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.
Black is the New Black:
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Because the American Goldfinch resides across most of the US, these fun little thistle feeders are likely useful in your locale.
Get one FREE with your purchase… and cross off a stocking-stuffer on that list! It’s an excellent way to introduce someone to backyard bird watching without going all-out!
Among some of the sweetest songbirds, goldfinches would rather take flight than vie for a spot at the thistle feeder. With their late breeding season, June through September sees the most activity. After that, a second molt brings new olive drab feathers for winter.
They don’t use birdhouses, instead nesting in hedges or trees with nests constructed of woven plant fibers lined with thistle (from the weed) or milkweed down.
Another fun feeder which doesn’t require much space at all and accommodates 18 birds at once is the Rainbow Finch Feeder. Tall and slim, when all perches are occupied it’s quite the captivating site! Any birding enthusiast would be elated with this cool bird feeder. It’s easy to fill and clean and fairly obvious birds love them. Best of all… it’s on sale!
Offering thistle (or nyjer) has many benefits:
• Squirrels usually leave these feeders in peace!
• Thistle won’t germinate causing weeds
• Other birds in the finch family may frequent the feeders such as indigo buntings, red polls, pine siskins and more.
Yes, the sweet canary-like birds even earned the name “Charm” when referring to a large group! Lovely song and non-aggressive… why wouldn’t you entice them to your place?
Offer good through Monday, 11/28/16 and should cover Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, Cyber Monday and any other big shopping days!
Get someone hooked on birds and get your free thistle sock today!
Wishing the happiest of holidays to you and yours!
Get a jump & don’t be stumped for gift ideas on the looming list!
It was easier and more fun when you could just write a letter to Santa, he rarely made mistakes. Well, except maybe for that time he arrived with a talking calendar… not so sure what happened that year 🙁
Consider nature! A fab offering that shortens the distance between feathered friends and humans can be one that’s used everyday and for many seasons to come! A tube feeder filled with sunflower chips attracts chickadees, titmice and finches. A platform feeder covered with mixed seed like peanuts, black oil sunflower and millet entices cardinals, jays and sparrows, while thistle feeders keep American goldfinches fat and happy. Finches happen to be resident birds in most parts of the country, unlike migratory birds who, well- migrate south for the winter.
If you offer thistle (also known as nyjer seed) year-round, goldfinches’ vibrant yellow color will grace the yard in spring and summer. Duller, drab feathers in fall won’t deter them from feeders… it’s just the opposite! Thistle doesn’t germinate either, so no worries of weeds popping up below the feeder. The tiny black hulls can still pile up, but easy enough to scoop up every few weeks.
There’s some great feeders out there and a lot of bad ones too. It’s easy to be drawn to the artsy fartsey ones. You may think a good rule of thumb is the uglier the better… not so! One shaped like a church or big porch swing is all about lasting for years, and our own experience is that the best feeders are made right here in the USA. No problem with imported products, but unlike gadgets and electronics, the best bird feeders are still made here.
They should be easy to fill, but it’s more important that it be easy to clean. A good feeder is made to come apart so you can remove old or moldy food. Many folks buy large capacity feeders so they don’t have to fill them as often. That can be a mistake sometimes as rainy weather spoils seed before consumption. Several small feeders may be a better choice than one that is extra-large, unless of course you’re talking about The All-Weather Feeder, it laughs at driving rain and snow!
Wood bird feeders appeal to many people, and if cared for properly they will last. However, wooden feeders often fall prey to squirrels and get chewed up good! If you do happen to purchase any type of wood feeder, best to protect it… with sealant first and a squirrel baffle second.
If you’re thinking about giving anyone on your Christmas list only one feeder, a thistle feeder is tops, or you could always opt for the talking calendar!
It’s an invasion of goldfinches… and pine siskins, and red polls and warblers and lots of other birds too lately! With the extreme cold weather, thistle feeders are being emptied at record rates, even Atlanta saw some of the white stuff, with more expected on Tuesday.
Birds seem ravenous around all of the feeders, and rightly so – it’s freakin’ freezing out there! With blustery winds and 12 degree temps a few days ago, my hands were not only numb… they actually hurt upon finishing the A.M. feeding routine. Placing them over a hot burner on the stove, then under hot water, I felt fairly sure it was frostbite 🙁
So how do they do it? Fragile, tiny little birds surviving the most frigid conditions, day in and day out? I don’t know! Looking like puff balls, their feathers do trap heat for one survival tactic, and if they constantly eat all day, they’re able to store enough calories (energy) to hold them through the night. And yes, they can eat snow but it takes energy to convert it to liquid. Their daily struggle’s got to get old in these brutal winter conditions? Cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers, phoebes, a lone mockingbird, chipping sparrows and all the other usual suspects abound… and yet with snow on the ground!
But it’s really just instinct when you think about it. Mother Nature equips all beings with this basic survival mode. She also equips some of us with the lunacy that the birds won’t make it unless you put food out twice a day… and have 3 heated birdbaths readily available 🙂 But we do it not only for the birds, but for our own satisfaction of feeling like we helped, and the simple joy derived from watching them.
Keep feeders filled (and clean). Larger than normal bird populations crowding feeders is one way disease is spread.
Offer fresh water, birds will flock to a heated bath. You can purchase a heater separately and add it to your existing bath or even a shallow pan of water.
Put out extra suet, easily make your own, form into cakes for suet cages, or crumbles for platform or dish feeders. High fat foods that are easy to digest serve birds well in freezing weather.
Peanuts are ideal, as is plain old peanut butter. We smear some right on a tree trunk! Nuthatches, woodpeckers and warblers love it.
Add an extra thistle sock for the crowds of finches. Relatively inexpensive, the black mesh thistle feeders are stronger and generally more durable than most.
Stay safe and warm… and please feed the birds 🙂
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It may be officially summer, but the tail end of spring nesting season is still going strong. Goldfinches are just starting to nest now, which means you’ll be seeing a whole lot of yellow at thistle feeders in the next 2-3 months.
If you’re not offering thistle yet, you may be missing out! The American Goldfinch is a favored backyard songbird as their summer plumage, friendly disposition and sweet song are simply a pleasure to have around the garden. And unlike other birdseed, thistle seed won’t germinate… which is also a pleasure in the garden 🙂
Goldfinches don’t use birdhouses, so there’s no luring them in with that. They’ll raise their broods in mature hedges or trees, constructing nests of woven plant fibers and down. You can encourage them with some nesting materials placed in the vicinity of thistle feeders. They’re partial to Hummer Helper, the hummingbird nesting material, feathers and other fibrous nest offerings.
Unlike some more aggressive birds, goldfinches are quite demure, they’d rather fly off than fight for a spot at the feeder. This where lots of perches, or an all-over feeding space to accommodate them are ideal. Thistle socks are another great choice for goldfinches’ busy time of year. You can easily offer several different feeding spots, without spending a whole lot! Parents will feed babies thistle seed almost exclusively at first, sometimes mixed with finely chopped sunflower bits, you’ll see finches consuming this seed mix too.
As always, fresh water is critical to any bird’s environment. Keeping your bird bath clean is important stuff, for them and for your yard – especially in warm summer weather. Keep water shallow (no more than two inches) and keep it fresh… and they will come!
Oh wait, once goldfinches molt again in September they’ll turn an olive-drab color… but don’t quit feeding them. If you offer thistle year-round, their electric yellow plumage will grace your yard every summer!