Sunday, November 29, 2009

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders

Squirrel Proof Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeders. Keeping squirrels out of bird feeders is always a problem. They are agile creatures who can jump up to 9' sideways, making feeder placement a problem. The best system for stopping them from getting to food and chewing up expensive bird feeders is to pole mount a feeder and use a baffle on the pole, making sure the pole is placed at least 10' away from the nearest object a squirrel cam use as a launching pad, like a tree trunk.

If you don't have the option of pole mounting a bird feeder and using physical baffles to keep them from climbing, there are plenty of specialty designs out there to stop them. My favorite is the weight activated bird feeder. These come with spring loaded perches which will cause a shield to drop down over seed ports when the heavier wight of a squirrel lands on them. Usually the squirrels figure out pretty quickly that there is no food to be had here so they stop climbing on the feeders themselves. When smaller songbirds land on the perches, the shield stays up allowing the birds to eat in peace. The weight can usually be adjusted to keep out larger birds such as grackles or starlings if you wish.

There are a few features to look at in the wight activated bird feeder.

Capacity - how much seed does a feeder hold? If you have a smaller space such as a deck, patio or balcony the tube styles and small capacity feeders are frequently the perfect size. If it is to go in a yard or spot that makes refilling a bit harder, particularly in bad weather, rain or freezing weather, opt for a larger capacity size which holds more seed. This will keep the number of needed refills down.

Is the weight adjustable? The option to be able to adjust the weight which is needed to shut the shields over the seed ports is a handy one. You can adjust the settings to keep out larger birds such as jays, crows, grackles or starlings.

The final feature to be considered is how a bird feeder is to me mounted. Be sure to note if a feeder can go on a pole if this is what you intend to do along with the size of pole needed. Many are also designed to be hung. Hanging feeders are great for hanging in trees or on a porch. With the many styles out there to stop squirrels from eating all of the birds seed, you can find one that suits your needs.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Attracting Orioles to Backyard Bird Feeders

Orioles beautiful garden songbirds and a favorite of backyard bird watchers. Their colors are a spirited blend of brilliant orange, yellow and black feathers. Orioles favor woodland habitats, orchards, and urban gardens which have shade trees. These birds range throughout the Eastern US and Canada, while most migrate during winter to Central and South America.

There are nine species of orioles in the United States. The most frequent is the Baltimore Oriole, which hybridizes extensively with the Bullock's Oriole and is found generally in the eastern United States. Another regularly seen species is the Bullock's Oriole which occurs primarily in the western United States. Both species ranges do convergence.

The food source of orioles are flower nectar, several types of fruit and berries, a few nuts, along with insects. Attracting orioles to a backyard ordinarily entails putting up a special an oriole feeder in the yard or garden. Numerous people have attracted orioles by providing Fruit and Jelly Bird Feeders and using fruits such as orange slices, grapes, cherries, assorted berries, nuts and jellies. Fruit for bird food may be provided on a tray or platform feeder, or chopped up in a bowl or dish, while jelly - grape flavor is the favorite - can be placed in a small bowl or a dish. For jelly, try grape, apple jelly or orange marmalade.

Meal worms are another food these birds will eat. Meal worms are an insects, not actually a worm., but instead they are larval form of a beetle. Meal worms are great food for orioles along with other birds such as bluebirds. Small straight edged bowls at least 2-3 inches tall may be used to place the meal worms in so that they will not crawl out. A container may be set on a platform feeder which also contains the fruit. Additionally, Orioles like sugar water and nectar solution left out. Such a mix resembles flower nectar. Pre-made or Concentrate Nectar Mixes are available formulated just for orioles. Nectar bird feeders for orioles are like to hummingbird feeders except with larger drinking ports and perches, and could be positioned close to a tray feeder. An oriole nectar feeder typically is orange in color. Orange appears to be better choice for attracting orioles.

