Attracting Birds  |  August 13, 2019

2019 Photo Contest

Full Contest Rules:

Submission Period
January 15, 2019 – October 1, 2019

Exhibit & Voting
October 21, 2019 – October 25, 2019

Open House

October 26, 2019 11am -2pm
Contest winners will be announced at 2pm

2019 Contest Details

We invite our customers to come to our stores to view the winning pictures that will be on display for the next year.

Email submissions to:
kaylee@goldcrestdistributing.com

General Information

Subject: Wild Birds Only

Photographs from birds in captivity will not be accepted, this includes
events with wild birds.

Eligibility: General Public (Except SBS Staff)

Display Location: Songbird Station Columbia, MO

Submission Period:  January 15, 2019 through October 1, 2019

Photo Information:

Photographer Name & Contact Information

Photo Title or Information (i.e. Robin in Feeder, etc.)

SBS will assign a reference number to each entry

Suggested Subjects and Categories:

Wild Birds in their Natural Habitat

Wild Birds at Feeders, Baths & Houses

Wild Bird Behavior
Group Shots (2 or more wild birds)

People Enjoying Wild Birds

Photo Composition:

Must also provide a digital copy to kaylee@goldcrestdistributing.com
Resolution Size: 300 – (Photoshop is ok)

Number of Submissions:

Up to Three (3) per Photographer

Judging and Voting:
Photos will be judged during business hours October 21, 2019 through October 25, 2019 at close of business. All photos are judged by the public.

The Winners will be announced:

October 26th at 2:00 pm. 

Prizes

First Place: $100.00 Gift Card

Second Place: $50.00 Gift Card

Third Place: $25.00 Gift Card

Disclaimer

Songbird Station (SBS) reserves the right to edit photo comments to make them more clear to viewers. Songbird Station is not responsible for damage, loss or degradation of submitted photos. Photos must have been taken by the submitting photographer. Each photographer is responsible for all questions connected with copyright issues. Submitted images become property of SBS and photographer agrees to permit use of submitted photos on the SBS web site, social media, and in future SBS advertising without charge.

 

Attracting Birds  |  

Its Hummingbird Season All Summer Long

01162-12820 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) at Dr. JB’s Hummingbird Feeder, Marion County, IL
Songbird Essentials SE6002

Hummingbirds had a slow start making their grand appearance to central Missouri this year due to the late winter but they have been frequent visitors to our feeders since early May.

Although the summer heat is still lingering we will soon begin to see hummingbirds begin to make their great southern migration.

Now is prime time to put out new feeders, or refresh existing, to ensure our migrating friends have a constant nectar source.

Tips for Attracting Migrating Hummingbirds:

  • Have your feeders out by early August.
  • Hang your feeder in a partially shaded area to ensure nectar stays fresh and lasts longer.
  • Monitor your feeders. Hummers, especially males, can be very territorial and take claim to their favorite feeder. If you notice this happening be sure to hang more feeders for the less dominant.
  • Clean feeders weekly. Be sure to use a port-brush to clean the small, hard to reach, places.
  • Nectar gives Hummingbirds a source of energy but they also need protein. Try hanging a banana peel, this will attract tasty, protein-rich fruit flies that hummers love. Avoid pesticides in your flowerbeds as hummers get their protein from small insects.

Hummingbirds will begin their southern migration in early August and should move out of central Missouri by late October. Send us your photos of Hummingbirds migrating, we may feature it on Facebook!

Bluebirds  |  April 23, 2019

Bluebird Trivia

bluebird eggs in nest

It’s worth the wait when you wake up one morning and find tiny Bluebird Eggs in your backyard bird house.  

Here’s some Bluebird Trivia which you may not have known:

– Besides the usual blue, Bluebird’s eggs can also appear White.  Approximately 7% of Bluebirds’ eggs are white.  Females who lay white on their first brood eggs will generally only lay white eggs. 

–  The female Bluebird is the main incubator of the eggs.

