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Quick Warm Weather Bird Feeding Tips

Bird Feeders

Spring is here, summer is approaching, and insects and other food abound for birds in the Northern hemisphere.  Do I need to feed birds?  Are there downsides to using my bird feeder in the warmer months?


Let’s address whether feeding birds during spring and summer helps the birds, even though there is plenty of other food available.  The answer is a clear yes!


It is true that in warm, wet months, disease is more prevalent among animals, including birds.  It is also true that a bird feeder attracts birds into groups, where illnesses are more easily transmitted from bird to bird.


However, despite this, the Journal Conservation Physiologyhttps://academic.oup.com/conphys ) found that while illness was a bit more prevalent in the spring and summer among birds with bird feeder access, this was outweighed by the fact that the average health of each individual bird was much improved.  If you are inclined, absolutely continue to feed birds year round!


Of course, food, including bird food, spoils or molds much easier in warm weather.  Therefore, steps should be taken to avoid this.  The easiest step is to feed the birds less food.  At most, fill feeders only half way.  If you were already feeding less than a full feeder, reduce the amount even further.  As soon as you notice spoiled bird food, dispose of it immediately.  Suet spoils very easily in the summer, especially home made or raw suet, so be extra careful with suet or save it for the colder parts of the year.  Keeping your feeder in a well shaded area is also a great idea for the summer.  Lastly, do your best to keep the bird food safe from rain.

Wren


Naturally, all that good food may attract more than birds!  In the summer, a whole variety of animals are more active and searching for grub.  As wildlife varies greatly from place to place, here are three ideas that may help wherever you are located:

  1. Feed the other animals in your area with food they prefer; for instance, a separate squirrel feeder will help keep the squirrels away from the food intended for birds
  2. Always store your bird food in durable, sealable containers that can’t be chewed through and won’t get damp
  3. Squirrel “proof” feeders will protect from a variety of animal bandits, including raccoons
  4. Bring in your feeders at night if midnight robberies are an issue


In summary, the birds will thank you if you keep feeding them in the summer.  Protect the food from spoilage by feeding less, placing the feeders in shaded areas, and keeping the food dry.  Store your food in durable, sealed containers.  Keep other animals at bay with a series of simple steps such as buying squirrel proof feeders, bringing in the feeders in the evening, and setting out other food that is preferential to the potential bird food thieves.


Keep Gardening!
Frank

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Common Murre

Common Murre. By Ómar Runólfsson - Common Guillemot - Uriae aalge - Langvía (Hringvía)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15538393

The Common Murre is a large auk. The name “murre” comes from the Cornish word meaning Razorbill, which is a fitting description of this thin-billed bird. The bird was first described in 1763 by Erik Pontoppidan, an author, bishop, historian, and antiquary from Denmark.

Common Murre. By Ómar Runólfsson - Common Guillemot - Uriae aalge - Langvía (Hringvía)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15538393
Common Murre

Photo Credit: Common Guillemot Uriae aalge – Langvía (Hringvía) by Ómar Runólfsson Uploaded by Snowmanradio via Creative Commons License.

Like all auks, the Common Murre belongs to kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata (animals with a spinal chord), Class Aves (birds), Order Charadriiformes, and Family Alcidae. It further belongs to the Genus Uria and species aalge. Therefore, its scientific name is Uria aalge.

There are seven subspecies of the bird:

1. Uria aalge aalge, which is considered the predominate subspecies, or nominate bird. It lives in eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the northern British Isles and southern Norway. In older books, it may be called Uria troille troille.

2. U. a. albionis, which is found in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the Southern British Isles.

3. U. a. hyperborea, which is found in Northwest Russing, Northern Norway, and the Barents Sea.

4. U. a. intermedia, which is found in the Baltic Sea

5. U. a. spiloptera, which is found in the Faroe Islands

6. U. a. inornata, which is found in Alaska, Easter Russia, Japan, and the North Pacific

7. U. a. californica, which is found on the Pacific coast of North America in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

Locally the Common Murre has other names. It is called the Common Guillemot, the Thin billed Murre, the Foolish Guillemot, the Guillem, the Gwilym, the Tinker, the Tinkershire, the Kiddaw, the Skiddaw, the Marrock, the Willock, the Scuttock, the Scout, the Strany, the Lavy, and the Frowl.

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Moving an Occupied Bird House

Birdhouses

It is a myth that if humans contact a baby bird or bird eggs, the parents will abandon the nest. Most nesting birds have a poor sense of smell. (This does not imply that all birds have a bad sense of smell – some birds have incredible senses of smell.)

Birds work very hard to build a nest and lay the eggs. A little human contact is hardly going to make them abandon the nest. Nevertheless, it is in the best interest of the birds to leave the nest alone.

But what do you do if you have to move a birdhouse? First, ask yourself if you absolutely have to move it. The breeding season is not very long. Can you wait until the chicks have left the nest? If the answer is no, then plan to move the nest and its inhabitants in daylight with as little disruption as possible. Have the new location ready to go. Gently remove the birdhouse and move it to its new location, keeping it upright all the while.

The parents will be upset and will make quite a racket. Thus, you should leave the area quickly, and let the parents find the birdhouse in its new location.

After it has moved, watch the birdhouse from a hidden location. Chances are that the parents will find the new location and resume feeding the young or sitting on the eggs. If hours pass, however, and it appears that the parents have abandoned the nest, then you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your area to ask for advice.

There is a myth that human contact with a bird will prevent the parents from sitting on the eggs or feeding the young. This is, however, just a myth. According to Bridget Stuchbury, a professor of biology at York University in Toronto, “Parents put so much effort into building nests, incubating eggs and caring for young that they rarely desert nestlings simply because a person has found the nest.”

