Birds love food that is fresh and familiar, and that is something that you may already have in your kitchen or pantry. Looking forward to a cool season of fall or winter, birds will often gear up for the chilly nights, and birds love a good protein or grain to keep them warm. Fluffing feathers only works so much, when you have no food to turn into heat. True, chickadees often will hibernate from the cold, chilling their internal temperature for days down close to freezing, but they still need good food stuffs to get them there. So, if you don’t have bird food, but you have some time, here is what you can do to help them through the winter days ahead.
Birds Love Bread
With many birds, an old muffin or bread slice will happily bring them the joy of picking at the grain, and the crust to digest a good source of carbohydrate. They will have happy days if they decide that the bread or cake is safe to eat. The best way to offer a day old crust of bread, is to place it on a flat bottomed feeder, which can hang near their seed sources. Clearly, this can’t be the only food that is offered, because birds love bread, but they do need essential oils and proteins. Do offer a sweet bread, a cracker, or even a sugary donut on a tray that is built for bird feet to safely clasp and hold. Even a nice clean suet tray that hangs, with sliced bread in the middle makes for a bird friendly presentation.
Birds Love Fat
Any beef or protein fat is a happy occurrence for birds hungry for protein. Next time you make your meat for breakfast, save the bacon fat and cool it in a pan. Better yet, place it in an old plastic container that you can safely cut away from, and mix in some of that day old bread. Whoops, you have officially made your own suet cake! This does not work in areas where the temperature is above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can still offer this if you freeze it. It is not as appealing if frozen, but birds will learn to look for the cake when you offer it, and will learn to manage the temperature once it is perfect. Fun watching for you, anxiety and fluttering of wings for your feathered friends.
Birds love nuts and fruit
Who doesn’t love a trail mix of dried and unsalted nuts? Birds love cranberry, apples, and all kinds of unsalted nuts. Salt is not an agreeable item to offer to birds, and salt is not on the birds love list. So if you want to have some fun, buy a bag of unsalted peanuts for you and your birds, and watch them come to harvest. We place unsalted peanuts on our deck every sunday am, and they wake me up for them too. If this isn’t your idea of a fun wake up call, be sure to leave the peanuts on your next nature walk in the woods, for another time.
A Pileated Woodpecker is the woodpecker that you remember from the woody woodpecker comics of the early 20th century, with that crazy hee ha hah he ha he … ha ha ha ha laugh…that we all can recall from the porky pig comic days. This special ancient and long lived bird is a marvel for its size and its persistent nature. Often calling with an actual call that sounds like a kuk-kuk-kukkuk—kuk-kuk or even a laughing, loud chicken like call that is almost spiritual in essence. With the ring and hurried call that comes from this very large bird, you can often hear it from a distance, as it often lives within a stock of old growth trees. Looking within the trees, and bouncing from high above the ground, the pileated woodpecker is a frequent visitor in oaks and elm trees.
Pileated Woodpecker Determinations
A large woodpecker, the only other wood pecker in the north american landscape that was this large, is the nearly extinct the ivory-billed woodpecker. The pileated woodpecker does not show large white wing patching or on the edges of its wing, like the Ivory-Billed. The Pileated woodpecker marks a spectacular red crest, and it is the definitive mark of the woody woodpecker, or Hylatomus pileatus. Creative cartoon work used the most unusual bird, for this character, and like its cartoon match, the bird is larger than most, crow like in size. Usually you will expect this bird to be from 17 inches to almost 20 inches long. It has a wide wing span, and wing beats that flash little hints of white, but nothing like the ivory-billed white edges.