– Bluebirds generally have two broods of nestlings a year, but sometimes they have three.

– Besides nesting boxes, Bluebirds’ nests can sometimes be found in wooden fence posts and hollow trees.  Bluebirds are cavity nesters.  Before nest boxes came into use, they nested in woodpecker holes in both fence posts and trees.  Due to alien bird species (which trail monitors will throw out) taking over their nesting places, and wooden fence posts being replaced with metal, most Bluebirds now nest in monitored boxes.

Want a high quality nesting box for your backyard Bluebirds?  Try the one pictured here – Ultimate Bluebird House which includes portal protector and nest lift.  Or for serious birders, try our Peek-A-Boo Ultimate Bluebird House which has a bird cam installed inside the nest box and also includes the portal protector and nest lift.

Ultimate Bluebird House

Attracting Birds, Informative  |  March 12, 2019

Attract Nesting Birds to Your Yard

nesting material wreath

Many North American birds nest in “cavities” (holes in trees and fence posts). Although some birds, such as woodpeckers, can chisel their own holes with their heavy, sharp bills, other cavity-nesters must find suitable holes for nesting.

Unfortunately, suitable nest cavities can be hard to find in much of North America.

One way to solve the nest-site shortage is to provide artificial cavities, also known as birdhouses or nest boxes.

More than 50 species of birds (including Bluebirds, Kestrels, Owls, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Wrens, Tree Swallows, and Woodpeckers) will use nest boxes.

Nest Boxes have helped boost populations of many cavity-nesting bird species whose numbers were declining. For example, both Wood Ducks and Eastern Bluebirds recently have made dramatic comebacks.

A Nest Box on your property will provide a valuable home for birds and enjoyable bird watching for you. We will help you figure out which birds you can attract to your yard and what’s the best way and place to mount your nesting boxes.

By attracting Nesting birds, you’ll enjoy the sight of parents and young in your yard.

TIP: if you DO add a nest box or two to your yard, offer your feathered friends some nesting material!

We have the only nesting material available that contains a mixture of five natural-colored materials preferred by North American Nesting Birds! Feathers, String, Cotton, Hemp, and Aspen fiber all included.

Because it contains all of the above, Nesting Material attracts many more birds than cotton only mixtures. Birds and consumers love it!

Click here for full brochure – Nesting Birds TIPs

Squirrels & Critters  |  January 22, 2019

How to Deter Squirrels

Although Songbird Station is a birding store, one other critter often dominates a conversation – squirrels! They’re often a headache for backyard birders, but they’re just doing what they need to survive. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to keep them from swiping the food in your bird feeders.

Some bird feeders are specifically designed to deter squirrels.

We feature them prominently inside our store, since they’re so popular. A customer favorite is the Squirrel Defeater Seed Feeder (SE980). It cleverly features 3 individually weight-controlled seed ports that will close if something heavy like a squirrel gets on them.

Baffles are another solution; they keep squirrels from climbing up (or down) to your feeders.

Pole-mounted baffles keep squirrels from climbing up poles and come in a variety of sizes. Our largest is the Predator Defeater (SESQR87), which also blocks raccoons. You can also view some hanging baffles in the store; we’ll help you choose the right one.

Another way to discourage squirrels is by choosing seeds that they don’t like to eat. Safflower seed tastes very bitter to most mammals, and will deter raccoons and deer as well as squirrels. However, cardinals, grosbeaks, titmice, nuthatches and other birds, love it!

Click here for full brochure – Squirrel Deterring TIPs

Bird Food and Feeders  |  January 18, 2019

Preparing for Winter Bird Feeding

Wild Bird Winter Needs

Follow these tips from Songbird Station, then relax and enjoy a backyard filled with your feathered friends.

