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IS SALT HARMFUL TO BACKYARD BIRDS?

       At this time of the year, most of us are making New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution many of us try to live by is to eat less salt this year.  Although the harmful effects of a high salt diet on humans are well documented, is the same true for the birds that visit our backyard feeders?

       The truth of the matter is we really do not know for sure.  However, contrary to some reports, anecdotal evidence suggests it more than likely is not a problem.  However, that is not to say that seeking salt does not have its risks.

       In north Georgia where salt is often spread on highways to melt ice, wild birds are sometimes struck by vehicles when they gather on and alongside the salt-treated pavement.  

       Birds have historically been known to eat salt at natural salt licks.  Here they eat salt laden earth.  Nowadays hunters, particularly those in the northern half of the state, put out salt for deer; like salt licks provided by Mother Nature, these manmade licks will also attract birds.

       Some birds definitely eat more salt than others do.  Birds that are drawn to salt include, purple finches, pine siskins, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blue jays, and crows. 

       Likewise, the mourning dove also has an affinity for salt.  For this reason, some unscrupulous hunters will bait fields with rock salt in hopes of drawing flocks of mourning doves within shooting range.

       I personally have never seen anyone purposely offer salt to backyard birds.  However, it has been reported when it is, birds will avoid it.

       However, when you come to think about it, we all offer salt to birds in other forms.  For example, alt is a major ingredient in the bake goods we feed to birds.  In addition, who hasn’t fed salted nuts to birds?  As such, our own personal experiences suggest the small amount of salt contained in these foods is not killing the feathered diners at our backyard feeding stations.

       If you want to see if birds are attracted to salt laden soil, you might want to sprinkle some salt on a small bare spot in your yard.  It will not take long for the salt to dissolve into the ground.  Then, keep an eye on the spot and see if any birds eat the salty soil.

       One word of caution:  I would not recommend you try this in an area where deer are abundant.  The last thing you want to do is attract white-tailed deer to your yard.

       I hope I have answered any questions you may have regarding the possible dangers of feeding salt to wild birds. 

       In the meantime, if you have had an experience with birds eating salt, I would appreciate it if you would share it with me.

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT

If you are searching for a gift for someone on your Christmas list that shares your passion for the natural world, a good choice would be my latest book entitled,

A Journey of Discovery.  

 

This 267-page volume covers a wide range of plants and animals that are part of the fabric of Georgia’s natural heritage.

       Here is a brief list of a few of the more than 70 chapters contained in the book:

America’s Long Love Affair With The Hummingbird

Counting Hummingbirds Is No Easy Task

Black Bluebirds And Other Backyard Oddities

A Buffet For Wood Ducks

How Do I Deal With An Angry Bird?                                             

Water Moccasin or Watersnake—That Is the Question                

Luna Moths—Nighttime Beauties                                            

Fox Squirrels—The Forgotten Ones                                           

Our Fascination With Antlers                                              

Zinnias And I Go Back a Long Way                                    

Redbuds Are Stealing The Show                                           

Owls, Folklore And Halloween                                                 

The Origin Of Thanksgiving                                                     

The Basics Of Winter Bird Feeding                                       

Butter—Kids And Birds Love It                                 

Taking Time To Watch                                                          

How Wildlife Copes With The Heat                                          

Can Local Birds And Plants Predict The Weather?                        

The Backyard Olympics                                                           

Do Released Bass Live To Fight Another Day?

The book can be purchased at your local bookstore or at The Monroe County Reporter in Forsyth, The Bird Store in Macon or online at Amazon and other booksellers.

A WEALTH OF INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

When you visit the blog, are you experiencing difficulty finding information about a particular backyard animal or plant?  If so, whenever you log on and follow the simple procedure described below, you will be surprised how much information regarding a myriad of subjects is ferreted away in the blog’s rapidly expanding files.

