Corn: cracked, shelled, whole
If you are a bird feeder on a budget or if you are feeding hoards of birds feeding corn is one way to keep your birds happy and your cost down.
Whole ears of corn offered on spike feeders or on hangers will make the woodpeckers and squirrels very happy. It’s great fun to watch a squirrel trying to figure out a revolving corn wheel. Place your squirrel feeders as far as possible from your other bird feeders.
Shelled corn in hopper bird feeder or hanging tray feeders will attract cardinals, jays, ravens, crows, and grosbeaks.
Cracked corn in ground feeder trays will attract quails, grouse, pheasants, ducks, dove, starlings blackbirds, house sparrows, jays, and cowbirds.
Corn has a couple of serious problems: First, it is the bird food that has the highest risk of becoming contaminated with aflatoxins, which is harmful to birds. Second, it is a favorite of bears, raccoons, and deer-none of which we need to be feeding.
To decrease the chance of contamination don’t buy corn in plastic bags, do not let it get wet (I keep mine in metal trash cans and only keep 50 pounds on hand), and in very humid or wet weather only put out what will be eaten in a day. Make sure you clean up the old corn and dispose of it, the compost pile is a good place.
It is best to have all of your corn feeders away from your other bird feeders so the less aggressive birds will not be scared off. If you can, separate them with a screen of shrubs or trees.
Never use any corn that has any type of die on it because it is probably a poison. Do not feed any popped corn it spoils too easily.
If you have a snow or an ice storm cracked corn is a good way to feed a lot of birds quickly. Feed smaller amounts several times during the day to reduce waste and spoilage
Suet is now considered to be most kinds of beef fat and is safe to feed to birds. Suet is very attractive to insect eating birds, including woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and starlings. Occasionally cardinals, wrens, thrashers, kinglets, creepers, goldfinch, and even some warblers will visit suet feeders. Suet is a high calorie energy source, that is easy for many birds to digest and metabolize, and is very important to birds in cold weather.
Raw suet goes bad quickly when the temperature is above freezing for any extended time. It is recommended that you use rendered suet, which has been melted and has had the impurities removed. Rendered suet can still get soft in the summer and coat the belly feathers of birds. If the bird is nesting the suet can clog the pores of the eggs preventing the embryo from getting enough oxygen.
Most of the suet cakes you can buy have a mixture of corn meal, cracked corn, peanuts, fruits or dried insects. Corn and peanuts can provide a medium for bacteria growth. Therefore, you may want to make your own suet cakes or make sure you are buying a high quality product. Always check the contents and the expiration date. I keep my suet cakes in the refrigerator until I use them.
If you are making your own suet cakes you can use used cooking oil. There is some evidence that this is easier for the birds to digest.
I hope this article will help you in choosing bird food/seed and let you know what birds you; can expect to attract with different food.
The Northern Cardinal is probably responsible for getting more people interested in bird watching and bird feeding than any other bird. Their bright red plumage against snow or green leaves is easily seen and attractive.
Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina they are at my back yard feeders all year. This time of year they are much more willing to share than they are in spring and summer when they are protecting nesting territories.
The male is vibrant red with a black face mask extending to the upper chest. The red color is duller on the back and wings. The female is more fawn colored with grayish-brown tones, with a reddish tint to the wings and tail feathers. Her mask is gray to black and less defined. Both sexes have a distinctive crest, a bright coral colored beak, legs and feet that are dark pink-brown.
Cardinals are 8.5 to 8.75 inches in length, with a wingspan of 12 inches. They weigh 1 7/16 to 1 3/4 oz. (40-50g).
The cardinals range covers parts of southeastern Canada, the eastern US, parts of the Southwest, Mexico, and northern Guatemala and northern Belize. It has also been introduced into southern California and Hawaii. They are so popular that they are the state bird of seven states.
