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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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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.

Hummingbirds visit us for a short period of time from the Spring until Fall. There are 18 species of Hummingbirds in North America. The most common hummingbird seen in Northern Virginia, is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

They commonly are referred to as the Emeralds and Rubies in our sky. These little beauties can fly backwards, upside down, weigh about the weight of a penny and lay the world’s smallest egg. They typically only lay 2 eggs a brood the size of a blueberry.

Hummingbirds eat about every 10 minutes and they drink up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. When using a Hummingbird feeder, we recommend filling them with a 4 part water to one part sugar solution. This solution can be made by using plain table sugar, no Splenda or Equal. Boil your water and add in the sugar, let it dissolve. Once it is cool you can pour some into the feeder and place the remaining solution in your fridge.

The solution should be changed every two to three days and every other day when it hits 90 degrees outside. Most WBU stores carry 8oz and 24 oz packages of sugar as a convenient way to make the solution for these flying jewels. We also recommend adding a rain guard to your feeder to help protect it from getting watered down. Another great tip is to keep it in the shade or near some flowers. Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower and Bleeding Hearts are great perennials to plant in your sunny garden. When the hummingbirds are not at your feeder they can be found drinking nectar from flowers, eating small gnats, spiders, aphid and flies.

How do you feed these little guys? Well we have a great selection of feeders to choose from. We have beautiful glass ones called droplets, or glass ones that look like a potted plant. The sphere feeders can do double the work, when it’s not a hummingbird feeder it can be used as a small watering dish or hold mealworms. Our number one best sellers are our Wild Birds Unlimited brand. That are easy to clean, can be put them in the top rack of your dishwasher or simple rinsed at the sink of your kitchen.

Our WBU feeders come with an ant moat molded into the nectar dish. Ant moats are an important item to add onto any hummingbird feeder to prevent the ants from getting into your nectar.  Just add a little bit of water to the ant moat and a drop of oil to keep it from evaporating too quickly. These can also be used when hummingbirds season is over, for bark butter bits, mealworms, or water.

The NEVER list: never add food dye to your feeders, flower nectar is colorless and pure, that’s what your hummers want. Never use honey, it spoils too quickly and if it ferments cause a fatal fungus to form on hummers tongues. Never use sports drinks, fruit juices or other sugary substances like soda.

Look for these little jewels flying through your yard this weekend. Then come into our store and put a pin in our “Hummingbird Location Map” so we can all see where these beautiful little emeralds and rubies are!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

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.

Today I want to tell you about the benefits of feeding Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter. Bark Butter is a peanut butter, calcium and rendered beef suet concoction. It was created by Wild Birds Unlimited president Jim Carpenter to attract Brown Creepers to his yard.

Bark Butter can be smeared on any tree, seed cylinder, suet plug feeder, or a specialty Bark Butter feeder. It is a sticky recipe that allows it to be smeared with a fork, but not stick to the fork.

Many of our customers have used it on the sides of their seed cylinders for added calcium during nesting season or added fat for cold winters. Birds will grab on to any of these surfaces to grab a bite-sized chunk and fly away with a delicious meal.

As I told you, Jim created Bark Butter to attract his Brown Creepers which wouldn’t come to any other food he offered. Well he got them plus so many more birds. Jim found that about 140 species, from the East Coast to the West Coast, are eating his Bark Butter product and the list keeps growing.

Nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, mockingbirds, catbirds and cardinals are just a few of the many interested birds. Birds that migrate through our area also loved Bark Butter. Summer tanagers, bluebirds, indigo buntings and many warblers are frequent visitors to Bark Butter feeders.

Why Bark Butter and not peanut butter you ask? Well for one peanut butter is loaded with sugar, salt and other unnatural ingredients that are not intended for birds.

Two, even if you buy organic it is full of salt that can dehydrate a bird quickly. The soft pliable texture of Bark Butter allows the adults birds to bring new fledgings to the feeders to eat. Bark Butter also comes in a “Bit” size formula which can be added to any regular seed and nut feeder.

