their lives are followed over time.
Most recently, folks were devastated when Bella Hummingbird lost her eggs to a stellar’s Jay. A force to be reckoned with, Mother Nature is stunning, shocking, glorious and so terribly sad at times… but she remains faithfully resilient. Bella will begin the life cycle again, but for now, enter Luna Hummingbird! Explore.org will even email a daily “Dose of Love” should you choose to subscribe.
The site is absolutely free to watch anytime- and any subject of choice. These Nature Cams offer the most amazing glimpses into an unknown world, sans disruption or intrusion. Simply put, Bird Cams create a wonderland and the best part… you don’t even need your own!
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