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.
Color is critically important to birds.
For some, color is for camouflage. For others, it is used to attract the right mate. Even baby birds use color to get their needs met. The inside of many baby birds’ mouths is bright red, a visual cue for the parents to feed them. As the babies grow and become independent, the color becomes more subdued.
Northern Flicker-Red-Shafted. By Shanna-Dennis
Among many species, Such as House Finches and Scarlet Tanagers, the males that have the brightest feathers seem to be most successful at attracting mates. But among flickers it seems that color is irrelevant, at least when it comes to mating. Flickers come in three distinct colorations: Red-shafted in the west, Yellow-shafted in the east and Gilded in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, southeastern California, and Mexico.
Northern Flicker - Yellow-shafted. One Wild Bird Ce
Taxonomists continue to debate over whether or not these represent three species (or two or one!), but the lady flickers have already resolved the issue to their satisfaction. They are philosophically, if not physiologically, color blind. The vibrant red or yellow feather shafts that have given the birds their separate species status for years seem to have no effect on female flickers with regard to their desire to breed, their choice of mate or the success of their offspring when they hybridize. The females may have other less superficial standards for choosing a mate. Or maybe it’s just that bright is bright; whether it’s red, yellow of anything in between.
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. Last week, we discussed body weight and feathers. This week we cover:
Strong Body Systems
The avian repertory system includes a unique system of five or more pairs of air sacs connected with the lungs. The air sacs provide a one-way traffic of air, bringing in a constant stream of unmixed fresh air. This is in contrast to mammals, where stale air is mixed more inefficiently with fresh. Birds also have a four-chambered heart, which allows double circulation. That is, the blood makes a side trip through the lungs for purification before it is circulated through the body again. Bird hearts beat rapidly, and relative to overall body size, they are large and powerful.
Even in the foods they select to feed their “engines”, birds conserve weight. Their foods – seeds, fruit, worms, insects, frogs, rodents, fish, and so on – are rich in caloric energy. They usually do not eat foods such as leaves and grass for this reason. Furthermore, the foods most birds eat are burned quickly and efficiently. Fruit fed to a young Cedar Waxwing will pass through its digestive tract in less than 30 minutes. Birds also utilize a greater proportion of the foods they eat than do mammals.
House Finch on cherry Blossoms. By Jennifer Rector Winston
In all these characteristics, we see that birds are incredibly well-suited for flight and it is no wonder we admire them for this ability. Amazing!
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.
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.
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!
Next time: Fuel and breathing!
There are a number of birds that eat fruit. Orioles love citrus fruits. Just cut an orange open and place it on a platform or screen-bottom feeder or on a spike on your fence. The fruit should be placed “inside up” so your birds can readily eat the pulp and juice.
Photograph by Tracey Crow
Other birds such as bluebirds, woodpeckers, and jays, can be attracted with halved apples. Grape jelly and strawberry preserves (a great area to test other flavors too!) are enjoyed by many of these same birds.
Photograph by Wayne Hoch Warren
An added benefit of placing fresh and over-ripe fruit out is that it attracts fruit flies, a favorite protein supply for many birds, including hummingbirds!
Bird: A warm-blooded, egg-laying, vertebrate animal having its body covered with feathers and its fore-limbs modified into wings, which are used by most, but not all birds for flight. Birds compose the class “Aves”. There are an estimated 9,000+ living species.
Birds share with dinosaurs such characteristics as a foot with three primary toes and one accessory toe held high in back. Early avians include such primitive birds as “Archaeopteryx”. The fossil remains of this species, which date to the Jurassic, show reptilian tails, jaws with teeth, and clawed wings with well-developed feathers. Precisely how the ability to fly evolved is unknown and is hotly debated.
Why do we love birds so much? Humankind has always been fascinated by birds. We have envied their freedom and their ability to leave the grip of gravity. It is difficult to keep in mind that man first flew just over 100 years ago. So, we enjoy watching birds as they soar and dive, sip nectar from flowers while hovering, crack seeds with their beak, rocket through dense trees in the forest, or land gracefully on a placid lake – amazing!