Bark Butter can be a great addition to any backyard. Everyone can benefit from this nutritious snack. Mama and Papa birds can easily grab a chunk and feed it to their young, Nuthatches can creep up and down a tree trunk and enjoy a nibble and you can enjoy watching your feathered friends snack on a nutritious meal while sitting back drinking your cup of coffee.

Spread the Bark Butter on a large tree at dusk and you have a great chance to see “Flying Squirrels” come down and feed. Flying Squirrels are very common in this area.  But they are nocturnal and quite secretive.

Bark Butter and Bark Butter Bits is the most popular food you can offer the birds in your backyard.  Easy to use and absolutely no mess to clean up makes this a great food source to offer your wild birds.  We are the only store in the Northern Virginia area that carries this unique food.   Stop on by and pick up a tub.  Your birds will be very happy you did.

For an extended list of the birds that eat Bark Butter, go to www.barkbutter.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

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.

Most of us welcome the coming of spring with warmer weather, longer days and the colorful beauty of flowers and plants. With this change of seasons, we often have customers who come in and tell us this will be the last bag of food they will purchase until the fall. They tell me that the birds have plenty to eat and do not need the feeders anymore. Yet for those who feed the wild birds in their yards, this is exactly the opposite time you should stop feeding.

Most of our local birds who reside in our yards are seed, nut, fruit and insect eaters. Of those four foods, there is really only one that is in abundance naturally. As you swat your arm, you know which one that is. There are very few seeds, nuts or fruits out in the natural world in the spring.

In my front yard, which has been turned into a flower garden, all the plants are just coming up. There is no food on these green and flowering plants. Holly tree berries have been eaten during the winter. Large trees, such as oaks will not produce acorns until the Fall.

Now combine this with the fact that the wild birds in your backyard are much more active in the Spring. They are fighting for territory. They are finding mates. They are building nests. They are raising the young chicks. They are much more active during these longer days. The bird’s nutritional needs are greater with a reduce source of food to forage.

Even my perennial hummingbird plants are just coming up and will not be in flowering stage for another three to four weeks. But the hummingbirds are already here. You can be sure they are looking for a source of high energy food, i.e. sugar water, which will help them whether they stay here all summer of migrate north.

With the spring nesting season upon us, offering seed blends and suets with calcium is highly recommended. This added calcium will help with egg production and nestling growth. You can find the extra calcium in many seed blend mixes and suets. Another great source of protein is mealworms. Why give them bugs when so many insects are flying around? Giving the adult birds an easy source of high protein for their young, in the form of a juicy mealworm, can help the chicks and the parents. In addition, many migrating, insect eating birds, will come to a mealworm feeder. This may include warblers, thrushes and vireos.

Even if you do not see these birds up in the newly leafed tree canopy, you can hear their varied songs at the break of dawn. This free concert, in the spring mornings, is one of the bonuses of spring.  That brings us to another bonus of continued feeding.  During the winter, we are closed inside our homes looking out at the birds.

With the springtime, we are now free from the shackles of the cold wind and actually outside with the birds. The colors, the songs, the activities; we are right there in their midst to observe and enjoy. This is one of the hidden joys that I get from feeding birds in the warmer months. Not only do they need the source of food, but my presence outside makes me feel like a part of the environment.

Springtime for many of us is a more leisurely pace with less layers of clothing and more outdoor activities. Springtime for the birds is a more hectic pace with migration, breeding and raising their young. Feeding the birds now will help to ensure you have beautiful songbirds in your yard all year long.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

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.

Who wouldn’t like a healthy meal full of protein? Well maybe you wouldn’t if the meal were live mealworms. But if you are a wild bird surviving in the wilds of Arlington, then you certainly would.

Everyone who enjoys the hobby of backyard bird feeding knows about the different choices of bird foods to offer their backyard visitors. In many yards you will see different feeders offering seed, nuts and suet. But many people are missing out on attracting a much greater variety of birds by not offering bugs, specifically, mealworms.

