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LOOK FOR CAROLINA CHICKADEES HIDING SEEDS

Now that temperatures are finally beginning to drop, activity around our bird feeders is on the rise.  When this happens, we have the opportunity to witness the fascinating feeding behaviors of our feathered guests.

       A behavior I particularly enjoy watching is caching.  One bird that routinely stores seeds in my backyard is the Carolina chickadee. 

       If you feed birds, you are undoubtedly familiar with this feathered sprite.  It is particularly fond of black oil sunflower seeds.  Typically, a Carolina chickadee will fly in, pluck a single sunflower seed from a feeder, and fly off to a nearby branch.  Once there it firmly holds the seed, between its feet and quickly chisels the seed’s hull open, and swallows the exposed fat-rich seed.  The bird then returns to a feeder and repeats the process.  This behavior is replayed countless times throughout the day.

       However, if you are patient, and watch Carolina chickadees feeding in your backyard, you just might be lucky enough to see a chickadee store a seed. 

ODD FOODS EATEN BY BALTIMORE ORIOLES

As anyone that has followed this blog knows, this winter a number of Baltimore orioles were reported wintering in the Peach State.  One of these birds wintered in my backyard.

Although the numbers of Baltimore orioles that winter in United States seems to be going up, there is scant information as to what foods wintering orioles are eating. Most of those that hosted orioles this past winter wrote that the birds ate grape jelly. The most unusual report I received was from a couple in Macon that said they watched an oriole eating the petals off sasanquas.

The bird that wintered in my backyard shunned grape jelly, preferring instead to dine on sugar water offered in a hummingbird feeder. Last week, the bird expanded his diet by dining on shelled peanuts extracted from a peanut feeder.

If you witnessed a Baltimore oriole eating anything else, please let me know. Your input will help us better understand the feeding habits of this unusual winter visitor.

WHAT TYPE OF HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER SHOULD I BUY?

With a bewildering array of hummingbird feeders on the market today, it is not surprising that I am frequently asked, “What type of hummingbird feeder should I buy?”

Whenever this question is posed, I tell folks that I personally prefer feeders that are easy to clean, have perches, and feature components that are red.

I like a feeder with perches for two reasons.  While I have no data to prove it, I am of the opinion that hummingbirds seem to linger longer at a feeder that is equipped with perches. Since on an average, hummingbirds feed for one to two minutes five to eight times an hour, I want to enjoy the birds’ iridescent beauty for as long as I can.

In addition, if a feeder does not have perch, a hummingbird is forced to hover while it feeds.  Hovering requires the bird to expend more energy than any other form of movement.  As such, I want a hummingbird to use as little energy as possible while it is trying to dine on the energy-rich nectar offered at my feeder.  This is important to a creature that has an extremely high rate of metabolism.  This rate of metabolism is so high a hummingbird often consumes 50 percent of its weight in food each day.

The reason I am a fan of feeders that are easy to clean is simple–cleaning a hummingbird feeder is a chore.  If there is any way to cut down on the amount of time I have to spend keeping a feeder clean, I am all for it.

It is extremely important to keep feeders clean.  If a feeder is allowed to be contaminated with fungi and bacteria, it becomes a health hazard for the hummingbirds that use it.

With this in mind, I select feeders that are easy to disassemble and do not have hard to clean areas where bacteria and fungi are difficult to remove.

All my feeders feature some parts that are red.  Although hummingbirds will feed and flowers of varying colors, for some reason, they are drawn to red objects. This is illustrated by the fact that sometimes they will hover if front of a woman wearing red lipstick, or a person wearing a red hat.

Although some beautiful feeders will never hang in my backyard simply because they do not possess the features I am looking for, I never have a problem finding a suitable new feeder. More importantly, the hummingbird seems to love them.

 

DO BIRDS CHOKE ON PEANUT BUTTER?

peanut-butter-feeder

peanut butter feeder

Years ago when I had just begun feeding birds, I was advised not to feed peanut butter to birds as they often choke trying to swallow the sticky food. According to some, peanut butter poses a threat because birds do not have salivary glands and therefore cannot moisten the thick, oily food before trying to swallow it.

Since that time, I have tried to unearth evidence that peanut butter does actually pose a danger to hungry birds. My effort to unearth any documented cases of birds dying from eating peanut butter have been fruitless.

For years, I have feed birds this nutritious food offering it in holes drilled in logs or smeared on pinecones. Never once have I seen any indication that peanut butter posed is a problem.

In fact, I once read an article by the father of birding, Roger Tory Peterson, where he stated that had never seen any proof that peanut butter should not be fed to birds.

Consequently, it does appear that birds choking on peanut is nothing more than a myth.

However, if you are still not convinced that birds do not choke on peanut butter, you might try mixing cornmeal, chopped peanuts, seeds, or even grit with the peanut butter you serve to patrons of your backyard bird cafe. These additives will add texture to this smooth, thick popular bird food.

 

FEEDING BIRDS AT CHRISTMAS IS AN OLD TRADITION

Cornbread for the birds

Cornbread for the birds

We will probably never be sure where and when the practice of feeding wild birds originated.  However, there is evidence that this popular activity may have begun in Scandinavia.

       It seems that centuries ago it was a popular custom to feed birds at Christmas.  At Christmas time, folks would hang sheaves of oats or wheat laden with seeds atop a long pole.  Families erected this unusual bird feeder on Christmas Eve.  It is said that family competed with one another to see who could raise their sheaf the highest.

       Remarkably, this age-old custom has survived the passage of time; it even made its way to this country. In the United States, it is most often practiced in the upper Midwest in states such as Minnesota.  However, those that now celebrate the custom place sheaves of grain outside their windows instead atop of a tall pole.

       It is doubtful that we will ever see sheaves of grain suspended from a pole, or even hanging outside a window in Georgia.  However, feeding birds at this special time of year should be a custom we all practice–my wife and I do.  This Christmas, the birds frequenting our backyard will be offered a smorgasbord of delights including white millet, sugar water, peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cornbread, and grape jelly.  Nearby, they can wash down their holiday meal with a drink of clean water from a birdbath.

       Will you be preparing a Christmas banquet for your backyard birds?  I hope so.