Attracting Birds  |  December 06, 2019

Winter Birding Essentials

By: Tristan Palmgren

Winter is a special season for birding everywhere. Birds are not only (usually – there are some exceptions, like male goldfinches, who lose their bright gold coloring) easier to spot against the snowy foliage, but their behavior changes in dramatic fashion. As naturally-appearing nuts and seeds dwindle, and the energy demands of survival increase, your birds will frequent your feeders and birdbaths more often. That means that winter is a great time to attract new birds to your backyard. They will be out and looking for new sources of food. As birds are creatures of habit, they will continue returning to your feeders even as the seasons change and other food becomes more plentiful.

Let’s consider some things you can do to make our part of the world more welcoming for birds. One of the biggest and best things you can do for your yard is provide fresh, liquid water – ideally with a De-Icer or in a heated bird bath. Maintaining a liquid-water bird bath is not as much of a challenge as you might think. This is a subject important enough to have its own segment in this newsletter. See the article “Winter Birdbaths” for more details.

bird bath deicer
Birdbath & Multi-Use De-Icer

Missouri’s winter and year-round birds will need many more calories to survive and thrive than they did over the summer. That means their preferred food sources will change. Energy is paramount. And the highest-energy, highest-calorie foods that we have are the suet cakes. Pine Tree Farms High Energy Suet is Songbird Station’s best-selling winter food. Suet appeals most to clinging birds like titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers, and bluebirds will all delight in suet cakes, especially if they’re catered to. In addition to High-Energy Suet, Pine Tree Farms makes a variety of specialty suet cakes. Some are formulated to be more attractive to specific birds – insect suet, for example, will draw in more bluebirds. Other cakes are made for different purposes, such as hot pepper suet, which will keep pesky squirrels, raccoons, and deer away from your feeders.

High Octane Suet Cake

As you observe your birds this winter, you may notice that they appear larger and fluffier than before. This is not necessarily because they’re bulking up or storing extra fat. Birds keep themselves insulated from the cold by fluffing their feathers to add more layers of air between them. The multiple layers of feathers and air keep their body heat efficiently trapped. Feathers and fluff alone won’t keep them through the coldest Missouri winters, though. At night and during snowstorms, they’ll be looking for shelter to roost.

You can help them out by providing roosting space. Nest boxes left over from last nesting season are not ideal roosting spaces because their entrance portals are at their tops. While this is a feature during summer, in winter this allows heat to escape into the world. Dedicated roosting boxes are similar to nest boxes, but have their entrance portals at the bottom of the box to allow heat to stay trapped atop, and generally have a built-in ladder or other platform to allow birds access to the warmer top of the box.

Not all nest boxes can be reasonably converted to roosting houses. One recent addition to the Songbird Station catalog is designed to do double-duty. The Songbird Essentials Convertible Roosting House has a detachable front cover that can be flipped depending on the season: entrance portal on top for summer, bottom for winter, and a removable internal ladder. Alternatively, Songbird Essentials’ dried grass roosting pockets not only provide birds with shelter and space, but look fantastic on trees.

Convertible Roosting House

Attracting Birds, Bird Baths  |  November 27, 2019

Winter Birdbaths

By: Tristan Palmgren

As the weather gets colder and natural seeds and nuts become scarcer, more and more birds will be visiting your feeders – but food and calories aren’t the only things they’re going to be looking for. Liquid water becomes even scarcer in winter. Feeders are an essential component of your backyard birding habitat, but they’re not the biggest draw for birds. In winter, liquid water will draw many times more birds than even the most attractive feeders.

Keeping liquid water in your backyard is less of a challenge than it might seem. The Songbird Essentials Birdbath & Multiuse De-Icer will fit most birdbaths, and is completely safe for birds. The surface won’t get too hot for them to touch, nor take up too much electricity. The De-Icer is controlled by a built-in thermostat. The heating element will only switch on when the water is just above freezing and will maintain it at that temperature. It will turn on and shut off automatically. The projected power usage is pennies per month.

bird bath deicer
Birdbath & Multi-Use De-Icer

Most heated birdbaths – that is, full baths with their own heating elements built in – are also controlled by thermostat, are similarly cost-effective to operate, and can be used year-round. Our most versatile heated birdbath is the Songbird Spa, which can be mounted to a deck railing with a clamp or plate mount and comes with stakes for a ground mount option. The Songbird Spa is easy to clean. The bath lifts right out of its holder. Other heated birdbaths can also be mounted on decks or, like the Songbird Essentials Heated Cedar Birdbath, come with stands.