Don't forget a bird bath! All creatures need water, and orioles are highly attracted to bird baths.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Backyard Bird Count Feb. 13-16

Just to remind all of those backyard bird watchers out there, or anyone who pays attention to wildlife around them, that The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society is going to be happening this year on the weekend of February 15-16, 2009. So get out your pencils and a pad of paper and be ready to start counting the different species of birds you see! You can count birds all day or spend just 15 minutes each day and record what you observe. Then go to The Great Backyard Bird Count web site and enter in your data. This really helps determine bird species distribution across the United States and is also a fun project. Visit The Great Backyard Bird Count for all the information you need on how to take part in this national birding event. Thanks for your help!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bird House Gourds

I always seem to get these ideas completely stuck in my head, next think you know I am obsessed with learning about something and implementing some silly project. My latest thing is that I have decided to grow gourds for bird houses. Okay so I am a gardener - many backyard bird watchers are since it sort of goes hand in hand to create a habitat bird wild birds to attract them to feeders - and I have grown gourds before just for fun. So let me tell you that I know that I am nuts. Gourds are great fun to grow and very satisfying, but let me tell you they grow fast and furious, along with take up a boatload of space. I've also grown a lot of different types of squash, which is the same family, and it's not nearly been as space taking.

My experience with gourds is having grown luffa sponge gourds. I planted my seeds next to an outbuilding, thinking that they could climb the outbuilding over the summer, no harm done, after all, they are an annual. They ate my outbuilding and completely covered it. You could hear them growing at night I swear. It was a hoot. by the end of the summer, from a few seeds, I had an amazing amount of luffa sponges which I had only planted on a whim. I found the photo below on an Office of International Research, Education, and Development, Virginia Tech page for a system of growing these suckers, It made me laugh to think about what I was getting into, The page has nothing to do with growing gourds by the by, its about pest management.

So back to bird houses. Recently I saw gourd birdhouses in a local bird supply and loved them. I bought two. It made me decide to give growing the gourds a shot, again, just for fun and on a whim. Of course nothing is just tat simple, you need a certain type of gourd, drying, cleaning and preserving them is a project, and then they are only good for a couple of years. But what the heck, I want them. I can see giving away hundreds of bird houses made out of my over abundance of gourds.

Visit San Antonio Express News Gardening Article by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County, on exactly how to dry gourds to be used as bird houses. She does a very simple job of explaining the methods and types needed, much better than I could repeat here. And if you try this, have fun!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Decorative Bird Feeders for Backyard Bird Watchers

For backyard bird watchers who really get into the hobby of creating a habitat for wild birds, the selection of bird feeder types is endless. Usually we have a few practical feeders that are easy to fill, easy to clean and offer the right types of seed and food preferred by the species we wish to attract. However, there are those of us who also want attractive bird feeders. Some decorative bird feeders are small accents placed about the garden, tucked under shrubs or in flower beds, while some are grand post mounted gazebos that are more ornate than our own homes. Either way, you can add a decorative bird feeder that suits personal taste, is pretty and still safe for birds to feed from. Let's face it, the birds themselves don't really care what a feeder looks like, they care about the food offered inside.

You can get hopper style decorative bird feeders that feature a seed reservoir that requires less re-fills and is a stunning outdoor accent. These tend to make fantastic centerpieces in a garden landscaping design and should be placed where they can be easily viewed. They can be simple rustic country designs to grand southern mansions. Models with copper roof are quite popular, and the copper eventually turns a lovely green patina as it weathers and ages. They are often painted and feature ornate scroll work designs on the roof line or side columns, and are perfect for a formal, traditional, or romantic garden setting.

Open platforms feeders as well come in many decorative styles. These require a bit more maintenance as they have no seed reservoir and need to be filled more often, but the plus is that this style of bird feeder is highly attractive to wild birds. Open platforms are natural for wild birds to use to eat from since they can make a quick trip to the feeder and still have a good view of the area around them and any potential approach from predators. They are as well very visible to birds flying overhead so have the potential to attract a greater variety of bird species to a backyard habitat. As far as decorative goes, there are many! From charming country barns to prim style buildings with distressed finished roofs. Whatever your taste, you can find a decorative bird feeder to suit, feed the birds and add attractive, decorative touches to your private retreat. Shop for decorative bird feeders at Decorative Backyard Bird Feeder & Bird Watchers Supply.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Suet for Backyard Birds : Feeding Wild Birds Suet

Suet for Backyard Bird

Adding suet feeders to bird feeding stations is a great idea for bird watchers who want to attract a wider variety of species to a garden. Suet is a high energy, high protein food source that appeals to those species who eat mainly insects and may not visit seed feeders often. It is a favorite of woodpeckers of course! Also suet is loved by wrens, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice. There are many styles of suet backyard bird feeders available. My favorite is a basic tail prop feeder like this one:

This style is simple to fill by just lifting the top and dropping a cake inside the cage. It is also easy to clean with no hard to reach spots. Often the wire grid can slide out, allowing you to get to the inside of the feeder with no trouble. The tail prop is handy for larger woodpeckers if you are lucky enough to have these beauties in your garden! It makes landing on the feeder effortless for the birds. Smaller birds like titmice and wrens cling right to the cage.