Pileated Woodpecker Food Requirements
Eating within great old growth trees, like red oaks, oaks, elms, maples or even large forests of pine and furs, the Pileated Woodpecker will expect dead trees, and look for places to roost high among the tops of the forest. Usually mated for life, the pileated woodpecker will find a mate, a grove of old large trees, and stay in place. In our small little cul-de-sac, we are fortunate to have the experience of pileated pairs roosting and nesting for year after year. Not a day goes by where our neighborhood is not treated to a distinctive call from our largest inhabitant, and flurry of feathers from the distance. Our area is an old oak growth forest, and has much to offer our pairs of pileated woodpeckers. Worms, bugs, insects, grubs, wood wax mealy bugs, and beetles are everywhere in these old trees, and that is the protein that this woodpecker is searching for, in the trees. Being equipped with a large bill, and a great ability to move further into wood for food, the pileated woodpecker is the king of woodpeckers, and will illuminate your neighborhood in many ways.
Songs and Calls of the Pileated Woodpecker
The elusive nature of this woodpecker brings a joy and a magic to our woods and neighborhood. Many people stop by, and watch for them, often hearing them, but not seeing this magical spirit. The bird is often quick, so it is hard to capture a photo from the ground. The beauty and magistracy of the pileated woodpeaker comes not just from the large bird itself, but the movement, and the ghost like call that you hear.
Look for large trees, camp out with a pair of binoculars and an open ear, and you too may hear the pileated woodpecker laugh at you.
Hummingbird Feeders and Hummingbird Liquid Feeders are often an after thought in the Back Yard for Birding. When you are feeding birds, the most common food source is a seed or a nut variety, or even some kind of suet mix. However, there are so many birds that have adapted to feeding specifically from flowers, and from flowering plants. The many food source for these very imaginative birds is the juice or the nectar from the flowers in the wild. Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in nature, and have some very unique feeding habits from their use of nectar as food. Here is how you can incorporate this food source for your back yard hummingbird flock.
Find a great liquid feeder for your Hummingbird
A perky pet or other small drop style liquid feeder that allows storage of the syrupy liquid food, until the hummingbird comes to call, is the best option to feed hummingbirds. With a drop style, the feeder mimics the nectar offering from most flowers that hummers are used to. Finding a bright colored stem to the liquid feeder is a good way to entice your hummingbird to feed on the stem, and once they do, they will come back time and time again. Your back yard is never complete without a liquid feeder, and if you have a bright red feeder, with some yellow spots, you are sure to attract some hummingbirds to your feeder. Be sure to follow directions on filling your feeder, and place it out in safe times to ensure that you are keeping your hummingbird healthy.
How to Hang Your Hummingbird Feeder : When and How Often
Hummingbird colonies are often very adaptable, but follow the weather and temperatures due to the nature of their bodies, and their food needs. Hummingbirds have the fastest beating heart, and the smallest heart in the bird world. They are often elegantly feathered, with soft translucent spikes of color to attract a mate. In Ecuador, and parts of Central America, there are over 100 species of hummingbirds, who have beautiful displays of tail feathers, colors, and calls. They are often non-migratory, and stay in these warmer areas almost entirely. Ruby Throat ed Hummingbirds are migratory species, and bring a good display to Southern Parts of America, and even travel as far north as Canada in the summer. Not wanting to summer in the heat, they migrate as far north as food stuffs are plentiful. Hang a liquid feeder, and you can very much count on hummingbirds staying around your back yard for the summer.
Tips on Hanging a Hummingbird Feeder
Hang from a few locations to avoid fights and territory issues
Hang from a sunny spot and the other feeders from shady spots
Fill Feeders and Leave filled no more than 48 hours
Clean feeders with non-toxic acids like vinegar, lemon juice, water mix, and rinse thoroughly with water
Use multiple feeders to clean and dry completely, revolving feeders to ensure health of your hummingbirds
Mix 1/4 sugar to 3/4 water in normal times of the summer, 1/3 sugar to 2/3 water in times of early spring and late fall
Hang at the very first day of 55 degrees and continue to hang, clean and refill with higher concentration of sugar mix
One week after seeing a hummingbird feed, reduce sugars to 1/4 of your feeder.
Keep sugar water in the fridge in the heat of the summer, ready for a change of feeders.
Keep feeders filled in the fridge, ready to change out each morning, with a crisp, cool mix ready to hang.
Use baby bottle brushes to clean your feeders.
