The brown thrasher is a permanent resident throughout Georgia.  As such, if you have dense shrubs in or near your yard, it is possible that you can host one or more in your yard.  Shrubby habitats provide these handsome birds insects they uncover by scratching away leaf litter beneath shrubs and trees.  The birds also eat the fruits, berries, or drupes of a wide range of native plants.   

       Here is a list of half a dozen native plants that provide food for brown thrashers: flowering dogwood, sassafras, black gum, American holly, Virginia creeper, pokeweed and American beautyberry.

       I am fortunate that brown thrashers inhabit my yard throughout the entire year.  I believe this due to several reasons. To begin with, five of the six plants listed above are growing on my small patch of Monroe County. I also have a variety of cultivated and native shrubs that offer the birds places to feed, escape severe weather and cold, as well as places to nest.  I also supplement the wild foods grown in my yard with suet, and seed scattered beneath my feeders.  In addition, I provide brown thrashers with three separate birdbaths where they to drink and bathe.

       This formula is working for me.  If brown thrashers are not currently visiting your yard, or, you would like to see the birds more often, perhaps one or more of these elements will work for you too.  If your lacks native food plants, there is no better time to incorporate them in your landscape than this fall and winter.



       For quite some time, the birds I have seen or heard in my backyard are those are permanent residents.  However, today one of the migratory birds that regularly spends the winter in my yard made its first appearance this fall. The bird I am referring to is the ruby-crowned kinglet.

       I spotted the tiny, greenish-gray bird flitting among the dark green leaves of a sasanqua growing near my garage. I was not surprised to see it there.  Most of the times that I see one, I spot it foraging for tiny insects, spiders, and the like in one of the many shrubs that are scattered around my backyard.  Although ruby-crowned kinglets are known to also dine on tree sap, and berries such as those produced by poison, dogwood, I have never seen them do so.

       I have never tried to attract kinglets to my feeders.  However, each winter I see them dining on peanut-flavored bird butter.  One year, I witnessed a ruby-crowned kinglet digging through white millet seeds; however, I cannot say I actually saw it eat one. However, others have reported them eating peanut hearts, chips of sunflower seeds and nuts.  They also dine on peanut butter.  Their winter diet also includes human delicacies such as cornbread and doughnuts.

       Since the birds are, in most cases, infrequent visitors to our feeders, even if you have never seen one feeding there, if you have thick shrubs around your home, chances are this tiny bird is a winter resident in your yard too.  



       A few weeks ago, I asked if you would be kind enough to report when you saw the last ruby-throated hummingbird in your yard this year.  Responses to my request came from throughout the entire state.  Here is a brief summary of what they responses revealed.

       Departure days spread over 21 days extending from October 5 through October 25.

       A Monroe homeowner last saw a hummingbird October 25.

       Unfortunately, I do not have the name of the location where the earliest departure date took place.

       Interestingly, most of the departures (47%) took place during a four-day period extending from October 11-14.

       Most hummingbird watchers indicated that only one bird was the last to leave their yards.  However, one blogger saw two (an immature male and a female) the last time they sighted hummers this year. One blogger even spotted three hummingbirds on the last day of their hummingbird season. My wife saw the last ruby-throated hummingbird in our Monroe County backyard October 12. This bird was nectaring at Turk’s cap blossoms.

       While practically all of the rubythroats have now left Georgia, don’t forget we are in our second hummingbird season.  If you maintain at least one feeder throughout the winter, you just might attract a rare western migrant this winter. 

       One of the bloggers responding to the survey wrote that during recent winters, two wintering hummingbirds have shown up in their backyard.  One of them was an Anna’s hummingbird.

       I want to thank everyone that took the time to participate in this survey. I hope you found the results of this survey fascinating. I know I sure did.


      Everyone has an opinion as to what is the seed favored at feeders.  Based on my experiences, I believe sunflowers seeds are favored by the most seed-eating feeder birds in Georgia.  Some 40 species including cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, brown-headed and white-breasted nuthatches, house and purple finches are some of the birds that dine on sunflower seeds.


       If you decide to purchase sunflower seeds, I recommend you purchase black-oil sunflower seeds.  Black oil sunflower seeds have thinner shells, which permits birds to open them more easily. In addition, their kernels contain more fat and calories than striped sunflower seeds.




      If you have been feeding hummingbirds for many seasons, you probably feel that hummingbirds can recognize you. The findings of research conducted by scientists at the University of California, Davis, seem to suggest that this may be true.


