Showing posts with label Backyard Birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backyard Birds. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2018

ORIOLES and Eden

Baltimore Oriole.jpg
"Baltimore Oriole" Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Each morning, very early, I walk to the 3 areas where they dine on their meals of oranges, and a mixture of meal-worms and grape jelly. Always, I hear the staccato-like chatter as they wait for their breakfast in the trees in our gardens... it is not chirping, the sound is unique to these birds.

And always, I smile because I feel privileged- honored, really- that these splendid creatures come here and trust they will find the nutrition they need to nurture themselves and the babies they fly thousands of miles to have here in the high Sierra's.

In June, now, they search through the jelly mixture for the meal-worms- I have learned this is the protein they require for the babies. I assume the kids are getting hungrier and are demanding more protein to fuel their growing bodies.

Occasionally, their feet drag detritus from their nest to leave on the sticky lip of the jelly jar. Today, there was a long strip of what looked like very thin plastic tape, about 6 inches of it, reminding me of the tapes we used to play long ago but thinner and with white checks, stuck to the top of one of the containers.

While adding a generous supply of meal-worms to each of the 3 containers, I thought about why this gives me such pleasure, aside from the obvious joy of seeing these outrageously colored birds amidst all of the other mostly brown, black colored birds which merge with the muted natural landscape of the desert.

I think of Eden now and then.

Of a place where all of creation - all of us creatures were in a sense, one. We, humans, had dominion but the word does not imply any perversion of power or hierarchy, rather it implies a deep reverence for all creatures, an understanding that supersedes words because perfect communication can exist only without words.

A place where the meaning of that peculiar staccato chatter of these splendid creatures was clear to us because we understood the gratitude, the love. We understood because we shared the gratitude in each moment, in the splendor and the goodness of each tree, plant and creature... the shared peace of each moment and the love for each one of us.
Eden.



Thursday, August 23, 2018

Adding GOLDFINCES, CARDINALS and Other Birds of Color to Your Backyard Retreat is Easy - Here's How

A European Goldfinch on a garden bird feeder i...
A European Goldfinch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When it comes to turning your backyard into a getaway or retreat, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a private outdoor oasis, complete with water features and an outdoor kitchen? Or is it adding a terraced effect with exotic plants, detailed retaining walls and hardscape patios and walkways that make you feel that you are enjoying the seclusion of a five-star resort? Your home should be your haven, the place where the world stops at the beginning of your driveway and your retreat begins.

To add exotic color to your outdoor haven, I have two words; Bird Feeders. You will be intrigued by the various types of birds you can attract to your yard. By attracting these birds, you will add color, sound, wildlife and create a sense of seclusion.

There is more to attracting birds than just nailing a birdhouse up to a fence post or hanging one off a tree limb. The species of birds you attract depends on the type of feeder you choose, the placement of the feeder in your yard and the type of feed you put in the feeder.

Here are five categories of birds you may want to consider. All come with their own distinct colors, sounds, and traits.

1) Goldfinches: These birds are yellow in color, with the males being more vibrant in the spring season. They are small in stature and shy by nature. You can use everything from Thistle sacks, which are inexpensive and easy to reposition in the yard to small "clinger" only feeders to various types of triple-tube feeders. For the sake of the length of this article, I will give you a resource you can go to and learn more on the various types of feeders. The type of feeder is important to the type of birds you are trying to attract, but even more important is the type of feed you use to draw specific species to your feeders.

Goldfinches are partial to finely chopped Sunflower hearts and Nyjer seeds; Nyjer is a black seed cultivated in Africa & Asia and are high in calories and oil content. Another source of nutrition and a strong attraction for Goldfinches occurs in the autumn when the blooms from plants such as Marigolds and Zinnias are long past their pretty stages of summer. These create a great feed for Goldfinches, so be sure to leave these in your garden or yard and you will attract a flurry of activity from the Goldfinches, as they are storing energy for the winter.

2) Cardinals: A regal bird with its pointed crown and vibrant red color trimmed in black mask and neck. If you have ever seen a cardinal up close, you would remember it. It has a look like no other bird, in my humble opinion. Whether against the green of summer leaves or the white of winter's snow, Cardinals are a splendid attraction to any setting. Here is how you can seduce them to your haven. They like feeders either low to the ground or with a platform they can eat from when hung from above. This is due to the fact they are a larger bird and require some space to maneuver. They do not eat from tube feeders, like Goldfinches, unless the tube feeder has a tray on the bottom for them to perch on. Their favorite feed is Sunflower or Safflower seeds; their big bill makes it easy for them to crack these seeds. The addition of a bird bath is another draw for the cardinal, as they love water.

