Attracting Birds, Bird Baths, Bird Food and Feeders, Informative | October 15, 2019
By: Kevin Alferman
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”.
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.
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 | 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 Food and Feeders | January 18, 2019
Preparing for Winter Bird Feeding
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
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
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 Food and Feeders | January 16, 2019
Supplying the Right Winter Foods
Food during colder weather can be scarce for most birds because the insects, berries and other plants they depend on as part of their regular diet are not as available to them during the colder months.
Because of this, people play a very important role for many wild birds. Since their food source can be limited, the food that people supply help many wild birds survive during the harsh months of Winter.
There are certain feeders and seed you may want to use to provide the best Winter diet for the birds. For primarily seed-eating birds like Cardinals and Jays, the best seed you can feed these birds would be black oil sunflower seed. These seeds have slightly thinner shells and a higher oil content than other types of sunflower seeds, making them a more efficient and nutritious food for birds in the winter. Sunflower kernels provide even more energy per bite.
Through the harsh seasons nyger seed and fine chopped sunflower seed would be the best choice to feed your Finches, as it is another seed that offers a lot of calories, which helps birds store the fat they need to keep warm through cold weather.
For Clingers, such as: Woodpeckers and Chickadees, the best two foods to provide, are suet and nut pieces. Suet is animal fat mixed with fruit, seed of nuts that offers a high calorie food source these birds need during the cold months. Nuts are another choice to feed the Clingers because nuts are a high calorie, fat-rich nut that doesn’t freeze in the winter.