What’s wrong with this picture? It hasn’t been photo-shopped or altered, and it’s certainly a real hummingbird. Oddly enough, these tropical migratory birds have been known to overwinter on several occasions. Nobody really knows why they would even want to stay and brave such harsh weather, especially when all their buddies head south… a mere 3 to 5 thousand miles! This nectar can’t be all that special?
On Cape Cod, there was even a big news story last year, where one lonely Ruby Throated was made famous! A few residents were hanging heat lights over their hummingbird feeders to keep nectar from freezing! Another reported bird made headlines in North Carolina too.
Regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil decides, hummingbird feeders should be out, filled and ready before the birds actually make their way to your neck of the woods. Project Ruby Throat and some other sites even track the great migration, with reports of the first birds arriving from the south and their directional sprawl north, east and west.
Since hummingbirds are so darn territorial, it might be a good idea to start thinking about adding an additional feeder this year, especially if you’d like to see more of the buzzing antics in your yard. If you hosted them last year… the same ones will likely return! And if you’ve never made your own nectar… this is definitely the season to start! We think the birds prefer the home made solution over commercial mixes any day. NO red dye needed. The recipe is so simple, it’s table sugar (cane sugar only) and water… that’s it! Check out some suggested plantings (along with the recipe) that will help lure the birds as well.
And make a vow to keep feeders fresh this year, hummingbirds may not return to a feeder that has spoiled nectar. Every two to three days nectar should be changed in the height of summer and extreme temps. You may not want to fill the feeder all the way unless most of the nectar is being used in between cleaning and filling.
Here’s hoping for an early spring!
Although it makes an awesome feeder, the All Season’s Wren Casita edible birdhouse is the perfect nest site-for more than just wrens. Some folks have inquired how to re-seed them for extended use as feeders. I suppose peanut butter might work as a good base… but the manufacturer sure isn’t giving away their secret so fast!
So just how does one encourage nesting? It’s all about habitat, so start by offering a fresh water source. No fancy-pants birdbath needed, (unless you’d like one in your yard) something as simple as a plant saucer filled with water works great. On the deck, step, rail, tree stump…wherever! Drill three holes in the sides of a plastic one and make a quick hanging bath should ground predators lurk in your yard (cats). Optimal depth is just 2-3 inches for birds to bathe and wade comfortably. If your dish or saucer is deeper, consider a large rock in the center for birds to perch, or lining the bottom with river rock, or a few layers of pebbles.
Next… nesting materials! Again, you can do this one yourself, no fancy store-bought kits necessary (but we do offer some cool ones). Figure out a vessel to hold the materials; a suet cage works great, as does a mesh produce bag from the grocery store (like the kind apples come in). Then start to gather the goods! Some favorites include:
- Decorative mosses like Spanish, sphagnum, green sheet moss, raffia, and that dried straw stuff. Pluck some from one of your house plants!
- Feathers are adored by tree swallows, and bluebirds have been known to add a few here and there as well. Really cheap at a craft store, or any un-dyed feather duster will do-preferably clean.
- Bright cotton yarns, save these from anywhere you can
- Pet hair is huge favorite of chickadees, titmice, wrens and others. (Not recommended if treated with flea/tick medication)
Live anywhere near a horse farm? Horse hair is the best, and we give it away in the spring! The key is to get the materials out before nesting season actually starts. That way birds see it and become familiar, knowing that when it’s time, the goods are right there for the pickins! Avoid placing materials in any birdhouses as avian amigos prefer to do their own decorating! Simply hang from a branch where they’ll see it. Also, don’t pack the vessel too tightly, as you’ll want the materials to dry quickly after a rain shower.
Offering nesting materials will absolutely encourage nest building around your yard, and extend the use of that edible birdhouse!
Thanks for housing the birds 🙂
I’ll bet not. Most backyard birding folks hate them… with a passion! Not only for raiding bird feeders, they’ve also been known to destroy nests, eggs and hatchlings of favorite songbirds.
Can’t say I ever fed one by hand, but ours are pretty spoiled! They never mess with any of the bird feeders or houses, but it’s not for lack of trying! EVERYTHING has a baffle, and they really work at keeping the critters at bay. This minimizes frustration to the max, and it’s got to be the best solution to bird feeding in peace. It’s no wonder they make about 5000 different models of squirrel-proof bird feeders, predator guards for houses, and baffles for poles!
