Monday, July 25, 2011

Feathered Friends Need Water

One of the best ways to attract birds to a backyard feeding program is to offer a ready source of cool water.  This is especially important during our months of warmest weather.  This need becomes critical in certain parts of the country such as those that are currently experiencing extreme hot weather.  If you do not already offer a fresh source of cool water for your backyard visitors I encourage you to add one.  Not only will fresh water attract birds under normal circumstances ... it is the highly recommended way to attract birds to your yard ... your feathered visitors need your help during  the currently extreme hot weather conditions.

It is interesting to understand why a source of cool water is so important to birds.  David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior provides an excellent explanation: "Although birds lack sweat glands, they can perspire through their skin and thus reduce body heat.  Birds can also get rid of excess body heat by panting, which allows water to evaporate from the surface of the air sacs." Continuing, Sibley explains:  "The challenge is both of the above cooling methods are dependent upon a ready source of cool water".

While having a fancy birdbath may be appealing to us, it is not necessary for the birds.  Something as simple as a clay saucer or upturned garbage can lid kept refreshed often with clean, cool water will provide an extra water source during extreme heat as many areas are experiencing now.  However, one thing we know is that moving water attracts 10 times more birds.  There are products that can address this need.  A simple way I've used is to hang a plastic pot for plants above my bird bath.  Before filling with water make a very tiny hole in the bottom so the water can slowly drip into the bath.  Good advice is to start with a really tiny hole as you can always enlarge it if you need more water to drip.  Using this type of container (milk jug or bucket) is a quick way to provide moving water, but you do need to refill the container, as necessary.

If refilling the container might prove inconvenient, products like the Water Wiggler can be put in your bird bath.  The Water Wiggler runs on batteries that make its legs jiggle keeping the bird bath water constantly moving.  The Water Wiggler I use runs on 2 D-cell batteries which keep the Wiggler moving 24-hours a day for 3 months.  Actually, I went a step farther and purchased the Water Wiggler Aurora which provides a gradually changing rainbow of colors casting a soft glow on my deck at night.  The colored light turns on automatically at dusk and glows for 3 hours and then shuts off automatically.  However, only the light shuts off as the Water Wiggler provides continuous water movement as mentioned.

Another appealing way to help songbirds stay cool is a device called the Easy Mister.  It simply screws onto the end of garden hose.  Just hang the hose over a tree limb or garden hook.  The product puts out a fine mist that birds love to fly through and is especially helpful for Hummingbirds. When it is placed where leaves get wet songbirds birds love to take a "leaf bath" by rubbing up against the wet leaves.  It doesn't cost a lot to operate as it only uses one gallon of water per hour.

Please don't forget to provide water for all our feather friends as they truly need and appreciate it.  They'll fill your backyard with brilliant color, intriguing behavior and beautiful song as a thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Feeders of the Future

As a huge fan of backyard bird feeding I found a recent article provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird very interesting.  The article focuses on the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) to monitor individual birds feeding habits by placing the RFID tag readers on various feeders in the woods near the Lab.  Tiny 0.1 gram tags were placed on the legs of 129 bird species that frequent backyard bird feeders ... that is, specifically Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice and House Finches.  According to the article only 6 hours of feeder upkeep per week provided 8,000 hours of continuous observations with some surprising results.  Read this fascinating article.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Thanks to the following Cornell Lab eNews article received yesterday on the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a rare shorebird that breeds in the Russian Arctic, I discovered this unusual species.  What a beautiful bird with such an unusual shaped beak.  Very cool!  Best wishes to the scientists on their mission to save this species from extinction.  While it is sad to think that wild birds will be put in a captive breeding program and thus be removed from their natural habitat and life ... the greater tragedy would be the loss of this species forever.  Here is the article and beatiful photo of this cool bird ...

Cornell Lab eNews

June 22, 2011

A Rare Chance for the Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

An unusual shorebird with a one-of-a-kind bill is facing extinction--and a team of scientists from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds Russia are doing all they can to save it. They've mounted an expedition to this species' breeding grounds in arctic Russia, hoping to establish a critically needed captive breeding population. Fewer than 200 breeding pairs remain on earth. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Gerrit Vyn has joined the team to capture rare images and sounds of Spoon-billed Sandpipers on their breeding grounds, including the photo above.
Read more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My New Fancy HummZinger Feeders

While it took longer to find the time than I mentioned in my post last Monday, I was able to hang my new Fancy HummZinger Hummingbird Feeders this afternoon. I’m as happy with them as I thought I would be. They are going to be just wonderful to take care of … that is, they are so easy to work with that it will be a snap to clean and refill them every 2-3 days in my pusuit to offer fresh nectar to my visiting Hummers. Honestly, I think I’ll even look forward to it rather than moaning and groaning about yet another “chore” as I was somewhat in the habit of doing with my old small-neck bottle-style feeders that I truly disliked having to clean.

The photo in this blog post shows the new feeder, but it really doesn’t do justice to the overall beauty of it. I’ve always been willing to acknowledge the “satellite” style feeder had merit but I never found it aesthetically pleasing … until finding this feeder. Of course, I must admit that my bottle-style feeders weren’t the least bit attractive, but I opted to buy them because they held a lot of nectar. Well, as it turned out that wasn’t the advantage I thought it would be. The main reason is the nectar wasn’t all consumed before it needed to be replaced to keep it fresh for the birds. So along with frequent cleaning of a hard to manage feeder, I was wasting nectar, too. Well, that wasn’t really the critical point as I make my own nectar which keeps the cost down, but waste is still waste and it bothered me. Yes, I know I could have put less nectar in the feeder but that still wouldn’t have made the cleaning chore any easier. But I digress.

