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.




       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.



      The wood thrush is widely recognized as having the most beautiful song of any North American bird.  If you have ever heard the flute-like song of the wood thrush wafting through the leaves of a hardwood forest, it is hard to imagine the song of any other bird is more beautiful.

       In 1853, the famous early American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “This is the only bird whose note affects me like music.  It lifts and exhilarates me.  It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

       As Thoreau enjoyed the exquisite song of the songbird countless times during this lifetime, what he did not know is that, in many cases, he was probably listening to a one-bird duet.  Let me explain.

       The wood thrush has a syrinx (voice box) that is far different from that of a human.  Since it is Y-shaped and equipped with two membranes that rapidly that vibrate to produce the wood thrush’s songs, the wood thrush can sing two songs at the same time.

PHOTO CREDIT: Missouri Dept. of Conservation

       While most people are familiar with the bird’s ee-o-lay notes, the male wood thrush is capable of singing more than 50 different songs.

       This spring my wife and I have enjoyed listening to wood thrush songs vocalized in and near our backyard for weeks on end.  We hear them most often early and late in the day. We also hear them less often throughout the day. As I write this blog on the first day of summer, we are hoping that this special songster will serenade us with its repertoire of songs for some time to come.

       If you are not familiar with the song of the wood thrush, I urge you to visit the Cornell University, Laboratory of Ornithology website and listen to a recording of it.  Believe me it is something you will not forget.

       If you are interested in trying to attract a wood thrush to your yard in the spring, go to the Search bubble on this website and type in:  Attracting the wood thrush to your backyard in spring. The blog should immediately pop into view.



        One of our most common backyard birds is the northern mockingbird.  Northern mockingbirds range across the entire state of Georgia.  In fact, I suspect the bird is so common it is probably difficult to locate anyone that cannot identify a mockingbird. However, far fewer Georgians know that, at this time of the year, it is possible to tell whether the mockingbird they are looking at is an adult or a bird that fledged earlier this spring. 

       Obviously, when young mockingbirds take their first flights, they have the general appearance of their parents. However, as they continue to mature, and develop the distinct feather pattern of their parents, it is easy to mistake a young mocker from an adult.  However, if a mockingbird has dark eyes, shows yellow on its bill and displays spots on its breast, it is a youngster.  Keep in mind the spotting on the breast quickly fades.  The bill and eye color also change with time.

                     YOUNG MOCKINGBIRDS; PHOTO CREDIT: Terry W Johnson

       Often, we birders are often guilty of giving a mockingbird nothing more than a casual glance. Yet, when we take the time to study every bird we see, we sometimes notice subtle differences between birds.  This adds immeasurably to your birding experience.




       For quite some time now, I have been letting you know when somebody recommends a nursery that deals in native plants.  Here is a new one.

       At this year’s Fantasy of Flowers staged by the Fort Valley Garden Club, I met the folks that run Everyday Farm and Garden (Josh and Nikki Perry).  They were one of the vendors at this year’s event.  They were selling a variety of ornamental and wild plants.  They also sell plants that they say are neonicotinoid-free.   As you know there are not enough folks that can boast that their plants are free of these systemic pesticides.   This is great news for wild pollinators and other backyard neighbors.

       Here is the contact information for this retailer: 

Everyday Farm & Garden

1028 Macon Road,

Perry, Georgia 31069

Telephone numbers: 

478-256-2045 and 478-338-2821


       It is amazing how many backyard birds have expanded their ranges in Georgia during the past several decades.  One of these birds is the white-breasted nuthatch.  Folks often refer to it as  the “Upside down Bird” because it often climbs down trees and limbs headfirst in search of food.

       Up until the 1950s, white-breasted nuthatches were commonly seen in Georgia only in the mountains and was considered scarce elsewhere. However, for reasons that are not fully understood, the bird began expanding its range southward.  Currently is it uncommon north of the Fall Line.  Although it is rare in the southeast corner of the Peach State, it is common below the Fall Line in those areas where there are stands of mature hardwoods and mixed forests.

       Consequently, it is showing up at feeders for the first time across most of the state.  In my case, I have been hearings its characteristic ank, ank, ank call in my yard (located in Monroe County just north of the Fall Line) for a few years. However, beginning less than a year ago, white-breasted nuthatches are now regular visitors to my feeders.

       If you want to attract the largest nuthatch in North America to your feeder, here is a list of some of the bird’s favorite foods.

       The nuthatch seems to prefer sunflower seeds and suet above all other food offerings.  However, it will also dine on peanut hearts, hulled peanuts, baked goods, bird puddings, whole and cracked corn, mixed seed and even meat scraps.

       In my yard, white-breasted nuthatches mainly eat black oil sunflower seeds.  They also consume bird pudding containing peanuts.

       Research has revealed that, when given a choice, white –breasted nuthatches are 25 times more likely to eat hulled sunflower seeds than those that are unshelled. I have yet to test this finding. However, I am anxious to see if the white-breasted nuthatches that visit my feeders will have such a strong preference for unshelled sunflower seeds.

