Bird Watching, Migration  |  December 01, 2019

Winter Birds in Missouri

By: Mary Douglas, Ph.D.

Missouri is dead center in one of the largest migratory pathways on the North American continent. The Missouri and Mississippi rivers are highways for millions of birds moving south from Canada and the northern states. Bird populations shift with the seasons as they have for millennia. In winter Missouri birders miss our backyard friends the hummingbirds, orioles, wrens, swallows, and other insectivores. Their absence makes way for the incoming seed eating Juncos, Siskins, and Finches. The changes come and go every year giving birders something new to see every day.

The significance of migration is most pronounced at our Missouri State Wildlife areas. Places such as Squaw Creek and Swan Lake in NW Missouri attract millions of migrating and overwintering waterfowl and raptors. Canvasback, Mallard, and Merganser ducks move in with Canadian Geese and Snow Geese in large flocks. Seeing these birds en masse is truly breathtaking.

Raptors follow the migrating waterfowl and overwinter here as well. Missouri has the largest population of overwintering Bald Eagles in the country. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has Eagle Days when the public can go to specific watch sites to enjoy the show with up to 30 eagles roosting in a single tree. These opportunities are memorable opportunities for photography and hot chocolate. Wrap up if you go, it is always bitter cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills blow in over the wetlands. It is worth the effort! You can find details on dates and locations at https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/eagle-days-5.

Local sighting trends follow the food availability. As the agricultural harvest season comes and goes, the birds move to other sources. Wild foods such as sunflowers, berries, thistle seed, and mast fall such as pecans, walnuts, hickory, and persimmons feed our forest friends through the dormant cold months.  We are able to lure birds into our home environments with readily available seed, suet, and fresh water. Birds are particularly susceptible to dehydration in the dry cold winter months making a water source critical to survival. Combining food with water sources keeps our beauties in viewing proximity year round. A good regional bird identification book is handy for referencing birds you do not recognize. Sometimes we get birds far off their regular territory. Mother Nature never disappoints.

Songbird Proso Millet
Songbird Proso Millet
High Octane Suet Cakes
High Octane Suet Cakes

 

 

 

 

 

Journaling your bird-sightings is worthwhile in winter as well as summer since you can see many species out your own window. Learning the differences in plumage and species in summer and winter is always a pleasurable experience. I see something new every season. Our Missouri winter birds are magnificent. Look outside, look up for the big birds, and enjoy!

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

Migration  |  October 11, 2019

Flight of the Hummingbirds

By: Tristan Palmgren

Though it seems to us like the weather has only gotten a little cooler, our hummingbirds sense a big change coming. They know that migration season is on us, and they’ve started to prepare. Some of them are already on the move. You may have already noticed changes in your yards as some of the hummers you’ve been feeding all summer have left, and that you have some new arrivals that have migrated from farther north.

Hummingbird migration is one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena. When hummingbirds realize they’ll need to migrate soon, they start bulking up for the trip. They know instinctively that they’ll be expending a large number of calories soon, and they increase their energy consumption to compensate. Hummingbird nectar is typically made at a concentration of four parts water to one part sugar (and this is as true for Songbird Essentials nectar mixes as homemade nectar). During the migration season, we recommend increasing that concentration to three parts water to one part sugar.

Songbird Essentials Super Shaker Nectar Maker

They need all that energy for a reason. Though some ruby-throated hummingbirds spend their winters in the very southern tip of Florida, the majority of those we see here in Missouri will cross the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Central and Southern America. Their journey will take them hundreds and hundreds of miles over the ocean in just twenty hours. And they’ll do it all in one trip, as there are few to no islands for them to stop on. They’ll traverse all this distance on wings that are just about an inch and half long, and that they need to beat forty to eighty times per second to stay aloft. It’s no wonder they eat more before they go.

Songbird Essentials Faceted Ruby Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbirds increase their body weight enormously before migrating, nearly doubling their pre-migration weight. They then expend nearly all of that crossing the ocean. It’s one of the most arduous journeys any migratory species undertakes, let alone a species as small and vulnerable as the hummingbird. Imagine the toll on your body if, every year, you were to drastically increase your body weight and then expended of it in one concentrated burst of exercise. Hummingbirds are more adapted to these sudden gains and losses than our bodies would be, but it is still quite taxing on them.

