Archive | July 2023


       Raisins are popular with a wide variety of backyard birds. However, most of the Georgians that feed birds that I have talked to tell me they only offer raisins to their backyard birds in the winter.  This is unfortunate because these juicy sweet dried grapes are a great source of food for the birds that occupy our backyards during the summer too.   When you stop and think about, raisins are a great source of vitamins, sugar, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

       The noted nature writer John K. Terres wrote in is his book Songbirds in Your Garden that raisins were among the best fruit offerings for birds in the summer.

NORTHERN-MOCKINGBIRD//Photo credit: Terry W. Johnson


       Birds seem to like raisins.  Among the birds that dine on raisins in the summer are red-headed woodpeckers, gray catbirds, northern mockingbirds, wood thrushes, eastern bluebirds, cedar waxwings, red-bellied woodpeckers, and summer tanagers.

       Some suggest that eating raisins in the summer can upset a bird’s digestive track. As of now, I have found no studies that substantiate this claim.  However, there are those that suggest soaking or boiling raisins in water reduces this problem.

       Birds eat both light and dark raisins.  Some people claim that when you begin offering raisins, birds accept light raisins more quickly than dark varieties.  

       Others prefer to feed hydrated raisins during the summer.  If you do, I suggest that you keep a close eye on them.  Raisins that have soaked in water or boiled will quickly ferment in hot weather.

       While many people mix raisins in with seeds offered in platform feeders, others simply place raisins in small plastic sauce containers in the feeder.

       If you have had any experiences feeding birds raisins in your backyard during the summer, I would appreciate it if you would share them with me.



       If you live in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and would like to take part in a citizen science project that will help you hone your ability to identify pollinators while collecting valuable data concerning the status and abundance of our valuable pollinators; you should take part in the 2023 Great Southeast Pollinator Census.  The count will take place August 18 and 19.

       For more information regarding the census, click on the link Great Southeast Pollinator Census | UGA Cooperative Extension Here you will learn how to participate in the count as well as a list of the neat things you can receive for taking part in this important survey.


       For weeks, summer thunderstorms have been regularly marching across Georgia wreaking havoc wherever they go.  They characteristically drop a flood of rain in a matter of a few minutes and bring winds reaching speeds of 40-60 mph or more. When they make their unscheduled appearances, our backyard bird residents simply disappear.

       Eventually each storm rumbles on, the sun’s bright rays pierce through the dark clouds, and our feathered neighbors resume their normal activities. Whenever this happens, we cannot help but wonder where backyard birds go to escape the ravages of a storm.

       In the case of birds that nest and roost in cavities (e.g. downy and hairy woodpeckers, and brown-headed nuthatches and Carolina chickadees), with the approach of a strong storm they retreat to natural cavities, as well as nesting and roosting boxes.

        Perching birds such as chipping sparrows, finches, American robins, cardinals, thrashers and the like, ride out storms perched on the branches of trees and shrubs that feature thick foliage. Red cedars provide great places to escape storms.  Other trees and shrubs such as oaks, camellias also fit the bill. Here birds congregate on the leeward side (side away from the wind) of the trunk. Should the wind change direction, the birds simply switch to the side offering the most protection.  Birds using such cover often position themselves as close to the trunk as possible.  They also prefer to perch at a spot beneath a branch featuring an umbrella-like canopy of leaves.  In addition, perching birds also like thick shrubs growing near a fence or building.

       One of the traits that enables bird to remain perched throughout even the longest-lasting storms is their feet automatically latch onto a branch when they land.  In other words, with all that is going on during a storm, they do not have to remember to hold on tight.

       If your property lacks the type of cover described here, you should make rectifying this situation a priority.


        Georgians are well aware of the fact that during the summer the temperature soars into the high 90s and above. However, this year the thermometer seems to be reaching these lofty numbers more often than ever before.  While these temperatures put us under a lot of stress, they are especially harmful to eastern bluebirds trying to nest during these difficult times.

       Bluebirds nest in Georgia from February into September.  During this time, bluebirds can produce up to three broods.

      Consequently, there is a good chance untold numbers of bluebirds are currently trying to nest during these torrid temperatures.

       For many of these birds, one factor that will play a key role as to whether or not these nesting efforts are successful is the color on the exterior of the nest box they are using.  Let me explain.

       The temperature inside a nesting box can reach 120ºF or more.  In addition, these temperatures can 20º higher than the air outside a box.   One way you can moderate the temperature in inside a box is to paint the outside of the box a light color.  Boxes painted white and other light colors absorb less light than those than darker colors such as brown.

       This is critical to the success of the nesting attempt because eggs develop best in temperatures ranging from 96.8 to 104.8º. In addition, bluebird’s eggs and nestlings simply cannot survive when the temperatures rise above 107º.




      Now that daily temperatures are soaring into the 90s and above and heat indexes regularly reaching triple digits, backyard birds seem to be bathing more often than normal.  Some of the birds that are regularly bathing in the three birdbaths my wife and I maintain include northern cardinals, summer tanagers, brown thrashers, eastern bluebirds, orchard orioles, gray catbirds, chipping sparrows, northern mockingbirds and house finches. Although chimney swifts nest in our chimney and are heard and seen each day, we have never spotted one bathing in one of our birdbaths.  The truth of the matter is we never will.

