Archive | September 2016


Baltimore-Oriole feeding from hummingbird feeder

Baltimore-Oriole feeding from hummingbird feeder

Each fall untold numbers of birds migrate through our backyards flying to their wintering grounds throughout Latin America. One such bird is the Baltimore oriole.

Recently Ron and Jennie Lee hosted a Baltimore oriole in their Henry County backyard. The bird stayed but a day drinking nectar from one of their hummingbird feeders.

If you would like to invite a migrating Baltimore oriole to your yard, there are a few things that you can do. First of all, like the Lees, you can maintain a hummingbird feeder stocked with fresh nectar. If you do so, make sure your feeder has perches. Orioles can’t hover like hummingbirds and would have a tough time trying to drink nectar from a feeder without perches.

Also, make sure that orioles have access to the sugar water. Some feeders are equipped with removable bee guards. While they do an excellent job keeping bees at bay, they also prevent orioles from feeding. If you remove at least one of the guards, your feeder should be oriole accessible.


Orioles can also be attracted with fruit. For some reason, orioles are drawn to oranges. Simply cut oranges in half and place them in a platform feeder or impale them on tree limbs. You can also purchase feeders designed to feed fruit to wild birds.

Baltimore orioles also relish other foods such as apple slices, raisins, grapes, pecan meats and bananas.

Another great oriole food is jelly. Time and again, folks that have hosted orioles have me that the birds prefer grape jelly above all others. The jelly can be fed in small plastic sauce containers placed in platform feeders.

QUESTION: Do birds poisoned by Nandina Berries pose a risk to cats and dogs that eat them?

Answer: I have not been able to uncover a documented case of an animal being poisoned from eating a bird killed from eating nandina berries.

However, Bob Sargent, Program Manager of the Nongame unit of Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section has advised me that he talked to a veterinarian familiar with nandina poisoning cases. This researcher indicated that secondary poisoning is theoretically possible, especially if an animal consumes a bird that has just died (e.g. its carcass is still warm) or, if the dead bird’s crop is packed with nandina berries and the scavenger eats the crop. The reason for this is that the cyanide rapidly dissipates when it is consumed.

The veterinarian went on to say that, if a cedar waxwing eats just a few nandina berries along with other fruits and berries, it will probably survive the experience.

QUESTION: How can I capture a moth or butterfly in my home without injuring it?

Answer: Most of us have found a butterfly and moth in our homes. When this occurs, we are faced with the problem of trying to catch and release the insect without harming it.

Over the years I have tried a number of techniques. However, in far too many cases I ended up accidentally injuring or killing the animal I was trying to save. After much trial and error I have found two devices that consistently work the best for me.

Small, inexpensive butterfly nets can often be found in the toy department of our favorite store. Using such a net, you don’t have to risk injuring yourself or the insect even if it lands on the ceiling or high on a wall.

If the insect perches on a wall within arm’s reach, it can be caught in a clear glass. Simply approach the insect very slowly and place the open end of the glass over it. Then slightly raise the rim of the glass and gently slip a thick piece of paper under the rim. When the paper touches the legs of the insect it will usually take flight. When this happens continue sliding the paper all the way under the glass. Once you have captured the moth or butterfly, hold onto the glass with one hand and the paper with the other as you carry it outside for release.






The popular exotic shrub, nandina (Nandina domestica), has long been touted as is member of an elite group of plants that beautify our home landscapes while also serving as a source of food for birds and other wildlife.  However, scientists working with University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) in Athens, Georgia report that nandina berries are poisonous to birds.

In a growing number bird die offs investigated by

SCWDS researchers, the birds they examined had succumbed to hydrogen cyanide poisoning.  One such case involved dozens of cedar waxwings found in Thomasville, Georgia.  When the researchers examined the victims, they discovered that the birds’ crops were full of nandina berries.  It seems that chemicals found in the berries produce hydrogen cyanide. This potent poison can kill its victims in less than a hour.

