Attracting Wild Birds to Your Yard

Attracting Wild Birds to Your Yard

March 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Isn’t it fun to watch all the chirping little feathered friends at your neighbor’s birdfeeder? They’re so adorable! And there’s all different species there, too. But when you look at your own yard… well, let’s just say it’s a different scene. There are no singing little friends, only a lone squirrel. How can you attract birds to your yard? This article can help you out.

First, you need a squirrel-resistant birdfeeder. If you have a tree to hang a feeder from, get a birdfeeder with mesh around it that lets birds in and keeps squirrels out. If you do not have a tree in your yard, you can buy a birdfeeder on a pole and put some squirrel baffles on the pole. (Also, consider getting a tree or some shrubbery- it will help attract birds.) Put sunflower seed in the feeder- this is often the most popular food for small songbirds such as chickadees and titmice.

In fall and winter, get a suet cage and some high-energy suet. Suet is a popular wintertime food for birds; it is high in fat and will keep them going throughout the day. It also is attractive to birds such as woodpeckers, which you will not usually see at your birdfeeders, since they don’t eat seeds.

Some kinds of birds, like tanagers, orioles, and mockingbirds, prefer fruit to seeds and suet. Put out a dish of dried cherries; place a half-orange on a tree branch. Mockingbirds and catbirds are known to like grape jelly, so consider putting out a saucer of it if you would like these birds to come to your yard.

Bluebirds have beautiful plumage, accompanied by a wonderful song. They are very popular among bird enthusiasts. If you would like to attract them to your yard, put up a few special bluebird nesting boxes in your trees (assuming you have trees). Also, they like mealworms, whether alive, frozen or dried; you can obtain some at a bird specialty store. Put them in a dish near your other birdfeeders- don’t worry, the birds will find them. Some other species of birds, such as wrens and robins, also enjoy an occasional mealworm, so even though they can be a bit pricey they may be well worth it, since they will attract many avian buddies.

Bluejays are also rather beautiful birds. Their striking ice-blue and white plumage is sure to wow even someone who isn’t interested in birds. However, they can sometimes be bullies at birdfeeders, and they will chase away smaller birds. They also will mimic hawk cries in order to scare away ‘competitors’. If you would like to welcome bluejays to your yard, but you don’t want them hogging the birdseed, get another feeder and fill it with peanuts (unsalted). Although squirrels will also be attracted to this treat, it is one of the best ways to attract these beautiful blue corvids to your yard.

Consider investing in a birdbath, even a small one. Although it can be a pain to clean it out, it is sure to attract all different species, even birds that won’t eat anything you offer them. Birdbaths are an especially big hit with robins, although you can find almost any species frolicking about in the water.

Although it can be very expensive, consider adding some fruit trees and berry bushes to your yard. This is one of the very best ways to get birds to visit, and once you have purchased & planted the bushes/trees, they will supply you with free bird food! Berries and fruit are what birds tend to eat naturally, and species that are especially attracted to these foods are: Cedar waxwings, mockingbirds, orioles, bluejays, wrens, and cardinals, just to name a few.

There are many different ways to improve your yard & make it more interesting to your avian pals. Remember- whatever food you offer, make sure that it is not stale/has not gone bad, or birds will completely avoid it, or they will eat it and become ill.

Article submitted by: Eliza Kuklinski.

The Serious Hobby of Twitching

March 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

The Hollywood film The Big Year presents what seems to be an exaggeration of the extremes birding enthusiasts will go to in boosting their number of sightings, particularly of rare birds, with camaraderie turning to cut-throat competition in the blink of an eye, or the twitch of a feathered tail. But the reality is that competitive birding, referred to as “twitching”, has reportedly become an obsession with some birders as they attempt to beat rivals at adding birds to their list. While this activity is very popular in the United States, according to those in the know, British twitchers are among the fiercest competitors in the world.

There are various definitions of “twitching” and descriptions of “twitchers”, but in general it refers to birding enthusiasts who are prepared to stop whatever they are doing immediately to follow up on reports of birds not yet on their list of sightings, or that they have not yet ticked off their list of birds they hope to see. The verb “twitching” is thought to be a reference to the nervous anticipation, stress and anxiety experienced by a birder in pursuit of his/her hobby which often includes traveling long distances and overcoming physical and other obstacles, with the single-minded goal of getting to see (or hear) an elusive bird. There are also varying rules as to when a twitcher can tick a bird off a list, with some saying that hearing the bird is enough and others insisting the seeing the bird should be the rule. Either way, twitchers are not required to provide photographic evidence of their sightings, so the system relies on honor among twitchers.

As with most serious hobbies, twitching has its own vocabulary, and when a twitcher fails to sight the bird he rushed off to see, he considers himself to have “dipped out”, and if his competitors managed to see the bird, he is likely to feel “gripped off”. Some twitchers have compiled a “life list” of birds they hope to see in their lifetime, while others set goals for a season, or specific time period such as 24-hours, which increases the competitive spirit.

Modern technology has aided twitchers immensely as information on rare bird sightings can be sent out immediately, with updates alerting twitchers to the bird’s whereabouts as they are en route to view it. Based in Norwich in the United Kingdom, Rare Bird Alert has been operating since 1991, with a team of experienced birders making information available to birders fifteen hours a day, every day of the year. Similar organizations exist in other countries where birders take their hobby seriously.