Songbird Spa

One of the best features of a well-maintained birdbath is that they will draw many more birds than might otherwise visit your feeders otherwise, including birds that aren’t primarily seed-eaters. Not only will liquid water attract a greater quantity of birds, but also a wider variety. Last winter, nine out of ten stories about bluebirds that we heard in the store started with birdbaths. Bluebirds visit seed feeders on occasion, but they’ll more readily make a habit of visiting fresh water. A heated birdbath is a great way to draw in as many bluebirds to your backyard as your area will support – and to see if it’s worth investing in a mealworm feeder or bluebird house, if you haven’t already.

Mealworm Feeder Blue/Grey

Attracting Birds, Bird Baths, Bird Watching  |  October 22, 2019

Nature’s Bounty

By: Mary Douglas

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Fall is upon us with winter close behind. A stroll through local parks amid our autumn colors is always a delight this time of year. Take note of the abundant natural foods available for wildlife as you go.

Seed heads heavy with seed will be bent over, acorns will be scattered about the undergrowth, and berries will be heavy on the stems. Native plants and trees you may find include Sunflowers, Serviceberry, Red Cedar, Wild Plum, Black Cherry, Oaks, Basswood, Beautyberry, Dogwood, Hawthorn, Sumac, Virginia Creeper, Coneflower, Liatris, Asters, Black-Eyed Susan, Native Grasses, Winterberry, and others. Many of our native plants look like a weed, yet they are nature’s grocery store for our wildlife. You will likely find some of these natural foods in your yard. Along with the wild food, fall provides leaf litter on the ground that is winter nesting material for birds, squirrels, and bugs.

Songbird Essentials Heated Bird Bath

The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends leaving the native foods and litter where they are for the birds and critters. We can help our local wildlife by leaving and encouraging such native resources in our yards. Fall is the prime time to expand your native perennial plants either by division and replanting or by purchasing starts from local growers. Adding a reliable source of fresh water, such as a heated birdbath, and seed and suet feeders to supplement the wild harvest will attract and help support your local wild residents through fall and winter. Future benefits will show themselves in years to come.

Crossfire 8×42

Fall also brings the shortened daylight hours that triggers the migration of birds. September is often the month we see the most activity at feeders from migratory birds. Birders have a great opportunity to take pictures in the fall as the birds offer unusual opportunities to see them as they move through on their way south. Cameras and binoculars are often in our pockets as we stroll about our parks. Songbird Station offers a wide variety of feeders, baths, and optics to meet your needs and budget. Utilitarian or decorative there is something for every bird lover and a variety of seeds and seed blends for every bird species. Take advantage of Nature’s bounty in the native plants, add a few strategically placed feeders, and use your binoculars to watch the show!

 

 

Attracting Birds, Bird Baths, Bird Food and Feeders, Bird Species, Informative  |  October 15, 2019

Family Time

By: Kevin Alferman

Warblers

The Warbler Guide By: Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle

Welcome to the wonderful world of Warblers. Did you know that 37 species of warblers migrate through Missouri in the Spring and Fall? Fall viewing can produce some rewarding looks at the colorful and artistic patterns of warblers, however, they don’t come easy. Most warblers are secretive, hiding among the foliage. They feed actively, primarily on insects, so it seems like right when you’re ready to get a good look, it moves. But keep trying, because when you do get a good look it’s really worth it. In general, warblers are tiny (smaller than sparrows, slightly larger than a goldfinch) and their beaks are short and pointed. Common species that breed in Missouri include Northern Parula, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellow Throat, and Yellow-Breasted Chat. Uncommon breeding warblers include Blue-Winged, Yellow-Throated, Yellow, Pine, Black and White, Prairie, Cerulean and Worm-eating. Common migrating warblers include Tennessee, Yellow-Rumped, Black-Throated Green, Blackpoll, Palm and Wilson’s. Uncommon migrating warblers include Orange-Crowned, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Bay-Breasted, Mourning, and Canada. WHEW! As if that’s not enough, an additional 6 species wing through as rarities. Want to learn more – Check out “The Warbler Guide”.

Pine Tree Farms Insect Suet Cake

Species Spotlight – Yellow-Rumped Warbler

The Yellow-Rumped Warbler is one of the most abundant warbler species throughout the country. In Missouri, they are abundant migrants from Early October through November, with their numbers reducing through December. A few even stick around through the winter! They spend the summer breeding in Canada and high mountains. Look for them in the higher portions of trees in your yard. Locate them by listening for their often repeated short call (sounds like “check”). It is a well-named species because the yellow rump is a good field mark. It looks like a pat of butter was placed above the base of the tail, giving them the illustrious nickname “butterbutts”. Also, look for the white spots on the black tail (especially visible in flight) and the yellow patches on the flanks. Color patterns and markings are bolder on the male. The male’s body has an overall bluish-gray look, while the female appears more brownish. This species is separated into two subspecies and both migrate through Missouri. The Audubon race is the western variety and has a yellow throat. The white-throated Myrtle race breeds mostly in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Backyard Essentials Floating Solar Birdbath Bubbler

