Tag Archive | Backyard Secrets

BACKYARD SECRET: HOW MUCH FOOD DO AMERICANS FEED BIRDS?

It has been estimated that Americans spend $3.5 billion annually to feed birds in their backyards.  This means during each calendar year somewhere from 0.5 to 1.25 million tons of sunflower seeds, millet, milo, and other seeds are used solely to feed our feathered backyard neighbors.

CHIPPING SPARROW FEEDING ON WHITE MILLET - 4 Jan 2018

To put this in perspective, this staggering amount of food closely matches what the United States government sends overseas each year to help alleviate hunger in Africa.

Source:  Marzluff, John M. 2014. Welcome to Subirdia. Yale University Press

 

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.

BACKYARD SECRET: EARTHWORMS

Would you believe that most of the earthworms found in the United States are not native to North America?  It is true.  Most of these invaders hail from Europe and began wiggling their way through our soils as early as 1620.  It is thought that they either inadvertently hitchhiked they way in the ballast of ships or in the soil the accompanied plants brought to the New World.

BACKYARD SECRET – PEOPLE DID NOT ALWAYS BELIEVE HUMMINGBIRDS MIGRATED

Nowadays it is difficult to believe that folks did not always believe ruby-throated hummingbirds migrated.  However, unbelievably, it would be safe to say that during the 1600s it was indeed the prevailing belief among the early colonists.

       There is no better proof of this than the Pennsylvania Cylopedia published in 1651.  This reference book states the lives of hummingbirds ended when the flowers stopped blooming in the fall.  Faced with a lack of food, hummingbirds would then simply thrust the sharp bills into the trunks of trees.  Here they would remain motionless throughout the entire winter.  Once winter eased its frigid grip on the land and the rejuvenating rains of spring drenched the land, hummingbirds would miraculously spring back to life and fly away. 

 

       Whenever I read such a bizarre story, I cannot help but wonder how such a belief surfaced.  Obviously, no one has even seen a hummingbird overwintering with its bill stuck in a tree.

BACKYARD SECRET: The Secret of the Vanishing Spiderweb

Have you ever found a beautiful spiderweb one evening and returned the next morning to admire it in the sunlight only to find that it had mysteriously disappeared?  When you have such an experience, you cannot wonder what in the world happened to this remarkably structure.  The answer to this mystery is perhaps as odd as the disappearance of the web itself.

Surprisingly, in many cases, the web is simply eaten by its creator.  If that is the case, you might ask yourself, “Why in the world would a spider eat a web it only used for a few hours and required a lot of time and energy to fashion?”    Part of the reason is webs lose their stickiness.  As a result, they hapless insects that would normally find them stuck in a web are able to struggle free before the spider can dispatch them.  Also, if a spider eats its own web, it recycles some of the energy and protein used to spin the sticky strands used to weave its beautiful and deadly web.  In addition, it ensures that each night it is using a fresh, highly efficient web.