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.
One reason we feed wild birds around our homes is that we presume they appreciate a little help from their human friends. Another reason is that we simply enjoy having them around us. We like watching their antics, seeing their colors, and listening to them.
Each bird species is capable of making a variety of sounds that it uses to communicate with other birds. These sounds are songs, which usually are long and complex, and calls, which usually are short and simple. By encouraging birds to visit our yards, we are more likely to hear most of their vocalizations.
Songbirds account for nearly 60% of the world’s 9,500+ species and almost 40% of the more than 900 species found in North America. For the most part, only the males “sing” – a consistently repeated pattern of tones. The females of a few species, including Northern Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, also occasionally break into song.
Birds generally sing more in the early morning and late afternoon. While singing behavior varies among species, most vocalizations take place during the breeding season. Lags occur during the short mating season and when the young are being cared for. Singing usually pauses when the nesting season is
The songs of birds are learned, not inherited. If a White-crowned Sparrow grew up with only Song Sparrows around, it would learn Song Sparrow songs. Fledgling birds first develop a “sub-song” that matures into an adult primary song in about a year. Although Chipping Sparrows have only one basic song, Song Sparrows may have 10, some wrens may have more than 100, and – as many of you well know – Mockingbirds seem to have a repertoire of a couple hundred songs that are voiced endlessly!
In Part 2: We learn more about how, where and why birds sing.
Feeding our friends on a deck, balcony or patio presents a few challenges, but the rewards are well worth the effort. In fact, there are many products to help you enjoy your birds in small spaces.
One of the easiest and most satisfying ways to get started is with a hummingbird feeder. A popular way to hang a hummingbird feeder is from a simple hook from the eave in front of a window.
Hummingbirds are bold and will readily come right up to your house to investigate a (red-colored) feeder.
Before we discuss seed feeders, let’s not forget about water which is crucial for birds, and an adequate supply will attract great variety of birds for your enjoyment. There are birdbaths available that easily attach to deck railings. An alternative is to put out hanging bath. Remember, a popular birdbath requires daily filling so be mindful of this requirement when choosing a spot for your birdbath. There are also baths available with plastic inserts that can be easily removed for cleaning and filling.
An important challenge of bird feeding on decks, balconies and other small areas is keeping the area clean. The easiest way is use “no-mess” seed blends which contain no hulls (what the birds leave behind). Another solution is to use a deck hanger to suspend your feeder over the side of the deck. Seed trays on tube feeders also help keep debris off a deck or balcony.
Peanut feeders can be a great addition to the enjoyment of your patio or balcony. Wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and a variety of woodpeckers love nuts! Another option is to use a mealworm feeder – virtually all birds love’em!
So check out your possibilities and select just the right products for all of your outdoor areas.
Birdbaths are great for attracting birds that do not visit bird feeders. To attract and enjoy birds all year long, consider buying a heated birdbath. A popular type has the heating element completely enclosed in the birdbath itself. There are also separate birdbath heaters to place in your existing birdbath. Birds want to bathe in the winter as much as in warmer months so your heated bath can be tremendously attractive to your birds. When cleaned, their feathers fluff more efficiently, creating important insulating layers of air between feathers and skin. Now’s the time to create a splash in your backyard!
When we look at the sky, it’s like a roof – flat, solid – just sort of there. Unless the light is exceptional, even clouds and constellations looked painted on it.
For the birds though, the sky isn’t flat, it’s multidimensional. Just as different bird species hunt at different levels within the same tree, different birds tend to fly at different levels in the sky. And for them, the clouds aren’t just pretty puffs in the sky. They are a dynamic part of their daily landscape.
Flying high exposes birds to dangers, such as higher winds or hungry hawks. So when not migrating, most birds follow the facetious advice often given to new pilots, they “fly low and slow”, usually under 500 feet. But during migration, birds often climb to remarkable heights, probably to conserve energy. They burn fewer calories in the cooler air and become dehydrated less quickly.
Also, winds that can hinder day-to-day activities become a welcome aid to quick travel. Like pilots, birds seem to know that their optimum cruise altitude increases as their “fuel” is consumed and their weight declines. Long-distance migrants seem to start out at about 5,000 feet then progressively climb to about 20,000 feet. In the Caribbean basin, where considerable radar work has been done, migrating birds are most often observed at about 10,000 feet.
Clouds and Birds:
Altocumulus clouds: Migrating swans and geese are known to sometimes fly more than 25,000 feet above sea level , over four miles high!
Stratocumulus clouds: Broad-winged Hawks routinely soar at around 3,200 feet, aided by thermals created by differing ground temperatures.
Cumulus clouds: Vultures sometime rise to over 10,000 feet, scanning wide areas for food and watching the behavior of distant birds for clues to the location of a feast.
Cirrostratus clouds: Jet planes typically cruise at about 35, 000 feet, in what are commonly known as “ice clouds”.
Nimbostratus clouds: In their daily activities in and around our backyards, many of our favorite songbirds stay in the 30-to 50-foot range above the ground. Robins, bluebirds, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches are all relatively low flyers.
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!
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.
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.
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.