Although you may still have snow on the ground… ’tis the season in the southeast! Already we’re seeing bluebird families dissipate to claim territory while luring mates and scouting houses. Purple martins have returned which means barn swallows are en route. The latter, both considered migratory birds are here for their spring/summer breeding season. Martin landlords are ecstatic (just check any social media page) and bluebird enthusiasts are gearing up hoping for a strong nesting season.
Still somewhat intact (despite environmental protections systematically being destroyed), is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which was written in order to protect these (and other) beneficial migrating birds. Impeding the nest of any migratory bird is not only illegal, it’s immoral and downright mean. There are alternatives should nesting birds become problematic around your property.
Barn swallow nest cups are just one example. Made of wood, they’re less messy than natural nests and last for years. Best part is that swallows love these cups and by customer reviews over the years- it’s 5-star all the way! Should the poop be a problem, simply install a small shelf below the nest cup. It won’t bother the birds in the least and messy poop problem is solved. This inexpensive optional add-on will be available with our nest cups very soon!
Because swallow nesting sites are disappearing (along with much of the natural habitat) we’re rooting for these family-oriented birds who eat thousands of bugs and mosquitoes. With 2 broods per season, they return to the same nesting site each year… with kids in tow! It’s actually pretty cool to witness the cycle and for folks who’ve been lucky enough to have them- their early spring arrival is eagerly anticipated.
We reside near a Publix Supermarket outside of Atlanta. Their grande brick entryway happens to be the home of a barn swallow family who’s been nesting there for the past three years. We’re in this store enough for a family of ten… needless to say it’s like every other day. So periodically looking up to see if the swallows were back yet, we noticed the dreaded bird spikes installed to keep them from nesting. Heart sink now, so very disappointed 🙁
Of course nobody in the store really cares (part of society’s problem today) so four times we tried to get management on the phone. A bit of gentle education was in order- just letting them know what they’ve done is actually illegal and there are alternatives available. We’re more than happy to donate the nesting cups and make the shelves to contain any poop. Management had no idea and thanked us for our concern. They took our info and said property management would be in touch. Hope so… we’ll see what transpires. And hey… it’s all about the birds 🙂
What is considered illegal is harming or removing a nest. So, if the birds have begun building, it’s hands-off and no interference is allowed. Since the swallows have not yet arrived, blocking their nest area is legal… but still cruel and ethically wrong when such easy alternatives are available.
The anticipation brings several chores for winterizing; bringing plants inside (when there’s absolutely no room for them), covering outdoor spigots- but first disconnecting the umpteen attachments for misters and birdbath drippers, digging out bird bath heaters stored from last winter and maybe even weatherstripping a few windows because the wind is just howling right now.
And then there’s the birds!
Though they’ve done pretty well at surviving winter on their own- there’s lots you can do to make it a little easier for them. In return they’ll grace your space through long and dreary winter days.
- Clean and fill all bird feeders with fresh food as last night’s rain (but of course) made for some nasty birdseed. Nobody likes mushy seed.
- Fresh suet if it’s been sitting out for a while. Now’s the time to switch from no-melt warm weather suet to the gooey stuff filled with lard or fat. It’s higher in calories for birds to stay warm overnight.
- Add another suet feeder because so many resident birds partake in cold weather. Check out the easy recipe for bluebird banquet and whip up a batch for the first cold snap! Not just for blues, your chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, warblers, wrens and others love this stuff!
- Nyjer seed should also be replaced if sitting out for more than two weeks or so and if you’ve had substantial rain.
- Bird Bath heaters… just can’t say enough if you want your bluebirds to stick around through winter! We use one heated deck-mount bird bath and 3 separate heaters in other baths around the yard. Fresh water is critical in winter, especially when all natural sources tend to freeze. And it’s the easiest way to attract birds to the yard! Now, when squatting and walking like a duck under the screened porch to plug-in the one heater… be sure to hit your head really hard on the floor of screened porch above- ouch! Nope- we have no picture for that but can promise it literally takes your breath away ;(
- Peanuts and peanut butter are fab winter foods! Mix peanuts with seed on a platform feeder or try peanut butter right on a tree trunk. Warblers, nuthatches, jays and woodpeckers will go for it!
- Winterize birdhouses by first repairing any damage and sealing vents with weather stripping or duct tape. Lots of birds line their roosts with dried pine needles or leaves. Offer wood shavings or nesting materials to help them decorate!
Happy birding and bundle up… it’s cold out there!
Birds Favorites… for Beating Summer Sizzle!
It may not even be a bird feeder at all, but actually your bird bath! Moving water stays fresher and it’s ideal for all birds, in the garden with or without the birdbath! Solar bubblers and fountains, leaf misters, water wigglers or drippers benefit both hosts and birds by preventing stagnant water. Birds who may not visit feeders will flock to gently moving water for a sip, dip and cleanliness.
Whether birds stay or go (resident vs. migratory)… hydration and clean feathers are a must for all feathered friends!
With versatile and easy ways to use them, you can place a mister right in the garden for leaf-bathing, over a bird bath, attached to a branch or even a simple plant stake.
Mesmerizing Migration: Watch 118 Bird Species Migrate Across a Map of the Western Hemisphere (courtesy Cornell Lab)
Migrations are exciting times for backyard birders and feathered friends. In fall migratory birds are returning to their summer breeding grounds, but don’t forget resident birds who brave our harsh winters.
Keep Resident Birds Around!
Cardinals, bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, finches and others benefit greatly from native shrubs and trees. Heated birdbaths, seed, suet & peanut bird feeders plus roosting spots really do help them survive cold weather.
While temps are cooling and it’s prime time for planting, remember that native plants require less maintenance… so do keep birds in mind whenever possible! A few suggestions? Take a peek at this great article (with pics) from American Bird Conservancy. https://abcbirds.org/blog/native-trees-shrubs-attract-birds
Carb-Loading Hummingbirds and Orioles
Keep feeders fresh and full for those headed south to Central and South America… it’s a very long flight! Migrating birds face a difficult journey ahead and many won’t survive the trip. Every calorie gained and stored for energy is crucial. Think nectar and jelly feeders here.
Bullies: Reduce territorial scuffles among tiny sprites with additional smaller feeders. If you’ve purchased the Triple Orb (or thinking about it) separate the feeders to make it easier for more birds to feed. Remove these lids for winter use and entice resident birds with meal worms, suet, shelled peanuts and more!
Ants: Simply use an ant moat to end this headache! One ant spoils a whole feeder full of fresh nectar 🙁
Bees: They can make it impossible for hummingbirds to feed… but they gotta eat too! Simply offer them food away from hummingbird feeders. This summer we’ve found that jelly works great! Use in a small hanging dish feeder; bees, yellow-jackets and wasps have steered clear of hummingbirds feeders in favor of jelly!
Nectar Aid is back and it changes your game – no excuses now for not making your own nectar! It’s the fastest and easiest way without measuring or utensils. Mix it, heat it if preferred (to quickly dissolve sugar) and store it all in the same pitcher.
1:4 Ratio (sugar to water)
Pure Cane Sugar Only! Raw and brown sugar contain high iron levels which may be dangerous for hummingbirds’ delicate systems. Hey, we believe the sprites prefer home made over commercial mixes anyway!
Still Getting Bugged?
Pesticides and chemicals are just passe’- they’re bad for everyone & everything. Your outdoor gatherings can be bug-free with natural citronella coils. Long burn time and fun to use… they deter flies, gnats and mosquitoes naturally!