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Sam Crowe

Sam Crowe

Sam Crowe is founder and president of Birdzilla.com.

Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds

Here are recommended ways for cleaning several feeder types.

Clean feeders keep your birds visiting regularly and healthier too!

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Plastic tube feeders – Clear ports of seed feeders regularly and shake to settle debris. For thorough cleaning, soak the cylinder and removable parts in a solution of one-part white vinegar to one-part hot water and scrub clean. Use a bottle or bird-feeder brush to clean the cylinder or force a rag inside. Rinse and dry thoroughly – moisture left inside the tube may cause your seed to spoil or clump.

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Wood feeders – Scrub periodically with hot soapy water and a stiff brush; rinse and air dry thoroughly.

Hummingbird feeders – Clean with very hot water every three to four days; more often in hot weather. The same 1:1 white vinegar and water solution can be used on your hummingbird bird feeders, as long as you rinse them very thoroughly. Clean areas around the feeding ports with a Q-tip swab or small hummer feeder brush.

Then sit back and enjoy your birds.

Written years ago by Birding Master Scott Edwards – but perfectly relevant today!

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1) In bird feeding, as in many things, there are three keys to reaching higher planes of satisfaction: location, location and location.
2) After location, the next step to bird-feeding nirvana is to feed the birds not only what they wish to eat, but also where they wish to eat it.
3) Once location and food have been thoughtfully chosen, one adds what may be the most difficult ingredient of all…patience!
4) Thou shall only put preferred seeds in your bird feeders.
5) Thou shalt not fight with the squirrels. If you feed the birds, you feed the squirrels...just do so on your terms, not theirs!
6) If you want to make your new feeder even more attractive to our feathered friends, fill it with bird ambrosia…..sunflower chips!
7) Never fail to provide the elixir of life…..water!
8) The true path to bird-feeding bliss is paved with simplicity. When in doubt, trust black-oil sunflower seed.
9) Thou shalt offer suet to our woodpecker friends, all year long to ensure that their children, too, shall come to know your yard as a place of peace and food!
10) Last but not least, and above all, remember: “When the birds disagree with the books, believe the birds!”

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Thank you, Zen Master Edwards!

Both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks are found throughout most of North America and often visit our yards in search of a warm meal.


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Cooper's Hawk

Both species are frustratingly similar in appearance. Both birds have slate-grey backs and barred rust-colored chests with long banded tails and relatively short rounded wings. The major discernible difference between them is size. A “Sharpie” is a little larger than a robin; a “Coop” is about the size of a crow. To further complicate matters, in each species the female is notably larger than the male. Thus, a female Sharp-shinned Hawk can be as nearly as large as a small male Cooper’s Hawk.

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

The most reliable field mark may be the tail, which is rounder in the Cooper’s (think “oo” as in Cooper) and squared off (think “s” for Sharp-shinned and squared). Eye placement may also help – eyes appear more forward in the “Coop” than in the “Sharpie”.

Clogged seed ports are the number one reason birds will stop using a well-stocked feeder. Unless you always use a shell-free seed or blend, you should shake or clean out your feeder ports regularly as stems and other debris may accumulate over time. Seeds may also “clump” at ports if exposed to rain or snow or even high humidity for long periods, especially hulled sunflower chips and Nyjer seeds.

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White-breasted Nuthatch

To thoroughly clean plastic tube feeders, soak the cylinder and removable parts in a combination hot water and white vinegar (10% or so) and scrub clean. Cleaning brushes may also be available at a local wild bird specialty store and are ideal for this purpose. Rinse your feeder and allow it to dry thoroughly before refilling.

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Northern Cardinal, male

Wooden feeders such as hopper or platform feeders can be scrubbed periodically with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush.

Then sit back and enjoy your birds!

Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds

If there are squirrels in your neighborhood and you don’t want to feed them, try finding a spot you can squirrel-proof with baffles. Baffles are metal or plastic devices placed above hanging feeders and below pole-mounted feeders. They are shaped so that squirrels cannot climb around them.

