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Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.

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Nature's Elevator

Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds
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“Thermals” are not just another name for long underwear. They’re also what make landing at airports such a bumpy affair.  And whereas pilots have to compensate for thermals in their approach, birds often count on them for their migratory departures.

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Even small differences in the landscape create various heating patterns in the air.  A plowed field absorbs heat more quickly and releases it more slowly than a planted field or forest. Bodies of water, large and small, respond differently to the sun’s effects. Small towns and housing developments have a different heat index than large concrete jungles.  And over some parts of the landscape, a kind of inverted funnel of fast-rising air bubbles up to elevations from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, creating a natural elevator to the skies above.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Many birds- especially large, soaring daylight migrants – take full advantage of these thermals. Through experience, instinct or luck, a bird will find one of these updrafts and take it upward to its peak. From there the bird soars, losing altitude slowly as gravity takes over, until it finds another thermal and again rises through the turbulent air. This very energy-efficient way to travel makes it possible for some birds to migrate long distances without a large fat reserve. At any time of year, you may see a single hawk, or even a pair, lazily floating on thermals as they travel about looking for food. But during migration, you can see dozens, sometimes even hundreds – of birds using the same thermals in their efforts to push ever southward. This can be particularly impressive when Broad-winged Hawks are migrating en masse. Groups of migrating birds climbing the same invisible ladder are called “kettles”, and kettles are one of the most visible signs of migration in process. Watch for them over the next weeks and months – hawks, vultures and falcons circling higher and higher in the sky, seemingly static, but actually headed south to Louisiana to Mexico, to Peru and Brazil and other wintering havens, using nature’s elevator to speed them on their way.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Xmas-Bird-Count-for-Kids1.jpgChristmas Bird Count

I am delighted to join the Birdzilla team through this blog, sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard. Bird feeding is my life-long passion,  instilled by bird-feeding parents who raised me on an 80-acre farm in central Michigan.  After college, my wife and I served as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer high-school teachers in Africa and then as staff members over an eight-year period.
 
Those wonderful times led to 30-years of bird-feeding leadership as founder of the Wild Bird Centers, franchising and supporting wild bird specialty stores across the country. I helped found the Bird Education Network and was a key financial supporter of PROJECT WILDBIRD, I currently serve as Executive Director of the National Bird-Feeding Society. Several years ago, I was asked to join “The Birder’s Team”, a working group of birding leaders selected by the National Wildlife Refuge System to recommend ways to better serve birders. millions of whom visit our extraordinary network of more than 500 Refuges. These “conservation jewels” actively protect critical habitat and conserve bird populations of all kinds. Most recently, I served as a judge to select the winning artist for the NWRS’ 2015 Duck Stamp Contest.

I now look forward to helping our readers experience the best our wonderful hobby offers. As I often say “The closer we live to each other, the closer we want to be to Nature.”

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