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BACKYARD NECTAR ROBBERS

A little more than a week ago while I was admiring the showy pink blossoms blanketing the large George Tabor azalea bushes encircling a chestnut tree in my yard, I noticed scores of large carpenter bees visiting flower after flower.  When I moved closer to floral show I realized that after the carpenter bees landed on the blooms, they immediately made the way down the outside of the blossoms to the junction of the petals and green sepals.  As it turned out, the hefty bees were robbing nectar from the large trumpet-shaped flowers.

       It seems carpenter bees are too large to fit through the throats of the bright pink blooms to reach the nectar located at the base of the blossoms.  Faced with this problem, most other nectar feeders would abandon their quest for the nectar. 

       Such is not the case with these carpenter bees.  These bees have the uncanny ability to obtain the nectar from the outside of a blossom.  What I was observing was the bees chewing longitudinal holes at the base of each bloom and then dipping their tongues into the flowers’ sugary nectar.

       Since I first noticed what was taking place I have closely examined a number of azalea blossoms and found any number of feeding portals created by the carpenter bees.  In addition, my wife saw a wasp using a feeding hole after the carpenter bee that created it left.

       Insects such as the carpenter bee are called nectar robbers simply because they feed on nectar without pollinating the flowers.

       If you would like to witness this odd behavior, on a warm, sunny day, look for carpenter bees flying about your azaleas.  When you spot them, watch where they go.  After they leave, look for the feeding holes created by the bees.

        I think you will agree you do not have to leave the confines of your yard to witness fascinating animal behavior.

SKIMPING ON PLASTIC FEEDERS IS FALSE ECONOMY

        There is no telling how many plastic feeders I have purchased over the years.  Although the birds used them all, many lasted only a season or two.  Since they were cheap, when they cracked or got cloudy, I simply bought another. 

       Eventually it dawned on me I could save a lot of money by spending a little money up front and buy a plastic feeder that would last for years.  The problem was how I could tell if I was actually buying a better feeder or simply spending more money for a feeder that would not last very long.

      PLASTIC FEEDER - 31 Jan 2018 When I told a friend about my dissatisfaction with plastic feeders, he recommended I purchase clear plastic feeders made of a polycarbonate named Lexan™.  He told me he has been using a feeder made of the material for a couple of decades.

       After hearing his praise, I did some research on Lexan™.  It seems since this manmade material is transparent, impact and crack resistant and resists ultraviolet rays and clouding, it is ideal for many types of feeders.

       With that in mind, if you are looking for a long-lasting feeder, before you purchase one, check the label and make sure it is constructed out of a polycarbonate such as Lexan™  Do not let its sticker price keep you for buying it.  Keep in mind; it should outlast a host of far more inexpensive models and save you money in the end.

BACKYARD SECRET: WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THE MOST DEATHS AROUND BACKYARD BIRD FEEDERS?

 According the  a study of bird feeding in the United States and Canada called ProjectFeederWatch, window strikes are  responsible for more deaths at feeders than cats, hawks or any other factor.

       This conclusion is based more than 2,000 deaths reported during the study.  According to the analysis of these data, nearly half of all deaths are caused by birds striking windows. If these data are correct, the study leaders estimate that one in ten birds might be killed by flying into buildings annually.

       While this is indeed a cause of concern to those of us that feed birds in our backyards, these deaths might represent only two or less percent of North America’s fall bird population.   

       This conclusion is based on volumes of data collected by literally thousands of citizen scientists that submitted detailed logs a wide range of subjects relating to their bird feeding programs.

       This monumental study was sponsored by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada, National Audubon Society, and the Canadian Nature Federation.

ESTIMATING HUMMINGBIRD NUMBERS BY NECTAR INTAKE

Lately it seems like everywhere I go folks are talking about how many hummingbirds are visiting their backyard feeders.  Indeed, it seems there is no shortage of these small, flying dynamos invading Georgia backyards this summer.  With that in mind, most hummingbird fanciers would like to know how many hummingbirds they are feeding.

       Several years ago, an Arizona hummingbird fancier named Stephen Russell came up with a novel way to estimate the numbers of hummingbirds feeding in his backyard.  This technique is based on the amount of hummingbird food the birds consume.  Here is how it works. RUBYTHROAT AT FEEDER 2 - Blog - 2 August 2017

       I will not go into all of the calculations he used to determine how many birds a gallon of hummingbird food mixed at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water will feed.  Suffice it to say he determined that a quart of hummingbird nectar will feed 137.25 birds.

       Therefore, if you know how much food disappears from your feeders in a day’s time, you can easily calculate how many birds you are feeding.  For example, if the birds consume a pint of nectar in a day, your are feeding roughly 68 hummers.

       If you try this technique, let me know what you think of the estimate obtained using the Russell formula.

 

 

BACKYARD SECRET: NEST BUILDING AND PARENTING ARE NOT SHARED BY MALE AND FEMALE RUBYTHROATS

In the world of the ruby-throated hummingbird, males do not assist the females in nest building, incubation of the eggs, or feeding the young.  To the contrary, although males are sometimes seen in the company of females until eggs are laid, their attraction for one another wanes shortly after mating.

FEMALE RUBY-THROATED__ HUMMINGBIRD

BEGINNING BIRDERS WORKSHOP SCHEDULED

BIRDING WORKSHOP

If you would like to learn how to better identify birds, but simply didn’t know where to begin, this is the workshop for you.

The workshop will focus on how you can identify the birds that you are likely to see in and around your home.

Topics covered in the workshop will include:

  • Tips on identifying birds by sight and sound
  • Choosing the right binoculars and spotting scopes
  • Selecting the best field guides and other birding aids
  • Where to find help indentifying birds
  • Sharing your sightings with others
  • Much, much more