Never use soap on your feeders, and rinse and soak after any cleaning
Remove feeders after the first full frost.
If you continue to clean, refill, and maintain your feeders, you will not have any problems with ants, but if you do, move to a new location for a while. A paste of baking soda on the hook that the feeder hung, can be a great way to confuse the ants as well. Hummingbirds are the most beautiful of birds, with a tenacity of a terrier and the swiftness of a sports car. They will not be deterred from survival, and have made our lives better with each and every visit. It is proof that the life we see in our back yard is far more interesting than what we can see on television. Make a hummingbird happy today with some of your own tender loving care in a liquid feeder.
Your back yard feeders are in an emergency situation when a major snowstorm is occurring in your back yard. It is important that you keep your back yard feeders free of snow and ice during any weather system, as the local population of song birds can easily perish without new food during a wet and cold weather pattern. Bird food should be available and offered easily, to ensure your song birds do not die during the evening hours. Often, a very wet and heavy snow will cause songbirds to be trapped in a new and uncertain area of the backyard.
Snow and Back Yard Feeders
Squirrels, red squirrels, moles and other rodents will frequent your back yard feeders during a snow event, so it is important that you venture outside to ensure that your feeders are active and ready to work for your back yard birds. If your feeder is encased in ice, chances are, a mouse or squirrel will take full advantage of the frozen obstacles you may use, to keep your birds fed. Back yard feeders often work with a mechanism that will flip, twirl, or block a fat squirrel or mouse from feeding. When this mechanism is frozen, it creates a dangerous advantage for your rodent population to explore and realize the opportunity of your back yard feeders. Do not let the opportunity occur, and be sure to bring all frozen feeders indoors, for cleaning and maintenance.
For this reason, it is always a good idea to have an extra feeder that is clean and stored indoors, empty of food. The outdoors is a great place for you to find time to unwind and enjoy your back yard feeders, but they will require some down time once and awhile. However, a snowstorm is a time where you may need some downtime, and as well, a full feeder at the same time. That is why, having a backup for all your outdoor feeders is a great idea.
Use your back yard feeders that you have given up on, those that are less effective with your squirrel raiders, and give them a good cleaning with vinegar and water. These will be good substitutes while the best feeders you use are warmed up and dried, cleaned, and all winter snow and ice is removed.
Back Yard Feeders Should be Filled with Protein
During a icy rain, or snow storm, your back yard feeders should be filled with the best sunflower seeds, or even some meal worms for your song bird populations. The feeders are often very necessary during these events, when normal natural feeding areas are inaccessible. With the advent of a snow storm, you will see increased activity at your back yard feeders. The birds will be stocking up so to speak, as they will feel the change in pressure, and know when the storm is approaching. There are many birds who realize the change before most wildlife, so an accurate weather predictor is your back yard feeders. If you see increase in activity, you can count on some change to the weather.
Back Yard Feeders Can be Changed to New Offerings
Try to feed your birds something new during the storm, and a great offering during the storm that is new is a kind way to keep your beautiful birds alive and well. You may find a new suet feeder a fun and good way to offer that protein that they will require. With the new food, be sure to continue the same food you have offered during the winter, as they will not need too much change during this stressful time.
You may see that the population of birds in your backyard are new and unexpectedly populated. There could be a surprise to you with a new kind of bird, showing up with a dire situation of hunger and looking lost and uncertain. The years where a snow storm dropped over a foot of snow in our back yard resulted in new warblers and nuthatches frequenting our feeders more often. We did take care to ensure that our feeders were in use, and that created new birds visiting our back yard feeders.
When feeding the birds, the bird food you choose, will have a huge advantage in what birds visit your yard, and back yard for your viewing and hearing spectacle. The food you choose, can choose the birds you want to see, and can result in squirrels visiting your feeder as well.