Mealworms, whether they are alive or dried, offer a tremendous source of protein and fat. During the nesting season, most birds need the protein as they build nests, breed, and raise the chicks in the nests until they fledge. I am sure you are probably saying, “Let them eat all the mosquitos in my yard!” Well, some birds will and do.

But a juicy mealworm is a better meal for the adult and baby birds than a tiny mosquito. It would be like comparing going to dinner at Ruth Chris’ to 7-Eleven. At least, that is what the birds told me.

Here is the great thing about offering a feeder filled with dried and live mealworms. During the migration season of the songbirds, which is occurring now, you have the opportunity to try and attract 20-30 different species of birds that do not eat seeds. For the next two months, warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers and other birds will be migrating through our yards and parks. When they travel, they use up a lot of energy.

So a quick and easy rest stop at a new restaurant will be very attractive to them. Mealworms are the larvae of the non-flying beetles. When offering them in feeders, they mimic natural insects. This is just too good to pass up for birds.

Offering this as an add on to their other bird foods, give the birds a good source of fat and protein. Live mealworms provide approximately 22 percent fat and 18 percent protein. Dried mealworms provide the birds 32 percent fat and 49 percent protein. Whereas live mealworms are more attractive to the birds than the dried mealworms, the dried mealworms are easily added to other foods for the birds to eat. Most insect eating migratory birds readily eat this live treat.

When feeding live mealworms, you will need to use a feeder with slippery sides. There are many styles made of wood, plastic, metal and glass. The slippery sides prevent them from climbing out. In my yard, I will put out 50 or so at a time. This feeder is close to my sliding glass doors in my back office and offers me a great view of the birds. The smaller bird feeders help to prevent the bigger birds, like the European Starlings, from dominating the feeders.

Mealworms typically come in containers of 500 worms. They can be kept in your refrigerator for up to a couple of months. Even if your significant other sleepwalks and raids the refrigerator for a midnight snack and grabs a handful, they will be fine. Some cultures eat mealworms regularly as a snack.

Feeding mealworms is part of the “new school” of bird feeding. When you stop in, we will help you understand this new way of feeding to see how you can incorporate “mealworms” in your bird feeding stations. We carry a variety of glass feeders and trays to get you started. Live and dry mealworms work well in these feeders.

Don’t miss out on this great chance to feed this unique food to the breeding and migratory birds.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

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.

Are you ready? Have you laid out the welcome mat? More accurately, have you installed any new houses that your new neighbors would be interested in moving into?

In your great backyard, side yard and front yards, wild birds are looking for homes. They are singing, courting and ready to mate to start new broods of families. For cavity nesting birds, this means looking for safe and solid places to build nests and raise their young.

There are at least 12 different species of birds that will build nest in cavity boxes in our area. The most common birds are House Wren, Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and a variety of Woodpeckers. Depending on the size of the bird, the box will have a few different characteristics.

A very small hole size of 1″ to 1 1/8″ in diameter will restrict most birds and give the House Wren a safe place to breed. The larger the hole size, the greater the number of birds you could have checking out the house. Most floor sizes of our common cavity nesting bird boxes will be around 4″ by 4″. The larger woodpeckers, such as the Hairy Woodpecker and Red Bellied Woodpecker, require a larger floor space in the boxes. They also require a larger hole opening and usually are deeper to accommodate the larger chicks.

We at Wild Birds Unlimited feel there are three very important characteristics that must be adhered to, to make the box attractive to the birds and a success in breeding.

  1. There must be adequate ventilation at the top of the box. If there is a spike in early spring temperatures or a second late spring brood, the box must be able to vent the hot air that could build up in the box. If you find a decorative house that has a metal roof, make sure it is a light color that will reflect the suns rays and not a dark colored roof that will absorb the heat of the rays.
  2. The nesting boxes must have good drainage. This is very simply a number of small holes or a small slight opening in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Even if the box has a large roof overhang, a strong wind driven rain could enter the opening and flood the nest.
  3. There should be a simple method to clean out the nest after the chicks have fledged — left the nest — to give the birds an opportunity to breed again.