October is behind us and already we have seen the snows and cold weather creep steadily closer. The days seem even shorter now as we rolled back the clocks and the light is casting long dark shadows by the afternoon. The trees have become mostly barren with a few leafy blotches of gold, orange and red desperately clinging on as if to defy the northern winds. Sweet aromas of wood fires drift lazily from chimneys filling neighborhoods. One last glance out of the window at dusk provides silhouetted images of Northern Cardinals at the bird feeders grabbing a few last-minute morsels before heading to their nightly roost. The signs of winter are slowly settling in across Central Missouri.

The large flocks of blackbirds, except for a few stragglers, have been ushered south by the first cold fronts. Our winter birds, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows and others have arrived over the past few weeks having been driven south by the same cold northern winds. Soon Pine Siskins will appear, maybe even some Redpolls. The northern birds that will spend the winter across Central Missouri have replaced the birds of summer. The Baltimore Orioles, Red-breasted Grosbeaks, Tanagers and dozens of other birds who rely on insects for food are but a warm weather memory. The Warblers that nested to our north have been passing through since mid-October. They stop in backyards for a splash in the bird bath and to glean what insects remain before retreating further south ahead of the approaching winter. This annual fall migration of birds is a visual reminder that the seasons are about to drastically change.

It is these cold weather changes that encourage many folks who didn’t maintain a bird feeder during the summer to consider offering supplemental food sources for our backyard birds. After all, when the snow blows and the temperatures plummet, our resident winter birds are a short thirty-six hours away from starvation. These feathered creatures, most that weigh less than a few ounces, only survive the harsh frigid nights on what foods they can consume during the day.

Feeding birds in our backyards has become more than just a passing hobby. In fact, birding in the United States has become the fastest growing outdoor recreational activity for families and individuals with close ties to gardening. The birds entertain us, they educate us and they bring color and activity to a seemingly cold reality outside our windows. But what does it take to feed birds and attract them to our yards? It’s very simple. Birds find food by sight. You put the food out and they will come.

In the past many people would just scatter the bird seed on the ground, or possibly have a single bird feeder filled with a general wild bird mix and expect all birds to enjoy their fill. However backyard bird feeding has become more specialized, targeting the specific feeding habits of birds to meet their needs. Some birds will only feed at elevated feeders like the Chickadees, Nuthatches and Goldfinch. Others, such as Juncos, Doves and native Sparrows feed primarily on the ground. Still other birds like Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Brown Creepers prefer to feed around the tree trunk zone. Then there are the Cardinals and Blue Jays who are just plain opportunistic feeding wherever the seed is made accessible to them.

Two of the most common style of bird feeders for attracting a large variety of birds is a hopper feeder, which will attract large and small birds, and seed tube bird feeders designed primarily for smaller birds. Other bird feeders include ground and platform bird feeders which are undoubtedly the most versatile for attracting a large variety of bird species. Then there are bird feeders designed to attract specific birds such as Nyjer thistle feeders for Finches and suet feeders for Woodpeckers. These types of bird feeders are recommended for a successful backyard bird feeding program.

Just as the type of bird feeder you select determines which birds you will attract, the bird seed you fill them with is just as important. Birds that feed at elevated bird feeders prefer sunflower seed, safflower seed, peanuts and other nut mixes. If you put a general Proso millet wild bird mix in these feeders, the birds will sweep through it picking out the nut products, scattering everything else to the ground.

Thistle feeders are for Nyjer thistle seed and Finch mixes. Caution must be taken to assure the thistle seed is fresh or the Finch you are trying to attract may reject it. A good Finch mix contains only Nyjer thistle seed and finely ground sunflower chips, nothing else. Avoid those commercial Finch mixes that contain flax, canary grass seed and other filler seeds that birds do not eat.

General wild bird mixes have a base of white Proso millet with cracked corn, peanuts and sunflower seeds added. They are best used on platform and ground feeders where birds can select the seed they want without sweeping through it. However, when purchasing a general wild bird mix read the label. Many of these inexpensive mixes contain filler seeds such as Milo, wheat, red millet and other products that birds do not eat. As much as 40% of a bag of bird seed that contains these filler seeds can end up uneaten and wasted on the ground. There is a variety of no-waste and no-mess wild bird feeds on the market. Although they may cost a little more, it will save you money in the long run.