Bird Food in Your Back Yard Feeder Can Result in Squirrels
If you are building a viewing bird feeder for your back yard, adding the staple bird food of black oil sunflower seeds, is a great way to start. While black sunflower seeds are the best way to feed most birds, squirrels love them too. They will do anything to get to this kind of bird food, and will dump your entire bird feeder on the ground! Squirrels are a team, and will work together to find, open and eat all of your bird food in your feeder if it is black sunflower seeds.
If you want to see songbirds, black sunflower seeds will be great will bird food for cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, juncos, doves, and for gold finches. House finches as well, love black sunflower seeds, and will eat from a pressed seed and suet hanging basket.
Millet and White Milo are Bird Food for Doves and Ground Feeders
If you are searching for a good food for ground feeders like juncos, doves, or morning doves, a millet mix will be your best food for wild birds. Creating a bird-friendly habitat for these birds should start with an easy way to clean and keep the ground fresh for bird food feeders. Often a daily scatter by you will suffice, but a low feeder with a easy platform, may be the better choice, with our busy days. Adding a large plate or plastic tray to any bird feeder, can be the best way to feed these kind of birds.
Canary grass seed, while millet, milo, wheat, red millet, safflower, and oat groats can be a great mix for your kept and wild doves. Squirrels are not too interested in this type of mix, as it is too tart or bitter for them. Most birds in your back yard, will not enjoy this mix as much as a black sunflower seed.
How can I keep Squirrels from My Bird Food?
Aside from buying a yankee droll feeder that flips your squirrels off the feeder, you can always use a caged bird feeder that only allows a small bird to enter the cage. Having a series of different bird feeders is the best way to showcase your bird food, and offer different varieties of height, branches and visibility for your bird feeders.
Another thing to consider, is squirrels are built and ready for competition. So, beginning to offer them challenges, a feeder that is built for their curious and tenacious nature, is a good idea. Build your feeders in your back yard, with some that can be easily infiltrated by your squirrels and bird, and others that have a deterrent from squirrels with a pulley system that hangs the feeder in a difficult place, and that offers a motorized flipper. This feeder will be your bird food dinner plate, and bring great watching for your back yard.
Every back yard birder knows about the hanging bird feeders, and the dish bowl bird feeders, but few birders know that some birds, like the Junco, prefer ground bird food feeders. These birds often wait for the droppings from hanging bird feeders, and are hungry when the feeders do not allow any food to fall.
Ground Bird Food Feeders for The Junco
There are feeders that can be placed on or near the ground, but the Junco and other small sized sparrow birds, like to scratch. They are not picky eaters, and will eat the less loved white millet unlike a healthy squirrel who generally will pass on the millet, and go for black sunflower seed over millet. The ability for the Junco to search and scratch on the ground, is a great thing for your bird watching scenery, as they are unusually active birds on the vulnerable ground. Ground bird food for Juncos can be white millet, safflower, white proso millet, or even cracked corn that is mold free. Corn has a nasty habit of inducing mold on its open kernel, so if you intend to add some starch by adding corn, you may want whole kernels, and crack it yourself before you scatter.
Ground Bird Food Attracts Not Only Juncos but Other Birds
Other birds that may be attracted to your ground bird food will include Junco, but also, Sparrows, Doves, Quails, Towhees, and some Bobwhite Birds. You may want to include a healthy but skim scattering of food on the ground each time your fill your hanging feeders, to give your Juncos, and Doves the right nutrition for them. They are great scatter feeders, and need to eat off the ground.
Wild Turkeys too, like to scatter feed, and will scratch areas clean when you have wood chips underneath hanging feeders. Over the course of a few years, I have noticed that the soil underneath my feeders is rich and can be good to add to compost, to bring up the compost value for my garden. The natural visits from our feathered friends, are a good nutrient addition to any yard.
Ground Bird Food can Create some Challenges
Even if you do not intend to feed on the ground, your ground bird food options will naturally occur from a hanging feeder. The most careful hanging bird feeder still will have bird visitors, who like to dump food on the ground for others. I watched a sparrow come to my feeder one day, and empty the feeder out for the flock below.
