Bird Feeding with George Petrides

Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Attracting and feeding wild birds

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

Subcategories from this category: Conservation

Father to daughter. Neighbor to neighbor. Great uncle to grandniece. Teaching birding is best done casually. Classes can teach you some basics, but most bird-identification courses will focus on teaching you how to learn, not on giving you a large volume of data to learn. Many courses will teach you about the tools of the trade (binoculars, scopes and field guides) and how to use them. For anything else you want to know, you’ll have to depend on yourself, a birding buddy or two, and the birds themselves.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hawk-and-owl-event.jpg

For most people, the question that sparks their interest is “What is that bird?” Half an hour with a field guide can usually answer the question, but once the door of knowledge is open, more questions come flooding through. What was that yellow bird? (An American Goldfinch). Why doesn’t that Downy Woodpecker have any red on its head (It’s a female) What was that bird which looked just like a female cardinal with a black beak? (It was a young cardinal) These questions, and hundreds more like them, have traditionally been asked over the kitchen table or the backyard fence. Over the last decade though, there are more and more places to ask and answer questions about birds and more ways to teach (and to learn) birding.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_local-birdwalkers.jpg

If you’re reading this, you might, for example, look though this www.birdzilla.com web site or the backyard field guides (eastern and western birds) at www.wildbird.com or the National Bird-Feeding Society at www.facebook.com/birdfeedingsociety.

From an article by renowned wild bird feeding scientist Dr. Aelred Geis (deceased) in the 1990s


“Banding sometimes helps us solve mysteries. For example, it was thought that fewer House Finches visited Washington, D.C. area feeders in winter because the birds migrated south. Through banding studies, we found that finches simply concentrate more heavily on feeders in summer than in winter. This was demonstrated in two ways. First, a large number of birds banded in summer were present at feeders in winter. In addition, we failed to receive any reports of distant recoveries.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Canada-Geese-migrating-Shanna-Dennis.jpg

The proportion of bird populations that dies each year is indicated by the rate of decline in band recoveries each year after banding. Most of the species we see at our feeders, like other small birds, die young. After only three years there are few, if any, recoveries. In contrast, recoveries of larger birds such as eagles are distributed over many years.

Banding studies have also been used to monitor the impact of hunting on duck and goose populations. When hunting increases the mortality rates of a species beyond its ability to reproduce, populations decline. That was the situation recently for Canada Geese on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In areas where where hunting was less intense, populations increased. In this case, banding also indicated that the population had not simply moved. Banding plays a vital role in helping understand population changes.”

From an article by renowned wild bird feeding scientist Dr. Aelred Geis (deceased) in the 1990s.

“Banding sometimes helps us solve mysteries. For example, it was thought that fewer House Finches visited Washington, D.C. area feeders in winter because the birds migrated south. Through banding studies, we found that finches simply concentrate more heavily on feeders in summer than in winter. This was demonstrated in two ways. First, a large number of birds banded in summer were present at feeders in winter. In addition, we failed to receive any reports of distant recoveries.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Canada-Geese-migrating-Shanna-Dennis.jpg

The proportion of bird populations that dies each year is indicated by the rate of decline in band recoveries each year after banding. Most of the species we see at our feeders, like other small birds, die young. After only three years there are few, if any, recoveries. In contrast, recoveries of larger birds such as eagles are distributed over many years.

Banding studies have also been used to monitor the impact of hunting on duck and goose populations. When hunting increases the mortality rates of a species beyond its ability to reproduce, populations decline. That was the situation recently for Canada Geese on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In areas where where hunting was less intense, populations increased. In this case, banding also indicated that the population had not simply moved. Banding plays a vital role in helping understand population changes.”

The bird that carries the sky on its back…reminding us of a heaven which we had forgotten. –Henry Thoreau, 1852.

The Eastern Bluebird crisis led to a closer look at the well-being of its two western cousins. Secure in its high-altitude home, the turquoise Mountain Bluebird seems to be faring well. But the Western Bluebird, closer in habitats to the eastern, has similar woes and needs the same level of help.

The “foot soldiers” of this crusade are the “bluebirders”, who place nest boxes and monitor them for results. They are advocates who gladly take the bluebirds’ side against predators or competitors.

b2ap3_thumbnail_BLLUE-b-37.jpg

 

A raccoon or rat snake climbing a pole to snatch eggs from a box must contend with guards and traps, perfected over years of experimentation. “Bluebirders” may remove House Sparrow nests and even trap the Sparrows – a practice some find discomforting.

To ensure the bluebird’s survival, its human allies unapologetically play favorites. Clearly, aesthetics is an important factor behind this passion to care for bluebirds. However, the aggressive human intervention that saved the Eastern Bluebird may prove the only hope for other species now slipping toward extinction.

The bird that carries the sky on its back…reminding us of a heaven which we had forgotten.

Luckily for them, the three North American bluebird species live up to Henry Thoreau’s tribute way back in 1852. Humans have been smitten by their beauty since colonial times. So, when one of them, the Eastern Bluebird, fell on hard times, people quickly noticed and tried to help.

b2ap3_thumbnail_eastern-bluebird-pair.jpg

 

The 18th Century was a good time for the Eastern Bluebird which flourished well south of the St. Lawrence to the Gulf, and west to the Rockies. But with the introduction of that pugnacious Old World duo, the Starling and House Sparrow, the more timid bluebird was out-competed for natural nesting cavities by these aggressive intruders. The Eastern Bluebird’s decline was in motion.

The bluebird nesting box (which mimics a tree cavity) has been long recognized as a remedy. In 1934, it is said that Thomas E. Musselman made ornithological history by establishing the first bluebird trail of 1,000 man-made nesting boxes in Adams County, Illinois.

Nonetheless, the bluebird’s plight grew worse as rural habitat was lost and orchards were sprayed. By the 1970s, the Eastern Bluebird population had fallen by an estimated 90%.

Now the good news! Since the founding of the North American Bluebird Society in 1978, this downward trend has been reversed by the systematic placement of tens of thousands of nest boxes by sympathetic and concerned human “landlords”. Today, Eastern Bluebirds nest where they have been absent for decades.

Watch this space for Part II of this amazing story of Eastern Bluebird survival through human intervention!

 

Powered by EasyBlog for Joomla!