Songbird Essentials 8 oz Clear Hummingbird Nectar 

Hummingbirds have been migrating in this style for millions of years. Their lifestyle well predates human civilization. If only for our mental well-being, it’s important to remember that hummingbirds are not dependent on humans to survive. Our goal in feeding these birds is not to replace or micromanage an ecosystem, but to supplement it, and to encourage desirable and colorful visitors to come to our backyards. However, their migration does mean that the hummingbird’s dietary needs change, and those of us who provide food for them need to be aware of that fact. The same hummingbirds that frequented your feeders in spring will be looking for something different, and stronger, at the end of the season.

Dr. JB’s Complete Switchables Available in 16 oz., 32 oz., 48 oz., & 80 oz. capacities

The fact that hummingbirds not only survive this trip but have thrived as a species is one of the many traits that make them wonders of nature. Another trait is their fantastic memory and sense of geolocation. Not only do they migrate incredible distances, they can pinpoint specific locations, and return to the same backyards that they left months and months—and thousands of miles—ago. If you’ve been feeding hummingbirds regularly throughout this season, you can place a good bet that you’ll see those same birds next spring.

Migration  |  September 17, 2019

Flight of the Hummingbirds

Hummingbird migration is taking flight in Missouri.

By: Tristan Palmgren, Songbird Station Store Manager

Female ruby-throated hummingbird on a copper hummingbird swing by Songbied Essentials.
Photo by Jill Eoff

Though it seems to us like the weather has only gotten a little cooler, our hummingbirds sense a big change coming. They know that the migration season is on us, and they’ve started to prepare. Some of them are already on the move. You may have already noticed changes in your yards as some of the hummers you’ve been feeding all summer have left, and that you have some new arrivals that have migrated from farther north. If you’re not able to distinguish between individual hummingbirds, pay attention to any behavioral changes among your hummingbird population to see if you have any new visitors.

Super Shaker Nectar Maker from Songbird Essentials

           Hummingbird migration is one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena. When hummingbirds realize they’ll need to migrate soon, they start bulking up for the trip. They know instinctively that they’ll be expending a large number of calories soon, and they increase their energy consumption to compensate. This means that it’s a good time to increase the strength of your nectar to adjust to their new caloric needs and to give them a helpful kick of energy on their way. It’s easy to do this. Hummingbird nectar is typically made at a concentration of four parts water to one part sugar (and this is as true for Songbird Essentials nectar mixes as homemade nectar). During migration season, we recommend increasing that concentration to three parts water to one part sugar.

Faceted Ruby Hummingbird Feeder from Songbird Essentials

Hummingbirds have been migrating in this style for millions of years. Their lifestyle well predates human civilization. If only for our mental well-being, it’s important to remember that hummingbirds are not dependent on humans to survive. Our goal in feeding these birds is not to replace or micromanage an ecosystem, but to supplement it, and to encourage desirable and colorful visitors to come to our backyards. However, their migration does mean that the hummingbird’s dietary needs change, and those of us who provide food for them need to be aware of that fact. The same hummingbirds that frequented your feeders in spring will be looking for something different, and stronger, at the end of the season. Providing a slightly stronger nectar mix will not only help them on their way but also ensure that you will continue to have a lively display of hummingbirds at your feeders until the last of them have left our region.

           They need all that energy for a reason. Though some ruby-throated hummingbirds spend their winters in the very southern tip of Florida, the majority of those we see here in Missouri will cross the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Central and Southern America. Their journey will take them hundreds and hundreds of miles over the ocean in just twenty hours. And they’ll do it all in one trip, as there are few to no islands for them to stop on. They’ll traverse all this distance on wings that are just about an inch and half long, and that they need to beat forty to eighty times per second to stay aloft. It’s no wonder they eat more before they go. Hummingbirds increase their body weight enormously before migrating, nearly doubling their pre-migration weight. They then expend nearly all of that crossing the ocean. It’s one of the most arduous journeys any migratory species undertake, let alone a species as small and vulnerable as the hummingbird.  Imagine the toll on your body if, every year, you were to drastically increase your body weight and then expended of it in one concentrated burst of exercise. Hummingbirds are more adapted to these sudden gains and losses than our bodies would be, but it is still quite taxing on them.

The fact that hummingbirds not only survive this trip but have thrived as a species is one of the many traits that make them wonders of nature. Another one like it is their fantastic memory and sense of geolocation. Not only do they migrate incredible distances, but they can also pinpoint specific locations, and return to the same backyards that they left months and months—and thousands of miles—ago. If you’ve been feeding hummingbirds regularly throughout this season, you can place a good bet that you’ll see those same birds next spring.

Learn more about attracting hummingbirds to your yard at https://songbirdstation.com/attract-hummingbirds-to-your-backyard/

View hummingbird migration maps here https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration.htm

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!