3) Blue Birds: The nesting sites of Bluebirds differ according to your region of the country. For your specific region do a little research and determine the best type of nesting site to build to attract these brilliant blue colored birds to your private retreat. They prefer open spaces so they can feed on insects, their main nutrition source. Another favorite of the Bluebird is live mealworms, so you may want to keep some on hand if this beautiful bird is going to be added to your yards color pallet. For winter nutrition, Bluebirds feast on the berries from Bittersweet & Holly. Again, the addition of a birdbath to provide a water source, especially in winter, will help coax the Bluebird to your backyard paradise.

4) Orioles: An orange bodied bird with black head and back, its wings have traces of white and yellow mixed in amongst black. Orioles are shy birds that migrate to South America for the winters. A great tool in the attraction of Orioles is oranges. Cut a few oranges in half on secure them to a gate or fence top and use them to bait the Orioles into your yard. Another weak spot for Orioles is jelly, they love jelly. You can go to your local bird store and pick up an adapter that fits over the open end of a jelly jar and viola; you have a feeder for the Orioles you hope to draw into your backyard. Due to the fact that Orioles are shy birds, start off by setting the feeders further away from active areas and then slowly move them closer, once you began to gain their confidence. This will give you the pleasure of watching this beautiful bird up close; I guess you can say "You'd have a Bird's Eye view". 

I know, really bad, but I couldn't resist. Once you notice the Orioles you can leave twine, yarn, and strands of hair for them to find and use in building a pendulum nest they will use for the season. Oranges, jelly, and hosts who do not disturb them, they will love you for the season.

English: Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes ery...
Red-headed Woodpecker
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
5) Woodpeckers: Last, but not least, in this selection of vibrantly colored and distinctively different birds; Woodpeckers are showy birds with colored plumage. Described as a clinger, because of its ability to grab on with its feet and attach itself to the sides of trees with no or little effort. They have spiny tail feathers, which aides them in climbing and resting on tree trunks. Typically go up and down tree trunks scrounging for insects, it is advisable to hang your feeders for these birds close to the trunk at first, to get their attention. Once you have their attention, you can move the feeder further out on the limb away from the trunk. Tree nuts and peanuts are the secret to luring these birds to your collection of featured wildlife. Beware though, once a Woodpecker begins its assault on the tree of its choice; it could get noisy for some time to come.

So there you have it, you have added gold, red, blue, orange and the rhythm of the Woodpecker to your Backyard Getaway. For more information on this subject, I recommend The Backyard Bird Company. Take a minute and Google them, they are jam-packed with great information.

    For more landscaping and backyard retreat ideas, visit insideoutadditions.com.
    Thank you for reading this article.
    For all your Home Addition and Landscaping Ideas, please visit http://www.insideoutadditions.com
    You will also find a comprehensive gallery of Landscape and Home Addition projects, ideas and designs. Many of which are supplied through the contractor's own portfolio.
    Joseph Killian is a consultant and writer for insideoutadditions.com
    Article Source: EzineArticles


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Summer Garden for the BIRDS

English: Bluetit One of the many species of wi...
Bluetit One of the many species of wild birds which we attract to our garden bird feeders.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
There are many reasons to create a summer garden the best, however, as most gardeners are well aware is for your personal enjoyment. For bird lovers everywhere it is quite possible to have a fabulous summer garden that appeals to the bird lover in them as much as a lover of beauty that exists within us all (there are of course a few disagreements along the way as to what beauty is and is not). If you are a bird lover you should seriously consider making efforts to make your summer garden more attractive to your fine feathered friends.

There are several ways this goal may be accomplished. First of all birds like water. They need to drink water and they actually enjoy playing in the water. With this in mind make sure there is some sort of water source available for the birds to enjoy in your summer garden. Some excellent choices would be a water fountain, a goldfish pond, or a waterfall. The key in this is to make sure that the water source is not a stagnate water source as you want to attract birds and not mosquitoes. Other than that, have fun creating a neat place for your bird pals to frolic and play.

