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Flying Colors: Here’s Looking at You!

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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.

So, there is a knock on the door. There is a knock on your window. There is a knock on your metal exhaust vent in your roof. What gives?

This is spring and a bird’s mind turns to love! And if there is one thing a bird does not want — it is competition. So, birds will knock on a hard surface such as a tree or deck post or even wood trim to make its own distinctive territory call.

You have heard it in your neighborhood. The rat a tat tat on the trees or even telephone poles. That is the bird telling other birds of its same species that this his home turf so don’t come calling around.

Most often this is done by the woodpeckers. We have five different types of woodpeckers in our area; Downy, Hairy, Red Bellied, Northern Flicker and Pileated. It is really a fun sound to hear when they are hitting the trees and poles.

But it is not a very nice sound when they are banging away on your siding. Worst than that is when they are banging away on your metal roof exhaust vents! When that happens — the noise can be very loud as it vibrates throughout your house. Especially at 5:30 in the morning. But as loud as it seems, more often than not there is a minimum of damage. When there is damage to a home, the woodpeckers are usually looking for bugs they sense in the siding. Rarely do they try and build a nest cavity in your home.

So then why are they banging on my glass window or sliding glass doors. Because again during mating season, the birds are not keen for competition. When they approach the windows, they see their reflection. Most windows in the last 20 years have a reflective coating that makes the birds reflection so clear it looks real to them. So, the bird will attack the window.

This is very stressful to the birds and usually a large amount of bird waste gets deposited on the window or sill. The birds rarely hurt themselves.

But you want to eliminate the stress for the bird. One thing you could do is close a shade on that window to take away some of the windows reflective quality. You could also break up the reflection with stain glass figures in the window.

There are also window decals which when applied to the window break up the reflection. You can also put soap suds on the outside of the window, black paper or black hawks. A last resort would be a small chime hung outside, most birds try to avoid unusual movement and or sound.

Spring is a special time with the birth of wild birds. Setting up a few bird houses will give you a unique opportunity to witness the whole process from egg laying to hatching to the fledging of the baby chicks.

Here is a list of the most common cavity nesting birds in our area.

  • Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Carolina Wren
  • House Wren
  • Downy, Hairy, Red Bellied, Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker
  • White Breasted Nuthatch
  • Outside the beltway area — the Eastern Bluebird.

We carry most of these birdhouses in our store. We also carry nesting perches which accommodate the Robins and Cardinals. Our houses are made of pine and will last a few years.

We also carry recycled plastic houses, and houses made from cypress and mahogany. The rat a tat tat will only last for a month or two while the birds are nesting, soon you might miss the sound. But we promise it will end soon and before you know it there will be beautiful baby birds ready to eat and fly around.

Recent studies have indicated that you want to stay away from animal hair, yarn, string and dryer vent lint. In the past people have been told to hang string or dog hair out for the birds to make their nests. But, the studies have shown that the birds have been getting tangled in the string.

It is better to just offer pieces of cotton. We carry large cotton balls that you can hangout for the birds.

You can help these babies and their mama with a food source nearby for the dad. The mama needs all the extra calcium she can get, and plenty of protein to help stay strong and keep her chicks stronger. Offering a simple dish of mealworms, or a square cake of suet will help give her and them lots of protein.

Having a birdbath nearby also helps her stay hydrated while her mate feeds her.

We just received a huge shipment of birdhouses and birdbaths. Stop in soon and help your feathered friends out while they are nesting.

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