Do I appreciate them? Hmmmmm? I could do without them, but in feeding the birds, squirrels are just a part of the gig. I don’t hate them, or there wouldn’t be food out for the crafty critters in the first place. They have one of those Bungee Cord squirrel feeders, and they get a corn/sunflower/peanut mix in a big saucer. When it’s really cold, they get Peter Pan peanut butter smeared on a tree trunk too! They always have access to fresh water, and I even put a squirrel house up this year… but I’ve never seen them use it. Actually, they have it pretty darn good around here. The fridge can be empty… but the birds and squirrels will always have food 🙂
Whether the bird feeder is pole-mounted or hangs… there’s a baffle to accommodate it. If you’re one who does not appreciate these furry friends and are fed up with their antics… maybe it’s time to get serious and install baffles? You’ll be really glad you did, and will save money in the long run.
So just how did rodents earn an “appreciation day” anyway? For some unbeknownst reason, the universe made them kinda cute. And it’s pretty weird that even when they get old, they still retain their good looks, wit and charm. Bet this couple really appreciated his antics – what a keeper of a photo!
Killer photo… thanks David for letting us use it for this post. A red bellied woodpecker spears a snack of worms with that long tongue!
The conversation centered around this photo had nothing to with mealworm feeders, but rather birds’ tongues. Yup, of all bird species, it’s only the woodpecker and hummingbird who can actually stick out their tongue! And the limited range of movement is straight forward at that.
Box, dish, tray, cup, cage, staked, hanging, pole-mount and so on… there all kinds of feeders for offering mealworms. Live worms may find escape from open feeders, but it’s not the only reason the box or cage styles are popular. Just about every bird around will eat your worms (and pretty darn fast), so if the intention is feeding bluebirds… enclosed models are basically referred to as bluebird feeders, and they may be hung, pole-, or post-mounted.
This kind of mealworm feeder keeps most birds out, as very few will actually enter a box to retrieve food. The entry/exit is sized the same as that of a bluebird house, although chickadees, carolina wrens and nuthatches will use these feeders if/when live worms are discovered!
In our quest for bluebirds several years ago, housing and fresh water didn’t seem like enough. Up went the mealworm feeder, with every kind of bluebird food out there! It wasn’t until live worms became available on a daily basis the blues finally stuck around. Since then, a Gilbertson nest box and a another NABS approved wooden house have hosted many successful broods over the years. It takes an open habitat, with good perches for hunting insects. As for the hawks who nest nearby in the woods… we could all do without them 🙁 By the way, three woodpecker species totally ignore both open-dish mealworm feeders in our yard, preferring suet and nuts over live worms. Just one of the many reasons we found this photo so very cool!
GIFTS OF THE CROW:
After viewing some related videos on YouTube, it can be said that crows are really extremely smart birds! A link to the video mentioned in this review is included, but the case of the fisherman’s thief was really entertaining as well!
“Delightful… a series of intriguing stories and stunning illustrations that together reveal the sophisticated cognitive abilities of crows and their relationship with humans.”–Nature
“Full of clear and detailed accounts of research…remarkable.”–New York Times
“Amazing” –Seattle Times
In the depths of winter 2012, this compulsively watchable video of a crow sledding down a roof in Russia on jar tops went viral, sparking debate among its almost 700,000 viewers around the world. Crow expert and author John Marzluff received it from enthusiastic viewers from across the United States and several different countries around the world.
And if not proof enough, check out this great PBS video on ravens and two classic examples of their intelligence.
In GIFTS OF THE CROW: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans (Atria, February 5, 2013, $15.00), Marzluff, the preeminent researcher on crows, teams up with artist and fellow naturalist Tony Angell to offer an astonishing look at the little-known and largely under-appreciated intelligence of the birds of the amazing corvid family, which includes crows, ravens, and jays. Showing that these “bird brains” are actually quite sophisticated, Marzluff and Angell tell fascinating, true stories of surprising crow behavior, such as crows using tree bark to wind surf along ridge tops, tools to get food from hard-to-reach places that human babies can’t figure out, and, most surprising of all, giving gifts to people who help or feed them. Along with these and other amazing stories, the authors explain the engrossing, breakthrough science that accounts for this behavior, as well as arresting illustrations of the crow’s antics and anatomy.
