Bird Feeding with George Petrides
Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.
Sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard.
Responsible Cat Ownership Featured
A beautiful snow-white cat just wandered through my yard, right under a bird feeder. It reminded me of the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors campaign.
The U.S. pet cat population tripled from 1970 to 2010. Outdoor and stray cats kill millions of birds and other small creatures each year.
Cats are thought to be the largest direct source of mortality to birds in the U.S. and Canada. They annually kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. alone.
Outdoor cats are also a vector for the transmission of parasites and diseases. Cats are the top carrier of rabies among domestic animals in the U.S. I do not think that is a huge problem but these days we can not be too careful.
You can find more details on the survey from the American Bird Conservancy web site.
The calendar has turned to a new decade, so how about a Decade level resolution? One great goal could be to create a plan for safe, organic gardening to help the birds and other wildlife. Native plants generally require less water and are more resistant to disease and insects than many of the introduced or highly cultivated varieties. Native plans also tend to attract more birds and a greater diversity of species.
An organically managed yard can be beautiful without the use of harsh chemicals and fertilizers.
Here are some resources to help you get started.
Gardening information regional plant information on the Birdzilla.com web site.
Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor, has lots of information on his web site and his syndicated radio show is heard on over 200 radio stations.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center maintains a nation-wide list of nurseries that specialize in native plants.
I have had excellent success with seeds from Wildseed Farms and I am the worst gardener ever. My way of thinking is that the seeds do not get any special attention in the wild, so why should I do anything special. I sparkle them onto the flower bed and rake lightly. They do great and some re-seed themselves.
As bird feeding starts to reach its peak its time to consider some steps to ensure safe feeding..
- Keep feeders clean and replace seeds anytime it becomes caked or mold/mildew is spotted. Many tube feeder designs now have removable tops and bottom for easy cleaning.
- Rake seed hulls under feeders or use a screen under the feeder to capture the hulls and dropped seeds. Seeds can also be purchased without the hulls, which greatly reduces this problem.
- Window strikes kill millions of birds each year. Locate feeders over 20 ft. or less then 3 ft. from windows. There are also several commercial products - such as decals of spider webs - that make the windows visible to the birds. (Some organizations say 10 feet is far enough away, while others say 30 feet is required.)
Steps to make your yard bird friendly:
- Offer different types of food. Sunflower and suet are good choices.
- Provide a water source. Free water can be difficult to find when temperatures fall below for several days. Birdbath heaters are readily available.
- Provide shelter options. This can include a roost box, shrubs, tangled vines or even a simple brush pile.
- Refrain from using pesticides on your lawn and in your garden. Insects make up an important part of bird's diets and the chemicals in pesticides could also make birds sick.
A simple brush pile provides birds shelter from the elements.
Cowbirds will sometimes dominate bird feeders and have been proven to have contributed to population decreases in birds like the Kirtland's and Golden-cheeked Warbler. Trapping programs have been used to reduce cowbird populations in some areas. If cowbirds are dominating your feeder try different food choices, such as safflower or suet.
Males and females are different in appearance. Males are black with a brown head, naturally. The females are a dull gray-brown in in color.
The Brown-headed Cowbird is a parasitic nester, in that it lays its eggs in the nest of other species. One theory is that the cowbirds followed buffalo herds as the buffalo roamed, feeding on the insects they buffalo scared up. Since the buffalo roamed widely, the cowbirds were forced to either stop following the buffalos or lay their eggs in the nest of other species, to raise their young. Some song birds seem to happily raise the cowbirds, while others create a new nest when a cowbird egg is discovered,. These days the lawn mower has replaced the buffalo and the cowbirds have become common in suburban areas.