Archive | March 2023


        I think you would be amazed to know how many different species of birds actually pass through your backyard in a year.  Most of these are migrants that only visit your yard during their spring and fall migrations.  Some of these migrants have already begun making their way north.  With that in mind, now is a great time to begin looking for them.

       Most of us do not take the time search the trees and shrubs that may harbor the birds. However, in the case of those birds that occupy deciduous trees and shrubs, they are often easier to find early in spring. This is because the foliage of these plants has not fully developed.  Consequently you and often catch a great look at a bird before it vanishes.

       One of the best ways to recognize that the birds are present is to listen for them.  Since most folks are not familiar with the calls of birds that they infrequently see in their yards, they rarely realize they came through.

       However, Cornell University’s free bird identification app named Merlin solves this problem.  It enables anyone armed with a smartphone to locate and identify the birds calling in their yard.   Once you have downloaded the app, simply turn it on and wait.  As your smart phone picks up the calls and songs of the birds, their names pop up.  Beside each name, you will see a photo of the bird.  You can even access a recorded call of the bird and determine if the device was correct in its identification.

       One thing folks have told me they like about Merlin is that it alerts them to the presence of a bird.  If they did not know it was there, they would have taken the time to look for it.

       During the past few days, I heard both red-eyed and white-eyed vireos in my yard. If I were not familiar with the calls, just knowing the birds were there would be exciting.

       I hope you will try it.  If you do, let me know if the app added to your enjoyment of backyard birds and/or helped you identify migrants that might have passed through yard unnoticed.

      Honestly, this app can help make this a spring you will long remember.


       When I stepped outside this morning, I heard the loud calling of a Carolina wren.  In spite of the fact, I was some distance from the bird; the sounds it made were extremely loud.  I can only imagine how loud they sounded to the calling wren. There are several reasons why loud vocalizations do not damage a bird’s ear.

       To begin with, a bird’s ear is different from the human ear.  For example, we have an outer, middle and inner ear.  Birds, on the other hand, lack an outer ear structure.  However, small feathers called auriculars protect the opening into ear.  These specialized feathers offer protection for the inner ear.

       Most birds sing with their mouths open.  As such, when like the Carolina wren opens its mouth to call, the canal leading to the middle ear automatically closes.  When this happens the air pressure increases in the middle ear.  This, in turn, diminishes sound vibrations. In addition, the movement of the jawbone eases the tension on the eardrum.

       Since we do not possess these adaptations, the only way we can protect ourselves from loud sounds is to wear proper ear protection devices.

       In addition, when we damage the hair cells in our ears, we cannot repair them.  Such is not the case with birds; they simply grow new hair cells that restore their ability to hear.

       This is just another amazing example of how birds so well adapted to their environment.



        If you are searching for an attractive shrub that attracts hummingbirds, you should give serious thought to buying a weigela (Weigela x Florida); it produces a crop of long-lasting, red, trumpet-shaped blooms.  The blossoms grow singly and in clusters.

       The shrub’s blooming period extends from late spring into summer. 

       This shrub is capable of becoming 6 to 8 feet tall and 9 to 12 feet wide.  However, none of the weigelas my wife and I have grown in our Middle Georgia yard has ever grown that large.

       The only weigela we have planted also goes by the name Old Fashioned Weigela. This variety bears red flowers.  A dozen or more different varieties of weigela are on the market.  While they may attract hummingbirds, I personally cannot vouch for them.

       Weigela produces the most flowers when planted in full sun, however, it also grows in partial shade.  Once this shrub is established, it is quite drought-tolerant. 

       If you have a problem with deer pruning your plants, you will be pleased to know that weigela is not high on the white-tailed deer’s list of preferred browse plants.





       During the past few weeks, I have received reports that eastern bluebirds have already begun nesting in many locales throughout Georgia.  Being able to watch a pair raise their young in our yards is always one of the most enjoyable wild dramas played out in our backyards. 

       When we see a pair nesting one or two more times, it is only natural to assume we are watching the same two birds that we saw earlier in the spring.  This belief is so popular, most bluebird landlords rarely wonder if this is indeed the case.  This assumption has, however, been tested in a number of studies. You might be surprised at what these research projects found.

       For example, in one study, biologists learned that most bluebird pairs remained together, if their first nesting attempt proved to be successful.  However, when it fails, only 30-50% of the pairs remain together for another attempt to nest in the same nesting season.  In an apparent effort in be successful during a re-nesting effort, the adults will breed with another mate.