GIFTS OF THE CROW proves (beyond a doubt) that crows are highly intelligent, undeniably emotional, and much more similar to humans than we ever imagined. In fact, the authors reveal that crows have taken on seven key human characteristics: language, delinquency, insight, frolic, passion & wrath, risk-taking, and awareness. Their unusually large and complex brains, long lives, social lifestyles, and shared habitat with humans have led to crows evolving these human traits. With surprises on every page, Marzluff and Angell recount mind boggling, riveting stories of crows who, like humans, acknowledge their recently deceased, bestow gifts, seek revenge, warn of impending danger, recognize people’s and other creatures’ faces, commit murder, dream, play tricks, design and use tools, and work together to accomplish tasks.
Exciting and conversation-changing, GIFTS OF THE CROW reveals new discoveries about crows’ intelligence, behavior, and relations with people and other animals, as it provides a fresh theory about how crows have assumed human traits—and what their behavior tells us about ourselves.
· What makes corvids so much more like humans than other species, such as the eagle, whale, or bear?
· The symbiotic relationship between crows and humans: how they adapt to us and learn from us and what we can learn from them?
· Why crows over the years have been considered clever, from Aesop to Dickens to Poe to today, and why the term “bird brain” is not an insult but a compliment?
· Why it is important and valuable to study the sophistication of crows from both a scientific and artistic perspective?
· Their most surprising and poignant astonishing discoveries about crows
· How these findings about the amazing abilities of crows should influence the way we, as humans, go about protecting and preserving these and other sentient beings.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Marzluff, Ph.D., is Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington. The author of four books and more than one hundred scientific papers on various aspects of bird behavior, his research has been the focus of articles in the New York Times, National Geographic, Audubon, Boys Life, The Seattle Times, and National Wildlife. PBS’s NATURE featured his raven research in its 2001 production “Ravens,” and featured his crow research in 2010 with the documentary film, “A Murder of Crows.” John has been a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, the Jay Thomas Show, and Morning Edition.
Tony Angell has authored and/or illustrated a dozen award-winning books related to natural history. Most recently, his drawings in the coauthored book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens, received the prestigious Victoria/Albert prize. His works are continuously available at galleries in Seattle and Santa Fe and are in several museums and corporate collections across the country.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: GIFTS OF THE CROW: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
Author: John Marzluff and Tony Angell
Imprint: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
ISBN: 9781439198742/ eBook ISBN: 9781439198759
$15.00 / 320 pages / Trade Paper
More Praise for Gifts of the Crow:
“With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing. A testament to years of painstaking research and careful observation, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature’s most wondrous creatures. ” –Guardian.co.uk
“Delightful… a series of intriguing stories and stunning illustrations that together reveal the sophisticated cognitive abilities of crows and their relationship with humans, which have inspired art, poetry, legend and myth. Anecdotes abound, interspersed with the science on crow behavior and brains. The authors persuasively describe the high intelligence of members of the crow family. They detail how corvids use and manufacture tools and show forethought… Corvids devote much of their time to play — important, say Marzluff and Angell, because we ‘build better brains through play’…Crows, like apes, have huge brains for their body size, with a massive expansion of the avian pre-frontal cortex, as Marzluff and Angell eloquently describe. ” –Nature
“Angell’s illustrations of birds are exquisitely detailed… the book will instill in many readers a sense of wonder and curiosity at what these birds can do. An insightful look at some of our surprisingly capable feathered friends.” –Kirkus
“Researchers writing about comparative human and nonhuman cognition always make brief, obligatory reference to the underlying neurological and hormonal systems, but Marzluff and Angell actually provide us with the details. In lucid, logical, and articulate prose, they carefully explain all the interrelated mechanisms involved in the fascinating behavior patterns of their corvid subjects and how these mechanisms relate to those of humans. Their book is indeed a gift, not only to those of us eager to learn about corvid behavior but also but also to those who wish to understand the bases for these actions.” –Irene M. Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence–and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
“In this important work, you’ll find stunning examples of crow emotionality and intelligence — a triumphant vindication for those who have known all along that animals are capable of much more than they’re generally given credit for. Crows dream as part of their learning process, for instance, and profile other individuals’ behavior and act accordingly. In many ways, their intelligence is equal to that of the great apes. Fascinating.” –Stacey O’Brien, author of Wesley the Owl
“Throughout much of human history crows have been our constant companions. In their exciting new book, Marzluff and Angell, show us how crows brains work, while providing the evidence that these cerebral birds have a lot more in common with us than we ever imagined. And Angell’s illustrations alone make the book worth the price.” –Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Birder’s Handbook