Winter bird watching is an activity that the whole family can enjoy. No matter how cold or snowy it is, birds will come to your bird feeder. It is a great activity to teach children to identify birds. Accompanied with a child’s version of a bird book, they can learn about the birds that they see. If you live in an area that is not cold and snowy, you will have the opportunity to see the birds that migrate south for the winter. This is often the only time you will be able to see some species of birds.
To be able to take great photos from indoors, simply hang your bird feeder close to a window. As I write this, birds are perching on my feeders about 18″ from my window. If you clean your windows carefully, you can take a photo without seeing the glass.
Researchers have found that bird watching is a calming pass time. For those who are inclined, you can photograph birds as they come to your feeders or perch nearby. The bottom photo is an Indigo Bunting that was eating the seeds that I spread under my Brome feeder. I took this photo through a window.
One of the problems that people have is that other animals, such as deer, squirrels, raccoons and even bears will rob a bird feeder. If you live in bear country it is important to bring your feeders in at night. If you have deer in your area you only need to hang your feeder high enough so that they cannot reach it. I have never had a problem with raccoons being able to rob my Brome feeders. I have lost one or two to black bears.
Fortunately Brome feeders are 100% squirrel proof. I have tried many brands of feeders and found this is the only one that is 100% squirrel proof. The benefit of having a squirrel proof feeder is that the money you save in bird seed will pay for the feeder in no time. Do check out their line of feeders and enjoy birdwatching. Brome also offers a free informative video every two weeks.
It is the time of year when birds migrate. One of the dangers to migratory birds are ground lights, even porch and street lights. Many birds are killed because of ground lights. We can help by turning off all outside lights when they are not needed. Here are two articles for you to read. The one is a newsletter that comes out very two weeks by Brome, a maker of the very best squirrel proof bird feeders. I know because I have tried them all. The Brome newsletter is free and anyone can subscribe to it. The newsletter is a great learning tool for adults and children. They also have a photo contest each month.
The wonderfully varied stories recount experiences with dogs and cats, sheep and horses, backyard birds and woodland deer, and other surprising creatures. The encounters and adventures of people and animals include childhood memories, individual and family experiences, and wilderness adventures. They all celebrate the companionship we have with animals both domestic and wild, in good times and bad, in times of celebration and times of challenge.
As fellow creatures, we give animals attention and care, and they give us so much in return. If we listen and observe, they teach us about God and about ourselves. This inspirational volume will evoke laughter, tears, and the experience of awe.
Animals entertain us, help us, teach us, play with us, mourn with us, even work with us. They help us experience God’s presence in our lives.
Publication date: August 20, 2021
ISBN: 9781945099274, 5.5″ x 8.5″, 15 Black/White Photos
Researcher Mark Hauber a professor of evolution, ecology and behavior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and other scientists have made an unusual discovery. They found that Tufted Titmice and Chickadees will use animal hair to line their nests. While this may not seem unusual, what he found by studying videos, was that the birds braved landing on sleeping mammals to pluck out their hair. It seems the mammals did not mind having the birds do this and some did not wake up. The fact that these birds use animal hair was not new to the researchers, but it was always assumed that the birds obtained the hair from carcasses, not from live animals.
The researchers have named this behavior “kleptotrichy” which is Greek for “theft” and “hair.” As the researchers further studied this behavior, they found that the birds plucked hair from 47 humans, 45 dogs, three cats, three raccoons and a porcupine. I wonder if the humans were aware of the plucking birds.
What came to mind for me was a parakeet (budgie) that I owned years ago. While I was working in my office, I would let the bird fly around. My small Havanese would sleep in her bed next to my desk. The keet would sit on my lamp and watch the dog. Then he would fly down, landing on the floor and tilt his head back and forth as birds do, watching her sleep. He would take a few hops toward her until he reached her tail and then he would grab one hair and pull it. The dog would wake up, half rise and growl at the bird, who would squawk bird laughter, as he flew back to the lamp. When the dog went back to sleep, he would do it all over again. I always felt that he did it for fun but who knows?
An international team of scientists, Barbara Klump and Lucy Aplin from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, John Martin from the Taronga Conservation Society and Richard Major from the Australian Museum have made an interesting discovery.The sulphur-crested cockatoo, native to Australia, has been observed lifting the lids off of garbage bins to gain access to food. The team of researchers have determined beyond any doubt, that this behavior has been taught through social interaction from bird group to bird group. In one case a lone bird reinvented the technique of opening the trash bin and it was quickly copied and spread to other bird groups. The researchers have determined that this “taught/copied” behavior illustrates regional subcultures.