       Instead of scrolling through the scores of blogs that have been posted on the blog so far, all you have to do to locate information about any subject covered by the blog is go to the search bubble on the right side of the current blog.  Once there, type a word the best describes your area of interest. 

       For example, if you want to know what has been written about bluebirds, type in the word bluebirds.  After a brief wait, all of the blogs that mention bluebirds will appear in the left column.

       I think you will agree it would be difficult to make a search any simpler.

      And if you ever have a question or interest that you would like for me to blog on, send your email request to backyardwildlife@yahoo.com

BACKYARD SECRET: EARTHWORMS

Would you believe that most of the earthworms found in the United States are not native to North America?  It is true.  Most of these invaders hail from Europe and began wiggling their way through our soils as early as 1620.  It is thought that they either inadvertently hitchhiked they way in the ballast of ships or in the soil the accompanied plants brought to the New World.

WELCOME THE POTTER WASP TO YOUR YARD

I recently discovered irrefutable evidence that potter wasps are among the fascinating insects that inhabit my yard.  Although I have not been able to identify any adult potter wasps on my property, I found a couple of their amazing pots.
POTTER WASP NESTS

Potter wasps range from 1/2-5/8″ long.  Their body color ranges from dark blue to black and marked with yellow or white.

There are some 270 species of potter wasps in the United States and Canada.  Members of the genus Eumenes build mud nests that look like clay pots, complete with short necks.  Interestingly, it is thought Native Americans used potter wasp nests as inspiration for some of their pottery.

The pots are constructed from the soil found nearby.  Since the soil in my yard is red, the potter wasp nests shown here are red.

Typically a female potter wasp will lay a single egg in a pot.  She then proceeds to capture and paralyze all sorts of critters such as spiders, caterpillars and beetle larvae and stuffs them into the pot.

When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the bounty of food surrounding it.  Depending on the species, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year before an adult potter wasp slips through the narrow opening at the top of the pot and flies away.

Potter wasps help control insect pests and, since the adults feed on nectar, they help pollinate a variety of flowers.

Look for potter wasps around your yard.  The pots can be found on leaves and stem or in more bizarre locations.  The pots in the accompanying photograph were discovered attached to the body of our vehicle.

I recently discovered irrefutable evidence that potter wasps are among the fascinating insects that inhabit my yard.  Although I have not been able to identify any adult potter wasps on my property, I found a couple of their amazing pots.

Potter wasps range from 1/2-5/8″ long.  Their body color ranges from dark blue to black and marked with yellow or white.

There are some 270 species of potter wasps in the United States and Canada.  Members of the genus Eumenes build mud nests that look like clay pots, complete with short necks.  Interestingly, it is thought Native Americans used potter wasp nests as inspiration for some of their pottery.

The pots are constructed from the soil found nearby.  Since the soil in my yard is red, the potter wasp nests shown here are red.

Typically a female potter wasp will lay a single egg in a pot.  She then proceeds to capture and paralyze all sorts of critters such as spiders, caterpillars and beetle larvae and stuffs them into the pot.

When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the bounty of food surrounding it.  Depending on the species, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year before an adult potter wasp slips through the narrow opening at the top of the pot and flies away.

Potter wasps help control insect pests and, since the adults feed on nectar, they help pollinate a variety of flowers.

Look for potter wasps around your yard.  The pots can be found on leaves and stem or in more bizarre locations.  The pots in the accompanying photograph were discovered attached to the body of our vehicle.

A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

In January 2017, I published my second book entitled, A Journey of Discovery.  The book is a collection of stories about a wide variety of wildlife and plants ranging from the ruby-throated hummingbird and wild turkey to Queen Anne’s lace, and flowering dogwood.

If you enjoy this blog, you should also like the book. Click on the link A Journey of Discovery at the top of page to read the back cover of the book.

A Journey of Discovery may be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other online book retailer.  Signed copies can be bought at the Monroe County Reporter in Forsyth, Georgia and at The Bird Store in Macon, Georgia.

Front cover