As far as attracting specific birds, you will need to research the specific birds you are interested in attracting to your summer garden and plant accordingly. The variations are virtually limitless and far too numerous to include in this brief overview. Be sure to invest some degree of time when planning your garden to check into favorite birds and the flowers or trees they prefer. You should also take the time to study their predators and avoid creating a friendly atmosphere for the predators to hang out in your summer garden while you are doing your research.

English: Bird feeder, Longshaw Lodge, Sheffiel...
One of several popular bird feeders in front of the visitor center
at Longshaw Lodge. (Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Another way to attract birds to your summer garden is by creating an environment in which they feel safe and at home. Plant trees that these birds favor for building nests or place birdhouses in your garden that will provide a great potential home for these birds to make their own.

In addition to planting flowers and trees that will attract various birds to your summer garden, you should also take care to attract food to your summer garden for these desirable birds as well. If you aren't sure about attracting food for the birds you might want to consider providing food for these birds you are hoping to draw into your summer garden. You can accomplish this by filling bird feeders (make sure you use feeders that are designed to prevent squirrels from stealing the food intended for your birds) with foods that attract the birds you are most interested in attracting to your lawn.

There is no right or wrong way to create a peaceful and relaxing summer garden. If you wish to add to your enjoyment of your garden it is quite possible to do this by taking a few extra steps and landscaping with the birds you enjoy watching in mind. The steps above will help make your garden an attractive place for favorite birds to play and build their homes. Incorporate them all into your summer garden for best results and the opportunity to live in harmony with the birds you enjoy watching.




Saturday, April 7, 2018

BLUE JAYS - Clever Mimics of the Bird World

A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) perched on a ...
A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) perched on a tree branch.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
The other morning I followed the sound of what I thought to be a baby hawk, possibly in distress. Walking deeper into the woods as quietly as I could, I stopped often to home in on the insistent sounds. I hoped to catch a glimpse of a juvenile hawk, or at least the nesting site.

I finally reached the spot where the hawk sounds were the loudest. However, much to my surprise it was not a red-shouldered hawk that flew out of the tree, but a blue jay uttering the same shrill but nasal 'keyeer, keeyeer'! It was then I knew I had been fooled by one of the best and most versatile mimics in the bird world.

By sounding like a hawk, blue jays easily scatter other birds at the feeder. This gives them the freedom to dine at their leisure with little to no competition. They also have their own form of insect control. Did you know that blue jays often comb their feathers with ants? Presumably, they are using the insects to catch and remove lice and other irritating parasites. Very clever birds!

For at least 15 years now, every Spring there is a very special blue jay that comes to my feeder. This jay has always imitated the sound of an old rotary phone being dialed. It is a very unique sound. I must admit that I look forward to hearing it again every year. I know that jays are long-lived, and my phone dialer is the proof!

In addition to being raucous and sometimes aggressive, blue jays can be gentle and quiet. I watched as two males vied for the attention of a beautiful soft gray-blue female. They each flew from branch to branch cooing softly and trying to get closer to her. Then one male would fly upwards engaging the female to do the same. The pair gently floated downwards in a spiral of unfurled wings, landing on the ground and then retreating to separate branches.

This happened several times as each male took turns trying to impress the female with body bobbing and soft comforting sounds. All three flew off together to another spot in the woods to repeat the same dance. I can only imagine how long it took that female to finally decide which male blue jay was to be her mate. It was fun and fascinating to watch.

Blue Jays are very secretive when it comes to building nests. They use alternate routes and decoy locations so that no predator can easily follow them to the nesting site. They love shiny objects and will often incorporate bits of foil wrappers into their loose twig nests. They like a well-decorated home as much as we humans do! There will be as few as three or as many as seven olive-green eggs covered with brown spots.

Burying stores of food to be unearthed later when food sources are scarce is another tactic employed by these large 11" to 12" birds. Their favorites are sunflower seeds, peanuts, cracked corn, pieces of stale bread or baked goods, suet, and berries. They are also fond of other birds' eggs, so it is a good idea to provide protection in the way of birdhouses and nesting boxes.



Sometimes here in the northeast, if the Winter is relatively mild, our blue jays will stay. It is so nice to see their beautiful blue coloring against the white snow. Jays have a white face, black collar, blue wings and back with a blue tail trimmed with white and black feathers. Their distinctive blue crest will give a hint as to what they are feeling. For instance, when they are calm their crest will be flattened. On the other hand, if they are in an aggressive mood, the crest will be pointed forward.

