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!
Me neither as they must be covered in snow and awaiting the big thaw. So this is April? Wisconsin, Minnesota, somewhere like that. Goldfinches are already shedding worn winter feathers and turning yellow, while other common resident birds are nesting in much of the country. Once again, will winter ever end?
Yesterday brought our first butterfly to the yard, but unfortunately the consecutive, way below normal night temperature this year zapped established lantana that was seven years old. You could always count on butterflies around those shrubs. Yes, that’s how big they were, mature shrubs.
Erratic weather is largely attributed to climate change, but many folks don’t see it that way. Mudslides, volcanoes, drought and rising sea levels to name a few effects are pretty apparent and scarily becoming the norm.
In the bluebird world, trail monitors found a record number of dead bluebirds in the KY area. A very late spring being the culprit after such a rough winter… there were simply no natural food sources available. Someone was inquiring about a feeder the other day and said “no rush, it’s for next year, we don’t really feed birds in summer”. We’ve come across many folks like that, but here’s the reality: weather directly affects food sources and bird’s survival rates.
Last summer through a wicked drought, we witnessed a male cardinal feeding a fledgeling from a platform feeder containing sunflower hearts. From ground to platform and back he flew feeding his offspring. It was a strange sight, as others were reported this winter too. Cardinals hanging on suet feeders, and ground-feeding juncos up at black oil feeders. Many of the migratory birds were in for a harsh surprise upon arrival into the gulf states. No flowers, no berries, no insects, simply an equation for starvation after a long journey like that.
Closer to home, resident birds braved a very tough season as well. Feeders were non-stop with activity for the most part. Although thistle feeders didn’t see too much traffic, other feeders containing finch mixes did… and a lot! Once the olive drab fliers began their molting process, straight nyjer became goldfinches’ food of choice and overnight, thistle was and is being devoured daily!
The good news is this seed has come down in price a little bit, and if you can manage the larger bags, like 20-to 40-pounders, you’ll save even more money this summer. Unlike other birds, goldfinches feed nestlings and fledgelings thistle-almost exclusively.
So if you’re not really a “summer feeder”, you may want to rethink maybe just one or two feeders this summer… the bird families sure will thank you!
The only good thing about standing at the sink is catching the bird action on the deck! At present there’s five hummingbird feeders, two bird baths, and an open tray feeder… which squirrels usually hog. And flowers-gotta have plants and color to complete the scenery.
Hearing a rustling noise, and seeing movement in those flowers from the corner of my eye, it deserved a closer look. There were two goldfinches feeding and flitting amongst the zinnias. It was pretty cool and well worth a photo, so out on the deck I went with camera in hand. Well, the electric yellow birds didn’t make the shot… but my blue toes did 🙁
In fall, spent flowers like zinnia, coneflower, sunflower… and lots of others with seed heads provide a bounty of food for wild birds. They’re actually nature’s finch feeders. So next time you have the urge to dead-head those spent blooms… don’t! Leave them a while longer so they can do what nature intended… feed the birds.
It’s a busy time for American Goldfinches as they have one of the latest breeding/nesting cycles of most backyard birds. They’re also one of very few breeds who actually molt twice a year and grow new feathers. Their electric yellow plumage is hard to miss, and most thistle feeders are seeing a good bit of traffic right now (provided the seed hasn’t gone moldy from all the rain). If yours is sitting with no takers – best to dump old seed, clean the feeder and replace with fresh thistle seed.
Innovative by design with quality construction (no cheezy plastic parts here) these 36-inch tall, large capacity thistle feeders have a cool spiral instead of perches. Featuring more feeder ports, birds really do “run the spiral” hopping from one one port to the next. This opens up space for more birds to join the party, no more waiting around for an open perch to catch some chow!
Goldfinches feed babies thistle (or nyjer) exclusively. Gross as it sounds, parents chew and prepare the tiny black seed, regurgitating it into babies’ mouths. It’s not until juveniles are out in the world that they may start to discover and eat insects. There’s a kind and quiet demeanor about this favored songbird, you’ll rarely catch them squabble at feeders. Rather than fight for a spot, most will give up and maybe try again later. Hanging a few economical thistle socks helps to alleviate this problem during peak season.
In fall when they molt again, their vibrant yellow plumage will give way to new olive drab feathers for fall and winter. It may seem like your Goldfinches have gone on their way and migrated south, but they’re still around! Keep thistle feeders out year-round to accommodate these resident birds, (and fresh water in a bath) and next summer that lemon yellow color will once again grace your yard. So popular these birds are, there’s even a birdhouse modeled after one… although typically they do nest in hedges or trees.
