Bird Feeding with George Petrides

Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.

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Attracting and feeding wild birds

Sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard.

Subcategories from this category: Conservation

As we look forward to the bright colors and constant activity of hummingbirds and butterflies each spring, we often overlook the fact that they are useful as well as decorative. Butterflies and hummingbirds, along with wasps and bees, are pollinators. Their daily quest for nectar to sustain the energy levels we so admire, transfers pollen from one plant to another. In some cases, this role is critical to the survival of plants as varied as blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and cherries which are dependent on-cross pollination - they wouldn’t bear fruit (or vegetables, as the case may be) without the help of pollinators.

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If you want to help them help us, consider creating an insect “pollinator garden”. Such a place would be filled with fragrant, nectar-filled flowers plus herbs for variety. Any small space will benefit these delightful creatures, and benefit us in the bargain. Look for a sunny spot that is sheltered by large shrubs or, perhaps, a garden wall or fence. Ideally, it should be away from patios, decks and doors to minimize the potential for lifestyle conflict between people and the periodic stinging insect guest, but still visible from your house so you can enjoy the beauties of your special pollinator garden.

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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.

Mealworms are a tried-and-true addition to the list of goodies your backyard birds will enjoy. They are high in protein and fat, gobbled up with gusto by many bird species and almost always ignored by squirrels.

Have you ever entertained the idea of training a bird to eat from your hand? Because mealworms are such a tasty treat, birds can be trained to eat from a mealworm feeder or from your hand at the sound of a whistle or bell. Some species especially fond of mealworms include bluebirds, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and robins.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Carolina-Wren-snacking-Janet-Furlong-Culpeper-VA-122513.jpgCarolina Wren
Mealworms are the larvae of the Tenebrio molitor or flour beetle and an ideal food source for many birds. Mealworms are clean and dry and provide easy protein and fat for migrating and nesting birds. They are usually packaged in cups in a bran medium. If stored in a refrigerator, like fishing worms, they can keep for weeks.

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Mealworms may be presented in several styles of mealworm feeders. These feeders should have smooth surfaces to keep the mealworms from crawling out, and some are adjustable so you can control the size of the bird that comes to dine.

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Start with a few hundred mealworms (many folks use thousands a week!). It is very entertaining to watch “your backyard birds”, especially insect-eaters as they eat and interact with each other, and, perhaps, you!

Every spring, we hear from readers dealing with birds attacking windows, car mirrors and other reflective surfaces. To their credit, these folks seem more concerned for the birds than personally irritated. Birds that engage in this aggressive behavior (often robins and cardinals) can injure themselves so why do they ram their heads, beaks and bodies against these shiny surfaces?


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Simply put, these birds are responding to rising hormones. It is nesting season (or will soon be in your area) and birds are genetically wired to protect territories to assure that young produced are theirs to raise, Natural selection has always favored animals which are territorial and aggressive in defending food and other necessary resources.

 

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These birds see their own reflections and believe they are seeing potential invaders. So they begin to furiously attack “the enemy.” They usually do not quit until they think they have won or until their mates have laid all their eggs. This is thought to triggers a reduction in hormone levels. Unfortunately for us, this can seem to take forever!

To help your birds, try eliminating the reflection. Cover the shiny surface with a paper sheet, newspaper or brown paper. Some folks have luck soaping their windows (outside surfaces only!). If this is not feasible, then wait, enjoy the moment and hope your bird will win the “battle” before hurting himself seriously.

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