       If white-breasted nuthatches have recently shown up at your feeders, I would be interested in hearing about it.


        My recent post concerning trying to grow heal-all in containers prompted one of our fellow bloggers, Margaret Molyson, to share her more extensive experiences with this wonderful plant.  I was so impressed with her comments; I felt that they should be shared with all of you.

       Margaret wrote, “I love the heal-all plant but have found it somewhat quirky to establish.  I saved seeds from two plants growing in part of our yard that did not get mowed.  The following year I grew them, then planted the seedlings outside; they bloomed the first year!  I loved them.  Once again, collecting some, but not all, of the seeds.  I did the same process again but planted the seedlings in another area.  They did wonderfully there last summer.  Now, there are no plants in the original place where they were planted, the second area planted is about half, but the walkway, which is wood chips, next to both plantings is loaded with plants!  It might not be able to compete with other plants well.”

       Margaret, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experiences with all of us!



      The painted bunting is widely recognized that the most beautiful songbird seen in Georgia.  However, most of us never have the opportunity to gaze on the amazingly gorgeous bird in our backyards.  However, from time to time, one ventures outside its traditional range breeding range and shows up at a backyard.  A week ago, two male painted buntings made such an appearance in a backyard near the small town of Culloden in Monroe County. This appears to be the first time that the species has ever been documented in this Middle Georgia County.

       The main reason why most of us never host a painted bunting is that the bird’s breeding area hugs the Georgia Coast.  Consequently, if you live away from Georgia’s coastal counties, and want to see the colorful birds, you must travel to spots such as Skidaway Island State Park and Jekyll Island to see one.

       It is not widely known that a small number of the birds breed in and around Luther Williams Field and Central City Park in Macon.  In addition, the birds are also known to breed near Americus in Sumter County. 

       In addition, the painted buntings that breed in the Peach State winter from Central Florida to Cuba, the Bahama Islands at other locations in the Caribbean and beyond.  However, on rare occasions, painted buntings will winter far north of the traditional wintering areas.  For example, in 2015, a painted bunting wintered in New York City’s Central Park.  Now that was one hardy bird! 

       For those of us hoping beyond hope that we will someday see one feeding in our backyards, the odds of this happening may be getting a little better.  The reason I say this is the Georgia Breeding Bird Atlas Project revealed that some painted buntings are actually nesting in a few counties scattered across the Georgia Coastal Plain.  This bolsters the chances that folks living in those counties will see the handsome birds.

       In addition, since painted buntings are known to scatter widely after nesting, perhaps some of the birds that breed or are raised some distance from the coast, will begin showing up at more backyard feeders before heading south for the winter. Time will tell.

       In the meantime, if you keep your feeders stocked with the bird’s favorite foods, perhaps one will appear in your yard. Some experts consider white proso millet to be their favorite feeder food.  The birds are also very fond on black oil sunflower seeds.

       Interestingly, the birds the appeared in Monroe County fed exclusively on peanut butter suet plugs, nuggets, and cakes in addition to dried mealworms.  White proso millet was not available to them. In addition, the only sunflower seeds that were present were hulled sunflower seeds treated with pepper.

       If you want to enter the painted bunting lottery this spring and summer, offer the foods the birds like best at you backyard café and cross your fingers.  Perhaps some of us will get lucky this year.


       One of my favorite spring flowers is heal-all (Prunella vulgaris).  Over the years, whenever I have participated in the Annual Spring Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count my count team always find butterflies nectaring on this stunning wild plant.

       Two years ago, I rescued a few plants from a spot that stood the chance of soon being destroyed by a bulldozer.  I rescued a few of these plants and my wife planted them in a large container.  Under her skillful care, the plants survived and flourished. 

       The next year the plants sprouted and grew far larger than they had been the previous year. In fact, they spread and filled the container. To top it all off, they bloomed creating an incredibly beautiful bouquet of light lavender blossoms. The flowers also attracted butterflies. 

      When the flowers and plants eventually withered during the summer, she scattered seed she had collected from these plants and scattered them in another container.


       This spring heal-all plants reappeared in the original container.  In addition, the seeds sown in the second container sprouted.  Those plants are rapidly growing. We hope that they will bloom this year.  Meanwhile, some of the plants growing in the original container are already beginning to bloom.

       It does appear that heal-all is one of the many wild plants that thrives in containers.  By growing them in pots, my wife and I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the plants themselves, as well as the butterflies, and other pollenators that visit them.  This would have been much more difficult if we had to rely on occasional observations made when stumbling across heal-all in the wild. 

       Our next experiment is to see if we can establish a stand of heal-all on our property.  I hope I will be able to report the success of our efforts next spring.

       For more information on this fascinating plant, go to the search engine bubble on the right side of the blog page and type in Heal-All.  Immediately the blog I wrote concerning this plant will immediately appear.