Birdsong Apps Pose Threat to Breeding

June 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Bird watching as a hobby has been traced back to the late-18th century as portrayed in the works of English naturalists and ornithologists Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick and George Montagu. During the Victorian Era, the study of birds became fashionable, but not necessarily in their natural habitats, as collectors obtained specimens of eggs and preserved dead birds sourced from around the world. In the late 19th century the Audubon Society in the United States and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain were founded to protect birds from these collectors and from the increasingly popular feather trade. In 1901 a book published by British ornithologist and writer Edmund Selous, entitled simply Bird Watching, is thought to have been the origin of the term describing the practice of observing birds in their natural habitat – a pastime which requires plenty of patience.

In today’s society which is increasing becoming accustomed to instant gratification, patience may sometimes be seen as a hindrance rather than a virtue, and this may be the case among birding enthusiasts who are using mobile phone apps to mimic birdsong in an effort to attract birds. Wardens on England’s Brownsea Island have recently reported instances where visitors have used these mobile apps to mimic the unique call of the Nightjar, apparently so they could get a clearer photograph. What these visitors may not realize is that they are breaking a law (the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981) which was put into place to protect nesting birds from being intentionally disturbed. Designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), Brownsea Island is home to a host of bird species, including the Nightjar which, thanks to conservation efforts, has experienced an increase in numbers in recent years.

When a recorded birdsong is played repeatedly it is likely to divert the bird from essential duties, such as feeding its young. It may also prompt a bird to interrupt the mating process to chase off what it perceives to be a rival in order to protect its territory.

Giving birders the benefit of the doubt that they may be unaware of the negative impact their birdsong apps are having, the Dorset Wildlife Trust is launching an online campaign to warn people of the harm they may inadvertently be causing. To reinforce the message, signs will be erected on each of the 42 reserves overseen by the Trust requesting that birdsong apps not be used in the reserves.

Create a Safe Haven for Birds in Your Garden

November 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

As urban areas become more and more built up, birds and wildlife are increasingly being forced out of their natural habitat. Gardeners can do much to alleviate the plight of birds by putting some thought into planning a garden that will make their feathered friends feel at home. This need not be complicated, and certainly need not be costly, as even a small bird-friendly spot in an urban garden can be a life-sustaining oasis that will more than reward the gardener for his, or her, efforts.

In planning a bird-friendly garden there are a number of points to bear in mind, one of the most important being to provide a clean source of water in a spot where birds have an easy escape route should they be disturbed by a predator, such as the neighborhood tabby. Recent statistics published by the RSPB noted that it is conservatively estimated that cats in the United Kingdom catch up to 55 million birds each year, with the most frequent victims being house sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings. A birdbath on a stand, placed beneath a tree, allows birds a view of their surroundings while they splash in the water, while giving them a quick escape route into overhanging branches should they feel threatened. Spiny and prickly plants such as holly can be grown around and beneath feeders and bird baths to discouraged cats from lurking there. Ensure that the bird bath is free of algae and filled with fresh water.

When choosing what to plant in your bird-friendly garden, it is best to go indigenous, as this will provide local birds with what they need, when they need it. Of course, birds are very adaptable and will make use of exotic plants as well, if it suits their needs. A good garden center in your area should be able to advise you on what to plant to attract birds, and a mix of indigenous and exotic plants can work well. Give consideration to including plants to provide food such as seeds, nuts, fruit and berries in all seasons, nesting materials and shelter. Food can always be supplemented with strategically placed feeders and nesting boxes are often welcome.

It should go without saying that pesticides should never be used in a bird-friendly garden. Given enough time, nature will take care of its own pests, and until ecological balance is reached, gardeners may need to put some extra effort into controlling pests organically and removing them by hand. Birds are great at keeping creepy-crawlies in check, so invite them into your garden and enjoy their company, while they enjoy the safe haven you have provided.

Mimicking Bird Songs

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Each bird species has its own unique sound and song, and for centuries human hunters have been devising whistles or perfecting their own whistling techniques to mimic the calls of birds. But until recently, this art was not fool proof. Now, using a rubber tube, physicists have been able to create device that imitates bird calls and, when played back, is almost the exact reproduction of the original bird call. Their simple device has proven to be a breakthrough in the mimicking of bird calls and songs, and is still being researched as they wish to improve on their device.

Different species of birds have calls that are exclusive to that species and which young birds learn from their parents. By studying the physics of bird calls and the vocal tract of birds, physicists from Harvard University, located in Massachusetts, have been able to create a simple controller to mimic certain bird calls. The rubber tube that is used is created to resemble the vocal tract of the specific bird. Then, with the assistance of a linear motor, pressure is put on the tube to resemble the contracting of the muscles, and together with the airflow produced, the researchers have been able to mimic the songs of birds. The device can be used to mimic a variety of bird calls and the patterns created by the device are as harmonious as those of real birds. Many scientists have suggested that young birds learning bird calls has a lot to do with neurological shifts, as the bird ages, but graduate student Aryesh Mukherjee from the Mahadevan Laboratory believes that the secrets to bird calls lay in the vocal tracts of each bird.

Other avenues of studying bird calls and how to mimic them are also being pursued, and Shreyas Mandre is in charge of creating digital bird calls. Working within the laboratory, this researcher is making use of mathematical models that are also very close to the real bird calls. But it is believed that with more research and time, the art or mimicking bird calls can be perfected.

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