       In this study, researchers trained hummingbirds to associate a certain human face with food. The birds learned that only this individual would provide them with food.  When the birds learned this was the case, they would fly up to a person wearing a mask depicting the person they had been feeding them even when researchers wearing different masks were close by.


       This morning when I opened the door to our deck, I was reminded that northern cardinals don’t subsist on black oil sunflower seeds, white millet and other seeds offered in feeder. alone.

       The reason I say this is when I stepped onto the deck I flushed a male cardinal plucking the bright lavender fruit displayed on the branches of an American beautyberry protruding through the spaces in the rail of the deck. 

       Off to my right I spotted a female cardinal clinging to the spire of a scarlet sage plant growing in a large container sitting on the deck.  Although a few red blossoms remained at the top of the stem, the cardinal was plucking seeds found in the brown seed pods attached below the red blooms.

       Such sightings are not rare occurrences.  My wife and I frequently watch cardinals eating the seeds of globe amaranth, scarlet sage, zinnia and other plants growing on our deck. 

       Studies have found that seed-eating birds that visit our feeder obtain only about 20 percent of their food from our feeders. In this case, three nearby feeders were stocked with sunflower seeds.  Those seeds are very accessible and much larger than the seeds and berries the birds chose to eat.

       Over the years, I have modified my opinion of what constitutes bird feeding. Instead of looking at it a simply providing food in feeders, I now consider bird feeding to include planting flowering plants that produce seeds, fruits and berries and attract insects and other invertebrates. In an effort to make these seeds available into the winter, I do not cut the plants down after their flowers wither and die.




        I am writing this blog on October 1.  The signs of fall are all around me.  Liatris (blazing star) and pineapple sage are blooming. In addition, the goldenrod that has taken root in our gardens and along the edge of our yard looks like they will be in full bloom before the end of the week.  My wife and I have also noticed that we are now apparently feeding only three hummingbirds.  The peak of the fall ruby-throated hummingbird migration is over in Middle Georgia.  Consequently, it is time to decide whether we should take our feeders down.

       Years ago, we decided to leave at least one feeder up throughout the fall and winter.  There are a number of reasons why we do so.  To begin with, a few of the hummingbirds that hatched this year either have not left our yard or are just arriving from points north of Georgia.  It is possible to see them throughout the month of October.  As such, our providing them with a source of quick energy allows them to obtain the fuel they need to continue on their journey.

       Another reason is that rufous hummingbirds begin arriving in Georgia as early as August. As such, if we have a feeder stocked with fresh food, one might decide to take up residence here this winter.  The rufous hummingbird is the hummingbird that most commonly winters in Georgia.

       In addition, over the past several decades Baltimore orioles have been wintering in Georgia in greater numbers.  These birds are fond of feeding on the sugar water found in hummingbird feeders.

       By the end of October, the ruby-throated migration is over for the year.  However, any hummingbird that appears at a feeder from November through February is likely going to be a western migrant. 

       I hope this will convince you to keep at least one feeder up in your yard at least through the end of the month.  In addition, if you want to attract one the rare western hummingbirds or Baltimore orioles that visit Georgia each winter, I strongly urge you to maintain a hummingbird feeder throughout the entire fall and winter. 

       We have done so for quite some time and have been lucky enough to host a number of rufous hummingbirds and one Baltimore oriole in past winters.


  From time to time, many hummingbird fanciers face the task of trying to save the life of a hummingbird that has flown inside a garage or other structure.  If you know what to do and can act quickly, you can save the life of a bird that just seems like it cannot find its way back outside. 

       I have found the best to be ready for such an event is to have what I call a Hummingbird Rescue kit ready at all times.  My kit includes a long-handled butterfly net, telescoping window rod, or paintbrush extension pole, roll of duct tape, a brown paper bag, hummingbird feeder, and small bottle of nectar.

       Late last week, I had to use my kit to rescue a hummingbird from a laundromat.  It seems that one morning around 9:00 a.m. a hummingbird flew into a laundromat.  When I received the call, the bird had been flying about the ceiling of the laundromat for over five hours.  Knowing the bird was tired and hungry—I had to act fast.

       When I arrived and walked into the establishment, I spotted the bird flying about the ceiling some 10 feet above the floor.  The laundromat had two doors, one in front and one at the far end of the facility.  Both of them were left open in hopes the tiny bird would flu out.  However, as usual, the bird flew along the ceiling and never dropped down where it could exit either door. 