During courtship you may see the male bringing food to the female and feeding her. If the mating is successful this may continue during incubation. The male may also bring nesting material to the female but she does most of the nest-building. She builds the nest in four layers from coarse twigs, leaves, bark, grasses, stems, rootlets, and pine needles. It is normally place 3-10 foot above ground level in a thicket or honeysuckle.
Three or four eggs are laid in each clutch, with the female doing most of the incubation. One to four broods may be raised in a year. The male feeds and takes care of the brood while the female incubates the next clutch. However, they seldom use the same nest twice.
Northern Cardinals are mainly seed eaters, I have them at my feeders all year but they are more evident in fall and winter when natural foods are harder to find. They will also eat insects and feed their young almost entirely on insects. I have seen them coming to my suet feeders and feeding the young the suet.
They seem to prefer the ground tray feeders, but also use the fly through feeders, hanging tray feeders, tube feeders, and suet feeders. Their favorite food is black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, fruit and stripped sunflower seed.
One thing you can do to help them is keep your garden bird baths clean and full. We have had several dry periods this year and they have been at the bird baths constantly.
Keep your feeders and bird baths full and enjoy your cardinals all year.
Tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, plus a variety of loud chirping or scolding sounds announce that the Carolina Wrens are in the back yard or garage or up on the deck. On occasion they will also vocalize with teacher, teacher, teacher. The Carolina wren has the loudest song per size of any bird . The males are the only ones that sing, and they will, any time and any place all year.
It is mainly a southern bird, the state bird of South Carolina, but has been expanding it’s range north and west. They are usually found in pairs and stay on their home territory all year-long and do not migrate. They cannot stand extreme cold so you will see a marked decrease in northern populations after a severe winter.
The Carolina Wren sexes look-alike and are normally 5-6 inches long, with a wing span of 7.5 inches. They weigh from 19 to 21 grams (less than an ounce). They have a striking white eyebrow bordered by black above, the upperparts are rufous, with white spots on the wings.They have bright buffy underparts, pinkish legs and toes, and a powerful looking bluish bill. The tail is rufous and has thin black barring.
Breeding pairs may stay together for life. They both work to build the nest which is constructed of leaves, twigs, grasses, pine needles, feathers, string, trash, and lined with soft fine material. The nest is cup-shaped with a dome and an entrance near the top. They may build several nest but will only use one. The nest will have 4-8 eggs and they may have 2-3 broods from April through July. The male brings the female food for the two-week incubation period. Both parents feed the chicks for two more weeks until they fly.
They will nest in nest boxes (place 5-10 feet above the ground close to good cover) or almost anywhere. I had a friend who had mowed his lawn and put his lawnmower back in the garage and hung his long sleeve shirt on it. When he came out the next day there was a wren nest down one of the sleeves. He did not get the use of his mower or shirt for over 4 weeks.
The Carolina Wren like brushy woodland habitats such as thickets, yards with dense low trees or bushes, parks with shrubs and gardens. They forage for insects in shrubs, on the ground, around windows, gutters, potted plants and lawn furniture. In winter they will also eat from suet feeders and peanut butter feeders. They also come to my tray feeders, probably for seed pieces and looking for insects.
This summer a pair built a nest in a fern we had on a bakers rack on our back deck. They finally got used to our coming and going as the nest was close to the door. They raised three chicks from this nest and the male was always close by singing.
This the second in a series of post to help you select what to feed wild birds and to help you attract certain birds to your feeders.
White proso millet
White proso millet is a favorite of almost all ground feeding birds, including doves, cardinals, juncos, towhees, native sparrows, thrashers, and quail. However it is also a favorite of house sparrows, cowbirds and many types of blackbirds. When a large number of these species are present I would not use millet because they will scare off the more desirable birds. Sometimes feeding at a different time of day will reduce the number of these species at your feeders. The other ground feeding birds like black oil sunflower seed as well as they like millet so use that for a few days to reduce the number of unwanted species.
