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Flying Colors: Taking Flight

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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.

We have watched them all summer long. With careful observation, we started to notice a change in them. They are stronger, more confident and readier to take on the world without supervision.

No, I am not talking about your kids going back to school. Although they are and they are going to spread their wings, exert their independence and want to take charge of their life. Okay, maybe not Johnny and Susie in Pre-K! But Sierra and Asher in college and, well that could be quite an adventure.

But your feathered friends in your yards are also going through some big changes. Did you know that most of the birds in your backyard and going through the process of molting?

The birds in your yards are at peak molting stage now. They are growing their new adult feathers that they will keep with them the rest of their lives. Think of it like going to the clothing store for your kids. They need clothes for the fall and winter. So, do the birds.

But boy do they look strange! Remember when Tommy wanted that “rats’ tail” hairdo? Or when Sonja came home with BRIGHT PINK hair? It took a little getting use to. You will do a double take when you see the “bald” cardinal. And the blue jay with the mohawk will take you by surprise!

We all want them to look like Rod Stewart with the perfect crop on the top! And they will get there. It takes time. But you can help.

Birds feathers are 90% protein. When they drop their first feathers, it takes a lot of energy to grow new ones. In an effort to help them, you could feed them bugs. Live mealworms are a great source of food for them. Dried mealworms are also nutritious. You can place dried mealworms in your regular seed mix or leave them out by themselves.

There are also suet cakes with a lot of bugs in them which will provide birds with both the energy from the fat and the protein from the bugs!

Why feed bugs when they can fly around and eat all the bugs, especially mosquitos in my yard? I want those bugs to go and the birds to work for them! Well it may seem like mosquitos are out all the time, but they are most active at night. So, attracting bats to your backyard habitat with the installation of a bat house, would be an effective way to reduce that population, even by a little.

Bats eat many different types of insects, mosquitos being only one of the many bugs they consume. Migrating warblers, in spring and fall also eat mosquitos. Best way to get them in your yard for a few days stay over is by providing clean fresh water in a birdbath. Using a dripper or mister, to provide continuous fresh water, works the best.

Live mealworms will also get them to visit your yard. They will eat your mealworms and other flying insect in your yard while they are resting for their journey.

Let us get these rascals off to a good start with new clothes; i.e. bird feathers, high protein foods to eat and they will look better than ever come this Fall. You and your birds will be ready and prepared for the adventures of adulthood. Johnny and Susie may have to wait a little while longer.

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Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.

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