Several recent nandina-linked bird deaths in Georgia are not unique. Nandina berries have also been found responsible for the demise of birds in other parts of the United States.

It should also be noted that hydrogen cyanide is also known to be toxic of cats, dogs and a number of other animals.

Those of us that have nandinas growing in our yards,  should consider digging them up.  If we don’t want go to that extreme, we can at least remove, bag and dispose of the berries.  We should keep in mind, if we don’t eradicate the plants, there is a good chance that this highly invasive exotic pest will spread beyond our yards and become a more serious problem.



                CAROLINA PHINX  

For the past few weeks, my wife and I have enjoyed watching the aerial show put on by aerial visitors to our four o’clocks.

       During the late afternoon ruby-throated hummingbirds descend on our large bed of four o’clocks.  These hungry birds dart up to pink and yellow four o’clock blossoms, hover, and poke their long bills and tongues deep within the bugle-shaped flowers and dine on the sugar-rich liquid.  No other bird is capable of the aerial dexterity needed to dine, in such a manner, on the nectar offered by four o’clocks.  As much as we would like this show to continue on, it always proves to be too short.  Just before dark the hummingbird forays abruptly end.

       We have learned that, if we get up from our seats and go inside after the last hummingbird has departed, we miss the opportunity to watch another accomplished aviator display its aerial prowess.  This performer is the Carolina sphinx moth.  Its feeding flights extend well after dark descends on our backyard.

       It is easy to understand why this super-sized moth is often mistaken for a hummingbird.  It seems to be larger, than a rubythroat, and feeds in much the same manner as a rubythroat. However, when you closely examine it, you will see that it has  thick antennae,  a long, extremely thin proboscis instead of a bill, lacks feathers and has six legs instead of two.

       While the Carolina is one of several sphinx moths that visit flowers in our backyards at night, in my neck of the woods, it is by far the most common.

       This impressive moth displays six rows of large yellow spots running down an abdomen that seems as thick as your finger. Its wings are gray and decorated with black markings.

       Since this nectar-feeder is flying at dusk and beyond it is difficult to see any details.  However, since these moths are quite tame, they can be easily approached and photographed using a camera equipped with a flash.  All you have to do to either wait until a Carolina sphinx, begins feeding close by or slowly walked toward one.  As you walk, hold a small flashlight in one hand and your camera in the other.  The flashlight’s beam will help you determine when the moth is in front of your camera lens.  Once the moth is just where you want it,  snap a picture.  With a little luck, you will snap an image that will allow you to study the intricate beauty of this nighttime flyer.

       My family has been enjoying watching Carolina sphinx moths for years.  During this time, we have learned that, out of all of the flowers available to them in our yard, they only feed on four o’clocks.

       If you have a patch of four o’clocks blooming in your yard, go out tonight and see if the Carolina sphinx moths are on patrol.  If they are, I assure you they will give a dazzling performance.





The Backyard Wildlife Connection has learned that a second albino hummingbird has shown up in the state this summer.

       This beautiful, rare bird first appeared at a hummingbird feeder in Cheryl and Ken’s backyard in Warm Springs on August 6.  Remarkably this flying jewel enjoyed the hospitality of these two hummingbird fanciers until August 27.

       The lucky couple named the bird Twilight.  From the pictures that accompany this blog, I think you will agree that Twilight is a fitting name for this gorgeous hummingbird.

       During the time that Twilight stayed in Cheryl and Ken’s yard, it provided the couple with countless photographic opportunities.  They also enjoyed watching the bird’s aerial acrobatics, and compete for food with a swarm of hungry ruby-throated hummingbird bedecked in typical plumage.

       This warm spring couple feels honored that this little white bird spent a brief time with them.  For some 22 days, Twilight brightened both their yard and lives in ways that are hard to express in words.

       Every day since Twilight left Cheryl and Ken have gone outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the very special hummingbird that left behind a wealth of memories.