When both colorful cardinals and blue jays appear on a grey, snow-covered day, it is a sight that helps the winter months seem not quite so long. It is no wonder that they are very often depicted on holiday greeting cards!

My clever blue jays never cease to amaze me with their beauty, aggressive raucousness and mimicry. I look forward to watching them grab a bite to eat at the feeders before winging their way easily through our woods. They will be back many times during the day with the now familiar 'keeyeer' to scatter the smaller birds--self-proclaimed kings and queens of the backyard bird feeder!

    By Connie M Smith
    Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl's Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance, and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders, and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!
    http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com
    Article Source: EzineArticles



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus) - Photo: Wikipedia



Sunday, October 15, 2017

SUPERB STARLING - Lamprotornis superbus


SUPERB STARLING -  Lamprotornis superbus - Photo: Wikimedia



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Black-capped CHICKADEE - Poecile atricapillus


Black-capped CHICKADEE - Poecile atricapillus - Photo: Wikimedia/Flickr



Sunday, October 1, 2017

GREAT TIT - Parus Major


GREAT TIT - Parus Major - Photo: Wikipedia



Sunday, September 24, 2017

DOWNY WOODPECKER - Picoides pubescens


DOWNY WOODPECKER - Picoides pubescens - Photo: Wikimedia



Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Romantic Songbirds of Spring - The NORTHERN CARDINAL

This beautiful bird is the only member of the cardinal family found in the northern hemisphere thus referred to as the Northern Cardinal. It is named a named "cardinal" after the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, who wear distinctive red robes and caps. They are native to the near arctic region. They are found throughout eastern and central North America from southern Canada into parts of Mexico and Central America.

English: female northern cardinal
Female northern cardinal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In spring this romantic male bird courts his future mate by feeding her seeds. When the female agrees to become his mate they sing to each other. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak. If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of egg incubation. Mated pairs often travel together.

The Northern Cardinal is a territorial songbird. The male sings in a loud, clear whistle from the top of a tree or another high location to defend his territory. He will chase off other males entering his territory. The Northern Cardinal learns its songs, and as a result, the songs vary regionally. It is able to easily distinguish the sex of another singing Northern Cardinal by its song alone.

Both sexes sing clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as purdy, purdy, purdy...whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit and what-cheer, what-cheer... wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet'. They has a distinctive alarm call, a short metallic 'chip' sound. This call often is given when predators approach the nest, in order to give warning to the female and nestlings. In some cases it will also utter a series of chipping notes. The frequency and volume of these notes increases as the threat becomes greater.

Northern Cardinals are preyed upon by Cooper's Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Shrikes, Eastern gray squirrels, Long-eared Owls and Eastern Screech Owls. Predators of chicks and eggs include milk snakes, coluber constrictors, Blue Jays, fox squirrels, red squirrels and eastern chipmunks.

The adult Cardinal's diet consists of weed seeds, grains, insect snail berry and fruit eaters. It eats beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, snails, wild fruit and berries, corn and oats, sunflower seeds and the blossoms and bark of elm trees,. Cardinals drink maple sap from holes made by sapsuckers.The cardinal is a ground feeder and finds food while hopping on the ground through trees or shrubbery. During the summer months, it shows a preference for seeds that are easily husked but is less selective during winter, when food is scarce. Northern Cardinals feed their young almost exclusively on insects.



You can do a lot to help Northern Cardinal flourish:
1. Create nesting habitat near edges of woods, hedgerows, and vegetation around houses...
2. Install pole feeders high enough so preying animals cannot reach it.

3. Garden to attract cardinals and other songbirds year around by including these flowering plants:
sunflowers, delphinium, daisies. heliopsis, liatris, penstamon, bee balm, goldenrod, purple coneflower, tickseed, phlox, coneflower, cosmos, spider flower, aster, four o'clock, bachelor's button, phlox and snapdragon.

These flowering plants produce seeds that attract and feed songbirds throughout the spring and summer months.

    Dr. M. Wolken Ph.D. is an educator and environmentalist helping to inform and encourage you and your children to explore the wonders of nature. Visit http://www.naturescrusaders.wordpress.com to experience and get involved in saving Mother Nature's wonderful world.
    Article Source: EzineArti


Sunday, September 10, 2017

BLUE JAY- Cyanocitta cristata


Blue Jay - Photo: Wikimedia



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE

Black-capped Chickadee is a very small bird with a large head. He has a busy habit of darting everywhere. Sometimes it appears to not know what direction to go. But this behavior seems to help it to catch insects while in flight.

