For days, our attention has been focused on Hurricane Irma and its unbelievably strong winds.  During the last few days as we have been awaiting the arrival of this terrible storm, the wind has increased significantly.  This has made flying difficult for the hummingbirds gorging themselves at our feeders.  Although wind gusts have already exceeded 20 mph, they will dramatically increase as the storm races toward Georgia.  With that in mind, have you ever wondered how strong the wind has to be to ground these tiny aerialists?  The answer may surprise you. 

       Obviously, they cannot fly in hurricane-force winds.  The truth of the matter is when biologist placed hummingbirds in a wind tunnel; they found they could not sustain flight against headwinds that exceed 27 mph.  When the wind soars above this threshold, hummingbirds seek the cover provided by the thick foliage of a shrub or tree.

QUESTION: Do birds poisoned by Nandina Berries pose a risk to cats and dogs that eat them?

Answer: I have not been able to uncover a documented case of an animal being poisoned from eating a bird killed from eating nandina berries.

However, Bob Sargent, Program Manager of the Nongame unit of Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section has advised me that he talked to a veterinarian familiar with nandina poisoning cases. This researcher indicated that secondary poisoning is theoretically possible, especially if an animal consumes a bird that has just died (e.g. its carcass is still warm) or, if the dead bird’s crop is packed with nandina berries and the scavenger eats the crop. The reason for this is that the cyanide rapidly dissipates when it is consumed.

The veterinarian went on to say that, if a cedar waxwing eats just a few nandina berries along with other fruits and berries, it will probably survive the experience.

QUESTION: How can I capture a moth or butterfly in my home without injuring it?

Answer: Most of us have found a butterfly and moth in our homes. When this occurs, we are faced with the problem of trying to catch and release the insect without harming it.

Over the years I have tried a number of techniques. However, in far too many cases I ended up accidentally injuring or killing the animal I was trying to save. After much trial and error I have found two devices that consistently work the best for me.

Small, inexpensive butterfly nets can often be found in the toy department of our favorite store. Using such a net, you don’t have to risk injuring yourself or the insect even if it lands on the ceiling or high on a wall.

If the insect perches on a wall within arm’s reach, it can be caught in a clear glass. Simply approach the insect very slowly and place the open end of the glass over it. Then slightly raise the rim of the glass and gently slip a thick piece of paper under the rim. When the paper touches the legs of the insect it will usually take flight. When this happens continue sliding the paper all the way under the glass. Once you have captured the moth or butterfly, hold onto the glass with one hand and the paper with the other as you carry it outside for release.



Question: How Many Hummingbirds Am I Feeding?

HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER (2 in flight) - House - 12 Aug 2014

During the summer months more hummingbirds visit our feeders than at any other time of the yard.  As such, one of the most common questions that I get at this time of the year is, “How many hummingbirds am I feeding?

       Surprisingly, it really isn’t that hard to come up with a good estimate of the number of birds visiting your feeders at this time of the year.  All you have to do is to wait until you think you are looking at the maximum number of hummingbirds visiting your feeders at one time.  Quickly tally the birds you see and multiply that number by 6.  The result will be an estimate of how many different hummingbirds are visiting your feeders on that particular day.

       For example, if you count 40 birds, you are actually feeding approximately 180 hungry hummers.

       Remember this technique only works during the summer months when ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most plentiful.

       This technique is based on studies that compared the number of banded to unbanded birds caught and marked in backyard settings at the peak of the hummingbird season.





No, unlike us, birds do not have sweat glands.

When we work outside on a sweltering hot, humid summer day, within minutes our skin and clothing are wet with sweat. Sweating helps keep us from overheating.

Since birds do not have sweat glands, they must rely on other means to keep their body temperature from reaching dangerous levels.  One of the main ways they are able to accomplish this is by panting.

If you closely watch the birds moving about your backyard when temperatures soar, you are apt to see one or more pant.  When a bird is panting it holds its bill open longer than it normally would and increases its breathing rate.  This greatly increases the flow of air across the moist, warm surfaces of its respiratory tract. This helps dissipates the bird’s body heat.

As you might expect, you are most likely to see this behavior during the hottest parts of the day.


American Lady Nectaring at a Butterfly Bush Blossom

American Lady Nectaring at a Butterfly Bush Blossom

The butterfly bush earned its name honestly. This perennial shrub is a butterfly magnet.  When a butterfly bush is in full bloom, it will often attract more butterflies than any other plant in Georgia backyards.

However, if you want a butterfly bush to continue producing a bounty of blooms that will feed colorful butterflies throughout the summer, regularly prune the shrub’s spent blooms before they produce seeds.  This procedure is called deadheading.

The best way to deadhead a butterfly bush is to snip off all  spent clusters of blooms down to just above the first set of leaves below flower. This can be best accomplished using a garden pruner or pair of scissors.