If squirrels are robbing the seed you intended for the birds to enjoy, you may want to consider adding a squirrel baffle or investing in a squirrel proof bird feeder. Safflower seed will attract most all your favorite backyard birds and can be used in any type of bird feeder. The advantage is that squirrels do not care for it and will leave your feeders alone.

Water for birds, especially during the winter months, is essential for their survival. Although they do not rely on any one food source, an open source of water in the winter can be difficult to locate. In fact, offering fresh water can attract more birds than bird seed alone. To keep the water from freezing there is an assortment of bird bath heaters and heated bird baths on the market that are thermostatically controlled and use less energy than a 60 watt light bulb. Fresh water does more for birds than just meet their hydration needs. Clean feathers provide insulation during cold nights.

Winter offers many relaxing moments watching the birds go about their daily feeding routines from the comfort of your home. Winter also provides time to consider installing bird houses for the nesting season come spring. It’s a good time to make some landscaping plans for the spring that will benefit the birds in your yard year round. Hedges and shrubs will not only offer shelter from bitter winter winds, but will become a place for birds to nest and provide a natural food source as well. Consult with a Master Gardener at your local garden center or the University of Missouri Extension Office about planting habitat for wildlife.

Bird Watching  |  

Great Backyard Bird Count

You wake up in the morning, make your coffee, look out of your back window – you see Blue Jays and Cardinals dancing around your feeders. You hear the whistle of a Black-Capped Chickadee and as winter progresses these songs of the black-capped chickadee are becoming more prominent. Join over 160,000 individuals this February as they count their backyard birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Each year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society team together for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was the first online citizen-science project used to collect data on wild birds and display the results in real-time.

Great Backyard Bird Count Statistical Map 2018
Great Backyard Bird Count Statistical Map 2018

Counting wild birds provides critical data which can be used to analyze bird populations and create the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations. The data collected helps answer important questions such as “How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?” and “How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?” Bird populations are consistently changing. Data collected in the 2014 GBBC implied a significant irruption of Snow Owls across the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, Great Lake areas of the United States.

Dust off the binoculars and get your sketch books out, this year’s bird count will take place from Friday, February 16th through Monday, February 19th.  Anyone and everyone are invited to participate for as little at 15 minutes. You can count birds in your backyard or other locations such as parks, lakes – anywhere wild birds can be found! Go as a group or go alone, the GBBC is easy and convenient. Visit BirdCount.Org to register and track your results.

Helpful Sites:

Cornell Lab or Ornithology: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478

Great Backyard Bird Count: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

National Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org/

eBird: https://ebird.org/news/counting-102/

Bird Houses and Nesting  |  

Housing Birds During Winter

SE934 Mounted Grass Roosting Pocket with Roof

Providing roosting spots for birds is important because it allows birds to escape the snow and wind they would face during the cold winter nights.

Birds use these roosting boxes or nesting pockets to huddle together to share body heat and stay warm. This allows the birds to also save energy which is vital for them during these difficult months. Boxes and pockets also keep the birds safe from predators they may incur during the night hours.

Natural materials, such as the ones used in the Songbird Essentials Roosting Pockets help keep birds safe from predators as they blend in with surrounding areas and do not attract unwanted attention.

Bird Watching  |  

Bird Watching for Beginners

Picture this, you go on a nature walk with your close friends. In the distance, you hear the calls of a bird. Your group gets excited in anticipation of what singing songbird’s path you are about to cross. As you close in on the bird you recognize it’s distinct, nasally, fast-repeated clear whistle. Peter-Peter-Peter. Almost as if it was alarming the others that someone is entering their territory. You lift up your binoculars to see a small bird that has frequented your backyard feeder stealing sunflower from the Cardinals.  A small gray bird with prominent black eyes, a bushy crest, and small beak. It jumps down from its perch to pick up a seed and flies proudly back to its branch. You tell your friends it is a “Tufted Titmouse” and now you feel like a true birder. Success.

