Archive | June 2018

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A PROGRAM FOR YOUR CLUB, CHURCH OR CIVIC GROUP?

For more than 45 years, I have been making presentations dealing with Georgia wildlife across the state of Georgia. Currently, I am giving talks dealing with backyard wildlife and plants. Here is a list of the programs I am currently offering:

Gardening With Georgia Native Plants

Hummingbirds Our Dazzling Flying Jewels

Hummingbird Havens

Butterflies – Georgia’s Fragile Beauties

Inviting Butterflies to Your Backyard

Georgia’s Backyard Birds

Living With Nature

A Natural Partnership

Backyards Can Be Special Places For People And Wildlife Too

Georgia’s Backyards – The New Frontier

Feeding Birds – A Menu For Success

Backyard Wildlife Watching

              If you would like additional information regarding any of these programs, or would like to book a presentation, let me know.

Send email requests to: backyardwildlifeconnection@yahoo.com and my team will get back with you to set and schedule the appointments.

BACKYARD SECRET: GRAY CATBIRDS SEEM TO RECOGNIZE BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD EGGS

       The brown-headed cowbird does not build its own nest or raise its young.  Instead, it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and leaves the arduous job of raising its young up to them.

       The brown-headed cowbird lays its eggs in the nests of more than two hundred species of birds.  The list of birds parasitized by this nest parasite includes backyard favorites such as northern cardinals, brown thrashers, and northern mockingbirds.

       In many cases, although their eggs look very different from the eggs of the unsuspecting host birds, the hosts accept them as their own.  As such, they end up raising cowbird hatchlings along with their own young.

       Interestingly, gray catbirds are rarely parasitized by brown-head-headed cowbirds.  Biologists believe this is because, unlike far too many birds, catbirds seem to be able to distinguish color and size differences between their own eggs and those of the cowbird.  As such, when a nesting catbird discovers a brown-headed cowbird egg in its nest, it unceremoniously removes it.

CHECK FOR BIRD NESTS BEFORE TRIMMING SHRUBS

        During the spring and summer, one of the worst things you can do is begin trimming a shrub around your home before checking to see if it harbors a bird nest. 

       The reason of this is common backyard birds such as cardinals, brown thrashers and mockingbirds routinely nest in the thick shrubs growing around most homes.  If you do not take this simple precaution, you stand the very real chance of exposing eggs or hatchlings to the weather and predators. 

       A few days ago, I decided to trim a loropetalum that had grown so tall it shrouded a window. However, before I cut the first branch I peered into the loropetalum’s thick foliage.  There suspended between the plant’s tangled branches was a cardinal nest. 

       At first glance, the nest seemed to be little more than a tangled mass of twigs.  However, as I looked more closely I could see that the female cardinal that had built this nest had also used a number of other building materials such as leaves, grasses, and strips of bark to fashion her nest.

       The nest contained only one bluish white egg marked with brownish splotches.  A gaping hole in the fragile egg indicated that a bird probably destroyed the egg.  A number of birds will peck holes in the eggs of another bird.  It was clear this nest was abandoned.

       The fate of this nesting attempt was not surprising.  It has been estimated that predators destroy upwards of 75% of eggs and young found in open nests such as this.  In the case of the northern cardinal, studies have revealed only 15-37% of all their nests fledge young.

       With such a low success rate, one might wonder why cardinals are so abundant around our homes.  One reason might be cardinals nest as many as four or five times a year.

       Since the nest in my loropetalum as was obviously abandoned, and cardinals typically nest in a different location each time they renest, I went ahead and trimmed the shrub. 

       On the other hand, if I had found the nest contained undamaged eggs or hatchlings, I would have put off my trimming for another day.

       With nesting cardinals facing such overwhelming odds trying to raise a brood of young, the last thing I want to is increase their chances of failure.  I know you feel the same way.

CAN MOCKINGBIRDS TELL ONE PERSON FROM ANOTHER?

The results of research conducted by University of Florida biologist Doug Levy suggest that it appears northern mockingbirds can indeed differentiate between certain people.

       In a simple experiment that could have been conducted in any yard where mockingbirds are nesting, Levy instructed a research assistant to walk up and touch an active nest four consecutive days in a row.  The researcher discovered the nesting pair was slow to react to the individual on the first day.  However, they became agitated more quickly when this large potential predator approached their nest each day thereafter. 

       Then, on the fifth day, when a different person approached the nest, he noted the birds became alarmed just a slowly as they did when the first interloper touched the nest for the first time.

       He concluded the mockingbirds quite possibly recognized the differences between the first and second research assistants.  It also suggests that this ability helps this popular backyard bird survive close to people.

       Perhaps this helps explain why mockingbirds we routinely see in our yards on a regular basis allow us to approach them more closely than they do strangers.

 

CHIMNEY SWIFTS FLY AND EAT ALL DAY LONG

        Without question, the backyard bird that spends more time flying each day throughout the spring and summer than of our other feathered backyard residents is the chimney swift. 

       From dawn to dusk, the bird Roger Tory Peterson dubbed the flying cigar is on the wing.  Biologists estimate that a chimney swift is capable of flying 140 miles every twelve hours.  During the nesting season, when the birds are feeding young, adult chimney swifts typically forage within 0.3 miles of their nest.  Although their flights can take them upwards of as high as 7,300 feet above the earth, most of the time, these aerial forays are much closer to the ground.

       Interestingly, in cities and other areas illuminated at night, chimney swifts will even hunt for insects attracted to outdoor lighting.  This begs the question, “When do they rest?”

       Indeed, feeding a nest full of hungry nestlings is quite a chore.  It has been estimated that a pair of adults feed their voracious offspring the equivalent of 5000-6000 housefly-sized insects a day!

       The diet of the chimney consists mainly (95%) of flying insects and spiders.  On the average, a chimney swift can eat as much as 1/3 its weight daily.  Among the delicacies consumed by chimney swifts are wasps, bees, aphids, mosquitoes (as many as 17,500 per day), ants, flies, and termites (up to 280 per day) to name but a few.  It should be noted that chimney swifts are a significant predator of fire ants.  In addition, they also capture tiny spiders drifting along in the wind on thin webs. 

       You would think that these small aerial wonders would pause to rest from time to time on a branch or utility wire.  The truth of the matter they are incapable of perching upright.  For the reason, when they are roosting in your chimney they use their tiny claws to cling to the vertical surface of the chimney.

       I think you will agree the chimney swift is one of our most fascinating backyard residents.