Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Northern Cardinal has to be considered the most sought after bird to attract to the bird feeder. The sheer beauty of a pair of Cardinals in a snow covered tree or bush is a sight to be hold. And to see a dozen or more Cardinals is a sight not to be forgotten soon. One winter day we counted 38 Cardinals in the backyard after a blustery snow storm. The contrast of red on white in a green Cedar tree was captivating. Cardinals nest from 4 to 8 feet off the ground in thickets, tangles, evergreens and dense shrubs. If you live in a new development, plant shrubbery as part of the habitat as soon as possible. Shrubs and bushes grow very quickly and become mature in three to five years providing food, shelter, and nesting sites for Cardinals and other birds.
Originally a southern bird, the Northern Cardinal began expanding it’s range into northern states around the turn of the twentieth century. During the early days of this expansion they would migrate back south during the winter. But in time they began to remain in northern states during the winter months ranging as far north as Ontario Canada across to Northern
Minnesota, and west into the Eastern Central Great Plains. Biologists attributed this range expansion impart to backyard bird feeding as well as an increasing population needing more space. The Cardinal thus adapted to foraging for food during the winter months, continuing the growth of their population, and further expanding their range westward. Although not common, there have been reports of Cardinals being sighted west of Grand Island, Nebraska into the Sandhills along riparian areas.
From September to April it is not uncommon to have numerous pairs sharing the same areas, especially where food sources are plentiful. But by early April they begin to setup house keeping and become very defensive of the site they have selected to call home. The male and female Cardinal will begin to sing to one another in the territory the male has selected during much of the day. The male will use several different songs, each with an intentional purpose. One song is produced to attract a mate. Another to establish dominancy in his territory, while yet another song is used to defend his territory against other males. These territories can be as much as five acres where there is one dominate male and female pair.
Where two territories meet, one male will perch in the top of a tree in the area he’s claimed. Across the way another male Cardinal will perch in the tree tops of his territory. They sing lustily at one another for several minutes before each male slowly starts to drop lower in their respective tree until they are finally out of sight. Their individual territorial line has now been established. These territories are very well etched into the minds of Cardinals, and they fear to cross another’s territory even to get to a well stocked birdfeeder. You will often see the dominate male chasing after another male that has entered his territory. He is very serious about driving the intruder out. When defending a territory, the male will drive off other males, and the female other females. Occasionally you may have two pairs of nesting cardinals in an overlapping territory provided their view is blocked by a house or other obstruction. But there will still continue to be one pair that remains most aggressive.
In late winter the Cardinal’s mating ritual begins as the male sings for his mate, becoming more tolerant of the female. He will bring her food and gently offer it to her. She will take this offering which may be setting the stage for the male to feed the young while she goes off to lay another clutch of eggs in a new nest. The female builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrubs or a low tree over a 4 to 5 day period while the male accompanies her. The nest is made of thin twigs, bark strips, and grasses, lined with grasses or other plant fibers. The eggs are laid from one to six days following the completion of the nest. The eggs are white, with a tint of green, blue or brown, and are marked with lavender, gray, or brown blotches which are thicker around the larger end. The shell is smooth and slightly glossy. Three or four eggs are laid in each clutch. The female generally incubates the eggs, though, rarely, the male will incubate for brief periods of time. Incubation last 12 to 13 days and, once they hatch, she will brood the young for 2 to 3 days after which both parents will feed the hungry group. The chicks will fledge after 10 to 11 days after which the male cares for and feeds each brood as the female incubates the next clutch of eggs.
The young fledglings all resemble the female when they leave the nest with the exception of their dark gray beak instead of the bright red orange of the adult. If the male fledglings sported the bright red colors of the adult male, they would be unintentionally driven off as if they were intruders. By the early fall molt you will begin to see their more distinct adult colors develop. Cardinals will have two to three, and even four, broods each year.
About 90% of the Northern Cardinal’s diet consists mainly of seeds, grains, and fruits. Their beak is cone-shaped and very strong. It is often considered a ground feeding bird since it finds food while hopping on the ground through trees or shrubbery. But it is more an opportunist, feeding where ever food is available. Cardinals will also eat beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, and snails, but prefers wild fruit and berries, corn and oats, sunflower seeds, safflower, and peanuts. During the summer months, it shows preference for seeds that are easily husked, but is less selective during winter, when food is scarce. Northern Cardinals also will consume insects and feed their young almost exclusively on insects, including meal worms.
The Cardinal was once prized as a pet due to its bright color and distinctive song. In the United States, this species has received special legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which also banned their sale as cage birds. It is also protected by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada. It is illegal to take, kill, or possess Northern Cardinals, and violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000.00 and imprisonment of up to six months.