       It was obvious that it would be impossible to net the bird with a short-handled net.  My only chance to net it was to tape my butterfly net to the end of a curtain rod. Although a net taped to the curtain rod would allow me to reach the bird flying near the ceiling, the laundromat was so large it would prove next to impossible for me to get close enough to capture the bird in a net.  My best hope of saving the hapless prisoner was to coax it down low enough where it could directly fly out of a door.

       With that in mind, I rolled a metal laundry basket in front to the door on the far end of the laundromat.  I put a small amount of nectar in a hummingbird feeder and hung the feeder from the bar that ran across the basket.  This placed the feeder about four feet above the floor.

       I then walked to the far end of the building, raised my butterfly net above my head, and slowly began walking toward the bird flying high above the dryers.  In response to my approach, the bird flew toward the far end of the building.  When it got about 30 feet from the door and feeder it made a sharp, steady decline and landed on the one of the perches on the feeder and immediately began drinking.  It drank and drank. Even when a worker raised her arms and slowly walked toward the frightened, hungry bird it never stopped feeding. I told the attendant to stop walking when she got about feet from the bird.  By that time, I too was standing closely. The hummingbird continued to feed.

       After allowing, the bird to feed for a while we slowly approached the hummer.  Eventually it rose up, flew out the door, and vanished over the parking lot.  My rescue mission took only a few minutes and was a resounding success.  I wish they were that easy.

       Fortunately, I did not have to use everything I carry in the kit. However, it is always to best to carry everything you might use.

       In a home setting, if a bird refuses to come down and drink at a feeder placed in the opening to a garage, you may have to catch it in your net.  If you do, it is important that you do not squeeze it. Gently hold it in your hand, take it to the door, open your hand and let it fly away. 

       However, if the bird spent a long time in the garage before it is rescued, while gently holding the bird in your hand give it a chance to feed on nectar from a hummer feeder or shallow jar lid.  You will be amazed; often the bird will begin feeding while you are holding it in your hand.  Don’t dip the bill into the liquid. Let me bird feed on its own volition.

       If the bird that is trapped in the garage simply drops to the floor, or has a difficult time flying, place it is a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over just enough to allow air to enter the bag while preventing it from flying away.  Some folks even place a jar lid containing a small amount of nectar in the bag along with the exhausted bird. 

       Place the bag in a cool dark place for a short while. Continue to check on the hummer’s condition.  When it begins to flutter about, or seems very alert, take it out of the bag. Give it a chance to feed and then let it go.


       For generations, it has been an accepted practice to remove dead flowering plants before the onset of autumn.  Nowadays gardeners are beginning to leave the stalks and seed heads of many flowers that have long since bloomed.  They don’t refrain from removing them because they are lazy. Instead, they do it because they have come to realize that the seed heads found on these dry plants are loaded with nutritious seeds.  As such, they are a source of food for a wide variety of birds throughout the fall and winter.  Our native black-eyed Susan and coneflowers are examples of such plants.

       Here are some of the birds that dine on seeds of these garden favorites:  

Black-eyed Susan—American goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, sparrows, and the eastern towhee.

Coneflowers—mourning dove, blue jay, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, downy woodpecker, northern cardinal Carolina chickadee, pine siskin and sparrows such as the white-throated, chipping, and song.


       As I sit down to write this blog, the air temperature in my yard is 94ºF and the heat index (feel like temperature) is 115ºF.  When it is this hot day after day, hummingbird fanciers are beginning to wonder if the nectar they are serving the hummers visiting their backyards feeding station is too hot to the birds.

       According to some researchers, hummingbird nectar can indeed get too hot. Their studies suggest that feeding sugar water heated to 102ºF can adversely affect the hummingbird’s delicate metabolic system.

       With that in mind, some experts are recommending that during hot weather hummingbird food should be kept at or just below 100ºF. This can be difficult when each day we are faced with excessive heat. However, if you are concerned that the nectar in your feeders is too hot, you can do a few other things.   

       One approach is to use feeders that feature nectar reservoirs made of heavy glass.  Since glass is an insulator, it will help keep nectar cooler than plastic feeders.    Some folks even wrap their feeders in aluminum foil.  Supposedly, aluminum foil will block UV rays and actually reflect 98% of the sun’s radiant heat and, therefore, keeps nectar from overheating.

       If you have a shady spot in your yard, you can always hang your feeders there.  If this prevents you from watching the feeding activities of the birds swarming around your feeders, you might prefer to employ one of the other options.

       We do not know much about this supposed problem. With that in mind, let me know if you think the temperature of the nectar in your feeder poses to hummingbirds in your yard.  Also, if you try one of these or other means to try to keep nectar cooler, please let me know.