The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird o...
The Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird of Massachusetts.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It does not mind company when it flies. In fact, the Black-capped Chickadee prefers flying with a flock of any number and kinds of other birds. This may be for the company and also for protection. They prefer forests, woodlots, backyards, and shrubby areas in the West. They are usually found in deciduous type trees.

With your binoculars take some time and look for general markings and characteristics, things that you might notice right off. Do not spend a lot of time trying to memorize different aspects of the Black-capped Chickadee. Just look for general information and then you will be able to quickly recognize what group these birds belong to by noticing the size, general shape, colors and their behavior.

I suggest that you keep a notebook of these characteristics. You can add to it from time to time. This will help you understand and learn. But be patient and note things only one at a time. Otherwise, you may get tired and discouraged because you can't remember everything at once. It will all come in time as you watch these birds. Also, take a look at the field marks such as a wingbar and eyering markings to tie some IDs down.

Please remember also to note what time of year you see them as well as other kinds of birds you see in your neighborhood. Then you will be able to keep track of them better next year when the return.

A good field book on birds will help, but do not try to memorize everything in it all at once. Just learn about your specific bird of interest.

Black-capped Chickadee

Size & Shape
A real tiny bird with large head, plump, almost fat body, narrow tail, and a very short bill
Color Pattern
It has a beautiful shiny black cap and throat against white cheeks. Puffy sides; wings and back of soft gray coloring
Behavior
Very busy, with acrobatic flight, and often with feeding flocks of several species
Habitat
Likes forests, woodlots, backyards, and shrubby areas; in the West, associated with deciduous trees

Birding is a great sport, especially watching Black-capped Chickadees. Their antics and activities will keep you busy for hours. With some enjoyable work in preparation by learning a few basics about them and with a good pair of bird watching binoculars, you can have many hours of pleasure with your family or by yourself.

    By Roger L Johnson
    Roger Johnson has loved watching birds, animals and great scenery with binoculars and telescopes for years. - Article Source: EzineArticles


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Beauty of ORIOLES

SPRING IS HERE!!! And so are ORIOLES! These wild birds are strikingly beautiful! Because of their beautiful black, orange or yellow color, their distinctive whistle, spring songs, and their amazing suspended nests, which we'll plan to look at further.

Photo: Wikimedia


ORIOLES are quickly becoming one of America's favorite wild birds. While over eight species of Orioles can regularly be seen in the United States, we want to look at the "Major Three" species - Baltimore, Bullocks, and Orchard.

ALL United States Orioles show variation on the theme of black with yellow or orange color. Except for in the Southeast, all Orioles are tropical migrant wild birds. While migrations vary, Orioles generally arrive in the South in early spring, mid-west in early May, and further North soon afterward. It is very important, for one that is interested in housing and feeding, that Oriole feeders up and ready around May 1st, or often Orioles will pass you by for better feeding grounds. It is also important to have nesting materials out and ready to help attract and encourage Orioles to nest in your yard because by summer's end, migrating Orioles are headed back south to their tropical winter homes in Central and South America. It seems that Baltimore Orioles (Not the Major League Baseball Team) ranges are expanding, while Bullocks and Orchard Orioles are declining.

ALL Orioles need and benefit from our help and we benefit from them also where natural pollination and insect control is concerned. We can help by setting up bird feeders, bird food, bird bath's and bird seed in your neck of the woods and be a part of the bird feed and housing shortages. Where nesting material is available, Orioles will defend an area of several acres and start building a pendulous (hanging loosely) nest.

Here are some interesting facts and ideas to think about, when planning to set out bird food in your yard, near your bird bath and to fill your bird feeders to feed and attract these wild bird Orioles. Here are some facts to keep in mind about Orioles. ORIOLES migrate at night so they are tired, cold and hungry when they arrive in your neck of the woods.

If you wait until you see them, you are "too late" to attract Orioles, in maximum numbers, to your yard. Not so much wild bird seed but bird food like ORANGES is one of the "keys" to attracting Orioles. Cut oranges in half and provide them "juicy side out" for a refreshing snack for these beautiful birds. You can also attract these wild birds up close by offering Oriole feeder nectar, jelly, and fruit on the feeders by the house and patio.

They love the bright orange feeders and they are inexpensive and slip right on any Smuckers (tm) or other 10-12 ounce jelly jars.

