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BACKYARD SECRET – HOW TO GET CLOSE TO A BROWN CREEPER

        For most of us, seeing a brown creeper is big deal.  In more cases than not, whenever one of these odd, curved-billed birds makes an appearance, we don’t have a camera or pair of binoculars handy and it is far enough away that we cannot tell much about it. Invariably, when this happens before you can get close enough to study it the bird flies away. 

       Here is strategy you might want to employ the next time see a brown creeper hunting for food on one of the trees growing in your backyard.  I will not guarantee it will work every time. However, if it works even once, it will be worth it.

       Once you have spotted the elusive bird, move slowly and position yourself directly behind it.  Once you feel you are in the right position, slowly move toward the bird. As you make your approach, do not to make any sounds or rapid arm or let movements.is because the brown creeper’s eyes are located very close to one another.  While this helps the bird locate food located in front of its head, it greatly reduces its peripheral vision.  However, it reduces the bird’s ability to see anything approaching from behind.

       Meanwhile, while you are waiting for the opportunity to try this technique, keep a feeder stocked with suet.  Occasionally this insectivorous bird will dine on suet offered in feeders.

      

BACKYARD SECRET – THE BLACK WALNUT TREE IS VALUABLE TO WILDLIFE

       I suspect that most of the folks that have a black walnut tree growing in their yards enjoy the tasty nuts the trees bears, its yellow fall foliage, and attractive shape. However, whenever I tell folks that their black walnut tree is also valuable to wildlife, they are pleasantly surprised.

       The tree serves as a host the banded hairstreak butterfly and more than 100 moths including the luna, royal and imperial.

       A number of small mammals eat the nuts including the eastern chipmunk and both gray and fox squirrels.  In fact, black walnuts can comprise up to 10 percent of the fox squirrel’s diet.

       Whenever black walnuts are cracked open by mammals, or crushed by vehicles in driveways or highways, many birds eat the highly nutritious meat.  In fact, black walnut meat is ranked as a choice food for the eastern towhee, cardinal, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, blue jay, and woodpeckers (hairy, red-bellied and downy).

RESPONSES TO SAPSUCKERS EATING SEEDS BLOG

        Bloggers have responded to the blog regarding a yellow-bellied sapsucker eating sunflower seeds.  It seems some folks are enjoying success attracting yellow-bellied sapsuckers to their feeders.  With that in mind, I thought that you would like to know what they have to say.

       Nudicale says, “They regularly see yellow bellies feed on manufactured suet. We also have seen them feed on scrub oak logs in which they feed on a peanut butter and oatmeal mixture placed in holes drilled into the logs.”

       Pat Kinser wrote to say that she and her husband watched a male yellow-bellied sapsucker dine on a Brome Nut Feeder eating Clinger’s Charms, a great no waste nut mixture.

       Igrid Sanders responded to the blog by saying, “A yellow-bellied sapsucker has been visiting one of our feeders for the past few days.  This is the first time I’ve seen a sapsucker visiting.  It comes often, stays for several minutes at a time, and appears to be eating black sunflower seeds, though I have seen it well enough to be sure.  It feeds on a woodpecker block of mixed seeds that are largely black sunflower seeds, but there are others and maybe fruits.”

       An unnamed blogger added the only thing that he/she has seen eat around their home is grape jelly.

       I hope you will benefit from these reports; I know that I have.

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER EATS SUNFLOWER SEEDS

       Those of us that regularly feed birds during the winter know that it is big news when a yellow-bellied sapsucker visits our feeders.  When one does appear, it invariably dines on sugar water housed in a hummingbird feeder poised to entertain a rare wintering hummingbird, grape jelly, or a bird pudding.  You can imagine how surprised retired wildlife biologist, John Jensen was when a male yellow-bellied sapsucker began dining every day on whole black oil sunflower seeds.

       We know that, on rare occasions, yellow-bellied sapsuckers will eat small bits of sunflower seeds, but never whole sunflower seeds.  It makes you stop and wonder why this particular bird has adopted this feeding behavior.

       John told me that he feels that it is possible that the sapsucker chose this feeder because it is fashioned from a log.  This indeed may be the case since yellow-bellied sapsuckers routinely feed while perched on the trunks and limbs of trees. 

       We really do not know much about the winter-feeding habits of this odd woodpecker.  We know that they drill holes in trees and eat cambium (inner bark) and the sap that wells up in these tiny reservoirs. However, the birds are also known cache seeds and nuts during the winter.  Why would they do this unless they eat them too?

       If you have a theory as to why this woodpecker is feeding on sunflower seeds, drop me a line.  In addition, I would like to know what yellow-bellied sapsuckers are dining on at your feeders this winter.

YELLOW-BELLIED-SAPSUCKER

 

PROTECTING HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS FROM FREEZING

       For days, the United States Weather Bureau has been warning us that severe cold weather in about to blanket Georgia.  If these prognostications prove to be correct, this weekend temperatures will plummeted into the teens.  For those Georgians that are currently hosting, or hope to host, a hummingbird in their backyard this winter, this is disturbing news.  Obviously, hummingbirds cannot feed on frozen nectar. In addition, if the nectar in feeders freezes the feeders often break.    A hummingbird feeding solution of four parts water to one part sugar typically does not freeze until the temperature dips below 25ºF. If the temperature drops lower, feeders can be taken in at night and replaced the next morning. Another option is to use a light to keep hummingbird food from freezing.  Many folks use a 150-watt bulb mounted in a light fixture attached to an alligator clip placed near a feeder to provide the heat needed to keep nectar from freezing on a cold winter night.

