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.



       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.”





       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.



        For the first time this year, the temperature soared to 90-degrees Fahrenheit in my neck of the woods.  There is no doubt in my mind the thermometer will record temperatures this high and above before the end of summer.  When temperatures reach this level, they can have a deleterious impact on ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Here are a few things you can do about it.

       One the obvious thing that you will notice is the tiny birds will feed far less frequently than normal during the heat of the day.  They try to keep themselves away from the beating rays of the sun as much as possible.  Like us, they can overheat.  Consequently, between less frequent visits to our feeders they perch in the shade provided by trees and shrubs.  If your yard is devoid of such shady cover and there is none nearby, they may not appear at you feeder at all during the heat of the day. 

       Hummingbirds have such a high rate of metabolism, they must feed every 10-15 minutes through the day, consequently, not feeding as often as usual can result in serious metabolic problems for the birds.

       Another problem facing the birds is, more often than not, nectar plants stop or produce far less nectar during the heat of the day.  Consequently, in order to meet their dietary needs, rubythroats often face having to rely more heavily on our feeders for food.

       With that in mind, we can all plant more nectar plants and keep our feeders stocked with fresh nectar.  In addition, if you do not have any trees in your yard, it might be a good idea to plant one.  Such an addition to your yard will provide ruby-throated hummingbirds with much-needed shade long before it will do the same for you.

       Let’s all do whatever we can to help this favorite backyard neighbor deal with the heat.




        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.