Feeder placement is critical to the success of any baffling system. Squirrels can jump six to eight feet sideways and four to five feet high, so consult this handy diagram if you want to baffle them. If squirrels can reach the feeder by jumping around the baffles, the baffles become ineffective and you may need a feeder to be squirrel-resistant.

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Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds

Have you ever put up a wonderful new bird feeder, then wondered why your birds did not immediately flock to it? The answer may be simple – they didn’t know it was there!

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Birds are visual and auditory creatures. Except for a few species, most find food by sight. If a feeder is the first one in your yard, it make take the birds weeks to discover and recognize it as a source of food. If you’ve added a new feeder where other feeders are already available, it generally won’t take long for your birds to discover this new opportunity, although there may still be a period of time when the birds hesitate to use the new feeder instead of the old.

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How soon your feeder is used also depends on the availability of natural food sources, the type seed used in your new feeder, and the habitat close to your feeder. Black-oil sunflower seeds usually attract the widest variety of birds. The addition of nutmeats, such as peanut kernels, will make the feeder more attractive to birds such as titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, even wrens. Make certain that the feeder is visible and not hidden by foliage or other obstructions. If you live in a newly developed neighborhood with few trees and shrubs, consider planting some plants near your feeder to provide natural cover. A bird bath or other water source will also make your feeding station more attractive to your birds.

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The first visitors to your new feeder are likely to be chickadees, since these little acrobats are among the most curious and adventuresome of all backyard birds. Once chickadees have found it, titmice and other birds are sure to be close behind.

Posted by on in Conservation

During fall and winter chickadees and titmice may flock together and are often seen flitting back and forth from cover to your feeders at the same time. Titmice, which are larger than chickadees, dominate certain feeding niches chickadees might otherwise occupy. But the advantages of being part of a flock may compensate the chickadees for loss of feeding area.

black-capped chickadee

 

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Flocking advantages include having more than one pair of eyes to locate dwindling winter food supplies. The death rate due to predation may also decline when birds flock together. Because most trees have lost their leaves, the woods are more open in winter, making these birds more vulnerable to predation. Flocking birds also share responsibility for predator alerts. Once an alarm call is given, the flock will often engage in a behavior known as “mobbing”. Instead of fleeing, the birds will gather together and harass the predator. Titmice seem to be particularly bold in their attacks and will dive at the predator or pull at its feathers or fur.

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Posted by on in Conservation

An old etiquette saying maintains that “horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.” There’s no mention of what Turkey Vultures do. Probably with good reason – they urinate and defecate on their feet to stay cool!

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American Robin enjoying a cooling bath.

When summer temperatures soar, and the air resembles warm, sticky molasses, be thankful for that rivulet of perspiration coursing down your back – as the water evaporates, it cools you. Besides sweating, we beat the heat of brutal summers by enjoying air conditioning or fans, swimming holes and tall, frosty beverages. We also slow down and show a lot more skins than we normally do. To stay cool, birds do variants of all of these things, too…. with one exception.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_chickadee-on-birdbath.jpgThis chickadee is all wet!

Birds can’t sweat – they don’t have any sweat glands. To avoid over-heating and sudden death, many birds pant to cool off. Heat wand water vapor are perspired into air sacs, carried to the lungs, and exhaled through the mouth. Some non-passerine birds expel excess heat with a “gular flutter” – a rapid vibration of the upper throat and floor of the month.

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Eastern Phoebe on a dripper.

Posted by on in Conservation

An old etiquette saying maintains that “horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.” There’s no mention of what Turkey Vultures do. Probably with good reason – they urinate and defecate on their feet to stay cool!

b2ap3_thumbnail_bathing-robin.jpg
American Robin enjoying a cooling bath.

When summer temperatures soar, and the air resembles warm, sticky molasses, be thankful for that rivulet of perspiration coursing down your back – as the water evaporates, it cools you. Besides sweating, we beat the heat of brutal summers by enjoying air conditioning or fans, swimming holes and tall, frosty beverages. We also slow down and show a lot more skins than we normally do. To stay cool, birds do variants of all of these things, too…. with one exception.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_chickadee-on-birdbath.jpgThis chickadee is all wet!