       The reason for this is that chimney swifts never take the time to land on a birdbath, hop into the water, and begin fluttering its wings to ensure all of its feathers are soaked with water.  Instead, they spend their days flying about feeding.

Tube or cigar-shaped body with long curved wings and a short tail. Dark gray-brown overall.
ç Sean Williams|Macaulay Library


       However, this is not to say they do not bathe. To a chimney swift, a bath consists of nothing more than flying just above pond or river and suddenly ever so briefly dropping down and bouncing off the surface of the water. It then immediately shakes its body and resumes hunting for flying insects, Talk about a quick bath!


      While we have known for some time that hummingbirds cannot survive on a diet of sugar water and/or nectar alone. These tiny birds must also capture and eat insects to maintain a proper balance of proteins and nutrients. That being the case, have you ever wonder how many insects a hummingbird must consume in a day?

       Dr. Gregor Yanega of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center has provided us with the answer.  According to Dr. Yanega, “Hummingbirds need the equivalent of 300 fruit flies a day to survive.”





       Unlike many animals, the grape leaffolder moth (Desimia funeralis) has a name that clearly relates to the critter.  The caterpillars of this moth commonly live on grape leaves.  In addition, they do fold grape leaves.

       The grape leaffolder lives in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. This moth flies during the daylight hours but you can also see it at night. Your best chance of seeing one is to spot one clinging to the outside wall of your home below a security light.

       Sometimes one will even show up inside your home.  Such was the case with the moth depicted in the accompanying photo.  My granddaughter recently found it on the wall of the hallway outside her bedroom. As she does each time she finds a plant or animal she is unfamiliar with, she sent me a picture of her discovery in hopes that I could identify it.


 Fortunately, the insect’s distinctive white blotches and black wings make it one it one of our most recognizable moths.  Consequently, I was able to identify it without any trouble.

       In addition to grapes, the grape leaffolder moth also uses redbud and evening primrose as host plants.  However, when it lays its eggs on grape leaves it can sometime become a pest.  For example, in states such as Oregon and California, grape leaffolders are pests that feed on grape leaves.

       Grape leaffolder caterpillars fold the edge the grape leaf that are feeding on over to create a safe haven from predators. Once folded, the leaf forms a tunnel where the caterpillar can safely feed throughout the day.  When the caterpillar has consumed as much as it wants within its safe haven, under the cloak of darkness, it moves on to another leaf and repeats the process. A large number of caterpillars feeding on the same vine can weaken the plant to the point where it is likely to produce fewer grapes the next year.

       Eventually, the leaves begin to dry out. When this occurs the caterpillar folds over the edges of the leaf on which it was living.  Eventually the leaf housing the caterpillar falls to the ground.  There the caterpillar pupates in preparation for winter.  At the end winter, it emerges as an adult.

       If you happen across a grape leaffolder, I hope you take the time to examine it. It is truly a handsome insect.  It demonstrates it is possible to find a vast array of amazing animals without having to leave your own backyards.


       A few summers ago, I posted a blog concerning how American goldfinches tore zinnia seed heads apart trying to get to the seeds they contain.

       Recently, in response to this posting, a blogger named Erin posted a possible method that allows goldfinches to eat zinnias seeds without destroying all of the blossoms growing in containers placed on decks.  I thought that anyone experiencing a similar situation might benefit from it too.

       Erin wrote, “Try overplanting your zinnias so there is enough for them to feast on before they get to your deck.  Try planting a border of them near your deck as a “trap” so they will stop before they get to your deck.  Farmers apply this method to their crops as pest control; it can be pretty effective.”

       If you would like to read my original blog, go to the Search Bubble on the right of your screen and type in GOLDFINCHES ARE ATTACKING ZINNIA BLOSSOMS.  Press the return key and the blog should pop up.


       One of the most overlooked foods found on the summer menus offered by Georgia Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts is jelly. This is surprising since jelly will attract both regular feeder visitors as well as birds that rarely, if ever, visit backyard feeders.

       The list of birds that will feed on jelly includes orioles (Baltimore and orchard), woodpeckers (red-bellied, hairy and downy), summer tanagers, American robins, brown thrashes, mockingbirds, gray catbirds, house finches, and even the ruby-throated hummingbirds. In fact, later in the summer southbound migrants will often stop by to dine at your jelly feeder.

Photo credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

       By far, the jelly most often fed is grape.  However, there is a wide range of other jellies can you can use.  Some of these flavors include blackberry, apple, and cherry.

       Shallow containers especially made for this purpose of feeding jelly are available. Making your own feeder from plastic soda bottles and other containers is also an option.

       Regardless of which jelly you decide to buy, make sure that it contains real fruit juice. I cannot count the number of times homeowners have told me that birds are not fond of artificially flavored jellies.

       During the summer, it is always a good idea to offer birds a small amount of jelly.  If you find that your bird diners quickly devour your jelly offering, add more.  By so doing, you are reducing the chance that the jelly will not ferment or become moldy.

       Another way to prolong the shelf life of jelly is to place the jelly feeder in the shade.  As we all know, everything from hummingbird nectar to fruit spoils quickly on hot summer days.

       If you want to expand the food offerings served at your backyard bird backyard, jelly might just be the perfect choice.