Not all of the cockatoos use the technique to open trash bins, but will wait for another bird, typically a male, to open the bin and then they scavenge for food.
Sulphur crested cockatoos are very smart. They are also persistent and in the wild as well as as pets, have adapted very well to living with people.
A new study by Global Ecology and Biogeography with lead researcher Daniel Becker, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University developed a model that identified, with an 80% accuracy, the species of birds that spread Lyme’s Disease. They found 21 new species that spread the disease.
The research team found about 102 other studies that showed Lyme disease infection from ticks feeding on the birds. There were 183 species of birds that infect the ticks with Lyme’s. The birds have a broad range that spans the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
What this means is that even though the birds do not spread Lyme to people, the ticks on them can drop off of the bird into a garden or yard and then attach to a person. Because birds can fly great distances, they can spread Lyme’s disease to areas that previously did not have it or did not have a lot of it.
The study found that thrushes are the riskiest bird as well as perching birds and those that eat seeds and forage on the ground.
Author’s note: Tick activity is always the strongest in the spring and fall where there are definite seasons. Always take precautions when outside, especially wearing long sleeves, long pants with your socks over the cuff of your pants. This prevents ticks from crawling up your pant legs. Use bug repellent and cover your head. After working outdoors, remove and wash all clothing and be sure to check your entire body for ticks.
A recent study illustrated that Zebra finches can recognize the song or call of at least 50 members of their flock. They use this ability to find a lost member or to call and see if it is safe to return to the nest.
They need this ability because they usually travel in colonies of 50 to 100 birds and they split up and then come back together. They have distance calls that they use to identify where they are and to find members of the flock.
While it has been known that songbirds are capable of communicating sounds with complex meanings, the latest research shows that songbird brains are capable of complex vocal communication. This also reflects on their high level of intelligence. Imagine how smart other animals are.
Although they are not native to the US, there are colonies of wild parrots living in the US. These birds were pets that either were released or escaped. Fifty-six different parrot species in 43 different states have been spotted and 25 species in 23 states have established breeding colonies.
The most common are the Monk parakeet, Red-crowned Amazon and the Nanday Parakeet.
A famous colony of Monk parakeets’ lives in Chicago. Since they do not migrate, they survive the winter by feeding at bird feeders. The largest colony is located at the Skyway bridge that connects Illinois to Indiana.If you are a birdwatcher, do not be surprised if you see an unusual bird at your bird feeder or in a tree or bush around your home.
Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick conducted a study of 131 farms across the United States and in British Columbia Canada.
The team of scientists collected data on the insect pollination of crop flowers and yields for apples, high bush blueberries, sweet cherries, tart cherries, almonds, watermelons and pumpkins. They found that apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries and blueberries showed the most decline in fruit yields. Wild bees and honey bees are the main pollinators for these crops.
This is directly related to the decline in pollinating insects, primarily bees of all types. Homeowners can contribute to the increase of these insects in a variety of ways. You do not need a large area to plant bee and pollinating insect flowers. Also avoid using insecticides.
I maintain gardens around my home that produce flowers from early spring to late fall. Besides Butterfly bushes, you can plant Coneflowers, dwarf flowering bushes such as My Monet Weigelia, and dwarf Crepe Myrtles. These are some suggestions for small areas that attract butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. The advantage of having Coneflowers is that if you do not deadhead them and leave the flowers on the plant until spring, the birds love the seeds in the fall and winter. Some of these plants can be grown in containers.
It is always amazing to learn how different species work together. A recent study showed that grey squirrels listen to the chatter of birds to determine if there is danger or if it is safe.
Anyone who watches birds at a bird feeder will recognize the chatter of birds that are content and feel safe. Squirrels also respond to bird chatter to see if it is safe to raid the bird feeder or forage in the area. If the birds react to danger, the squirrel also reacts. By the same token, if the birds return to their normal “all is safe” chatter, the squirrels also assume it is safe.
This brings up interesting questions about how many other animals communicate in this way. I have noticed a difference in my pet budgies reaction to the safe chatter of songbirds when I have a window opened. They seem to chatter more then when they are by themselves. The only other time my birds are as vocal is when they like the music I am playing. Interesting to say the least.