Hanging the nests on a multi-level, wrought iron hanger is another idea, as you are able to tier multiple nests for their room and board enjoyments.

Many people feed jelly year-around, not only Orioles but Woodpeckers, Robins, Warblers, and others enjoy it. Many people have said that they keep Orioles longer now that they feed grape jelly!!!! There are a lot of people who claim that their favorite Oriole nectar feeders are Oriole Feeders. Why? Their wide mouths and flat tops, make them easy to fill and clean (base also comes apart easily to clean), and some have bee guards to make sure that Orioles - not bees - enjoy the nectar.



If you're worried about ants bothering your jelly or Oriole nectar, there are guards to put on and hang Oriole feeders with clear nectar protector ant moats above them and fill with water. This acts like a moat, similar to those around the old castles and has a similar effect. As you are probably well aware, ants can't swim, and for a few extra dollars, you'll never have to mess with cleaning them out of the feeder. These also work well with hummingbird feeders. While it is often advised that it is good to mix their own humming bird nectar from sugar, some opinion is that commercial Oriole nectar will attract and hold more Orioles and other wild birds at the feeder longer.

What ever you decide to set up, there are two things to keep in mind. Creativity and fun! You and your family will really enjoy these colors of nature occupying a place in your neck of the woods. Not to mention, you are helping them in their survival and keeping a good, natural source of insect control and pollinators around. Best wishes to you and your endeavors with the Orioles of North America!



Friday, July 21, 2017

The Beautiful Bright BLUE JAY

Growing up in the Northeast I was always able to enjoy the beauty of the Blue Jay. As I got older and learned more about them I realized that the only thing that surpassed their beauty was their meanness. They are known as the 'Nest-Robbers' of the Northeast.

English: Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) – DeSo...
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)

Diet And Reason For Their Bad Reputation

They are a common sight nearly anywhere within the eastern half of the continent. Here they find lots of nuts, seeds, and insects to feed on. However, in the Spring they turn to eating the eggs of other birds as well as their already-hatched chicks.

What a lot of people don't know about a Blue Jay is that it can imitate a Sparrow Hawk's cry perfectly. They can send the small birds from any area flying to find coverts and other shelter to keep from being attacked from the would-be predator. While they leave their nests to seek cover the Blue Jays help themselves to eggs or young.

This behavior has earned the Blue Jay the bad reputation it so honestly owns. As the eastern forests are slowly cut away it opens up even more defenseless birds to these kinds of attacks. This increase in access to the smaller woodland birds has caused the aggressive and beautiful Blue Jay to thrive while warblers, vireos, and other small birds have populations that are shrinking.

Nest, Eggs, And Migratory Habits Of The Blue Jay

A Blue Jay nest can be found on a horizontal branch, a vine tangle, or a shrub. The nests are bulky yet quite compact. They consist of strips of bark, lichen, rags, grass, paper, string, moss, and twigs. They are lined using fine rootlets and then cemented together using mud.

They lay eggs that are a variable of colors. They are greenish, bluish, or buff and are spotted with brown.

They spend the Winter within the U.S. for the most part except the ones found in the Northernmost tip of the country. This part of the Blue Jay population can be partially migratory. They have expanded their range westward being seen more often in urban type areas and suburbs. Their scream is shockingly similar to the Red-shouldered Hawk.

When it is time to travel they do so in small family groups. This usually happens late in the summer or early in the fall.



Breeding and Courtship

The Blue Jay breeds in parks, residential areas, open woodlands, and in forests containing deciduous and conifer trees. The courtship ritual consists of a showing of male aerial prowess and a bobbing up and down before the female. Feeding the female is also a part of the courtship ritual.

The Blue Jays in the Northern part of the country will usually have one brood. The Jays found further South will enjoy longer warm weather and may have two to three broods.

In spite of their rather mean disposition they are a dazzling spectacle when they come into the yard. Beautifully marked and a bit larger than many of the birds in your back yard, they definitely command attention whenever they are present.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

British Garden Birds - The HOUSE SPARROW

Even the most ardent bird lover can have a love-hate relationship with the House Sparrow. Despite being very sociable birds they are also known for destroying crops and some people see them as pests.

English: A pair of House Sparrows
A pair of House Sparrows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

House sparrows are native to Europe and Asia but have colonised throughout the world and in the US they are known as English Sparrows to distinguish them from native species. They are now the most widely distributed bird on the planet and in the RSPB's 2008 Big Garden Bird Watch they were the most counted British garden bird.