       If the temperature remains freezing for a few days, you might find that you have to change out feeders during the day.  In this way, hummingbirds will have access to an uninterrupted supply of sugar water.

 

SUPPLEMENT YOUR FEEDER BIRDS’ DIET WITH EGGSHELLS

        A surprising number of the folks that feed wild birds in their yards include eggshells in their offerings.  As a matter of fact, Cornell University reported, in their publication entitled Birds At Your Feeder, six percent of the folks that participated in their annual Project FeederWatch fed birds this unusual offering.  Why would folks feed wild birds eggshells?

       The reason is quite simple—eggshells are a great source of calcium.  All birds require calcium in their diets; however, the need for this mineral is greatest during the breeding season and migration.

       There are a number of ways that you can feed eggshells to birds.  They can be ground or broken up and incorporated in suet mixtures.  You can add eggshell to mixed seed mixtures too.  Some people even simply spread them across the ground near the area where they feed birds on the ground.

       Whichever way you decide to use them, if you want to be sure they will not infect your bird clientele with a disease such as salmonella, bake them in an over for 10 minutes or so at a temperature of 480ºF. 

       It is well known that purple martins and blue jays dine on eggshells.  If you have seen other species of birds eat them in your yard, please let me know.

GOOD NEWS FOR FOLKS THAT FEED BIRDS

        It is always satisfying to know that our efforts to extend a helping hand to our wildlife neighbors are actually benefitting them.  With that in mind, I thought you might like to hear what the prestigious British Trust for Ornithology has to say about the benefits of feeding birds.

       Their studies indicate that feeding birds throughout the year, improves their survival.  In addition, it also enhances their breeding success.  The reason for this is when birds have food readily available during all seasons of the year, they are able to stay in top physical condition.

       Now that is what I call good news!

 

WILL I SEE A GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET IN MY YARD THIS YEAR?

       Although the golden-crowned kinglet winters in Georgia, I rarely see it in my backyard.  In fact, in recent years, I have not even heard one there. This is despite the fact it is located each year on the local Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Bird Count.  In spite of this, I have high expectations that my backyard golden-crowned kinglet drought will end this year.

       I base my optimism on the fact that a couple of days ago I heard the golden-crowned kinglet’s high-pitched see-see-see call coming from the top of a tall loblolly pine growing in my backyard. Although, my efforts to catch a glimpse of the secretive songster failed, I have formulated a strategy to do so.

       Whenever possible I will look for the bird in places where it is known to forage.  Since I have most often seen the bird tirelessly moving about looking for insects and their eggs among pine needles high in the tops of pines, I will concentrate my search there.  Knowing they sometimes hunt for food among hardwood branches and brush piles, I will scan them too. In addition, since during the winter they will occasionally feed on tiny seeds gleaned from plants growing in weedy patches I will also checkout the untamed, weedy areas along my property line.

       Last, but not least, I will carefully study each tiny bird that visits my suet and peanut butter feeders.  More than likely, any that I see will by rubycrowns, however, there is always the outside chance one will be the golden-crowned because they will, on rare occasions, dine on these foods.

       Even if I am not successful in seeing one of these fascinating winter visitors, I am sure I will spot other birds that I would have otherwise missed if I was not spending so much time looking for this tiny olive-gray bird that dons a crown of gold.

       If you have seen golden-crowned kinglets in your yard, I would enjoy hearing about your good fortune.

      

BLOGGERS SHARE SUET TIPS

       Two bloggers have taken the time and effort to share with us their tips regarding suet.   This information is very helpful.  With a dizzying variety of suets available to us, it is great to know what works and what doesn’t.

       Joan wrote to say that she makes her own suet.  Her suet recipe consists of lard and a mixture of sunflower and millet seeds.  She went on to say that her birds prefer it to commercial woodpecker blocks.  She also added that since her suet melts when daily temperatures begin rising at the end of winter, she stops feeding it to her birds in early spring.

       Brooks commented that he stopped stocking his suet feeders with peanut butter suet because hungry squirrels like it too much.  In an effort to remedy this problem, he now stocks his feeders with suet laced with hot pepper flakes.  The suet containing hot pepper flakes doesn’t seem to bother the birds, but the squirrels don’t like it.

       If you have found a suet that either works great or doesn’t work at all, let me know about it.

BACKYARD SUET PREFERENCE TEST

        Surveys have shown that some 54 percent of those folks that feed birds feed suet.  Consequently, it is obvious that we are spending a lot of money on this greasy treat.  With that in mind, this past summer, I decided to conduct an informal test to see which of two flavors the birds in my backyard preferred.

       During the study, the birds that most often visited my suet feeders were hairy and downy woodpeckers, brown thrashers, mockingbirds, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, brown-headed nuthatches, house finches, and northern cardinals.

       I compared peanut butter flavored suet to one labelled as  berry-flavored.  I placed the suet cakes in wire suet feeders hung on a single Shepherd’s hook.  Initially I planned to conduct the test over several months.  However, after several weeks I ended the test after it became obvious that peanut butter suet was overwhelming preferred to berry-flavored suet.  Remarkably, I fed a total of 17 peanut butter-flavored suet cakes before the cake of berry-flavored suet was finally eaten.  Since then, I have purchased only peanut-butter flavored suet.

       It would be interesting to know if results would have been different if I ran the same test at other times of the year.

       However, before I expand by informal survey efforts, I am going to be feeding my backyard bird neighbors peanut butter-flavored suet.