      Although some birds are already nesting it is not too late to provide the birds that nest in your backyard with nesting material. While birds typically have no difficulty finding all the nesting material they need, you can make their job a little easier by providing them a wide assortment of items.

       In a former blog, I discussed the fact that an increasing number of folks are providing nesting hummingbirds with cotton in something called hummingbird nesting balls.  The balls are fashioned from vines and contain loose cotton.  Hummingbirds will pluck cotton fibers from the balls and use it to create their nests.  If you type Providing Hummers with Nesting Material in the search bubble found on the right-hand side of the blog page, the blog will appear, and you can read all about them.

       Even though other birds will take advantage of this source of soft nesting material, there are other ways that you can supply titmice, chickadees and other birds with nesting material.  One of the easiest ways to do so is to put nesting material in a suet cage. If you do so, make sure the cage is not greasy.  Hang cages where they can be easily seen by birds. You can also make small piles of nesting material on the ground.  It can also be placed in small baskets that are often used to display blueberries and other small fruits and berries.  The baskets can then be hung from the limb of a tree or Shepherd’s hook.

       Some of the various items that can be offered to the birds include short pieces of yarn, feathers (tree swallows like white feathers), slender strips of bark, pet and human hair, moss, and dry grass.

       Materials that should be avoided are dryer lint, cellophane, plastic, aluminum foil, wire, and tinsel.

       Who knows?  You just might find the birds ignore your offerings.  Then again, if they do, you will experience the thrill of watching them carry fly off with something you offered them.  Even if you are not lucky enough to see birds collecting nesting materials, after the nesting season is over you might find some of your items woven into a nest—that’s great too.


        If you erect bluebird boxes, more than likely you have wondered if bluebirds return to nest in the same nest box they used the year before. 

       As it turns out, banding studies demonstrate anywhere from 26-44% of the bluebirds that nested in box last year will return to nest there this year. 

       One factor that determines if bluebirds use the same box from year to year is whether their nesting efforts the previous year were successful.  As you might imagine, they are more likely to use the same box if they successfully raised young in that box the previous breeding season.


        If you have never taken the time to watch the behavior of the American crows that visit your yard, you are missing the opportunity to see birds exhibit some amazing behaviors.  For example, if you are lucky, you just might see a crow engaged in a behavior called “anting.”

       It seems that American crows will literally stand or lie on top of an ant mound and let swarms of these six-legged insects crawl all over them. Once the ants begin running around on the crows’ feathers, the birds grab the ants and rub them on themselves.  Ornithologists believe the formic acid found in ants helps the birds ward off parasites.

       Have you ever witnessed this activity?  I must admit that, although I have not done so, it is something that I definitely want to see for myself.


       Recently a Bibb County, Georgia homeowner looked out her window and saw an odd bird.  The bird had the shape of cardinal; however, it was mostly white.  One of the first things that popped into her mind was the mysterious bird was a species she had never seen.  What was she looking at?

       It turns out the bird is a leucistic cardinal.  This cardinal displays some pigment.  Albino cardinals have no pigment.

       Such birds are extremely rare.  The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology conducts an annual FeederWatch Survey.  Each year survey participants report approximately 5.5 million birds. On an average, only 236 of the birds tallied annually had albinism or leucism.  This works out of roughly one out of every 30,000 is either leucistic or albinistic.

       Leucism is much more common than albinism. According to the experts, out of every 100 birds that are reported with abnormal plumage only three are true albinos and 82 are leucistic.


        March is the month ruby-throated hummingbirds return to Georgia. 

       Over the years, countless Georgia hummingbird enthusiasts have told me that they saw the first hummingbird of the year hovering in the spot where a hummingbird feeder hung outside their kitchen window a year earlier.

       With that in mind, if you do not already have a hummingbird feeder hanging in your backyard, there is no better time to hang a feeder in your backyard than right now.

       The first ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive in South Georgia in late February and early March.  On the average, from there, they make their way northward at a rate of about 23 miles per day.  By March 20, the birds reach Middle Georgia.   The first northbound birds arrive in North Georgia in late March and early April.

       The first hummingbirds to arrive are males; the females make an appearance about 10 days later.

       Let me know when the first male and female rubythroats arrive in your backyard.