The next time I filled, I added a small but open chicken wire sleeve into the hole, and the dumper came back, but then dropped to the ground, and discovered the scatter I had left. This way, the food was not as plentiful, as to encourage rodent and other wildlife visitors, but enough to provide the ground bird food that the sparrows desired.
There is always one sparrow in a group who is the dumper, and you can easily deter this one ground bird food eater with a small chicken wire sleeve inserted into the feeder.
Science is not just about molecules and atoms, but about biology, and our most budding scientists are young, so it makes perfect sense to find time to involve children by using birdwatching for kids. Finding time to explain each of the birds you see in your yard, buy them some binoculars that are their own, can allow them the empowerment of learning, from their own back yard. Birds are a great way to learn about species, latin or scientific nomenclature for birding, and bring new skills for emerging biologists in your neighborhood.
Birdwatching for Kids begins with Biology
Your new bird watcher can learn about species, types of birds, and the way they live in the wild with a simple set of tools. Heading to the library, you can check out some bird reference books, and learn about basics of birds or the science of Ornithology, starts with learning about the parts of a bird. Birdwatching for kids involves more than seeing the brown bird, but understanding the actual ways to recognize the different species, by visual cues like their anatomical features.
Birdwatching for kids can be greatly improved by watching, and reviewing these anatomical sections of each bird you see in your back yard:
Crown: top of the head
Eye stripe: Usually the mark on top of the beak or forehead
Nares: directly on top of the beak, the little transition from eye stripe to beak
Auriculars: the Upper Mandible and Lower Mandible is the top and the bottom section of the beak
Nape: the back of the head
Chin: under the beak
Side of Neck: either side of the bird between chin and nape
Throat: front of the bird below chin
Mantle: Area on back, above wings
Back: just below mantle
Breast: Across from back and mantle under throat
Scapulars: the bend of the wings
Shoulder: The upper top of the wings
Wing Covers: the loose upper feathers that float over the wings
Side: Lower sections of the breast
Secondaries: The second tier feathers of the wings
Rump: the longer back feathers on the back above the tail
Abdomen: Below breast, or belly of the bird
Upper tail coverts: the Longer feathers of the back close to tail
Under tail coverts: Under longer feathers of the tail top
Rectrices: the Tail feathers that create the beauty of the bird
Birdwatching for Kids involves some tools
Now that you have some terms to use in your birdwatching experiences, a set of binoculars, a good bird field guide with pictures and descriptions, and a comfortable chair, is a great way to start. Begin with adjusting the binoculars for your little ones eyes, and let them try them out in a stationary position. Do not let them wander the yard with the binoculars glued to their eyes, as it will be important to show them that this can be too dangerous, as they could walk into obstacles or fall in a dip in the yard.
Sitting in a chair is a great way to adjust to using the binoculars with the book. A little table for a drink and a place to place the tools is important too. The weather should be considered, and there is no reason you can’t do this in the winter as well, as the empty trees often are a better way to see the birds. A cloudy day is sometimes better, as it makes it easier to spot the birds, and to see them in the trees without glare from the sun. When you spot a bird, confirm with your own set of binoculars, and see if you can locate the bird in the book.
Learning about that bird can then begin to start the biology training. The size, shape and the calls of the birds can be witnessed in real time. A journal for your child can be helpful too, as birdwatching for kids can be a way for them to be apart of the birdwatching community. Once a species is spotted, they can log into a web site like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and begin their career as a bird watcher or spotter.
Birdwatching for Kids can be Fun
While they are learning about birds, they are learning to love nature, find a way to be quiet, and encounter a patience that can assist them in life. Being a bird watcher requires this quality and talent, and it can be a great way to see that the best things in life come to those who wait. If you are interested in becoming a birdwatcher, you must endure some time between birds. Another option is to place a feeder, some water, and that will help your new bird watch to become more active.
Find some time with your children, by finding time during your week to experience birdwatching for kids in the near future!
If you have heard about all the apocalyptic news about the crows in Indiana, you are not alone. There are over 50,000 crows roosting through the winter, over Muncie Indiana. The downtown area is covered in 6 inches of crow dung and droppings, and this area is becoming a large roost for the outer agricultural crows who are hoping to roost in the center of town.