Birds can’t sweat – they don’t have any sweat glands. To avoid over-heating and sudden death, many birds pant to cool off. Heat wand water vapor are perspired into air sacs, carried to the lungs, and exhaled through the mouth. Some non-passerine birds expel excess heat with a “gular flutter” – a rapid vibration of the upper throat and floor of the month.

b2ap3_thumbnail_eastern-phoebe-on-dripper.jpg
Eastern Phoebe on a dripper.

Posted by on in Conservation

Birds can fly because they have low weight and lots of power. Their feathers, wings, hollow bones, warm bloodedness, powerful breast muscles, and a strong heart all contribute to this ability.

Light Skeletons
Because of their hollow bones, bird skeletons are filled with air. Although extremely light, bird skeletons are also very strong and elastic because of an interlacing network of fiber. To “trim ship” further, birds have heads that are very light in proportion to the rest of the body. This is because they do not have teeth and heavy jaws to carry them. The function of teeth is handled by the bird’s gizzard, which is located near the bird’s center of gravity.

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Feathers
Feathers, the most distinctive and remarkable feature of birds are magnificently adapted (or designed) for fanning the air, insulating against the weather and reducing weight. It has been claimed that for their weight, feathers are stronger than any wing structure designed by man. Amazing!

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Next time: Fuel and breathing!

Birds have long inspired conservation actions around the world. Many of these measures are far-reaching laws enacted by federal governments. Others are individual or group efforts that have resulted in important changes in human attitudes and the management of wildlife and the environment. Today, thanks to birds and those who care about them, we have strong legal protections for wildlife and protected habitats, such as Refuges, important bird areas (IBA) and other wild sanctuaries. Birds have inspired many to join business groups, bird clubs and conservation organizations which work both locally and globally.

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Now, in 2016, we have a new opportunity to be inspired by the enormous success of the Centennial Celebration of the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty. The enormous success of this landmark Treaty is best described here and here.

Please visit these important sites to learn more about the ways in which wild birds stimulated people to become involved in conservation and encouraged individuals and corporations to be a part of continuing efforts to protect our beautiful wild birds.

The Wild Bird Centers of America (www.wildbird.com) is a national franchise system supporting wild bird specialty stores throughout the USA Con tact George Petrides, Sr. at (301) 841-6404 or info@wildbird.com.

Posted by on in Organic Living

Food Fact from the Dirt Doctor - Avocados

Howard Garrett, AKA the Dirt Doctor, provides bird-friendly gardening information for Birdzilla.  He recently shared these comments on the Avocado, a natural source for many vitamins and minerals, and healthy organic living.

"One of my favorite foods is the avocado. Taste is one thing, but there is a lot more to know.

Health Benefits
Avocados have significant health benefits but still get a bad rap for their fat content. While avocados do contain fat, almost all of it is the kind that is good for you and even helps you lose weight! Avocados are full of monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, the healthy fats that are also found in nut butters and olives. A study from the American Diabetic Association found that MUFAs actually decrease belly fat. The MUFAs in avocados may also help improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for good blood sugar control and diabetes control. Avocados are also high in fiber, have more potassium than bananas and are loaded with folates and vitamin E. Of all fruits, the avocado is the highest in protein. The natural oils are also good for your skin.
Avocados contain an array of phytonutrients and are a source of pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, vitamin K, copper, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin C.

How to Select and Store
A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it was probably tree ripened and might have better flavor. A firmer, less mature fruit can be ripened at home and will be less likely to have bruises. A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week. If you are refrigerating a whole avocado, it is best to keep it whole and not slice it in order to avoid browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to air.

If you have used a portion of a ripe avocado, it is best to store the remainder in the refrigerator. I wrap the pieces first in parchment paper and then put in a plastic bag. Sprinkling the exposed surface(s) with lemon juice will help to prevent the browning that can occur when the flesh comes in contact with oxygen in the air.

I eat avocados for breakfast, lunch and dinner – not every meal, but often. I recommend you do too. One of my favorite dishes is guacamole made from a 50/50 mix of avocado and fermented salsa. Any salsa works pretty well.

If you have any questions tune in Sunday 8am -11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. Listen on the internet or find a station in your area. The phone number for the show is 1-866-444-3478. "

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