Recently some folks in Alexandria, LA developed an interest in backyard birding. Diving right in with a suet feeder, hopper style feeder for sunflower seed, a bird bath with mister (for summer) and two thistle feeders, the timing couldn’t have been better – for the birds and for them to witness the amazing flurry of activity this pre-spring season.
By her note above, we’re gathering they’ve got flocks of pine siskins and goldfinches in the yard right now, we sure do here in North GA.! For months thistle feeders sat, with seed going bad due to lack of activity. Then out of nowhere… tons of birds chowing down on thistle!
Also called Nyjer, thistle’s other nickname among many is “black gold” because it’s not a cheap seed to offer. A bit on the pricey side, it does have the benefit of being a non-germinating seed, one of very few seeds that won’t sprout weeds. But it’s about the only food adults will feed chicks in summer, so extra feeders (like thistle socks) and lots of seed greatly helps goldfinches thrive and flourish during their late breeding season (June and July).
Being new to the birding scene, Jan had the right idea in mind when she inquired about creating a welcoming and bird-friendly habitat in their yard. No single feeder, house, or birdbath will attract as many song birds as an overall habitat with natural food sources and shelter. And since we’re in the same planting zone, it was fairly easy to come up with a few suggestions too. Rather than re-word, and re-type the email, here’s our thoughts on creating an attractive and wildlife-friendly environment.
“OK, did some research and thinking of my own yard… here are some suggestions:
Overall: Mature trees and Shrubs are very good for attracting all winged friends as not only a food source, but shelter. Since this is an open area, I’m thinking your yard must have mature trees along the back/sides? Many birds nest in trees and shrubs as they’re not all considered “cavity-dwellers” (birdhouse users).
If you’d like some kind of height or focal point around the new area, Butterfly Bush, Viburnum, Mimosa, or a Crab Apple is a great choice. These are hearty, and provide both shelter and food (nectar or fruit). Any of the native berry-producing shrubs will also provide a great food source.
Using pots for annuals is always a great option too, for color, nectar and seeds in fall!
Petunias, Zinnias, and various salvias; most garden center plants now have tags depicting if the plants provide a food source, so just look around. There should be lots of options here! You can even save seeds in the fall for replanting in spring.
Cardinals, chickadees, finches and titmice will eat seeds of many plants. The trick is not to dead-head them in fall when the urge strikes! There are lots of perennials that fit the bill in this category: coneflower, coreopsis, seedum, black-eyed susan, goldenrod, sunflowers, mexican sunflower, native salvia-(very good), coral bells,. Again look around at the garden center, and if you’re lucky… you’ll find an employee with some knowledge on the subject!
As far as for ground cover: I think mulching the area and adding plants is a better option than a solid ground cover. You’ll want to be able to get to the feeders, bath, mister and “parts” of the landscape without stepping all over things. Also, spilled seed may sprout weeds, and it’s easier to control that if not covered solid with growth.
Day lilies are a good choice, the Stella de Oro’s are quite hearty and pretty! If you wanted something more low-growing that spreads, (full sun) try purple sheep’s burr, also called purple goose leaf. In fact this would be a beautiful contrast with yellow lilies! The Stella variety tends to stay more compact as opposed to some which grow taller and appear “lanky”. Never, ever plant creeping strawberry, or ivy…these are the bane of my existence in parts of my yard 🙁 They are also a wonderful habitat for snakes, especially if you’ll have the mister going when it’s warm!
Native salvia: I’ve got a bed of this which provides color from spring through fall. Vibrant red, there are always hummingbirds and butterflies hovering. It’s actually below one of the misters, and does well with the “extra water”. Extremely hearty, it multiplies each year, spreading roots, but does tend to grow taller, more of a back-drop. Lantana would also be a good choice if you’ve got the space for it to grow. I love perennials!
It may be helpful to actually sketch out the area on paper before planting. Drop in the plant names to get an idea. You can always do search for pics to get an idea too!
Okay… hope this helps, and as always, feel free to ping me back with questions”
They make fun stockings for birding fanatics, but these thistle feeders are best hung outside for finches! Being creative is a great way to put some thought into a gift… because it is really supposed to be the thought that counts!
With heavy duty mesh and velcro locking closures, you can bet they’ll be around for many seasons of use. Stuff these stockings with suet cakes, seed balls, or a bird food recipes book for swell birding gifts… and the very next day we can bet they’ll be in use!
A non-germinating seed, thistle won’t sprout weeds, and squirrels usually leave these feeders in peace! If you offer thistle seed (or nyjer) year round, Goldfinches’ electric yellow plumage will grace the yard in summer.
Festive thistle socks make for quick & fun stocking stuffers too, and any backyard birder would be happy to get one. Because Goldfinches actually have busy season (late spring-early summer), adding an extra feeder or two always helps with demand.
So roll up a few for your favorite nature geek today!