Many people scatter the millet on the ground which is okay as long as you don’t put out more than what the birds will eat in a day and move your feeding locations frequently. Low tray feeders with good drainage is a better choice for feeding white millet. If you use a hanging tray feeder you may also attract buntings, creepers, wren, finch, and mockingbirds.
Peanuts are well liked by woodpeckers, titmice, jays, crows, chickadees, and many other birds. They are also a favorite of raccoons, bears, squirrels, and other animals we should not feed. Peanuts need to be kept dry and used up quickly because if they become wet they have a strong chance of harboring aflatoxins. The aflatoxins are extremely toxic to birds at very low levels.
Peanuts in the shell work well in tray feeders, peanut feeders, or in window feeders. If you put peanuts or mixtures with peanuts in tube feeders make sure to change the seed frequently and empty the feeder and clean it each time.
Milo or sorghum
For many of the Western ground feeding birds, like Gambel’s Quail, Steller’s Jay, some thrashers, and cowbirds milo is a favorite food. House sparrows don’t seem to like milo. In my area the birds won’t eat milo if there is other food for them to eat.
If you are going to feed milo use ground or low tray feeders, If you are overrun by cowbirds stop using it for a time.
I hope this article is useful to you in knowing what birds you can expect to attract with the different bird seed or bird food.
This information is taken from a study done at The University of Nebraska, Lincoln by Aaron M. Hildreth, Stephen M. Vantassel, and Scott E. Hygnstrom. The complete study can be found at http://extension.unl.edu/publications.
Feral cats are domestic cats that have gone wild or the offspring of existing feral cats. They cause great losses of native birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They can also transmit diseases like rabies and toxoplasmosis, and carry ticks and fleas that could transmit other diseases.
Feral cats live throughout the United States in both rural and urban areas. They live any where they can find food, water, and suitable habitat. Feral cats can produce up to five litters per year, with two to ten kittens per litter. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that a pair of breeding cats and their offspring could produce over 400,000 cats in seven years.
There is an estimated 60 million feral cats in the U.S. alone. They are effective hunters and pose a serious threat to native wildlife, especially birds. Cats have been responsible for the extinction of at least 33 species of birds worldwide. Feral cats kill an estimated 480 million birds per year in th U.S.
Feral cats feeding on birds cost over $17 billion per year. A this cost is spread among bird watchers, hunters, and bird rearers. They will also kill free range chickens and other domestic birds. Even if well-fed they still prey on native species. A study in Sweden showed that well-fed house-based cats diet was 15 to 90 percent native prey.
Many people feel feral cats should not be managed. However, most scientist, wildlife managers, and public health officials believe their impact on wildlife and the risk of disease transmission, justifies their management.
The best management tool is proper pet ownership. Keep only as many cats as you can care for and keep them in the house. If you feel you must let them out have them neutered. If you have unwanted cats give them to animal control or the humane society, do not release unwanted cats in rural areas, vacant lots or alleys.
An addition way to address the problem is integrated pest management. This includes habitat modification, exclusion, frightening devices, repellents, trapping, shooting, and fertility control.
Habitat modification is reducing the availability of food, water, and shelter.
Exclusion is the use of fencing and netting to keep cats from habitat and food sources.
Frightening devices. The only two that have proven effective with cats are motion-activated sprinklers and dogs.
Repellents for cats include anise oil, methyl nonyl ketone, thymol, benzyldiethy, and methyl ammonium saccharide.
Trapping can be used to remove cats from a specific area. Feral cats should only be handled by trained individuals or professionals.
shooting is an efficient method to reduce populations fo cats in certain area. Shooting is normally not allowed within city limits.
Fertility control is Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release. TNVR is a humane and nonlethal method to reduce populations of feral cats. However, studies have shown that more than 70% of a population of feral cats must be spayed or neutered before the population will decline. There may be some charges from vets for this service. In my area some vets will do this free of charge on a limited basis.
Feral cats are invasive and pose a threat to wildlife and public health. An integrated approach to control of feral cat populations is best.
Make sure you manage your pets and are not part of the problem.