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Common Bird-Feeding Problems
Facing Challenges At the Feeder? Try These Solutionsby Bill Thompson, III Winter's cold weather and snow cover can make for a picturesque scene. But it can mean trouble for backyard birds searching for food, especially when seeds and berries are covered in ice. Today, approximately 60 million Americans feed and care for wild birds in their backyards-and not just during winter. Springtime and summer feeding are on the rise. But along with the pleasure we get from bird feeding frequently come some challenges. The editor of Bird Watcher's Digest proposes some solutions.
Lack of Birds
During spring and summer the diet of many of our seed-eating feeder visitors shifts to insects, fruits, and other natural, abundant food sources. Even during the traditional fall and winter bird-feeding seasons, birds may not immediately find a feeding station. Once the first chickadee, goldfinch, or titmouse "tunes in" to your feeders, the word will spread quickly and other birds will show up. Temporary loss of birds at a feeder can be caused by the presence of a hawk, a cat, or by stale or moldy birdseed.
There are numerous squirrel-proof feeders available, but squirrels figure out many of these after a time. Placing your feeders on baffled poles far from any tree, deck railing, or other potential launching pad that a squirrel could use seems to be the most successful strategy. Alternatively, offer the furry menaces some cracked corn (or ears of field corn) far away from your feeders.
Blackbirds, Pigeons, Jays, and Sparrows
You can limit the impact of "feeder hogs" by removing their preferred food from the menu. For blackbirds, pigeons, and doves, limit cracked corn and mixed seed; for jays and crows, limit suet, peanuts, cracked corn, and table scraps; for house sparrows, limit cracked corn and do not feed bread. Larger birds can also be discouraged through the use of small tube feeders with short perches-small birds can use them, but big birds can't.
Hawks at Feeders
Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks are songbird specialists that can be attracted to the bird activity at your feeders. Their tactic is a quick surprise attack, scattering the feeder visitors and perhaps catching a slow, sick, or unwary individual. As unpleasant as it may seem, it is perfectly natural and is a thrilling manifestation of nature's balance. If this bothers you too much, however, try taking your feeder down for awhile to see if the hawk will find new hunting grounds.
Cats at Feeders
Place your feeders a good distance away from thick cover where hunting cats might lurk. Mount your feeders high enough (above 4 feet) that a leaping cat cannot reach feeding birds. A circle of short (1-foot) wire fencing around the feeding station can make it more difficult for charging cats to catch birds.
If your feeders empty out overnight, you probably have a mammal making nocturnal visits to your feeder. This furry critter could be a racco...
Author: Bird Watcher's Digest
Copyright2010 Bird Watcher's Digest
Help Nesting Birds
Top 10 Ways to Help Nesting Birdsby Bill Thompson, III ( read about Bill )
Spring is the start of the breeding season for most of our North American birds. They pair up with mates, build nests, lay eggs, raise young, and then some of them repeat the cycle -- as many as three times. There are some things that you can do to assist your backyard birds at this busy time of year. Here they are, in the time-honored Top Ten format.
10. Keep your cat inside (and ask your neighbors to do the same). Cats take an incredible toll on songbirds, but low-nesting species and their young are especially vulnerable to cat predation. Do the birds a favor and keep this unnatural predator away from places where birds nest.
9. Provide nest boxes. It may seem obvious, but a well-placed nest box can mean the difference between nesting success and failure for a cavity-nesting bird. It's hard for many species to compete with starlings and house sparrows, which can take all the best cavities. For great advice on being a landlord to the birds, read A Guide to Bird Homes, published by BWD Press (1-800-879-2473).
8. Hold off trimming hedges and shrubs. Lots of species use small hedges and shrubs for nesting. If you see a bird building a nest in such a place on your property, you've got a great excuse to avoid this bit of yard work for the next month or two.
7. Put out short pieces of fiber, string, and yarn. For birds that build woven nests (orioles, some sparrows, robins, and others), a few short pieces of yarn can come in mighty handy during building time. Offer the pieces in an onion bag or in a small basket. Keep the pieces shorter than two inches to reduce the risk of birds getting tangled in them.
6. Offer pet or human hair in onion bags or put in obvious places. If you looked at a hundred bird nests, chances are that most of them would have some animal hair in them. It's soft, insulating, and easy to gather. When you groom your pet (or when you yourself are groomed), save the hair to spread around your backyard for the birds to use.
5. Put out eggshells for birds. Eggshells help female birds replace calcium lost during egg production and laying. Save your eggshells, dry them out in the oven (10-30 minutes at 250 degrees), crumble them into small pieces, and spread the pieces on an open spot on the ground.
4. Continue to feed high-protein foods such as mealworms, peanuts, and suet. Don't stop feeding your birds, unless you want to miss out on some fabulous behavior watching. Energy-packed foods such as those listed above will lure your backyard birds (and their young) to your feeders. These young birds will learn at an early age where your feeders are.
3. Don't mow meadows or brushy areas between late April and mid-August. We keep our farm fields long and grassy all summer long, mowing only a few paths that we keep short all year. This means that field sparrows, prairie warblers, meadowlarks, and other birds can nest in peace. And our box ...
Author: Bird Watcher's Digest
Copyright2010 Bird Watcher's Digest