The oldest wild Cardinal banded by researchers lived at least 15 years and 9 months, although 28.5 years was achieved by a captive bird. Annual survival rates for adult Northern Cardinals have been estimated at 60 to 65%, however, as with other passerine birds, the high mortality of juveniles means that the average lifespan is only about a year.
Cardinals prefer to face forward when feeding, so an adequate perching area is essential. Platform, hopper, and ground feeders work best. Seed tube feeders will attract Cardinals if a seed tray is used for them to perch on.
Black oil sunflower seed, sunflower hearts, safflower seed, or a quality nut based mix work best for attracting Cardinals.
For more information on backyard bird feeding, or selecting bird feeders, visit Wild Bird Habitat Stores "Basic Backyard Bird Feeder Guide" and our "Bird Seed Preference Guide". Visit us at the Wild Bird Habitat Stores for all your backyard bird feeding needs.
Friday, December 5, 2008
More people are discovering the fun of attracting Blue Jays to their backyards. And one of the Jays favorite foods? Peanuts in a shell. Yes...Jays are boisterous and loud, but they are comical and entertaining as well. They provide a great service to the other birds acting as an early warning device by sounding the alarm when a predator shows up. At times they may sound a false alarm, allowing themselves easy access to the bird feeder. I often hear about their more dire acts, such as nest robbing. At times they can over power other birds. However, few people have actually seen it happen and it is more of an accusation passed down by word of mouth. This action is all part of the natural world birds live in. In reality, free roaming cats take more young birds from the nest than Blue Jays could ever accomplish.
So if you want some additional entertainment in your yard, put some peanuts in the shell on a platform feeder for the Blue Jays. You may need to add a squirrel baffle to prevent these daylight robbers from stealing them. But once the peanuts are offered, it won’t take long for the fun to begin. Watch the Jays as they pick a peanut and drop it, and repeat this process. They are testing for weight to determine which peanut has the most meat inside. You’ll learn to identify each Jay in their social order as the dominant Jay gets his peanut first right down the chain of command to the most subordinate. At times they will attempt to take two peanuts at once, which can be quite a challenge for them. Once a Jay acquires their bounty, they may fly to a branch, place the peanut between their toes, and pry it open. Other peanuts may be cached away for a snowy day. This has given the Blue Jay the nickname of “harvester bird’ as they plant dozens of trees from stashing nuts.
Give it a try! Whether you toss the peanuts on the ground or put them on a squirrel proof platform, you’ll enjoy the fun of attracting Blue Jays. You may want to ration the peanuts as the Jays will work until they are all gone. You may even see an occasional Red-bellied Woodpecker battle for his fair share. And don’t be surprised when the peanuts have been consumed or carried off, if the Jays scold you to replenish their favorite treat.
For more information on backyard bird feeding, or selecting bird feeders, visit Wild Bird Habitat Stores "Basic Backyard Bird Feeder Guide" and our "Bird Seed Preference Guide". Visit us at the Wild Bird Habitat Stores for all your backyard bird feeding needs.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
An amazing new bird feed, NutraSaff Safflower, has recently been released for sale to the public. and is now available at the Wild Bird Habitat Store. Our customers who have switched from traditional Safflower seed to the NutraSaff safflower seed have reported that the birds have readily taken to feeding on this new product yet it still reduces the problem of Grackles, the large black birds, over-powering the feeder and continues to deter squirrels.
Scientists in the world’s largest safflower breeding program developed NutraSaff especially for the bird feed markets. Preliminary findings show birds prefer NutraSaff to traditional safflower by two to one. Bird feed retailers have dubbed it “Safflower Gold” because of it’s golden brown appearance.
What’s so great about NutraSaff?
- NutraSaff has an extremely thin outer hull - 40% thinner than traditional safflower.
- NutraSaff has 15% more oil content than traditional safflower.
- NutraSaff has 25% higher protein than traditional safflower.
- NutraSaff has 30% higher fat content (energy) than traditional safflower.
- All NutraSaff products are non-GMO.
- NutraSaff is available in bulk and 50 lb bags.
- NutraSaff is an organic, “chemical free” feed.
What does NutraSaff offer our customers?
- Wild birds have an easier time digesting and extracting the meal from NutraSaff safflower seeds.
- NutraSaff provides a higher energy source with less waste than any other bird feed on the market.
- Desirable birds will flock to the feeder but the squirrels stay away.
- Studies show birds prefer NutraSaff 2 to 1 over traditional safflower.
- Less mess on the ground, almost, mess free. No more white shells as with traditional safflower seed.