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Birds are Particular about their Homes

Birdhouse

Did you know that not every bird uses a birdhouse? In fact, only cavity nesting birds use birdhouses. Examples of cavity nesting birds are purple martins, bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, the American kestrel, the ash-throated flycatcher, barn owls, and the common golden-eye. These birds will build a nest in a birdhouse that you place in your garden or lawn. Other birds, such as robins, build nests in trees; therefore they will not nest in your birdhouse.

Once you have decided that you want to put up a birdhouse in your garden, you should think about what kinds of birds you are hoping to attract.

Many birds have specific requirements for the height and the size of the opening that they choose to build their nests. Once such bird is the wren. Birdhouses for wrens should have openings that are 1.5 inches in diameter, and the houses themselves must be mounted from five to ten feet in the air.

Another bird with a definite birdhouse specifications is the chickadee. There are many birds that are commonly referred to as LBB’s (little brown birds) Chickadees might easily fall into this category if it were not for their black cap and bib, and bright white cheeks.

Black Capped Chickadee
Black Capped Chickadee

When it comes to chickadee birdhouses, they should be placed between five and fifteen feet in the air. Not only that, but the amount of sunlight and the direction of the wind must be taken into consideration. Birdhouses for chickadees should receive from forty to sixty percent sunlight and the openings of the houses should face away from prevailing winds. Speaking of openings, for chickadee birdhouses, the opening should be 1.125 inches in diameter. This is the perfect size for this small bird. Prepare the bird house by putting a 1″ thick layer of wood shavings into the box to simulate what a chickadee would encounter in an abandoned woodpecker home. It is important that you use clean wood shavings, and not sawdust, cedar chips, nor any treated woods. As far as the landscaping around a chickadee home, these birds prefer having large trees around. Normally, they nest at the boundaries of the open areas and the forest. Chestnut-backed chickadees, in particular, like to be near streams. However, remember this important fact: Don’t ever mount a birdhouse directly above a body of water. This is important to keep in mind to keep the baby birds safe. If a baby bird were to fall or jump out of its nest and land in the water, it would drown.
Bluebird on Bluebird House
Bluebird on Bluebird House

Bluebirds also prefer the border between open grasslands and woods. Birdhouses for these birds actually follow very strict guidelines. People often create a bluebird trail, mounting houses for these birds a certain distance apart from one another. You may not have seen a bluebird. Interestingly, these birds used to be as common as robins, but their population has been drastically reduced due to natural and man-made events.
Purple Martin
Purple Martin

For as exacting as the requirements on bluebird houses, the requirements for purple martin’s requirements are even more so. These birds nest in colonies. There are specially designed purple martin houses made just for them. These birdhouses can be constructed out of aluminum or plastic, have openings that are circular or crescent shaped, and have roomy interiors. You must put purple martin houses at specific heights in large open fields.
Purple Martin House
Purple Martin House

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What to Feed Wild Birds

Birds at Bird Feeder

Many people in North America and around the world have discovered that feeding wild birds is an enjoyable pastime. Unlike some hobbies, this one doesn’t have to be expensive. You will need to build to buy a bird feeder and obtain some bird food. There are several options available to you for where to procure the bird food. You can buy seed, which many people do. If you have a garden, you could also grow seed, You may not be aware that you could also make treats out of items that you probably already have in your own pantry. Now birds are particular in what they eat. Every bird subsists diet consisting of particular types of food. If you divide birds into groups by what they eat, you will find that there are four general groups: insect eaters, seed eaters, nectar eaters, and fruit and berry eaters.

If you already like to garden – or even if you want to get started, you can easily grow seeds for the birds. Sunflower seeds are an obvious choice. They are easy to grow. All you really need is a small patch of fertile ground that receives lots of sunlight and water. The sunflowers will take care of themselves. The birds will land on the flowers and eat the seeds directly from the plant. You can also save the seeds from the foods you eat: watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, and squashes are good choices. (Don’t save apple seeds, as these are poisonous.) Once you have removed the seed from the fruit or vegetable, simply rinse them off and then dry the seeds. Drying is important so they don’t mold. Don’t bake them. Then save them until winter and feed them to the birds. You can combine these with sunflower seeds to make your own gourmet mixture.

Bird Eating on Sunflower Plant
Bird Eating on Sunflower Plant

An easy alternative, and one that many people opt for is to purchase seed. Now, there are lots of mixes in the market place, but it is usually best to avoid the mixed bags that are sold specifically for wild birds. These contain an awful lot of millet, and other filler seeds that birds won’t eat. Instead, simply purchase black oil sunflower seeds. These seeds are great for birds, because they are high in protein and high in fat, which is exactly what birds need.

You can, if you would like to do some creative cooking, also make your own tasty treats. An example is flax seed-cornmeal cake. It is a simple recipe. You will need bacon grease or peanut butter, eggs, flours, and seeds. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of bacon grease or peanut butter, 2 cups of cornmeal, ½ cup of flax seed, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, ½ cup of barley, 1 or 2 eggs, and water. Add as much water you need to get the mixture to the consistency of cake batter. Spread the mixture onto a jelly roll pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until it is hard. Let the cake cool, and break into pieces to put on the ground or in a feeder.

Bird Eating Meal Worms
Bird Eating Meal Worms

Some birds eat insects instead of seeds. To feed these kinds of birds, you can buy meal worms from pet stores. You can put these in bird feeders, or mix them into black oil sunflower seeds or into suet.