In the 18th century many parishes in Britain had "sparrow clubs" set up to destroy as many sparrows as possible because of their destruction to crops. Bounties continued to be paid until the 19th century when it was realised that the culling was not working.

Unfortunately House Sparrows are now struggling to survive along with many other common British birds and have declined in numbers so much that they have been put on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. It is thought that lack of food and suitable nest sites is contributing to the decline.

In the 1950s the UK sparrow population was estimated at 9.5 million which increased to 12 million in the 1970s. The numbers started to fall in the 1990s and the population is estimated to stand at about 6 million now.

The male sparrow has a grey crown and nape, edged with dark brown on the sides of the head and a distinctive black bib. The larger the male's bib, the better he is at attracting a mate. Upper plumage is a flecked with brown, buffs and greys.

Female sparrows are much duller with tawny upper parts and a cream coloured stripe above the eye.

Sparrows are mainly seen in urban areas and near arable farms. A flock of sparrows will often draw attention to themselves by their noisy, squabbling behaviour particularly when fighting for food. They are most commonly seen in the south and east of the British Isles.



House sparrows breed between April and August preferring to nest in colonies of 10 to 20 pairs. They like to nest in holes and under roof tiles or if there is a shortage of holes then they will build a nest in a thick hedge. They lay up to 6 eggs which incubate for about 12 days. Sparrows can raise 3 or 4 broods during one breeding season.

Sparrows will naturally feed on insects during the summer and grain during the winter although they will eat most kinds of foods provided by humans like bread, grated cheese, fat and specially formulated seed mixes.

To help reverse the decline of House Sparrows you could provide them with sparrow flats - special nest boxes that allow them to breed in colonies.




Friday, July 7, 2017

A Favorite BACKYARD BIRD - The CHICKADEE

The Chickadee is a familiar and welcome visitor to most backyards in the United States. Varieties of this bird are found across the entire US. A member of the titmouse family, there are five variations in the US. Mexican, Chestnut Backed, and Mountain Chickadees reside in the western states. The Black Capped and Carolina Chickadees cover most of the US from New Jersey to Kansas and south from Texas to Florida. I mention these two together because they are so similar, even at close range they are hard to distinguish. It would appear they have a hard time themselves as Black Capped and Carolina Chickadees have been known to breed with each other in areas where they overlap.

Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This active friendly bird will visit almost any backyard birding area and become a year round resident. After becoming regulars at your feeders during spring and summer, most will winter in the same area they had their summer nests, provided the weather doesn't turn too harsh. Even then, they will migrate only a short distance and return when it warms. For year round backyard birding, the chickadee is hard to beat. These birds have a cheerful call and song and provide hours of entertainment checking the trees and shrubs for insects.

Insects are the food of choice for the Chickadee.They eat live insects, eggs, and larvae while hopping or hanging, even upside down, in trees and shrubs. They sometimes make quick short flights and catch insects on the fly. They also enjoy berries, fleshy fruits, suet, acorns, and seeds. This friendly bird is a regular at our tube and platform bird feeders. We see them taking one sunflower seed at a time from our bird feeder and flying a short distance to open it. They enjoy our blueberry bushes, pine cones, and muscadines as well.

Chickadees can be trained to eat from your hand. It will take patience and consistent offerings, but these birds will slowly begin to come to you. This occurs more often in colder weather when the food supply is more scarce. This chickadee enjoys a variety of foods and can be enticed with various offerings until you find the one which work for you. Try various nuts, seeds, or fruits at about the same time each day. The inquisitive chickadee will get closer and closer until you find them eating from your hand!



Chickadees nest naturally in hollow trees or old woodpecker sites. They can be attracted to man made birdhouses. Obtain a birdhouse made for them and place it in a pine, elm, aspen or birch tree. We have them nesting in houses attached to our wood fence. Just be sure you have a sturdy house, rough sawn for the bird to cling to, and protect them with predator guards at the entrance. A chickadee house should come with tree shavings. While not used for the nest, it looks at this as proof this is a proper nesting site.

This bird is easily attracted and a favorite of many backyard bird watchers. Offering several varieties of food will keep these visitors happy. Provide sheltering shrubbery, water, and natural or man made birdhouse nesting sites and you will have an entertaining songbird dancing, singing, and performing upside down acrobatics for years to come. If you are fortunate enough, the Chickadee will reward you with eating from your hand.