More than a pretty feeder, I discovered some cool things about the Fancy HummZinger:

  • It is made of unbreakable polycarbonate with a cover than removes easily for cleaning and filling. And I do mean … easily! What’s more … the feeder is leak and drip proof!
  • 12 oz. capacity that is the right size for keeping the nectar fresh.  Unless you have a ba-zillion Hummers visiting your yard and you only have one feeder, this size feeder should certainly be fine.
  • It has a built-in ant moat in the center that you fill with water to block crawling insects from reaching the nectar. So no more extra ant moat accessories need to be purchased to deal with that potential nuisance.
  • But what about flying insects? Okay, that is also addressed with feeding ports that support Nectar Guard technology. What this means is there are Nectar Guard tips available, if needed … but they are sold separately.
  • Another aspect of the feeder I really like is the brass hanging rod. Rather than just a plain old rod that most "satellite" feeders feature, this one has an ornamental look with its curlicue design at the top. The hanger portion of rod itself has an opening to accommodate any pole system. However, I hang my feeders under the house roof eaves suspended by chain to a length that allows a good view of the birds. To match the brass rod I purchased some brass chain, eye hooks, and “s” hooks from my local hardware store ... the addition of which made it easy to hang the feeders.
  • Now the rest of the design is purely for the aesthetic appeal I mentioned. There is a pretty brass finial at the bottom of the feeder to give it that “finishing touch”. Now you might think “oh, oh” how can you set the feeder down on a flat surface and keep it level for filling. The designers of this feeder have thought of everything. It is simple to fill the feeder with the finial attached. You just easily remove and place the red cover on a flat surface and then rest the tray atop the cover. Doing that keeps the portion of the feeder you fill with nectar level. Then you just need to hold the feeder and replace the cover and hang. So simple!
  • Lastly, the red cover is so, so pretty with is bright color (actually it is offered in rose red, which I purchased or a gorgeous fuschia).  The feeder also has 4 embossed flower designed feeding ports which can't be seen very well in the photo. What Hummer could resist? Certainly not mine, lol.
  • There is two more things about the feeder that is important to me, especially in today’s world ... The HummZinger is made in the USA … yea! … and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
For anyone reading this post who would like to begin feeding Hummingbirds, here are a few fast facts:
  • Hummingbirds feed 5 to 8 times each hour and consume half their weight in sugar daily. So you’ll have lots of opportunity to view these little avian jewels by offering them a feeder.
  • There are 16 species of Hummingbirds found in the U.S. and southern Canada  at various times of the year.
  • Hummingbirds locate their food visually, and will investigate colorful blooms for nectar. So it is great fun to beautify your yard with flowering plants that attract Hummingbirds, including begonias, fuschias, bleeding hearts, honeysuckle, hibiscus, geranium and yucca. Check with your local nursery for the appropriate types for your area. You might also want to check out Birdscape Your Backyard for general info and flowers for Hummingbirds.
  • My new HummZinger Hummingbird Feeder offers a great design that certainly attracts Hummingbirds quickly and easily.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Hummingbird Feeders

As with most folks that enjoy feeding wild birds I love attracting Hummingbirds to my yard.  When my hummingbird feeders were originally offered I found that placing them near each other ... that is, where the birds could see each other visiting a feeder caused more than usual aggressiveness between the birds.  Successful feeding meant placing the feeders where the birds didn't feel competition from each other.  In order to do this so I could easily view the birds meant I could only hang two feeders.  While I intend to experiment by adding another in the near future, right now I still only have two.

The problem with my current feeders is the difficulty cleaning them.  Frankly, with my busy schedule the cleaning difficulty discourages me from changing the nectar often as recommended ... although I manage to do it, it isn't fun.   I've thought about replacing the feeders for quite awhile, but until recently hadn't come across a feeder style I liked that was also easy to clean.  That is, until now.

One of the bonuses of having a wild bird business such as BirdWatchin'.com, is the continual discovery of the thousands of products offered to wild bird feeding enthusiasts.  Because I'm currently growning the site with the addition of bird watching supplies it has provided the opportunity to find the new hummingbird feeders I'm planning to hang in my yard today.  Not only does this new feeder ... most importantly ... provide the ability to be quickly, easily cleaned with a design safe for the birds, but is also in my opinion quite beautiful!

My old feeders were the bottle-style with a very small opening to fill the feeder which also caused the difficulty in cleaning the feeder easily.  Because of it's vertical style it also blocked the view when Hummers fed on the opposite side from where I was trying to view them.  The new feeders have a horizontal satellite style which affords a full view of the birds no matter what port they feed from.

Unless my schedule goes awry today, I intend to put the new feeders up and see what the birds think of their beautiful new banquet tables :).  I have a feeling they'll be pleased!

Next on  my agenda to accommodate these backyard visitors is yet another feeder.  I'm gong to install the third one just outside my office window so I won't miss the Hummers while I'm working.  This feeder will be a different style and is touted to be the "best hummingbird feeder" ... hmmm ... we'll see.  At least I'm assured it will be easy to clean with its wide-mouth opening.  It sure won't beat the beauty of the ones I intend to hang today.  But if it provides a way to attract more Hummingbirds then I'll be a fan.  More on this new feeder in an upcoming post.