You can also help your feathered friends by hanging out nesting material.  Examples of safe nesting material are dog hair, cat hair, your own hair, yarn, string, or alpaca wool, which we carry in our store. These materials can be placed in a small suet basket. Please do not use dryer lint, it is full of chemicals and when it gets wet it gets clumpy and hard.

After nesting season is over in late summer, you could take the box down and if it is wood, sand down the sides and bottom to clean any waste. This will also help remove any mites and other insect webs or cocoons from the inside. Recycled plastic houses can be cleaned with a 1 to 10 solution of bleach, rinsed very well and then left out to dry. All houses can be left out for the birds to use all year long as a roosting area when very harsh winter conditions arise. Installing a “Roosting Box,” which is different from a house, would be potentially more successful during these times.

When young birds fledge, and leave the nesting boxes for the first time, they are not strong enough to fly. They usually leave the box and are on the ground for some time.  The adult parent birds are always around. If you see them bouncing around on the ground and squawking, do not pick them up. The adults are getting them to stretch and strengthen their wings.

But please do not allow your indoor cats to go out during this vulnerable time.  If your neighbor has a cat that comes into your yard, ask them to please keep them inside or controlled in their yard. It has been scientifically proven that all cats love to sit in an open sunny window with the remote control to the TV and watch The Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel and the Kardashians! But maybe not in that order.

If you need a chart of the cavity nesting birds in our area, we have them available free for you in our store. We can also go over in detail types of wood to use and decorative additions you can make to your house, should you chose to build one yourself.

The love songs are unmistakable. They are all throughout the neighborhoods. Set up some new homes and invite the new neighbors to start a family.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 17, 2017 at 2:55 pm 0

Flying Colors column banner

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.

There are rainbows in your backyard. There are rainbows in your front yard. There are rainbows on your patio and on your deck.

You have rainbows in the early morning, mid-afternoon and early evening. Rainbows come during all the seasons. But what is unique about these rainbows is that they do not go away. They actually sit, perch and fly around. You can even bring one of these rainbows right to your hand with a little patience.

Bird - Flying Colors share imageThe rainbows I am talking about by now you have figured out. They are the dozens of beautiful wild birds that visit our yards all year round. All the colors of the rainbow show up. The radiant red male cardinal. The brilliant blue of the Bluejay. The golden yellow of the Goldfinch. Those are only a few of the many wild birds, that we, as landowners, have become stewards of. Being good stewards we provide food, water, houses to raise the young and habitat to live.

The “hobby” of backyard bird feeding is the second most popular hobby in the Unites States right after gardening. Over 60 million Americans feed the birds in their backyards in one form or another. It is very easy to attract anywhere between 20-30 different rainbows in your yard. You do not need a large size yard to accomplish this. By setting up a couple of feeders with different food types in your yard, you will attract many different birds. Fresh birdseed, rendered suet cakes and live mealworms are just three types of food that are very to many birds eat. We used to have a window feeder attached to the back office window. This location was right above the rear parking area of my shopping center. And yet over the course of 2 years we attracted more than 24 different birds to his small feeder. One of my former employees actually had her apartment balcony designated as a “National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat”.

Most of us have yards with diverse habitat which are filled with these rainbows. And boy can they sing! The symphony started a couple of weeks ago, and is spreading throughout the neighborhood. I have no problem with dozens and dozens of birds waking me up in the morning with their beautiful songs and drowning out the roar of car tires in rush hour traffic. I say bring on the choir! So, this is a very exciting and fun time in the yards, even if it is still a little cold in the mornings. But get a little adventurous and put on a good coat, knit cap and warm gloves. Get that hot coffee or chocolate and sit out in your yard as the sun comes up. You will create some musical memories.

Your yards and world are filled with rainbows. Bring these rainbows into your Arlington backyard. And, whenever and wherever you go outside, marvel at the brilliance, beauty and diversity of the flying rainbows in our world.

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