Joy Sacopulos, of Terra Haute, has organized a committee to scare and frighten the crows from the inner parts of Terra Haute. Armed with screamers, or fireworks that are used to move large bird populations, Terra Haute is working to pressure wash downtown areas, and to continue to monitor the urban areas of Terra Haute where they are roosting.
The crows live peacefully from April to September, but during the winter months, they have to set up a warm place to live or roost. The trees of Indiana, are becoming scarce, and crows are large territorial birds. They, along with Ravens, often need a spot to place sticks, twigs, leaves and other filler materials to roost effectively along the tree line.
Crows in Indiana Searching for Roost Locations
Crows in Indiana reportedly are looking for spots to spend the winter, and each year the numbers grow. Despite what some religious preachers and dynamic religious speakers have discussed, this is not a plague, but a simple act of good agricultural results, creating more crows and ravens than there are roost locations. The trees and high roost locations in Indiana have been suffering, due to tree illness, and the large influx of new birds.
With trees suffering, people can make a difference by thinking differently, and adding trees to their property and landscape. Commercial areas should add trees, and parks and federal state parks should be adding roost poles to edging areas, where trees are young. The use of roost poles, and adding simple taller boxes for the crows, should be a good long term solution for the urban areas of Indiana.
Crows in Indiana and Elsewhere are Smart Birds
There are 117 varieties of crows and jays, which are linked to Blue Jays, Gray Jays, American Crows, and the like. They are worldwide species, and the North American Species are limited to just 16. Here is the list for North America:
American Crow Facts
The common crow, or the American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, is a large bird from 17 inches to 21 inches. The american crow has a stocky appearance, and a fan shaped tail that is different from the Raven, that has a wedge shape to the tail. The main difference between a black American Crow, and the Common Raven is the tail shape, and the call.
American Crows, have a call that is caw-caw or caa-caa. Ravens are more boisterous, with a call that is more guttural, and sounds like a wonk-wonk. Ravens, as well are larger, and can get as large as 27 inches big.
Crows and Ravens nest in large nests, and can produce 4-7 eggs when they are in their roost. The color of the eggs are usually spotted with brown and dark streaks. The mother crow will bring in fur, moss and anything soft or shiny to the roost. They are cliff dwellers too, and if you have a large cliff near your farm, your crow population will grow each year with your efforts.
Ravens are mostly in Canada, and in the western parts of the United States. The American Crow is a warmer climate bird, and can be very hesitant to range into colder areas. This would explain the roost of the crows in Indiana. Colder weather can be very difficult for these larger birds, as they require a warm shelter to protect themselves from freezing temperatures.
Ravens and Crows are scavengers, and will eat any form of protein that is dead and available on the coasts, lakes, and roads of North America. They will announce a dinner arrival, and claim their food, with a loud call, which can be threatened by other crows and ravens without the claim.
Crows are very intelligent,aand will flock together if something is curious and interesting to them. They enjoy sparkly and shining items, and many crow roosts will be full of metal, and other reflective items. Crows were considered a pest, and often are killed by pesticides or shooting, which is not a legal way to evict crows from your natural area. Crows are a large benefit to our ecology, as they find and consume dead animals and other refuse, and will take care of the health issues in the fields and woody areas of our continent.
Crows in Indiana Grow in Population
As the agricultural efforts of North America continue to improve, so do the populations of the American Crow. The problem is that they have little habitat that they can use during the winter. In the warmer summer months, they are happy to fly through fields and open areas, and stay near those areas, as they do not have to worry about freezing temperatures.
In certain cases, it may be necessary for humans to plant more trees, protect mature trees from disease, and build roost locations for these ever growing populations of birds.
This Photoshop photo is too much! This is a funny picture, as a little one would never be able to get this close to this smart bird, as they are very wary of humans, and will watch and fly away, before becoming too curious. One final thought, the Crows in Indiana, do not get this large.