Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.
1. Once migration starts, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds you see today will most likely be replaced by a new group of hummingbirds tomorrow.
2. Adult males typically depart first, with adult females and young birds following. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to tell these remaining birds apart.
3. When you watch hummingbird behavior closely throughout the summer, you can become familiar with the behavior and preferences of your resident hummingbirds, like what feeders they frequent most and where they perch. With that knowledge, you can more easily notice when your resident birds have departed and have been replaced by migrating hummingbirds that behave and visit feeders differently.
4. Keep feeders clean and nectar fresh so these migrants can easily locate high quality nectar sources. Fill feeders only halfway when activity slows down so you're not throwing away a lot of nectar.
5. Keep your hummingbird feeders up and filled with fresh nectar for at least two weeks after you see your last hummingbird in the fall. I like to keep at least one feeder up well into October, in case a wandering Rufous Hummingbird were to be in the area. Hey, you never know, but if one does, I want it to stop in MY yard for a nectar source.
Rufous Hummingbird, Ballston Lake NY, October 2010
A: No, It is illegal to keep the feathers of most of our native birds.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was put in place to protect birds, and it "makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs" of native birds unless you have a permit to do so. That includes feathers found on the ground, nests even after used, and eggs that never hatched. They are interesting and informative to look at, but all should be left as you found them.
It's late summer, breeding season is wrapping up, and birds are starting to molt, replacing their worn out feathers with new fresh feathers to face the winter ahead. And as I walk my yard, I find many of their spent feathers littering the ground.
Many of the feathers are quite worn while others are in seemingly great shape. But they're all beautiful in their own way. Some are easy to tell what kind of bird wore them, others I just can't tell. I imagine many are from adult birds who have just finished their nesting season. Oh, the stories those feathers could tell! But the rigors of breeding can be rough on a coat of feathers, and with winter ahead, feathers need to be in tip top shape.
So out they go, methodically (most of the time) dropping out while being replaced with pristine new feathers. The outcasts temporarily mark the bird's presence before breaking down and returning to the earth. So until then, I let the feathers lie, enjoying that splash of color in the grass or the movement created by a downy feather waving in the breeze.
Now that Purple Finches are mostly done with the breeding process, except for a few begging fledglings out there, they can turn their attention to the next high-energy-demand process in a bird's life: MOLTING.
We're having a very good Purple Finch summer, so we have a big bunch of raspy-lookin' birds filling our feeders. Here, take a look!
Some late stragglers to my This Year's Youngsters series. All birds that were born this year in or around my yard. Enjoy!
You can't always tell a young male or female hummingbird from an adult female, but in this case, the striping on this bird's throat helps identify it as a young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. By the time he returns next spring, he will have the beautiful ruby throat...and the feisty attitude!
Here's my second edition of This Year's Youngsters. Like last time, I'll post a picture of the birds that were born this year in or around my yard. I hope you enjoy!
When you first see an adult Northern Cardinal of either sex, you notice that one of their most striking features is their large, bright red-orange beak. And that beak is also key to identifying a young cardinal. When you see a bird that looks like the female, if the beak is dark, it's a young one!
Each day this week I'll be posting a picture of the birds that were born this year in or around my yard. I hope you enjoy!
Like the Hairy Woodpecker, you know this is a young Downy Woodpecker by the patch of red on the TOP of their head. Both young males and females may show some of this coloration, but after their first molt, only a male downy will have red on the back of their head.
Looking for a good reason to pay more for that birdseed without shells? I'll give you seven!!
Better Value for You
Since the seeds and nuts in our No-Mess blends have no shells on them, you are not paying one penny for shell waste. Every tidbit is fresh, fully consumable food for the birds. It takes almost two bags of a regular blend with shells to get as much edible matter as in one bag of a No-Mess blend.
With no shells, every bit gets eaten, leaving no shell waste to clean. Birdfood that gets knocked to the ground will be consumed by ground-feeding birds.
At the end of winter you won't be faced with a soggy, clumpy mess of shells to clean up in spring. In the summer, your yard remains clear of shell waste. This makes No-Mess a perfect birdseed for near flower beds, patios, and decks.
Seed without a shell cannot germinate under your bird feeders.
No Grass-killing Seed Shells
Sunflower seed shells contain compounds that, when left to accumulate beneath your birdfeeders, can limit the growth of grass. Grass will grow better beneath your birdfeeders!
Black-capped Chickadee eating No-Mess NM (no millet)
Less Energy Expenditure for the Birds
In the freezing days and nights of winter, survival is all about energy in and energy out. During short winter days, birds try to consume as much as they can to provide the energy to survive the frigid winter night. In spring and summer, breeding and raising young is a high energy expenditure activity for birds, as is the process of molting feathers.
Birdfeeders provide birds with an easy source of food, minimizing energy used in the search for a food source. And when you fill your feeders with food without shells, you help to minimize energy expenditures for birds that consume the shell-less foods.
Potential to Attract Birds that Typically Don't Eat Seed at Birdfeeders
Some birds don't have the kind of beak that can easily open seeds with shells. The seeds and nuts in No-Mess have no shells, making them easier to eat by birds like bluebirds, thrushes, robins, creepers, thrashers, wrens, catbirds, mockingbirds, and more.
A Great Alternative to Niger Seed (Thistle) for the Goldfinches
The goldfinches in my yard seem to actually prefer No-Mess over Niger seed.
Feeding a No-Mess No-Millet blend in an Eliminator Squirrel-proof Birdfeeder or regular tube birdfeeder on a baffled Advanced Pole System set-up can attract flocks of goldfinches. This eliminates the big black mess under your finch feeders that Niger seed shells leave behind. This could be a great option if you can only have one birdfeeder in your yard.
In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus
A snowy covering blankets everything, from the feedertops to the treetops. Deep furrows reveal our well-traveled paths to the birdfeeders, and bird tracks decorate the light dusting of snow that covers the deck. Mounds of snow 4 feet high rim the deck, making each subsequent snowfall harder and harder to remove.
It's only mid February, and I know there's more snow yet to come. Like in 2001, when we had 30" delivered to our doorsteps over two days in early March. Even April is not safe from winter's gifts. Back in April 2000, 18" of snow fell just days after we were basking in 70° temperatures. Within days, the warmed earth had taken back all the snow.
Yet today I hear the promise of spring. From across the snow-covered yard, a Tufted Titmouse sings a variety of songs, quivering his wings, and looking to see if he's being noticed. Our Northern Cardinal pair is starting to feed together. They keep in touch by singing to each other from the trees. The Black-capped Chickadees are chiming in too with their sweet "fee-bee" calls. Blue Jays touch beaks and the earliest signs of the coming molt show on the forehead of a male American Goldfinch.
By the end of the month, Red-winged Blackbirds will have returned to the area. And thousands of miles to our south, our beloved Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will start arriving by the millions along the Gulf Coast. It will take another two months of travel before they arrive in our yards in early May.
The wheels of the seasons are always turning. Even from deep within winter's grip, spring is beginning to awaken. The snow muffles its sound, numbs us, causes us to be unaware of its approach. But watch and listen closely, and you will see and hear signs of spring's progression towards its inevitable and welcomed arrival.