If squirrels, starlings, jays, grackles, crows and bully birds are a problem at feeders there are caged styles that keep out larger birds. The wire grid is too small for them to get through but can be passed through by the smaller songbirds.

The distance from the outside of the cage and the suet itself is too far for a squirrel to reach. A squirrel will climb all over the feeder and keep trying to gain access to the food but when they can't get any, they will eventually get bored and leave it alone. The down side of this style bird feeders is that it also keeps out the larger woodpeckers, which to me is one of the main reasons for having suet at a feeding station.

Another option to keep away bully birds, grackles, jays and starlings is an upside down suet feeder. Starlings, grackles and jays have a very hard time landing in this position but for the smaller nuthatches, chickadees and wrens it is no problem! Also the larger woodpeckers have no trouble landing on it at all.

The down side of an upside down suet feeder is that some starling will eventually figure it out. While it tends to slow down the majority we have not found them to be 100% effective.

Any of the cage style bird feeders can be used not only with suet but compressed seed blocks bird food. Compressed seed blocks are a handy feeding method and only require you to open the package and drop the block into the feeder. They are available a a wide assortment of seed, nut, fruit and berry flavors.

There are also suet balls and plug feeders designed for ball shaped or plug shaped suet instead of the traditional suet cake. This is an easy feeder for songbirds and woodpeckers but is more difficult for larger bully birds to land on.

Another great item is a peanut butter or spread bird feeder. They are just what they sound like - bird feeders that you can smear peanut butter or pre-made wild bird food spreads on. Peanut butter is a favorite of several birds, in particular those amusing wrens and nuthatches. The titmice seem to think that they own anything that involves peanuts, to they will be constant visitors also. If you use peanut butter, experiment and try mixing different foods into it to see what your backyard birds prefer. Try raisins, black oil sunflower seed, bits of dried fruits and berries or other nuts. It's a fun activity for bird watchers and a great thing to try out with kids.

Finally there is a new style out there which I just am crazy about. You can now buy smaller window mount suet bird feeder cages. They attach directly to the glass of any window you want and are really easy to fill. Just lift the top of the cage and drop a suet cake or seed block in them and you have added another bird feeding stations. You have the advantage of being able to see the birds right up close and they do use them, particularly the smaller songbirds. Wrens and titmice for example are very adapted to urban settings and often quickly adjust to coming right up close to a house to eat.

As far as what type of suet to use in these feeders, you can make your own blend of peanut butter, crisco and cornmeal, or purchase already made suet cakes no-melt dough bird food, balls and plugs. Homemade bird food is always fun to try out. Your birds may prefer yours to store bought, so give it a try! The cakes and no melt to is an easy answer for instant wild bird feeding. The choice is yours!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Birds on the Decline

I know that this is a United States based blog and that this article is in reference to Britain, but this is a world wide issue. I was reading The sound of silence: Britain's lost birds and this struck me:
In the quarter-century since Michael Walter came to look after Blean Woods, they have suffered a remarkable series of declines in their breeding bird species. Eight have become extinct altogether, birds that were nesting in the woods when he arrived, and have now vanished. He enumerates them: cuckoo, redstart, wood warbler, golden oriole, hawfinch, willow tit, yellowhammer and starling. Seven more species have suffered severe declines: turtle dove, tree pipit, spotted flycatcher, whitethroat, marsh tit, nuthatch and jackdaw (some of them barely clinging on). This has happened despite the fact that the warden is an expert on actively managing woods for birds, and has spent 25 years striving to make Blean as ideal an avian habitat as it could possibly be.
I am a backyard bird watcher. I have a small two acres of land and have spent years making it bird friendly. Carefully studying native plants and birdscaping, bird species food preferences, providing fresh, clean water in a system wild birds can use easily, leaving dead trees for bird homes and woodpeckers to feed from and raise their young, let alone the limited species which will eat from feeders. I am an not exactly a professional here, just someone who believes in coexisting with avian friends. Some birds I used to see often and now I haven't seen one in years - like the red-headed woodpecker. Common enough but where have they gone in my area? It's not over built.

But eight species extinct since 1982 from an area maintained for birds? Is anyone else afraid?