Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
Two weeks ago, I talked about how more and more of Nature’s natural wardrobe is being removed by human actions. I discussed the impact it had on the birds and their challenge to find food and shelter.
Well, just after that, Mother Nature showed us how to really shake things up and walloped us with a WIND storm for the ages. I hope that everyone is safe and no one sustained any injuries. That was scary.
But what of the birds? Where did they go? How did they survive? How many lost homes or potential homes with so many downed trees and broken limbs? They did survive. Although my instincts tell me some did perish during the storm. But these tiny birds are very resilient.
Before the storm, every morning at 5:45, a Cardinal sang an eight–note song near my bedroom window. “Siri” did not have to wake me up for work! Then the yard would be silent until six o clock when the bird would start to sing.
So you can imagine my surprise when at 5:45 in the morning, when the winds were howling at 60 miles per hour, the eight-note song came on at exactly 5:45. How, I wondered, could it survive out there when I was up all night scared to death in my house? And what of the simple wakeup call? How and why would that bird do that in the storm?
My answer would be that it needs to keep to its internal rhythm to make it through the day. The bird made it through Spring hatching and fledging. It made it through the heat and drought of Summer. It made it through the cold and dark of Winter. Now it was time to herald in the light and love of Spring and the bird needed to test its songs.
I was up all night; but I gladly welcomed my familiar song; even if it was only for eight notes. I will have to research why this bird only sang eight notes and then did not sing another note for 15 minutes.
Nature does not take any rest. The world keeps spinning around, the sun and moon define the seasons with their visit every day. So too bird’s cycles go on. Weather patterns do not slow that down. Sure, a late Winter Nor-Easter can cause undue stress on all species. But migration, breeding and raising young must continue. All the birds are continuing to look for homes to raise their young.
You can be a vital key to their survival by keeping out those bird feeders filled with seed. Having a birdbath ready to bathe and drink from. Putting up nest boxes to watch them feed and raise their young. Chickadees, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Titmouse and Bluebirds are some of the more common cavity nesting birds. Robins, Cardinals and Mourning Doves do not used this type of box. Robins and Doves will make nests on Nesting perch boxes.
If you already own a nest box, GREAT! If it’s looking a bit shabby it might be time for a new one. There are a few things to look for in a nest box, not all are the same.
First, you want to make sure that it has ventilation holes near the top to let out warmer air. Second, you want the box to have drainage holes so wind driven rain can exit out the bottom. Third, do not buy a nesting box with a perch stick on the front. This allows Sparrows, Starlings other non-nesting birds to land in front of hole and attack the nestlings in side. All cavity nesting birds do not need a perch to enter the nest box.
Check the hole size of the box, depending on who you are trying to attract to the box depends on what size hole you need. Decide where to put it. We highly recommend placing it on a pole with a baffle. The baffle helps keep out snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons. You can also attach a bird guardian to your box, this helps if you decide to hang it. The bird guardian sticks out and doesn’t allow critters to reach their paws inside to get the chicks.
Let’s talk about how they make their nest. The birds will roam around looking for things to make their nest comfy and warm for their eggs. They collect moss, sticks and some collect mud. The birds will also look for feathers, hair and string.
Do you have a cat or dog? You can brush them and leave their hair in an empty suet cage; the birds will use it for their nest. You can do the same thing with your hair or if you have extra yarn from a project. We carry cotton balls that you can place in a tree that will do the same thing.
Please, please, please do NOT use dryer lint! Dryer lint is full of chemicals and when it gets wet it does not dry the same way.
During the “Year of The Bird”, it is great time to think about how you can help out your backyard species. Between Man and Mother Nature, their habitat is being removed. Stop in our store and my staff will help you pick out the right addition to your property to watch the life cycle of the birds this Spring.