A wildlife friendly backyard provides homeowners with the opportunity to study wildlife without having to leave home.  For example, our yards give us the opportunity to watch predators trying to capture prey as well as the techniques prey animals employ to avoid becoming a meal for a predator.  With that in mind, have you ever wondered which method works the best?

       In an effort to answer the age-old question, Joao Vitor de Alcantara Viana and his colleagues at Brazil’s State University of Campinas reviewed all of the scientific studies published between 1900 and 2022 that dealt with at least one concealment technique.

       After perusing all of reports, they found that predators spend almost 60 percent more time finding camouflaged prey than prey that is not camouflaged.  The researchers went on the say prey that mimic leaves, sticks and the like are less likely to be eaten by predators than those critters that simply blend into the background.


       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.


       The brown-headed cowbird’s habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds is well known.  The popular belief is that once a female cowbird lays an egg in the nest of another species she never returns.  According to researchers, we now know this is not always the case.

       Research has revealed that female cowbirds actually monitor the nests where they have placed an egg.  If she finds that the host bird tossed her egg aside, she often destroys host’s eggs.  If the host bird attempts to renest, this gives the cowbird another chance to lay another egg of her own.


       Those of us that are fans of the monarch were hoping that the news from the butterfly’s winter home in Mexico would show an upswing in the colorful butterfly’s population.  Sadly, this did not prove the case.

       Recently the report of the results of surveys conducted by the World Wildlife Fund-Telemex Foundation Alliance and the National Commission of Protected Areas in Mexico was released.   According to the report, researchers found 145 acres of the monarch’s wintering habitat was degraded during the past year.  This was a significant increase over the 47 acres that rendered uninhabitable by monarchs in 2021.

       This year’s report also stated that the amount of forested wintering habitat used by the birds this past winter plummeted 22%.  In other words, monarchs were found occupying only 54.6 acres this past winter whereas they occupied 7.03 acres during the winter of 2021-2022.

       It is obvious that we are going to be seeing fewer monarch butterflies flying about Georgia this year.


      Some of our butterflies will use both wild and ornamental plants as their hosts.  Here are the names of some of the species use both native and cultivated host plants:

                                                       Cabbage White – Nasturtium

              Gray Hairstreak – Hibiscus

      Painted Lady – Hollyhock

                Common Buckeye – Snapdragon

       If you grow any of these ornamental plants in your garden this year, examine them closely you may find that these beautiful plants are also serving as hosts to butterflies.


        A human’s sense of taste pales in comparison to that of the monarch butterfly.  Here is an example of how much more sensitive a monarch butterfly’s sense of taste is to that of humans.

       Researchers have determined that monarch butterflies respond to solutions of only 0.0003 percent. That is 2,408 greater than that of humans. 



        Often folks stop feeding birds once spring arrives.  However, I am one of those bird-feeding enthusiasts that feeds birds throughout the year.  As such, quite some time ago, I learned there are unexpected benefits to feeding birds after winter has released its icy grip on the land. Here are a couple of the reasons why my feeders remain full of seeds well after many winter residents have departed.

       For the past weeks, every day my wife and I have been relishing the opportunity to watch male American goldfinches bedecked in rich black and bright yellow breeding plumage dining on sunflower seeds in our backyard.  They are indeed far more colorful than they are in winter when they wear muted drab olive- green plumage.  Every day we see at least a dozen or more of these birds.  When we open the door to our deck and cause the birds to fly toward a weeping cherry growing in the back of the yard, the sight is indescribable.  Then when they land, you have the impression you are leave you gazing at glowing yellow Christmas lights nestled in the tree’s green foliage to.

       Spring feeding also gives us a chance to see two species of birds we only visit our yard in spring.  The birds I am referring to are the blue grosbeak and indigo bunting. 

       The stunning blue plumages of the male blue grosbeak and the bright blue of the male indigo bunting are breathtaking.  Although both birds nest throughout our county, we would never seem them in our yard unless we stocked our feeders with seeds throughout the spring.  After a few days, they scatter across the county and settle in their respective breeding habitats.

       If you ceased feeding birds a few weeks ago, restock your feeders and see what happens.  Who knows? You just might see the three species I have just mentioned, or another migrant rarely seen in your yard. 

       As for me, I am waiting for the rare opportunity to take a photo the males of all three species feeding side by side.  Now that would be a picture!


       Spring is an exciting time for those of us that enjoy watching birds in our backyards.  At this time of the year scores of songbirds, visit our backyards that we rarely see at any other time of the year.  Ornithologists have long believed that migrating songbirds use stopover areas, like our backyards, to simply rest and refuel before resuming their arduous migration back their breeding grounds.  However, the results of research conducted by Swedish and German biologists suggest there is another important reason why birds drop in and stay in a location before moving on.

       Ornithologists have long realized that the rest stops used by migratory birds provide an opportunity to replenish fat needed to complete their journeys.  At these stops, birds try to consume as much food as possible in a least amount of time.  They also use this time to rejuvenate tired muscles and reduce their heart rates.  Researchers have recently discovered that the birds use these rest stops to build up their immune systems as well.

       This is the conclusion made by researchers with Sweden’s Lund University and the Institute of Avian Research in Germany.

       This finding is based on blood samples taken from a number of different species during migration.  When they compared the immune systems of birds soon after they arrived at a stopover site with those of birds that have rested and refueled for a as little as a few days, they found the birds were able to restore many parameters of their immune systems.  This, in turn, helps the birds maintain good health.

       Arne Hegemann, a biologist from Lund University put it this way, “It is fascinating just how much we are still to learn about avian migration and exciting things emerge regularly.  This provides an important part of the puzzle of how migratory birds cope with the physiological challenges they are faced with on their long journeys.”


        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.