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.

Feather Degrading Bacteria Studied

December 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

The existence of feather degrading bacteria in wild birds was only discovered for the first time approximately ten years ago. This natural phenomenon has therefore been plaguing ornithologists with more questions than answers and sparked the undertaking of the recent studies done to explore the effects feather degrading bacteria has on birds, and in which birds this occurrence is more common. Even though more information has been collected in regard to the bacteria, studies remain ongoing. A few interesting facts have been discovered so far.

The feather degrading bacteria seems to target brightly colored birds more than those with dull plumage. To investigate this fact, a group of scientists chose a large colony of Eastern Bluebirds living in Virginia as test subjects, studying the population as a whole and noting the differences of the bacteria found in the male and female birds. Not only does this bacteria influence the coloring of the birds, but their general health as well.

It is now known that most wild birds carry feather degrading bacteria and some birds are even host to more than one bacteria species. The exact impact the bacteria has on their feathered hosts is still unclear, but they are not found to be in the majority. Almost all the birds in the study were found to have the bacteria, which hydrolyses the protein beta-keratin. It had been found that melanin pigmented feathers are resistant to feather degrading bacteria and that the oils used by birds to preen can also halt the growth of the bacteria. These traits confirm that defenses against these bacteria can be built and it is therefore suggested that the bacteria could have an influence on the evolution of birds. It was also found that the bacteria had a greater impact on the female birds than on their male counterparts. The bacteria seems to dull the coloring of the feathers, and scientists believe that the difference in bacteria between male and female birds could be influenced by the routines followed by each sex, and the areas they travel in. It is, however, mere speculation as scientists are still trying to confirm if the daily routine of males and females could play a role in the bacteria occurrences. Alex Gunderson, from Duke University in North Carolina commented, “If bacteria detrimentally influence feather coloration, they may place selective pressure on birds to evolve defenses against them.”

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The scientific name of the Eastern bluebird is the Sialia sialis. The bluebird is a small thrush and is 5.5 inches long with a narrow black bill. The bluebird found in Southwestern United States is lighter in colour than the Eastern bluebird elsewhere. You will often see the bluebird in open patches of ground like in wood edges and agricultural areas. The bluebird feeds by diving down from low branches to catch grasshoppers and other insects. Their accuracy in capturing prey is assisted by their excellent eyesight, and they can see as far as a 100 feet away.

The male is easily recognizable by its vibrant blue upper parts and its orange-red throat, breast and sides. The belly and the under tail coverts, on the other hand, are a pure white colour. The female also has blue wings and tail but the blue is just duller in colour than the males. Its crown and back are gray and it has a white ring around the eye. The female’s throat, breast and sides are brown, and like the male, its belly and under tail coverts are white. The juvenile bluebird also has dull blue wings and tail and gray crown and back. It has a white ring around the eye, but the under parts are spotted rather than white.

The Eastern Bluebird is often confused with other bluebirds because of their similar looks and coloring. The male Western Bluebird has a blue throat whereas the Eastern Bluebird has an orange-red one. The male Mountain Bluebird does not have any reddish color on its underparts, but apart from that, has similar coloring. The female birds are not as easy to separate as their male counterparts. Both the Mountain and Western Bluebirds have gray bellies and throats but the female Eastern Bluebird has a white belly and a brownish throat.

Unlike during the 1950s and 1960s, the Eastern Bluebird population has decreased alarmingly in recent years, dropping to as low as 17 percent of recorded numbers back then. Some of the reasons for this unfortunate situation include severe winters, increasing competition with other hole nesters for decreasing nest sites, and pesticides that have been used to control fire ants.

The San Diego Bird Festival

January 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The 12th San Diego Bird Festival, sponsored by the San Diego Audubon Society, is set to take place from 6 February through to 11 February 2008. The venue for this popular birding festival is the superb Marina Village Conference Center in Mission Bay, San Diego, California.

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Choosing the Perfect Bird House: Part 1

January 15, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

In today’s world, many birds can’t find good cavities to nest in. Many of their old nesting haunts have been developed or deforested. You can help these birds by erecting birdhouses on your property.

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