The Wild Bird Habitat Store is pleased to offer NutraSaff safflower seed to our customers. It has been suggested by our distributor, Des Moines Feed, that one may want to mix NutraSaff with your traditional safflower feed to get birds acquainted to this new product. However, I placed NutraSaff by itself on a ground feeder and in a platform feeder, and it immediately the Cardinals, male and female, Blue Jays, and Mourning Doves began to feed on it. In a seed tube bird feeder the House Finch took right to it. The amazing part was there was very little waste left after these birds had hulled the very thin shelled NutraSaff. Give it a try today, and I am certain you and your birds will enjoy NutraSaff’s qualities.
By: Dave Titterington
The Wild Bird Habitat Store
October! A time of change. Winter will soon be settling in across the Central Great Plains and the signs are everywhere. Shorter daylight hours are changing the leaves from summer greens to autumn’s gold, red, and orange. The sweet aroma of a wood fire drifts from a chimney. And the blackbirds are massing in the tree tops waiting to be escorted south by the first cold front.
Our winter birds, the Red-breasted nuthatch, Dark-eyed Juncos, Harris’s and White-crowned sparrows, and others are beginning to arrive. They are replacing the birds of summer such as orioles, grosbeaks and bluebirds, which are now but warm weather memories. The warblers who have nested to our north are passing through this month, stopping in our yards for a splash in the bird bath and to glean what insects remain before retreating further south ahead of the approaching winter. Yes, autumn is a time of great change.
Autumn is also a time when many folks who didn’t maintain a bird feeder or two during the summer months are providing some supplemental food sources for our backyard birds during the winter. After all, when the snow blows and the temperatures plummet, our resident winter birds are a short thirty six hours from starvation. They only survive the coming 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 provide a natural form of insect control in our yards and gardens. 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 levels like the Chickadees, nuthatches, and goldfinch. Others, such as Juncos, doves, and native sparrows, feed primarily on the ground. Yet other birds like our woodpeckers and Brown Creepers prefer to feed around the tree trunk zone. Then there are the cardinals and Blue Jays, who are just plain opportunistic and will feed where ever the seed is provided.
Two of the most common style of bird feeders for attracting a large variety of birds are hopper feeders, 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 many bird species. And some specialized feeders, such as thistle tubes and suet cages that target specific groups of birds. These are the six types of bird feeders recommended for a basic backyard bird feeding program. Then there are those bird feeders that are more seasonal and used to attract a specific species of bird. These include hummingbird feeders, oriole and fruit feeders, and bluebird feeders.
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 hopper and seed tube bird feeders prefer sunflower seed, safflower seed, and other nut based mixes. If you put a general wild bird mix in these feeders, they will sweep through it picking out these products, scattering everything else to the ground.
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 will reject it. A good finch mix contains only thistle seed and finely ground sunflower chips. Avoid those finch mixes with other so-called filler seeds.
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 wild bird mix read the label. Many inexpensive general wild bird 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. Another alternative is to use safflower seed, or the new Nutra-Saff safflower seed, in the bird feeders that squirrels seem determined to get on at all costs. Safflower seed will attract most all your favorite backyard birds, can be used in any type of bird feeder, but squirrels will not eat it.
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 attract more birds than bird seed alone. 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 fluid intake. Clean feathers provide better insulation during cold nights.
Finally, consider planting some habitat in your yard. All living things on our planet require food, water, and shelter. Hedges and shrubs will not only offer protection from bitter winter winds, but a place for birds to nest and provide a natural food source. Consult with a master gardener at your local nursery or the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Office about planting habitat for wildlife. Follow these tips from the Wild Bird Habitat Store, then sit back and enjoy a backyard filled with your feathered friends.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Seed Tube Bird Feeder: Open port seed tube bird feeders are considered exclusive bird feeders meaning, they exclude many larger birds. These feeders primarily attract a variety of smaller birds. However, when a seed saver tray is added, it will allow larger birds a place to perch and feed.
- Exclusive bird feeder.
- Excludes larger birds.
- Primarily feeds smaller birds such as chickadees, finch, and nuthatches.
- Made from a variety of materials. (PVC, Polycarbonate, steel, acrylic) Most PVC and
- Polycarbonate tubes carry a lifetime guarantee.
- Preferred feed to use is black oil sunflower seed, sunflower hearts, safflower seed, or other nut based mixes.
- Easily hung, but can be post mounted.
- Seed saver trays can be attached to the bottoms.
- A good starter feeder for the backyard.
Nyjer Thistle: A very specialized feeder for Nyjer thistle or finch mixes which primarily attracts birds of the finch family such as Goldfinch, House Finch, Purple Finch and Pine Siskin. Indigo Buntings will feed on these feeders if those birds are in your area.