Attracting and Viewing Warblers

Warbler migration peaks in mid-September so now is the time to get ready for them. Birdbaths, especially with moving and noisy water, are a great way to get warblers in the open for a nice look. Ground and elevated birdbaths also work well. The simplest way to things moving is the Solar Powered Birdbath Bubbler (pictured) that can be easily inserted in any type of birdbath. Despite being insect eaters, there are some good food options for attracting Warblers. Many species make occasional visits to suet for the high energy beef fat, especially varieties that include insects, and fruit. HAPPY HUNTING!

Attracting Birds, Bird Baths, Bird Food and Feeders, Bird Houses and Nesting, Bird Species  |  October 13, 2019

Clean Up Your Act

By: Kevin Alferman

Keeping feeders clean is an ongoing part of feeding the birds and will keep the feeders looking good and minimize the spread of disease. They should be cleaned as needed, but you should plan to clean them at least every two to three months. If you notice sick or diseased birds visiting the feeders, it’s time for a cleaning to stop it from spreading. If the seed gets wet and moldy in your feeder, be sure to disinfect the feeders as the mold can be harmful to birds. The cleaning task is typically an outdoor activity, so your schedule should include cleaning in November before it gets too cold, then again in February when it starts to warm up. A 10% bleach or vinegar solution is best for cleaning because it effectively disinfects the feeders. Be sure the feeders are thoroughly dry before refilling as these solutions are non-toxic once they dry out. Fill up a large container like a trash can, with the solution and submerge your feeders. If you have the time this is a good method to clean all of your feeders at once. Let each feeder soak for a few minutes as the scrubbing will be easier. The Songbird Essentials birdbath and feeder cleaning brushes are specifically designed with long sturdy bristles to clean all of the nooks and crannies. Use one of our many shapes and sizes of bristled bottle brushes to clean tube feeders. While you’re at it, dump out the birdbath and disinfect it too. Be sure and dump as much water out of the feeders and baths as you can and place them in the sun to dry. For stubborn cleaning jobs use a product like Poop-Off that is specially designed to remove bird droppings. Remember to pick up a bottle of Birdbath Protector that helps minimize algae growth and mineral and sludge deposits.

Bird Bath Brush
Poop-Off Bird 32 oz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 oz Birdbath Protector
Best Long Brush

Attracting Birds, Bats  |  October 02, 2019

Going Batty? It’s October!

October is “Bat Appreciation Month” and we sure appreciate our flying mammal friends. Attracting bats to your backyard can be simple with proper bat house placement.

FUN FACTS ABOUT BATS

Did You Know?

Songbird Essentials 5 Chamber OBC Bat House
Songbird Essentials 5 Chamber OBC Bat House
  • Bat houses should be placed on a pole, house, barn, garage, or any other structure that is at least 15’ tall.
  • The higher the bat house is placed, the better your chances of attracting bats.
  • Two bat houses placed back to back on a pole offer the greatest chance of attracting bats.
  • Houses should be positioned so that they face south or southeast, preferably so that they get morning sunlight.
  • Bats eat almost their full body weight nightly, they are the major predators of night-flying insects.
  • The United States has nearly 50 species of bats, most of which consume insects. The bats most commonly found in the Midwest consist of Big Brown Bats, Little Brown Bats, Red Bats, Hoary Bats, and Silver-Haired Bats.
  • Of all the bat species in the United States, only the colony-roosting bats will use bat houses, such as the Big Brown Bats and the Little Brown Bats.
  • If a bat gets caught in your house, open the doors and windows and calmly sit down. The bat will use echolocation to find its way out.
  • Once a colony of bats has found your bat house, they will use that same house every year.
  • Untreated cedar or exterior plywood increases durability and attracts bats.
  • Interior walls are grooved or covered with mesh to help adults and pups cling.
    Songbird Essentials Bat Bungalow
    Songbird Essentials Bat Bungalow

Elements of a Good Bat House

  • Slanted roof for rain run-off.
  • The ceiling inside bat house traps heat.
  • A slot that allows for ventilation.
  • Predator guard (not visible) protects roosting bats.
  • A long, grooved landing platform allows easy access for bats.
  • Long, narrow design provides temperature variation.

 

To learn more about proper bat house placement visit: https://www.batbnb.com/hanging-guide

 

Attracting Birds  |  August 13, 2019

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!

Attracting Birds  |  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!