It takes practice to become an expert birder but is a lifelong skill to have that can be passed on to generations to come. Birding is essentially a year-round game that never ends and can be played outdoors or from the comfort of your home looking out of a window with a few supplies or none. It’s your call. Let your curiosity take flight with birding. If you really want to improve your birding skills, or just start somewhere, there are several supplies you will want to keep handy.

Getting Started with Birdwatching

A good Field Guide will be your best friend as it is essential to being able to identify birds. Field guides come in many different sizes making them easy to carry in your pocket, backpack or purse. There are guides available online but the last thing you want to do is drag out your dinging tablet or phone in the middle of the woods while trying to identify a quick moving bird.

There are many types of field guides available. If you are starting your birding trek at a state or national park you may find park guides in the visitor’s center before entering the park. These are typically a pamphlet of common birds located in that park.

Traditional guides come in different shapes and sizes ranging from a 2-sided laminated card to a full 200-page book and beyond. Beginner guides are typically arranged by color of the bird making it easier for the user to flip to the right starting point but as you use these guides you will learn that your version of color may vary from that of the authors. You will find that more advanced guides are arranged by shapes or taxonomically (by scientific classification).

Gear Yourself

So you have had practice getting out in the field, walking trails and taking advantage of the free guides provided at your local park. You’ve got a hang of flipping through a guide and understanding the author’s version of “red” and now it is time to purchase gear – but where to begin?

A sketchbook or journal will be your best friend. Keep a pad handy when you are going on a nature hike as there may be multiple birds you are trying to identify at once. Jot down a sketch of the bird, colors, unique calls the bird may have or any other identifying features. When you go home and prepare to finish your birding homework these clues can help you identify what you were not able to while out in the field.

Invest in a dependable binocular that suits your needs once you feel you are ready to improve your birding abilities. See this article on finding the right binocular for eyeglass wearers. Binoculars are convenient and easily portable, can be worn around your neck, and are available in waterproof options! Sighting birds through binoculars gives a more realistic view than using a telescope as human vision is stereoscopic (using two vision channels) just like a binocular.

Put Your Skills to Work

You’ve done your homework. You’ve flipped through your field guide. You’ve made your birding purchases now it is time to put your skills to work. Remember to have fun and relax. You will not be a professional on your first attempt. In fact, with birding, you will find that you learn something new each time you step outside. The knowledge you will obtain from bird watching will be abundant. So take that first step into nature and you will reap the rewards of your hard work. Pass these skills on to friends and family to create future generations of birding enthusiasts.

Bird Watching  |  January 16, 2019

Binoculars for Eyeglass Wearers

Picking the right pair of binoculars can be a hassle – especially if you already wear glasses. The most important feature to consider when purchasing a new pair of binoculars is the eye-relief or the distance between the exterior surface of your eye piece and your actual eye at which a full view can be wholly observed. When shopping for binoculars you want to find a binocular with an eye relief reaching or exceeding 15 mm which will accommodate your glasses without losing the field of view.

Pay attention to magnification, which is a key factor to consider when shopping for binoculars – eye glass wearer or not. You must understand the compromise associated with the magnification choices. Higher powered binoculars allow you to observe more details but also offer less-stable images and narrow fields of view as well as shorter eye reliefs. The best device would be one with 8x or 10x as they often contain eye reliefs over 15mm.

Other factors to consider when purchasing a good pair of binoculars includes the field of view, eyecups, and size of the objective. You’ll appreciate binoculars with a large field of view as it allows you to focus on moving objects easier and ensure your eyes feel more relaxed. Look for binoculars with adjustable or removable eye pieces to accommodate your eye glasses. The size of the objective lenses will determine the light gathering ability as well as weight and size. Binoculars with a bigger objective offer a better low light performance.