- A tube feeder that is designed for feeding Nyjer thistle, a small imported seed.
- Attracts goldfinch, house finch, pine siskin, purple finch. Indigo buntings and other finch like birds.
- Made from a variety of materials.(PVC, Polycarbonate, steel, acrylic, and wood. PVC and Polycarbonate tubes usually carry a lifetime guarantee.)
- Use Nyjer thistle or a quality finch mix.(Best Finch Mix: 50% Nyjer seed and 50% fine sunflower chips.)
- Hang thistle feeders near small bushes or trees with lower branches.
Hopper Bird Feeders: This is a good all around feeder for attracting a variety of both large and small backyard feeder birds. It is considered a non-exclusive bird feeder since it does not exclude any birds. If the feeding area is large enough occasionally ground feeding birds will feed on this type of feeder, especially if the ground is covered with snow or ice.
- Non-exclusive feeder which attracts both large and small birds.
- Storage capacity for holding quantities of feed.
- Available in a variety of durable materials. (Cedar, metal, recycled plastic, acrylic)
- Recommended feeds: black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed or any nut based mix combination.
- Can be hung or post mounted.
- Good basic backyard bird feeder.
Platform Bird Feeders: Elevated platform bird feeders are another of the non-exclusive bird feeders. It does not exclude any birds. Large and small birds alike can access it very easily along with some birds that typically feed on the ground.
- A non-exclusive bird feeder that is very versatile.
- Can be hung or mounted on a pole or post. Some have a roof to protect the seed from inclement weather.
- Screen or perforated steel or nylon bottoms prevent water from accumulating in the feeder and helps to dry out seed if it becomes wet.
- Available in a variety of durable materials. (Cedar, metal, recycled plastic and acrylic)
- Recommended feeds: Black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, sunflower hearts, or any nut based mix combination.
- Also a good feeder to use with general wild bird mixes.
- Excellent bird feeder for peanuts in the shell, meal worms, and fruits.
Ground Feeders: Ground bird feeders are the perfect feeder for ground foraging birds such as native sparrows, juncos and doves. Also attractive to the more opportunistic birds such as Cardinals and Jays. These feeders keep the bird seed off the ground reducing spoilage. Besides being more sanitary for the birds it is also keeps debris off the ground and is easier to dispose of the shells.
- Ground feeders are just that, feeders which sit on or near to the ground for ground foraging birds such as mourning doves, native sparrows, Juncos, and towhees.
- Screen or perforated bottoms prevent water from standing in the feeder and allows the seed to air dry after rain & snow. Available with or without roofs.
- Use safflower seed and white Proso millet in this feeder which will attract a variety of the birds you prefer while deterring squirrels and the Common Grackles. (A good feeder for general wild bird mixes if squirrels are not a problem.)
- A variety of other birds will also feed at ground level such as northern cardinals and house finch.
- Keeps seed off the ground to prevent spoiling.
- Can be located under an existing feeder to catch seeds dropped by birds.
Suet Bird Feeders: Suet bird feeders using either commercial suets, or suet from your local meat market, provide a great source of year round protein. Placed on or near a tree this feeder will attract Nut Hatches, Brown Creepers, Chickadees, and a variety of woodpeckers. Wrens will occasionally feed on the suet as well. Suet is in high demand for these birds during the spring and summer months.
- Suet is for the birds of the tree trunk zone.
- Commercial suets of 100% rendered beef fat are preferred. There is a large variety of commercial suets which contain various products from seeds and nuts to fruits mixed into 100% tallow.Pure suets, mixtures which do not contain nuts, seed and other products are least attractive to squirrels and European Starlings.
- Feed suet year round. Although it provides a great source of energy during the winter months, birds will actually consume more animal protein between March and August during the stresses of nesting and raising their young. Oftentimes woodpeckers will bring their young to the suet feeder once they have fledged the nest.
- Up-side down suet feeders will help to reduce Starlings from over-powering the feeder. Suet feeders surrounded by cages will repel Starlings as well as squirrels.
- If using a simple hanging wire suet basket, simply leave the hard plastic shell on the suet cake so the suet is only exposed one side. Then hang the basket at a steep angle or directly upside down. If Starlings land on the top they cannot peck through the plastic shell.
2. General wild bird mixes are best placed on or near the ground for ground feeding birds. Reserve elevated feeders for the nuts or nut based mixes. Avoid general bird mixes containing Milo, red millet or wheat. These are filler seeds which bulk up the weight thus lowering the price. While game birds and house sparrows consume these products they are not desired by song birds. Read the label for key ingredients.
