Archive | January 2018

BACKYARD SECRET: CHICKADEES ARE NOT TOTALLY DEPENDENT OF FEEDERS FOR THEIR WINTER FOOD

A number of studies have found the birds that visit backyard feeders are not overly dependent on feeders to meet their winter food needs.

       In the case of the black-capped chickadee (a close relative of the Carolina chickadee that ranges throughout the state), revealed food supplied in bird feeders provided only 20 percent of their daily energy needs. 

       However, when the winter survival rates of the chickadees that regularly fed at feeders was compared to those of chickadees that never visited feeders, the black-capped chickadees that dined at feeders were higher than those birds that ate only wild foods.

       Interestingly when the researchers removed the feeders from the birds that frequented them, their survival rate dropped to what would be expected of a chickadee population that did not visit feeders.

 

 

 

BACKYARD WILDLIFE ENTHUSIAST SHARES BALTIMORE ORIOLE FEEDING TIPS

         After posting the blog entitled Baltimore Oriole Sightings, I received an email from a backyard wildlife enthusiast that  lives in the southeast Alabama community of Ozark.

       According to the author of the email she has enjoyed having one oriole visit her hummingbird feeder for the past four years. This year the male oriole appeared accompanied by a female.

       In hope of enticing both birds to stay, she purchased an oriole feeder.  She has stocked the feeder with nectar, and halves of satsumas.  The food offerings apparently did the trick as she has been with being able to enjoy watching the birds ever since.

       A few days ago she offered the birds some red grapes and watched as the hungry birds quickly devoured them.

       She went on to say she also offered the birds store-bought tangerines and found the Baltimore orioles did not like them as much as the satsumas and grapes.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE SIGHTINGS

Prior to the frigid weather that gripped the state during the first week of January, I had not received a single report of a Baltimore oriole appearing in a backyard.  Since then two homeowners have let me know orioles have arrived in their yards.

       A woman that lives in Roswell made the first report.  The second came from a resident of Lizella.

       The Lizella blogger wrote her oriole was feeding on mealworm cakes.  This marked the first time anyone has reported to me a Baltimore oriole dining on this unusual food offering.

       In case you are not familiar with this odd food, a mealworm cake is nothing more than hundreds of freeze-dried mealworms compressed into a long rectangular cake.  The cakes are offered to birds in a wire mesh feeder.

       Interestingly, during the past week a wildlife enthusiast that lives in Woodland told me that five eastern bluebirds were dining on her mealworm cake.

       Perhaps this is something you might want to try at your feeders.

       For more information on feeding Baltimore orioles in winter, go the search bubble on the blog and type in Baltimore orioles.  Hit the search button and a blog I posted on April 4, 2017 entitled, Odd Foods Eaten by Baltimore orioles will appear.  The piece includes a list of other foods Baltimore orioles will eat in Georgia backyards.

BACKYARD SECRET: HOW MUCH FOOD DO AMERICANS FEED BIRDS?

It has been estimated that Americans spend $3.5 billion annually to feed birds in their backyards.  This means during each calendar year somewhere from 0.5 to 1.25 million tons of sunflower seeds, millet, milo, and other seeds are used solely to feed our feathered backyard neighbors.

CHIPPING SPARROW FEEDING ON WHITE MILLET - 4 Jan 2018

To put this in perspective, this staggering amount of food closely matches what the United States government sends overseas each year to help alleviate hunger in Africa.

Source:  Marzluff, John M. 2014. Welcome to Subirdia. Yale University Press

 

IS SALT HARMFUL TO BACKYARD BIRDS?

       At this time of the year, most of us are making New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution many of us try to live by is to eat less salt this year.  Although the harmful effects of a high salt diet on humans are well documented, is the same true for the birds that visit our backyard feeders?

       The truth of the matter is we really do not know for sure.  However, contrary to some reports, anecdotal evidence suggests it more than likely is not a problem.  However, that is not to say that seeking salt does not have its risks.

       In north Georgia where salt is often spread on highways to melt ice, wild birds are sometimes struck by vehicles when they gather on and alongside the salt-treated pavement.  

       Birds have historically been known to eat salt at natural salt licks.  Here they eat salt laden earth.  Nowadays hunters, particularly those in the northern half of the state, put out salt for deer; like salt licks provided by Mother Nature, these manmade licks will also attract birds.

       Some birds definitely eat more salt than others do.  Birds that are drawn to salt include, purple finches, pine siskins, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blue jays, and crows. 

       Likewise, the mourning dove also has an affinity for salt.  For this reason, some unscrupulous hunters will bait fields with rock salt in hopes of drawing flocks of mourning doves within shooting range.

       I personally have never seen anyone purposely offer salt to backyard birds.  However, it has been reported when it is, birds will avoid it.

       However, when you come to think about it, we all offer salt to birds in other forms.  For example, alt is a major ingredient in the bake goods we feed to birds.  In addition, who hasn’t fed salted nuts to birds?  As such, our own personal experiences suggest the small amount of salt contained in these foods is not killing the feathered diners at our backyard feeding stations.

       If you want to see if birds are attracted to salt laden soil, you might want to sprinkle some salt on a small bare spot in your yard.  It will not take long for the salt to dissolve into the ground.  Then, keep an eye on the spot and see if any birds eat the salty soil.

       One word of caution:  I would not recommend you try this in an area where deer are abundant.  The last thing you want to do is attract white-tailed deer to your yard.

       I hope I have answered any questions you may have regarding the possible dangers of feeding salt to wild birds. 

       In the meantime, if you have had an experience with birds eating salt, I would appreciate it if you would share it with me.