3. Thistle seed has an extremely short shelf life of 3 to 5 months. This is the result of heat sterilization of the imported seed by the USDA. This method is used to avoid introducing non-native plants into North America. A newly purchased bag of thistle seed does not guarantee freshness since many merchants may stock large quantities for long periods of time. Songbirds will reject feeders containing old thistle seed is the primary cause in failing to attract birds to a thistle feeder. Inquire about the freshness of the seed you purchase, or purchase from reputable suppliers.
4. To deter squirrels and grackles, use safflower seed by itself in any of the bird feeders with the exception of thistle tube feeders. Safflower seed is attractive to cardinals, house finch, chickadees, doves and other birds, yet grackles rarely feed on it if at all. A feeder filled with safflower seed may be hung in a tree next to a squirrels nest and they will totally ignore it. Make it a part of you feeding program. It may take up to a week for your birds to become accustomed to safflower seed if it has never been offered to them before.
5. Although winter is the traditional bird feeding period, many people have established year round bird feeding programs. Natural foods become scarce after winter until a new crop of seeds and berries ripen in late summer. Wildlife biologists have found that birds nest earlier, quicker, and have more successful nestings when supplemental foods are offered. This is due to less time spent foraging and competing for low food reserves after winter. For example: Woodpeckers during the nesting season eat more suet between March and July than all winter long. You can attract a large variety of birds through-out the year by establishing a year round bird feeding program.
6. Providing a fresh source of water for birds is an important feature during all seasons. Puddles of rain water contain pollutants and toxins that are harmful to birds. In winter, open water is a rare commodity. Searching for water in frigid temperatures can waste precious energy needed to get birds through cold winter nights. And clean feathers provide valuable insulation to help keep them warm. Motion created in water, either by a waterfall or a dripper, attracts high flying birds, and is heard at a great distance.
These are the six basic bird feeders for a well planned backyard bird feeding program. For more information on additional kinds of bird seed to use with these bird feeders, and what birds you can expect to attract, please refer to the Bird Seed Preference Guide.
Dave Titterington of the Wild Bird Habitat Stores. Providing bird enthusiasts with quality backyard bird feeding products and information since 1993. With two locations in Lincoln, Nebraska, or visit us online at the Wild Bird Habitat Store
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Bird Bath Heaters & De-Icers:
These appliances operate on standard household current. They are thermostatically controlled and range from 60 watts to 500 watts. They are low voltage, consume very little energy to operate, and can be used in plastic, polypropylene, and concrete bird baths. Bird bath heaters provide a larger open water surface area in temperatures of 20 degrees and below. De-Icers provide an ample open water area at temperatures of 20 degrees and below. Both are adequate in providing birds with fresh water for consumption as birds rarely bathe at temperatures below 25 to 30 degrees. 1 to 4 year guarantees. Check out the Bird Bath Heaters available at the Wild Bird Habitat Store
Heated Bird Baths:
Heated bird baths have become very popular and have a variety of installation applications. They are thermostatically controlled and range from 60 to 150 watts using very little energy. They provide a good open water surface at temperatures of 20 degrees and below. 1 to 3 year guarantees. Heated Bird Baths are available at the Wild Bird Habitat Store
Monday, September 24, 2007
There are also a variety of bird feeders on the market to prevent grackles and starlings, along with squirrels, from raiding the bird feeder. The Vari-craft Bouncer and Brome's Squirrel Buster Plus operate on the weight of the bird at the feeder. The weight of a grackle is 6 ounces and the feeder will close or perches collapse to prevent them from feeding, yet allowing the lighter weight northern cardinal ( 4 ounces) and other birds to feed readily. Other feeders which prevent grackles and starlings from feeding are the "Haven" or caged bird feeders. Duncraft, Vari-craft, and other manufacturers have designed these feeders to allow entrance by smaller birds; chickadees, finch, nuthatches, even Downey woodpeckers, yet deter grackles, starlings, and squirrels. They are very effective. All have lifetime guarantees. View the Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders offered by the Wild Bird Habitat Store
If starlings on the suet feeder are a problem there are a number of suet feeders available to deter them as well. There are up-side down suet feeders where the suet is only exposed on the bottom. These suet feeders pose no problem for the clinging woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches but make it difficult for starlings to feed from. There are also caged suet feeders which allow the Downey and other small birds to enter for a tasty meal of suet, but cannot be penetrated by starlings. Caged Suet Feeders at the Wild Bird Habitat Store
The Wild Bird Habitat Store has a variety of solutions for deterring birds which cause problems at the bird feeders. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or log-on at Wild Bird Habitat Store.